Your talent as a designer are not necessarily correlate with success as a freelancer.
There are many different paths toward becoming a freelancer. Some people are successful, while others struggle — it’s different for everyone. Because starting one’s own business as a designer requires relatively little capital compared to other industries, it’s easy to go independent. If you were to take a pessimistic view, you could even say it’s too easy.
Becoming a freelancer doesn’t just mean distancing yourself from organizations and working on your own. Freelancers are skilled businesspeople. Just because you’re good at cooking doesn’t mean that you will be able to run a successful restaurant. People expect good food from restaurants. What’s important is coordinating various elements such as the location, promotion strategies, and other things only tangentially related to cooking, in order ensure that your business runs smoothly.
In my opinion, whether or not someone will be successful as a freelancer is not dependent on how talented a designer they are.
What’s important is how they distinguish themselves from their competitors and carve out a position for themselves.
In my particular case, I focused entirely on finding customers online.
In fact, last year I didn’t meet any of my customers in person.
There are three reasons why I decided to focus on online business.
1. Printing and design companies are on their way out
The old system of customers making design requests locally is collapsing as more and more business moves online. In Japan, printing companies are disappearing at a rate of two to three per day. As a result, I have been receiving more inquiries, particularly from provincial areas where it can be hard to find a replacement company when one goes out of business.
2. By building relationships with a variety of customers, I am able to minimize risk
Because my customers come from all over Japan, I am able to access a larger market than I could if I were to stay local. While it is difficult to build strong relationships, as I conduct all of my business transactions over the internet, I am able to secure stable profits. I do not do business with any large companies, but this means that even if I lose a customer or two, the overall effect on my business is minimal. I am thus able to maintain my negotiating power.
3. My website is my business platform
Let’s say that you are able to become a top creator on a crowd sourcing service. What happens if that service goes out of business someday, for one reason or another? While I believe that a top class businessperson would find a way to start over and achieve the same level of success, it is best to maintain control over the platform that houses your work. If you want to adapt your services to suit customers’ changing needs or start offering new services, building your own website is the best option.
I believe that becoming a freelancer means marketing your services. While design skills are of course required, focusing on skills alone won’t get you very far in business. The ability to present your products in an appealing way and keep track of your competitors is, perhaps, essential to success as a freelancer.
I don’t put much emphasis on my own status as a designer. My goal is to build the reputation of my service so that eventually it will be able to function without me. Ideally, I’d like to be able to continue offering my service without the requirement that I be personally involved.
The reason I hired other staff was not just because I was busy, but because I believed that, by putting together a team, I would be able to improve the consistency of my service. In the future, I hope to have about four employees.
What is good service? When I asked myself this question, I came up with a single answer: knowing that you’ll be able to continue using the service tomorrow, the day after, and the following year. That’s what good service means to me.