Three suc­cess­ful free­lance graphic de­sign­ers share their ad­vice for get­ting more from print

In a spe­cial video se­ries in as­so­ci­a­tion with Route 1 Print, three print-lov­ing free­lance de­sign­ers based in London share the se­crets of their suc­cess

Computer Arts - - Contents -

Print: it’s the cat­nip of the graphic de­sign world. Of course, dig­i­tal witch­craft like the im­mer­sive VR ex­pe­ri­ences fea­tured in this is­sue’s spe­cial re­port will get the pulse rac­ing, but when a beau­ti­ful pub­li­ca­tion or crisp new set of busi­ness cards drops, there’s noth­ing quite like run­ning your fin­gers over the stock and giv­ing it a good sniff.

In a change to our usual glimpse be­hind the scenes at lead­ing stu­dios, this month our video team in­ter­viewed three free­lance graphic de­sign­ers who spe­cialise in print-based work: Croa­t­ian-born Filip Pomykalo; French-born Cle­men­tine Car­riere; and Cata­rina Bianchini, who de­spite her Ital­ian name and her­itage, hails from Scot­land. All three are now based in London, and be­tween them work across ed­i­to­rial, brand­ing, pack­ag­ing and more.

Here, they re­veal what it takes to suc­ceed as a solo prac­ti­tioner in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, and share their ad­vice for get­ting more from print in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal world...

Any ad­vice for be­com­ing a free­lance de­signer? Caterina Bianchini:

It’s scary. Lots of peo­ple as­sume they have to work for years in a stu­dio be­fore they can even think about go­ing free­lance. I was lucky: I no­ticed quickly that I was bet­ter as a free­lance de­signer. If you have the ambition and the drive, you should do it, but it’s hard work.

When I first moved to London, for about two years I was work­ing full-time, then I’d open my lap­top when I got home and start work­ing full­time again. You need your own port­fo­lio out­side a stu­dio, or peo­ple won’t trust you be­cause you’re not a free­lance de­signer – you’ve just got a stu­dio port­fo­lio that you’ve done parts of.

Cle­men­tine Car­riere: The first thing I did was put money away on the side, be­cause the first cou­ple of months you’re not quite sure what is go­ing to hap­pen. You might al­ready

have some free­lance gigs lined up, which is great. You might not. But fi­nan­cially you don’t want to be in a place where you’re stressed out. I took the first month to re­ally fo­cus on my port­fo­lio and how to present my­self.

Flip Pomykalo: I started free­lanc­ing with a friend of mine, who al­ready had three or four years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. So right away I got thrown into big­ger projects: it was kind of fright­en­ing in the be­gin­ning, but it made me de­velop a lot faster. It’s also a re­ally nice sit­u­a­tion, be­cause you can boost each other and if some­body isn’t hav­ing a good day, the other per­son can help.

What are the chal­lenges of be­ing a free­lance graphic de­signer, as op­posed to an il­lus­tra­tor? CC:

At first, I had a fear that just of­fer­ing graphic de­sign wouldn’t be enough; that I wouldn’t get enough work, or the right projects. I needed to re­shape my port­fo­lio and re­think my ap­proach, and have con­fi­dence to talk to peo­ple with­out be­ing in­tim­i­dated; to say ‘Maybe this doesn’t work for the medium,’ or ‘This is too ex­pen­sive.’

How does it dif­fer to be­ing based in a stu­dio? CC:

It’s very dif­fer­ent. Work­ing in a stu­dio is great be­cause you work with more se­nior peo­ple who can pick up on a lot of things, and you have every­thing there in front of you. As a freelancer, you have to be re­ally creative with re­sources. By the time I de­cided to go fully free­lance, I had this lit­tle note­book of con­tacts, but go­ing through a stu­dio first was re­ally im­por­tant to get those. I felt like I had the right tools to be on my own.

How do you build up your con­tacts? CB:

I’m es­sen­tially a new busi­ness per­son, strat­egy per­son and stu­dio man­ager. I work with peo­ple, they en­joy work­ing to­gether, and then they come back and say: ‘We have this next pro­ject, and would love you to work on it.’ But it’s taken me a good three years to build up proper good clients. In terms of prin­ters and other sup­pli­ers, it helps to find some­one you work well with, and who has a de­sign eye so they can sup­port and help you on projects.

Do you have one piece of ad­vice for a graphic de­signer about to go free­lance? CC:

Put your­self out there. Get in touch with re­cruiters – they’ll some­times give you a call for a shift in-house, and that’s re­ally use­ful. And go to events. Be­ing free­lance can be lonely, so meet­ing peo­ple who do the same thing, talk­ing about it and get­ting your brain ag­i­tated will get you more ex­cited about what you’re do­ing.

Left and be­low: Ex­per­i­men­tal im­age mak­ing by Filip Pomykalo, and Bet­ter Than The Real Thing? – a re­search pro­ject about copy­ing within vis­ual cul­ture.

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