how and why I started freelancing
Business / Freelance / Web Design

How I Started My Freelance Business Straight Out of College and Why

Why did I start a freelance business?

I started my freelance business nearly 20 years ago because the job market left me with no choice.

When I graduated from college in May of 2001, I entered the job market at one of the worse possible times. I was naive but determined to succeed as a graphic and web designer.

Spending countless hours on my new iMac computer, I kept polishing my portfolio and resume. I called and sent my resume to every design firm in Seattle for nearly two months only to fail miserably.

Feeling desperate and helpless, I was almost ready to start flipping burgers when the phone rang.

The conversation went something like this:

“Hello?”

“Hi, are you still interested in the production job? We’d like to set up an interview.”

“Yes, sure, of course. Is this a graphic design position?”

“No. This is a production position for duplicating/replicating CDs and DVDs. Are you still interested?”

“Yes, of course.”

So I didn’t land my dream job as a graphic designer or even my first job as a graphic designer, but it was a job!

Don’t Give Up

I was grateful to have a job finally but I never gave up on my career and my goals. My resume and website would continue to be polished every chance I had. I was also lucky enough to meet and work with some great people who ended up giving me some freelance projects to work on. I charged close to nothing and I put a ton of time into one particular project but it was pretty solid and made my portfolio look great.

That’s the way you need to look at your first projects. You can’t think about the money (or try not to). You need to build your portfolio one brick at a time or in this case, one pixel at a time. Those projects kick-started my freelance career and eventually landed me a full-time job as a graphic and web designer!

Have A Good Looking Portfolio That Showcases Your Talents

Your website is a good indicator of how good your skills are. What you showcase on your website will be a reflection of what you can do for your potential clients.

Back when I first started, the trend was Flash-based websites with cool sounds and animations. I created two different portfolio websites with some flashy animations that eventually caught the eyes of a couple of clients. One of them was my personal portfolio at CheungVong.com and the other was my Design business website at Incorpmedia.com. I thought, “if I can’t get hired as a fresh face out of college, I’ll start my own business and look just as good or better than those companies.”

My First Graphic Design/Web Design Job

I didn’t make a lot of money at my first job but it gave me a ton of experience that eventually led to more money and opportunities. I was so excited to finally start my career as an “official” designer but the journey was just starting. I’m not going to lie, it was not easy and I worked my ass off for this little startup but I did learn a lot. Not only the in-house graphic designer, web designer, and photographer, I was basically the art department.

The large amount of work that I had accumulated at my first job, gave my portfolio another huge boost and became another stepping stone into my next job. I ended up doing some freelance work for a company who hired me on full-time working remotely from my home. I continued to do freelance work on the side and was soon making a six figure income.

I am so happy I started my freelance business and here are some of the reasons why.

  • If you are a recent grad or new to a particular field, you may not have the experience that most employers are looking for.
  • Freelancing is a great way to break into a market and build a portfolio to gain experience and credibility.
  • It does not require a degree or resume.
  • You can start a freelance business as a side business/hustle.
  • It requires little or no upfront cost.
  • Freedom and flexibility to set your own schedule and work from anywhere.
  • Potential to make more money than working for an employer.
  • A great option for parents who want to stay home with kids.
  • If you work from home, you can skip the morning commute and you will save time and money on gas.
  • It can be a healthier lifestyle if you take time out for exercise, better food choices, and spending more time with friends and family.
  • Less stress.

Do you have what it takes?

First, ask yourself if you are ready for the challenge. It won’t be easy but if you don’t mind working in front of a computer for most of your day, you’ll have a fighting chance. Learning to manage your own business takes a lot of patience but it gets easier with time.

How to start a freelance business

  • Decide on a good name
  • Get a business license
  • Create a portfolio
  • Learn some marketing tactics
    • Get your name out there
    • Sign up for Behance
    • Sign up for dribbble
    • Enter some for award competitions (some are easy to get in and can build credibility)
    • Start attending WordCamp and other conferences
  • Get clients
  • Start working pro bono or for friends and family
  • Start with smaller projects to build portfolio
  • Look at sites like odesk, fiverr, craigslist

Further Reading: How To Start A Freelance or Web Design Business

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you found this helpful by leaving a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *