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
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.