Let's Look on the Bright Side...

The more time I spend as a full-time freelancer, the more I've come to realize that it's so much different than I ever thought it would be - both the positive and negative aspects. Last time, I posted an honest look at the negatives of freelancing. This week, it's time to look on the bright side! I hope you give you an inside view at the positives of freelancing.

Here are my absolute favorite things about what I do:

• You can pursue many different business ventures and income streams. As someone who has MANY passions, this is probably my favorite thing about freelancing. Being able to save time on my commute and have more flexibility has allowed me to pursue anything I want. Yes, I'm a freelance designer, but I'm also an illustrator. Not only that, but I have an Etsy shop, this blog, I've written an ebook, and I dabble in calligraphy. 

• Freelancing supports personal growth. Since starting my own business, I've developed such a passion for learning. I think it's because I feel more in control of my success and I want to do well in my business. I read a lot of books, listen to a lot of podcasts, surf countless blogs, and take online courses. I've never learned more in my entire life. Freelancing also has a way of bringing your issues to the surface. For instance, if you are disorganized, you will definitely feel it and find the need to change immediately.

• If you need a breather, you can take it. It's not easy to take vacation or sick days as a freelancer, because you aren't getting paid when you aren't working. However, if you desperately do need the time off, you can take it. And you can take as much as you want of it within reason. Just know, that it comes out of your pocket. I've found that if I need the time bad enough, the money lost has little value to me. You can also take breaks whenever you want, and run errands if need be. You don't need permission from your boss to go to things like doctor's or dentist appointments. 

• No case of the Monday's. I truly love what I do, so I don't dislike Mondays at all. I actually really like them, because I'm excited to get back into things. Not having to go into an office makes easing into Mondays so much easier. I will say that you'll have a whole new appreciation for Fridays though. Being a freelancer, you'll never have worked harder in your life. When Fridays roll around, you'll feel like you really earned that weekend.

• No commute. Although some freelancers may choose alternative work situations, like working in a co-share space, most of us work from home. Not having a commute saves so much time and stress. Also, there is no racing the clock in the morning. If you are a few minutes late to sitting down at your desk, no one will mind.

•  You can work from anywhere. Coffee Shop. The Beach. Paris. You can literally work from anywhere you want. 

• You may eat healthier and exercise more. This one is random, but I've found it to be true! Others may feel differently. I eat most of my breakfasts and lunches at home. I also snack while working at home. That cuts out all of the unhealthy office snacks and lunches out. I also exercise more because it's easy to pop out for a run or do some yoga when I need it. I also love taking breaks to walk my dog.

• You can wear what you want. This is the best! Most days, I wear slippers and leggings. I try to still get dressed up, but it's nice not to worry about what others will think of your outfit.

• Your success is in your own hands. I love this about freelancing! There is no other career where what you put in is exactly what you get out. When you hustle, business will be good. Where you want to be in your career ten years from now is completely up to you. This is one of the main reasons I started freelancing. I love being in control of my own success.

Can you tell I really love what I do? I feel happier just writing this article, and thinking about all of the amazing things I sometimes take for granted. Freelancing is not for everyone, but if it is for you, making that jump to freelancing full-time will affect your life in so many positive ways. I'm sure you will have your own unexpected positives that come out of your experience. 


The Cold Hard Truth

Surprisingly, I have yet to do a post on this. I think it's so important to remember that freelancing is not for everyone. While it can look glamorous from the outside, there are some real negatives that rarely get discussed.

I wouldn't choose any other career for myself, because freelancing is the perfect fit for me. The negatives compliment my personality well. However, before quitting your day job, you should consider if this is the right move for you. Below are some the negatives that could be deal breakers for you:

  • You never truly know when the money is coming in, and where from. Even when things are going well and you have steady work, no work is truly guaranteed like it would be if you were on a yearly salary. If this thought makes you incredibly nervous, imagine having that feeling year round. You almost need to have blind faith that things will work out. If you are able to have this mindset, you will have a much better chance of succeeding.
  • You always need to be hustling. While it's great to be in complete control of their own success, it's not a good thing if you aren't a hustler. I remember days at my old 9-5 job where I'd take a long lunch, or pop out for an afternoon coffee break. In order to be a successful freelancer, you really need to hustle 99% of the time. When you aren't working, you aren't getting paid. If you do take vacations, which you should, it's not paid time off. 
  • Your day to day is never the same. It's scary to wake up sometimes and not know what the day will bring. If you are a creature of habit, it may be very difficult not to have the structure of a 9-5 job.
  • Freelancing can be isolating. If you work from home, as many of us freelancers do, it can be easy to loose touch with the world. Sometimes, I've gone several days without seeing anyone but my husband. I'm usually in a weird funk by the time I realize I need to leave the house. This aspect of the job can be really hard on some people.
  • Your work is never done. There's always more to do. When you aren't doing client work, there's bookkeeping, invoicing, and organizing to be done. This feeling can make it hard to stop working, and even difficult to sleep at times. You will never feel done at the end of a day, but you just need to cut yourself off and put the computer away.
  • You aren't really your own boss. As freelancers, we are at the mercy of our clients. If you have great clients, this is not a bad thing. Just know, if you're a good designer, your day will be structured around your client's needs, and not your own. You'll probably need to be available during the normal 9-5 office hours that your clients are working.
  • You will work harder than you ever have before. Without the distractions of a 9-5 office, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish. However, when you're getting paid by the hour, you can easily get burnt out. You will find that you put so much more energy into each hour you work. This is where breaks and vacations are so important.

I hope this didn't all scare you. I think freelancing is very embellished in this day and age, and I wanted to let you know that it has its challenges, as with any job. Once freelancing becomes your new normal, you'll forget what your 9-5 was like and you'll have a whole new set of complaints.

In my next post, I'll walk you through the positives of freelancing. I'm sure you can already guess what most of those are, but I may throw in a few surprises. For now, take some time to process these negatives and decide if this is really the career path you want. If you're already a full-time freelancer, it's too late for you! You are probably all too familiar with everything I mentioned. Hopefully you love freelancing as much as I do, and that makes it all worth it in the end!

Do you need a time-out?

Freelance by Design_Rest

Ever since the New Year hit, I've been ALL about REST! 2016 ran me into the ground. Then, I spent the the first few weeks of February being sick, so I've been exploring this subject even more recently.

As creatives, our brains are always going a million miles a minute. Even when our bodies are "resting", our minds are not. We always have something we "should" be working on. And in between our strings of thought, we try to fit in tasks like grocery shopping, working out, preparing meals, family time, hobbies and sleeping. I get stressed out just thinking about it!

How do we manage to rest with all the things we have going on? I don't think I'll ever have this 100% figured out, but here's what's been working for me lately:

Shutting off at the end of the day. Lately I've been trying to shut the door to my office as soon as it gets dark out. That way, I'm not tempted to get back to work later in the evening.

Watching "Trash TV." With how intense TV shows have gotten, they are just not relaxing anymore (Homeland, I'm talkin' to you). They make me more nervous, and on edge. Lately, I've been watching things like The Hills, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and basically anything on Bravo. I know those shows are surface-level to the max, but lately that's just what I need. I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Having a relaxing morning routine. I've been starting my days with hot tea, breakfast, journaling, and just lazying around on the couch. I'm NOT a morning person, so I need at least an hour to wake up. This is the first time I've ever allowed myself that. Waking up a little earlier to give myself that time is not difficult, because I look forward to relaxing.

• Having a relaxing bedtime routine. In the evening, I've been drinking tea, lighting candles, listening to calming music, and reading. It's the perfect way to end the day.

Taking breaks. I've been making a point not to sit at my desk for more than two hours at a time. I'm trying to take more short breaks to stretch, walk my dog, or doodle. I find it makes me much more productive in the long run.

Bubble Baths, Massages, and Yoga. Enough said. All of these things are super relaxing, and I can't get enough.

• After work, leave your phone in the other room. This has never been an issue for me. I am notorious for being unavailable, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I have very specific sessions dedicated to browsing Instagram and checking my phone, and then I'm done. What's the worst that can happen if you don't check your phone for a few hours? Respect your personal time, and be present in what you are doing!

• Turn off e-mail on your phone after work and on the weekends. It's impossible to relax when your e-mail is always at your fingertips. Luckily, you can turn off your e-mail app in your phone settings. I'm trying to get in the habit of doing this whenever I'm not on the clock.

• The weekends are sacred. Having a relaxing weekend so I can recharge for the week is crucial. I have to fight for my weekends constantly, because life has a way of filling them up when I'm not careful. Unfortunately, it means I have to say no A LOT. However, it's the only way I can make sure I'm at my best during the week. If an out of town trip, or something important does come up, I try to make the trip itself as relaxing as possible. 

What do you do to relax? Seriously guys, I need some pointers! Please please leave me a comment!

Book Review: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

I just finished this book yesterday, and it was so amazing!! I had to jump on my blog to share it with you all as soon as possible. Seriously, pick up a copy right this minute! You will not regret it.

The main idea in this book is that, in our heads, we only have a certain level of success we think we deserve. When things are going really well in one area of our lives, we tend to self-destruct in another area.

This explains why some of the most successful people have really bad marriages. Or why we constantly worry that bad things are going to happen just when things seem to be going perfectly in our lives. 

Only once we overcome these negative constructs, can we reach our full potential. We can have it all - a great career, stellar health, a wonderful relationship. We can be more successful than we ever dreamed possible. The reasoning behind why we form these negative constructs varies from person to person. This book helps us understand why we self-destruct, and how we can overcome the obstacles we've created for ourselves.

One of my favorite chapters towards the end of the book is about time. The author teaches us the idea that time doesn't control us, but that we control time. We can take as much or little time as we want to do something. We make time for what matters. When we say we don't have enough time, it's simply because we aren't making time. We need to stop viewing ourselves as victims of our schedules.

Hendricks gives us a mantra to help us push past what he calls "Upper Limit Problems." It is this:

“I expand in abundance, love & success every day as I inspire others to do the same.”

Just a little food for thought, as you consider the ways you are holding yourself back from living your best life. Hope you all pick up a copy of this book, and that you get as much out of it as I did!



All Systems on Auto-Pilot

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Happy Friday guys! In my last post, I went through ways to save time in your life to grow your business. Now, I want to talk about ways you can automate your business to make things run more smoothly, and with less effort.

Here are some things that have really worked for me:

1. Think of Your Business as a Well-Oiled Machine: Write out your entire business workflow from start to finish. This should include things like what you do when a new client contacts you, where you store your files, how you hand off final files, etc. Remove as many unnecessary steps as you can. If you haven't read the book The E-myth Revisited, you should! This book talks about the importance of approaching your business from a systems perspective.

2. File Storage: I recommend having a defined folder structure where you store your files. Write out your organization structure, and follow it religiously. I'd also recommend using a file storage platform like Dropbox or Box. You should be able to find any client file at the drop of a hat, and access the files from anywhere.

3. Minimize Your Online Footprint: Think about where you can create the least amount of content, and make the most impact. Don't try to tackle all social media platforms. Just pick one or two that really work for your business model.

4. Simplify your Finances: Sign up for a small business checking and savings account. Every time you get paid, transfer 30% of your profits to your savings account. This will be money you set aside for quarterly taxes. Consider accounting software like Freshbooks or Quickbooks to track your profits/expenses and store your receipts. This will help you easily track the financial state of your business.

5. Automate your Marketing Efforts: Write out a marketing plan for finding new clients. For instance, maybe you send out 5 promotional post cards per week, or reach out to 2 prospective clients on LinkedIn per week. Whatever it is, just make it habitual so you don't need to think about it every week.

6. Clean your Desktop and Inbox Every Friday: This one is self-explanatory. Having a clean desktop and inbox truly brings me peace, and makes me feel organized. It's such a simple way to give you the feeling that things are in order.

7. Create an E-mail Folder Structure: I have a folder for clients, coupons, personal e-mails - pretty much everything. I keep my inbox clean by moving things into my folders, where I keep all e-mails permanently stored.

8. Pick One Day a Week to Get Organized: I typically clean my inbox and desktop on Fridays. This is also when I get invoices done, clean my desk, and throw away any old post-it notes. On Fridays, I also check my bank accounts and my project spreadsheets to make sure everything is in order.

9. Connect with Other Freelancers: Get in touch with other freelance designers in your area. When you have overflow projects, or you need to take some time off, it's nice to have other freelancers who can help you with the work. Better to get in contact with them before you need backup, rather than after. I also like to refer work to other freelancers, when I don't have the bandwidth to take on more projects.

10. Invest in Tools that Save you Time: I love Squarespace because I can update my websites at the drop of a hat. I also love Dropbox. As far as tangible tools go, I love my commercial paper cutter, my Pantone decks, and my souped up computers. All of these cost money, but save me so much time because they allow me to get things done more quickly.

11. Have a Well-Defined Personal Brand: As designers, it's easy to focus on our client's brands, and not think about our own. Having a well-defined look and feel for your promotions, website, and social media is key to growing your business in a way that's sustainable and impactful. Building a strong brand for yourself is basically creating a design template to work within. Templates save time. Once you have an established personal brand, it shouldn't take you long to create new content, because you will already have a pretty good idea as to what it should look like. I would even recommend creating a printed style guide for yourself to refer to.

12. Clear out the Digital Clutter: A few months ago, on a lovely Saturday morning, I cleared away all of my digital clutter. It was FANTASTIC!! I started by deleting all old e-mail addresses I wasn't using. Then, I changed all of my passwords on every website I actively use. For my passwords, I use the same basic template of characters and symbols, and it varies based on the website name. I unsubscribed to any e-mails I didn't want to get. I updated my bookmarks bar to include only the websites I use the most. This took hours, but after I cleared out the clutter, it felt like a huge weight was lifted!


Time has never been more money.

Freelance by Design_Save Time in Life

Hi friends! So there seems to be a lot of discussion in the creative world around automation. By that, I mean automating things in your personal life to save time and brain space for growing your dream business.

I've been subconsciously working on this a lot over the past year, as my client work has picked up. Because this has been my focus, I feel like I've been able to crank things out LIKE A BOSS.

Here are some of the things I've been working on implementing in my own life:

1. Create a Uniform Wardrobe: Either think about creating a capsule wardrobe OR literally wear the same thing every day. I tend to wear a version of the same thing every day. My work uniform is black leggings, white tennis shoes, an oversized sweater or cardigan, a watch, and fancy earrings. That's my go-to. It's comfy and it works. I have other things in my closet for weekends and after work, but this is my daytime look. Obviously the type of job you have will influence what you can get away with, but I would try to make this concept work for you.

2. Simplify Your Morning Routine: Be selective as to what you spend time on in the morning. As a girl who's always loved hair, makeup and clothes, I could spend hours getting ready. However, I only do what I think is necessary. I really love doing my make-up most. That's why my hair is always in a top-knot. Do as little as you can, while still doing what it takes to feel put together. This is different for everyone. Same goes for maximizing your workout routine, the type of breakfast you make yourself, or how you have your coffee in the morning. Think about what means the most to you, and find a way to automate the rest. On the subject of coffee, I don't brew mine in the morning. I always have pre-made cold brew and rice milk ready to go in a split-second.

3. Think about What Services You can Hire out: Take good hard look at how you spend your time and list out anything and everything you don't like doing. Then, look at what those things would cost to have someone else do them. If the service costs less than your hourly rate, it's really a no-brainer to hire it out. For instance, if my hourly rate is $40/hour, and it takes me three hours per week to clean my house, it costs me $120 per week. If I can find someone to do it for less than $120, why would I not have them do it? Then, I can spend those hours working if I want. For those of you with corporate jobs, I would still break down what your "hourly rate" would be, just so you can think about what these everyday tasks are costing you.

4. Only Do Things You Love: When you aren't working, you aren't getting paid. When you aren't getting paid, how you spend your time better be worth it. Get in the habit of saying no to things you just don't want to do. If you don't want to cook dinner tonight, don't do it! Let's say my hourly rate is $40/hour, and cooking dinner takes me two hours. Is the dinner I'm making worth $80? If I feel like making dinner, maybe it is. If I don't, then Chipotle for $20 may be a better option. Same goes for the activities you do in your spare time. 

5. Clear the Clutter: Get rid of things you don't use. Stuff takes up space physically and mentally. Stuff also takes up time, because you spend time organizing and looking for things. That time could be spent growing your business. Only keep the stuff you really love and use, and keep it in a place where you can always find it. This especially applies to your office space, which should always be clutter-free.

6. Minimize Time Spent Shopping: This is a biggie. Girlfriend loves to shop. Well, now I only shop for clothes online and not in stores. It allows me to think more carefully about what I buy, and I find that I shop less. It also saves me so much time not having to spend hours browsing the racks. I also use Amazon subscribe for as many items as I can, so I don't ever have to rush to the store because we're out of things.  I order all my art supplies online as well. I shop at the grocery store closest to my house to save time on driving.

Here are some other random ways I've been able to save time in my schedule. Hopefully these inspire you in some way...

  • Listen to podcasts while walking my dog or running. Allows me to do two activities I enjoy at once.
  • Keep a running to-do list in Todoist. I don't have to take up brain space trying to remember what's on my list.
  • Switch to quick and easy breakfasts. Instant oatmeal, dry cereal, and pre-cut fruit are my go-tos.
  • Use the same water bottle all day instead of new glasses. Saves time on doing dishes and getting new glasses.
  • Do laundry once a week so clothes don't pile up.
  • Do rapid pick-up at restaurants to save time waiting in line. (GAME CHANGER)
  • Alternate running errands with my husband. If we both go to run an errand, we both waste time. If I take one thing, and he takes another, we can get twice as much done in the same amount of time. (This applies to the types of things we don't want to do, not fun activities that we enjoy doing together)

Those are the main things I've implemented in my own life. It may seem strange that I think of my time in cash numbers, but I can't help it! It often pains me to hear how much time people waste on things that they don't even want or need to be doing in the first place! Then, to hear them say they don't have time to work on making their dreams happen makes me terribly sad. I think everyone should put more thought into how much their time is worth (I'm talkin' cash numbers here). 

Well that's all for now. I hope everyone has a safe and relaxing weekend! I hope you put some real thought into how you spend it, and make time for what matters most to you!

...And I'm Back!

Thoughts on the new year.jpg

Hi guys! Happy 2017! Some of you may have noticed I've been a bit MIA the past few months. You may have also noticed that I've done some re-branding of Freelance by Design. Hope you like it!

So here's what's been going on with me... Towards the end of last year, I was struggling to keep up with all of the things I was trying to do in addition to client work - blogging, illustrating, my Etsy shop... I even had a list of passion projects I never got to. The list was truly endless. Client work always comes first in my book, but my late night illustrating, blogging and post office runs were starting to take a toll. I wanted to keep doing these things, but not in the same frantic way I was doing them all year.

It wasn't just that I was busy in 2016. I was struggling with how to simplify my side hustles so I could do less, but be more effective in what I was producing. I was booked solid with client work during the day. Then my illustration business was starting to pick up. And then I had this blog, which I was failing to update regularly. I needed a more sustainable business model, and I needed it fast!

I took some much needed time off after the holidays, took a trip to California, and I'm now feeling much more rested and inspired. I've decided strip my business down to the bare essentials. This lead me to do a slight rebrand, in order to have my personal brand, my blog, and my design/illustration businesses live under one big umbrella. This way, I can repurpose content more to have it go further. I'm going to eliminate my FBD Instagram, and post everything on my personal Instagram (Illustrations, blog posts, personal posts). I've found that one is just way easier to manage.

This brings me to a big overarching topic, that I look forward to posting more on - branding for creatives. How do we take our businesses to the next level so that we are creating great content without burnout? We are all trying to do so many things at once, so how do we brand our businesses in a way that is simple and easy to manage? 

I hope I can offer some insight on this topic. However, it's clearly still something I'm working through so I would just love to get your thoughts on this! Anyone else been struggling with this lately?

This will probably be my focus for a while, because this is just where my head's been at. In 2017, I hope to run a more intentional, purpose-driven, and simplified business. My big focus this year is going to be big impact with small actions. I'm decluttering my business in the same way you would declutter a closet. In turn, I hope to be more balanced, focused and happy in my personal life. Stay tuned for updates!

Desktop Favorites [September Edition]

1. Hunter Original Tall Boots in Hunter Green // You may be asking yourself, why have you not owned a pair of these before now? Awesome question! Truthfully, I have NO CLUE. I have always loved these boots, but I just never got around to buying them. Last month, I received a really amazing Zappos coupon in the mail and I finally pulled the trigger. Best decision ever! I wear them all the time, and they've become a wardrobe staple.

2. Extra-Large Wire Basket from Target // I actually received this as a birthday gift over the summer. The reason it's on my September favorites is because I started using it for firewood last month! It's such a beautiful basket, and is a great addition to my fireplace. The basket is also very sturdy and feels well made. BONUS it's on sale right now for around $20.

3. Oh Joy! Art Prints from Target // Another great target find! I am obsessed with these prints. I actually bought three of them! The gold frames are just stunning. Not to mention, this is about the cheapest artwork I could find anywhere! And the quality is way better than on some more expensive prints I've ordered. You can't beat these!

4. Super Soft Checked Scarf from Zara // Zara scarves are my jam. Any time they say "super soft," they aren't messing around. This is going to be my next purchase. I just LOVE the checked print. It feels so classic. And how adorable would this scarf look with green hunter boots? I think that combo could complete any outfit!

5. Places to Go from Kate Spade // I've had this book since it came out. My sister and I love the Kate Spade coffee table book. We pretty much each have a copy of every single one. This one in particular has landed on my September favorites because it's provided me with a lot of inspiration for my illustrations. For some reason, every time I open it, I get an idea of something to draw. 

6. Inferno Red Blend by Apothic // My dad discovered this wine and it is THE BOMB. It's aged in oak barrels which gives wine my all time favorite taste. For some reason it's hard to find, but we've seen it at Sam's Club and Binny's, so be on the lookout! You will not regret this one. I have not liked a wine this much in a long time!

7. Younger Face Deep Hydration Cream by Honest Beauty // I'm always on the hunt for effective, all-natural beauty products. This moisturizer has done wonders on my dry skin. It has made my face so soft and smooth, not to mention it smells really good. I absolutely love it.

8. X-Acto 24" Commercial Paper Cutter from Amazon // This paper cutter was not cheap, but I've wanted one for a long time, and started running out of reasons not to buy one. I ended up business expensing it, and haven't looked back. If you sell art prints, this is a must-have. It works amazingly. My only problem now is trying to figure out where to put it, because it is massive :)

9. Lore Podcast by Aaron Mahnke // My husband loves scary movies. I hate them. For some reason, we both love this podcast. The stories are so interesting, and they are just scary enough! It's a great listen for fall. Just don't listen to it while you are alone, or lying in bed trying to fall asleep! I speak from experience.

10. Pool Party A4 Art Print by Emma Block // Emma is one of my favorite fellow illustrators! I just love following her on Instagram. Pretty much everything she paints is amazing! The minute I saw her working on this painting, I knew I had to have a copy! I received it in the mail recently and it was everything I hoped and more. Can't wait to frame it and hang it up!


What does a day in the life of a full-time freelance designer look like? I'm sure it's different for everyone. However, I thought it might be helpful for me to share what a typical day looks like for me.  

Every day is different, depending on the projects I have going on, but this is what most days look like:

7:00 a.m. Wake up. On a good day, I go for a run. 

7-8:00 a.m. Shower, do hair/makeup, get dressed, and make breakfast.

8:00-8:30 a.m. Have a cup of coffee and eat breakfast at my desk (bad habit!). Write in my five-minute journal (Buy it! It will change your life). Then, I search for design inspiration (usually on Pinterest or blogs).

8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Work on client projects. This is the most productive time of the day for me so I take advantage and ride that caffeine wave for as long as I can!

12-1:30 p.m. Take a lunch break. Often this means making lunch and eating it at my desk. Sometimes I run errands or go get coffee.

1:30-5:00 p.m. Work on client projects. If I have cabin fever by this point, I'll often to go a coffee shop to work.

5:00- 5:30 p.m. I'm usually pretty burnt out by now, so I start winding down on client work. That is, if I don't have a tight deadline to meet. If I do, I take a break around now. I typically use this time to draw my daily illustration, write a blog post, or do some yoga.

5:30-6:00 p.m. Make or Pick up Dinner 

6:00-6:30 Eat Dinner

6:30-9:00 p.m. Walk Rupert with my husband and then watch some TV (bad habit again!). Unfortunately if I have have a big project going on, as I mentioned earlier, I sometimes get back to work at this time.

9:00 p.m. Get Ready for Bed.

10-11 p.m. Make a cup of hot tea and read. I read both fiction and non-fiction depending on what I'm in the mood for. I usually have one of each on my nightstand.

11 p.m. Lights Out!

I know that's not the most exciting day in the world, but it's an honest look at how I spend my time. 


When I first started freelancing, Craigslist was the most valuable resource I had. Now that I've built more of an established client base, I don't have to search for clients as much. However, I'm still working with a lot of the clients I originally found on Craigslist.

You may be thinking, "Craigslist, REALLY?" It can't be that helpful. If you know how to use it right, you'd be surprised. I swear I had the best luck with this site, over all others. I think it's mainly because Craigslist is an untapped resource. Most people don't know the best ways to use it. Here's a breakdown of how I successfully used it:

1. The key is to not actually use Craiglist for the searching. You will want to use a third party site that scans all of Craigslist for you. The problem with Craigslist is that you can only search one city at a time. I used searchtempest.com for my searches.

2. Use the correct search settings. Here is a screen shot of how I would search on Search Tempest:

  • You want to search within the largest radius possible.
  • Get creative with key words. I would try "Graphic Design" "Logo Design" "Branding" "Freelance," pretty much anything you can think of.
  • Search under Gigs>Creative.
  • Search "For Pay" only.
  • Only search within the last few days, 5 days max. Anything that's been up for an extended period of time probably won't pan out. You have the best chance of landing gigs that were posted today or yesterday.

3. Move through the listings quickly and only respond to ones that sound like they'd be a near-perfect fit for your skillset. If your gut is that a job wouldn't be a good fit for you, or sounds shady, skip it! Trust me, there will be others.

4. Avoid jobs for too little pay, or generally ones that have "startup" in them. You want to land the big, long-term gigs, like book design projects, branding projects, repeat work listings, etc. A lot of people say they will pay you later when the business is up and running. That's when you need to run in the other direction!

5. When you respond, use a generalized template. Keep it short and simple. The most important thing is to convince the potential client that you are friendly, easy to work with, and capable of getting the project done. Here's a sample e-mail, similar to the one I would use:

Hi There! [Friendly Greeting]

I'm a full-time freelance designer with six years experience working with a number of large brands. I've worked on a variety projects - packaging design, animating, branding, and retouching. You can review my portfolio at nicolecicak.com. [Experience] 

I'm easy to work with, great at meeting deadlines, and I have an excellent client return rate. I would love the opportunity to work on your _________ project. [Why They Should Choose You] 

Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you regarding my qualifications! [I Swear I Don't Bite!] 

Thanks for your time,

Nicole [Insert Contact Info Here]

6. Lastly, I would customize the response e-mail subject line. You want to stand apart from other designers who are responding. It doesn't really matter what you change it to, just change it to something. It will make the potential client look twice when they see the e-mail in their inbox.

You may get frustrated and feel like you aren't hearing back from enough people. But remember, you don't need to hear back from everyone. Not even close. Just a few clients with bigger projects. 

In order to get in the habit of trolling Craigslist, I would start your day off with spending 30 minutes to an hour on it every morning. It can be grueling, but eventually you'll have a nice little client base established. I wouldn't only rely on Craigslist to find clients, but it is a great starting point. You can sign up for my e-mail list to receive a free "Finding Clients" guide, and read about other sources for finding clients.

I'd love to hear your questions below, along with any tips you might have on using Craigslist.