My Freelance Life 1: The beginning

BY Wita | 04/03/2013 | Girlboss
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My Freelance Life | DESIGN IS YAY!

Welcome to the new recurring topic for my blog: My Freelance Life.

I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should become a freelancer. I’m here to tell you my story, how I began my freelance career, the ups and downs and you can decide on your own whether freelance career is for you.

Today I am going to tell you a little bit about my own background.

I graduated from uni pretty young. I was 20 at that time. I live and breath art and design my whole life (quite literally my whole life. I took part in drawing competitions since I was 4). So naturally, after being grilled in design school for three years, I felt a little sick of it and wanted to see what else is out there. From hairdressing school (where I could not go pass the blow drying exam because I kept on burning people’s head) to patisserie school, I finally decided after two years that art and design is still what I’m good at and what I should do in life.

As soon as I was ready to start my life as a working graphic designer, a friend of mine contacted me for a huge project. She was opening a cafe in Jakarta, Indonesia, and wanted me to design everything from the logo to the posters they will put on the cafe wall. I was both excited and scared. The last logo I designed was for an identity class project in uni. I have never had a real client and have never designed anything without my tutor’s supervision. I didn’t know if I could do it.

My friend who has known me since we were 13, and knows that I’m pretty good at drawing and designing, said that she believed that I will be able to do it. The crazy thing is, she didn’t even ask to see my portfolio.

The project I created for her, turns out to be one of the best identity project I have created, based on the number of clients I got because they looked at that particular logo. So thanks to my friend, it was the beginning of my freelance graphic design career. I decided not to apply to any agencies or design studios.

However, I wouldn’t recommend everyone to do what I did. I was lucky to have  my friend who believed me enough to give me the project, and I did a great job with it.

Another reason why I decided not to apply to agencies and studios was because after I graduated from RMIT University in Melbourne, I spent two years living in Jakarta. Graphic Design profession in Indonesia is a sad profession. I applied and was accepted in one of the biggest design-based F&B company in Jakarta. I was really happy and was excited to join their team. However, I had to turn them down when I found that the pay was only equivalent to AU$ 350 per month, with no overtime pay, and staff were supposed to work late most days and come to work on Saturdays. For your information, living cost in Jakarta isn’t that cheap anymore. The weird thing is, Indonesians are willing to pay more for a freelancer’s work. That is why I decided to go freelance.

When I moved back to Australia last year, however, it found that it was really hard for me to get a job. Mainly because I have no industry experience at all. I got pretty depressed last year because of that, and adding to that, my freelance job was getting pretty slow. There was no way for me to give up, because it’s just impossible for me not to work. It’s not just for financial reason, I just cannot not have a job. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home wife and not have a career at all (not judging stay-at-home wives here, it’s just my personal preference). I’m prone to being depressed, and I know that by not working, I would go literally crazy.

So what I’m trying to say is, if I was lucky enough to be Australian (or any other countries that don’t have such a shitty basic salary), and didn’t have to go back to Indonesia after uni, I would definitely get some industry experience. It would help me a lot in terms of experience and getting a job when I need to.

However, if you happen to be in a position like myself, don’t give up. Be creative with your career. Career isn’t a black or white thing with Career for Dummies book to guide you. Having a career doesn’t always mean working in a fancy office and getting a raise. And to have a career doesn’t always mean going for interviews and having someone else hire you. If you can’t get a job, make one.

How I created my own jobs:

  • I started a blog. This blog. Besides finally having something to do, I also have created a presence. I’m a shy person in real life. I don’t make good first impressions, I can’t talk to people I just met, and I have a very awkward personality. The truth is, I’m not like that at all when I feel comfortable. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have a great real-life presence, create an online one. By having an online presence, potential clients or partners can learn what kind of person I really am, what’s my design style is like, and therefore they feel more comfortable in trusting me to do their projects.
  • Make connections. Being new in Canberra, I have no friends. The only people I met on weekly basis are my husband, my sister in law and her husband, and their kids. So I thickened my skin and start contacting some people in Canberra (and other parts of Australia) who works in creative businesses. Many of them ignore me, but a couple of them contacted me back. Your direct connections might not be the people who give you the jobs. However, their connections might.
  • Be Consistent with your own self-promotion. If you have decided that you’re comfortable with having online presence, create a blog, Facebook page, twitter, instagram, pinterest, linked in (and any other social media presence that can aid your profession). Be consistent with your brand. I let people know that I am the same Wita Puspita, and Indonesian living in Canberra, who designs and create illustrations, and blogs at Design is Yay! Try to mention your goal and ambition for your business or career whenever you can. For example, I always mention that my goal is to have my own stationery business. Ever since then, there are a couple of stationery-related businesses who contacted me and asked me to design greeting cards for them. Employers and clients need to know that you are truly passionate about the project that they are going to give you.
  • Create your own brief. I don’t know how to do this with other professions, but if you’re a designer, don’t wait for clients and employers to give you a project. Create your own project. Create stationery, logo samples, wedding invitation suites, and display them on etsy, society6, big cartel or other online stores. When you create your own brief, you will develop your own personal style. Then hopefully, clients who are looking for the similar style will find you.

I hope what I just shared with you gave you an inspiration and encouragement to never give up in finding your career. Remember, there’s no wrong way in pursuing your career. As long as you keep on trying, and be creative in finding your ways, you will eventually find the right way.

  • I just wanted to say thank you for this. I’m only twenty, and I’m still in school, but my major is in English and Journalism and I just can’t see myself being an English teacher or going out a writing a boring newspaper column. I often feel stifled by what I feel like I might have to succomb to after college, but it’s uplifting to feel like those might not be my only options and have me thinking about broadening my perception on careers. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up freelancing too :)

  • Dawn

    Really like this post! Well done, Its really good advice for people who are thinking about starting up a business.

  • Thank you so much for this post and sharing your experiences in becoming a freelancer – this gives a very good inspiration and personal insight to your work and career and to your point of view – indeed, career isnt black or white! I love to follow your blog * all the best from europe JULIA

  • Thanks for this post. I’m just starting to toy with the concept of going freelance and this sort of anecdote is exactly what I was hoping to find!