Quit your design job
“GET A BUSINESS ACCOUNT SET UP STRAIGHT AWAY. YOU CAN LINK THAT ACCOUNT TO A SERVICE LIKE FREEAGENT TO HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR FINANCES” JACK DALY FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR
One of the most sensible routes into self-employed life is to test the water first. Slowly taking on out-of-hours freelance work with the financial security of a full-time job enables you to experience freelance life first-hand and make an educated decision about whether it’s right for you.
UK-based freelance illustrator Jack Daly took the plunge into selfemployment after being approached by a New York-based agent, who offered to represent him. He’d been dabbling in illustration while working as a senior designer at Glasgow-based creative agency D8 and accepted the offer. After about six months of representation
“JUST MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO GIVE FULL BRAIN POWER TO BOTH YOUR FULL-TIME AND FREELANCE JOB” CATERINA BIANCHINI DESIGNER AND ART DIRECTOR
– and effectively working two jobs – he decided to go full-time freelance.
Before making the leap, his biggest consideration was ensuring he’d saved enough money to pay the bills for the initial months. “This is particularly important, as even if you’ve got commissions lined up right away, you won’t necessarily see any money for one to three months,” explains Daly, who’s worked for a variety of clients over the last 18 months, including Adele, Foreign Affairs Magazine and InVision. “Sure you can put ‘pay within 28 days’ in your terms, but it’s still no guarantee.”
After working with his agent for six months, he was confident he would have enough work coming in – but another key consideration was whether he would enjoy working alone at home. “I ended up taking a desk at a shared space run by Scottish studio Freytag Anderson,” he says. “In the beginning, I actually traded them some design time for the desk, meaning I didn’t have to worry about forking out cash while still establishing my freelance career.”
Is there any preparation he would do now if he were to go freelance again? “I’d get a business account set up straight away. You get a separate debit card, so you can make any business purchases from the same account your invoices are paid into. You can then link that account to a service like FreeAgent to help manage your finances and make the dreaded tax return as pain-free as possible.”
London-based designer and art director Caterina Bianchini initally hired an accountant when she went freelance – but ended up doing her own selfassessment. “I decided to get rid of him because I felt it was really important to understand expenses, tax and national insurance,” she explains.
She works for clients including Nike, Red Bull and Topshop, and recommends building up your freelance work gradually, in evenings and weekends, before doing it full-time. “Just make sure you understand that you need to be able to give full brain power to both your full-time job and the freelance work during the transition,” she advises. “I think that’s the hardest bit. But it does allow you to see just how much work you can achieve when you have to do it. With freelance, I was on limited time, so I had to make sure I was working at my highest potential.”
Bianchini says her biggest challenge is continuing to get new, bigger clients. “It’s good to make sure your work is constantly getting better, and growing in skill and technique,” she says. “I’m super on top of my emails. I try to get back to people within a day. There’s so much talent and competition, you have to make sure you give the client requests the time they need. Also, make sure whatever you spend, you keep receipts for, or whatever you buy online, you file away your invoice for. This is something that took me a while to get used to.”
“Don’t be a wallflower, advises Daly. “Having a social media presence is huge. Platforms such as Behance, Twitter, Dribbble and Instagram are essential tools in building your profile and winning new work. When you’ve created new work, share it on all of your platforms. I’ve found the more you share, the more commission enquiries you receive. This is particularly satisfying when it’s one of those self-initiated projects you dragged yourself out of bed to create that leads directly to a lucrative new commission.”