Hi Jan. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m Jan Cavan, a freelance web and graphic designer who runs Dawghouse Design Studio, a design blog offering free tutorials and resources to the design community.
What made you want to start freelancing in the first place?
I’ve always wanted to freelance full time. I loved the idea of having the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss and having some work/life balance, however, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical at first as I understood how, when freelancing full time, there can be times when work seems scarce and all you have are nothing but inquiries. It took me months trying to weigh things out and I was never really able to make that decision until there were some intolerable circumstances that happened in my corporate job that frustrated me and just made me decide to quit. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to quit my job without doing much preparation, but I could definitely say now that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I thought then that when deciding to quit your full time job to go freelancing full time and money is one of the deciding factors, full time employment usually outweighs the other but I’ve realized now that that isn’t always the case.
How have you found the first few months as a freelancer?
Luckily, I never had a tough time during my first few months. I redesigned and launched my online portfolio/blog last year and I’m very happy that it was well received by the public. My site had been featured on several design blogs and printed publications which strengthened my web presence and had certainly made it easier for me to transition from having a full time job to freelancing full time as I didn’t really have to scour the web just to find work. However, I did have to learn how to do other stuff such as negotiating with potential clients, writing my own contracts, bookkeeping and a whole lot more but it’s been an enjoyable learning process.
What methods have you used to gain new clients in the early months?
I never really thought of coming up with any special method to gain new clients during my first few months of full time freelancing. Redesigning and launching my blog the previous year improved my web presence and that was the only thing that helped me get started.
Moving forward, I started to write tutorials for Six Revisions and other well-known design blogs. That helped me gain more exposure and more new clients as well.
How has social networking helped you start up your freelancing business?
Social Networking definitely aids in getting your name out there and helps you find new business leads without costing you lots of money. For instance, the first two tutorials I wrote for Six Revisions landed on the front page of Digg and that got me booked for projects in the coming months. I also got to work with clients who found me on Twitter and Facebook.
I really love the hand-drawn illustrations on your website! How would you describe your style of design?
Thanks, Phil! Although I always enjoy exploring other styles of design, I’ve always been fond of the grunge style.
What would your ideal client be like?
As much as I’d like to be flexible when it comes to dealing with different kinds of people, it’s always great to be working with people who have a fairly good idea of what they want. That usually helps them provide clearer instructions, thus, helping the designer understand which direction to go and makes the collaboration easier.
On another note, I’ve had one client who kept sending me many different emails, all with no subject. I’d have to say that was one thing I’m not very fond of.
What are your business plans for 2010?
I’d really like to devote more time on blogging and be able to take my blog to the next level.
Are there any other designers or agencies producing work that you admire?
I really love the works of Michael Heald of Fully Illustrated. He’s a really talented guy and never ceases to amaze me with his work. Another designer I admire is Chris Spooner. He’s a really nice guy and really talented as well. He’s one of the designers who inspired me to start blogging.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who are considering freelancing?
I would recommend them to not quit their full time jobs until they are ready to make that final jump. Full time freelancing isn’t as easy as it seems. It requires a lot of work and discipline. When you decide to go freelancing full time, bear in mind that you are not just a designer this time around. You are also now a project manager, salesperson, bookkeeper, tech support guy, secretary, etc. and you have to be ready to take on those jobs as well. While fully employed, begin building a small client base you can start off with and try creating a stronger web presence at the same time. This will help get you a nice security net while starting out and help get yourself ready to make that big switch.