Six months in and this 'working for myself' thing is turning out great...SO FAR. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to jinx myself by talking about how well it's going - I'm usually the opposite of superstitious (I can't believe that people still get upset about opening umbrellas indoors - as Napoleon Dynamite would say, GOSH) but for some reason I'm reluctant to celebrate the fact that I'm doing alright. It still feels a bit precarious, and I'm still getting used to surviving quiet weeks/months (August... yeeesh) without fretting that I will never work again.
But overall, I'm surviving. I've met some great people. I am loving it, still. I am never going to be rich, but that has never been my motivation. I just want to work. I still have a little trouble getting motivated in the mornings, but I'm quite happy to work into the evening, so - hey, it doesn't really matter, and I love that freedom. My interest in design has been rekindled. It was the corporate office environment that was killing me - the clock-watching. The time-wasting. Feeling hemmed in and straight-jacketed, even though I could wear jeans and flip-flops (I mean thongs).
More things I've learned on the way:
1. Be transparent about costs. Most people have no concept of how long something takes to design; and even less about how much time is spent mucking around with it (at their behest) afterwards. Be clear with your clients about how much time you're spending on a job and what it will cost them.
2. Protect your intellectual property. This is such a grey area, but after a client alerted me to it, I have added a clause about my designs remaining my property until the invoice is paid in full, and specifying that I retain the right to use the work for my own promotional purposes (unless they opt out).
3. Marketing without tears. I've been somewhat proactive about marketing myself, but I could certainly do more. However, networking is not my strong point and I'm not going to bust a gut going to events where I hand my card to 3 people and never hear from them again. I tend to do more 'passive' marketing, like leaving my postcards at cafés, posting (and replying to) ads on gumtree, and emailing studios with a link to my website. If I'm going to do networking, I want it to be fun - which is where meetup interest groups come in. This is something I was doing anyway, and occasionally I get asked for my business card, or even make a lovely new friend (hello, local buddy!).
4. Roll with the punches. You just have to go with the flow - enjoy the lulls - my flat, btw, has never been cleaner - and put your head down in the busy periods.
It's a fun, challenging, and endlessly interesting ride.