Before she was her own boss, Paper Jam Press founder Arianna Orland was working a regular job. But, she said, she missed the tactile part of design work.
“I missed making things,” she says. The absence of analog creation in her life prompted her to take a letterpress class — and before long, Paper Jam Press was up and running. And while, at times, she’s felt like she might not be able to succeed as a freelance consultant and designer, remembering her love of making stuff has helped push her through.
Still, enjoying pressing beautiful type onto things isn’t quite enough to run a successful freelance business. She has some other tips to help those who want to follow in her footsteps.
- Start out with enough money in the bank. This is less about your actual finances (though those are of course super-important) and more about your own emotional state. “This is really important,” says Arianna, “because you’re going to go through periods of financial uncertainty, and you have to have a cushion in there so you don’t give up.”
- Treat yourself like a client. The major difference between unemployed and self-employed is getting clients — but to find clients, you need to be attractive to them. A polished website, professional branding, and business cards all add up to an overall trustworthy appearance that will make people want to work with you. Remember, when you’re a freelancer, even if you make products, it’s also true thatyou’re the product.
- Establish a trusted network. “Networking” has a lot of negative connotations, but having a network is crucial to your professional success. “Find your tribe,” says Arianna. The most successful self-employed people are the ones who have someone to bounce ideas off of, have mentors who will answer their questions, and get referrals from other freelancers.
- Hustle! You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Why? Because it’s true. Freelancers need to put in the work. Freelancing should feel like work, because it is work.”You are not going to get new clients by staying at home.” The most successful self-employed people know what’s happening in their industry, and they’re familiar faces at events and online. Whether it’s staying active on Twitter or taking your fellow designers or writers out to coffee to catch up, you’ve got to be rubbing elbows and forming friendships to ensure you’re top-of-mind when a prospective client needs someone with your skill-set.
For more tips and lessons from Arianna, check out her CreativeLive class.