I would like to apologize for slow posting over the last week, had a lot of projects taking up my time. However, I finally got a few hours to write up something that I am getting a lot of emails about lately – saving cash and making investments.
Saving that cash as a freelancer is important – especially if you want to go full time. I put together the top 10 reasons for not building up that wealth to secure your freelance safety. I came to this set of reasons based on myself and a couple of other friends filling out some questions I posed. They may not be the same for everyone, but alas, I’m sure every one of you is guilty of at least one of these.
1: You care too much about what your car looks like: A car is simply means of transportation; getting from A to B. But many people don’t view it that way. Instead, see their ride as a reflection of themselves and spend cash every few years or so to impress people instead of driving it for its entire usable life cycle and investing the money saved.
2: Entitlement leads to debt: If you believe you deserve to live a specific lifestyle, have certain things and spend a certain amount of money before you have earned to live that way, you will have to borrow money. That’s a huge wedge of debt which will keep you from building your safety net.
3: You may lack diversification: Keeping all of your financial eggs in a single basket is bad. Having a diversified investment portfolio makes it much less likely that wealth will suddenly disappear. Drop spare money on nasdaq investments rather than random junk, slowly building up a decent stake in a stable company.
4: You may have started too late: The wizardry of compound interest works best over long periods of time. If you find you’re always saying there will be time to save and invest in a couple more years, you’ll wake up one day to a big project cancellation a week before rent day and there is still jack shit in your savings account.
5: You don’t enjoy yourself enough: While your freelance job doesn’t absolutely need to be your dream job, you need to enjoy it. If you choose a job you don’t like just for the money, you’ll likely spend all that extra cash trying to relieve the stress of doing work you hate. Make sure you fine tune your freelance business to only offer skills that you enjoy providing. If you don’t provide enough, learn something new that interests you and reap the benefits later.
6:You slack on learning: You may assume that once you finished education, there was no need to study further or continue to learn. That attitude might be enough to get you your first clients or keep you employed, but it will never make you gain a steady income and certainly wont make you rich. A willingness to learn to improve your career and finances are essential if you want to eventually become stable or wealthy.
7: You buy crap you wont use: Take a look around your place. In the office, in the wardrobes, desk drawers, under the bed, attic and garage and see how many things you haven’t used in the past year. If there are lots, chances are those things you purchased were wasted money that could have been used to increase your net worth. Think logically about what and why you are buying something every time you go to buy it. If it doesn’t fully add up or is not a NEED, put your cash away and GTFO.
8: You don’t understand true value: You buy things for any number of reasons besides the value that the purchase brings to you. This isn’t limited to people who feel the need to buy the most expensive things, but can also apply to people who always purchase the cheapest goods. Rarely are either the best value, and it’s only when you learn to purchase good value that you have money left over to invest for your future.
9: Your house and / or living cost is too big: When you buy a house that is bigger than you can afford or need, you end up spending extra money on longer debt payments, increased taxes, higher upkeep and more “stuff” to fill it. Some people always try to argue that the increased value of the house makes it a great investment, but the truth is that unless you are willing to downgrade your living standards, which most people are not, it will never be a liquid asset or money that you can ever use and enjoy. As a freelancer, I learned that taking advice from entrepreneurs and fellow freelancers is way better for me than taking it from full time employees, regardless of success or experience.
10: You fail to take advantage of good opportunities: There has probably been more than one occasion where you heard about someone who has “made it big” and thought to yourself, “I could have thought of that idea.” There are plenty of opportunities if you have the will and determination to keep your eyes open. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve peoples lives, I find those are the best project investments to make.
So there you have it. I will be resuming my regular Q+A shortly, as I have a bunch of questions piled to answer out.
Daniel Hellier asks… How has your design style matured over the years and your biggest pet peeve about the industry?
I think overall, I have became much more simplistic in style. I started to put Content ahead of everything and it felt as though my design success rate went up over night. As time goes by and you learn more through various means, it becomes clear that less definitely is more – design should always be the simple solution to the problems you face. I spend way less time now in Photoshop and way more in the planning stage too, something that I feel much more comfortable with the end result of than I used to. Going back to the basics and refining my use of colour and fonts helped a lot. I picked up some books on colour theory and typography which improved my knowledge of both subjects tremendously. I think to summarise all of this in one sentence; I learnt a lot of good information and put it into practice.
My biggest pet peeve about the industry right now when the occasional client comes at me with a skewed perception of designers. The ones that seem to think we are a mystical race that can solve all of their business problems in the click of a finger with a great design, and it is simply untrue. Good design is important, but you can’t polish a shit and expect it to sell. If your business is not working, a new web or app design makeover is not going to solve all of the problems.
Joe asks… I’m thinking about getting back into freelance and wondered how you manage your money. Are you registered as self employed? Do you use a business bank account? Thanks.
Yes and Yes. I am currently registered as a sole trader with HMRC, but will be going LTD next year. I manage my accounts through FreeAgent
To get yourself registered in the UK, just give HMRC a call and tell them you plan on going self employed. They will send out a pack through the post to get you started. It’s really easy. Remember to back date all of your payments and the start date of your business to the day you take your first payment – if you don’t, expect the tax man to knock at the door wondering how you made a living without giving him a cut!
Harvey asks… Where do you get design inspiration from (dribbble etc…)? Second question is. When dealing with a client that wants a website but doesn’t seem to know what they want, what kind of questions do you put to your clients to extract information?
I think life in general is good inspiration. For colour schemes, I often find myself browsing www.colorlovers.com which is a great resource. If you look too much at sites that promote ‘inspiration for designers’ you end up doing work that looks like everyone else. Often times you will find sites like Dribbble are useless for finding good design, the best you will find on there comes from around 15 people at maximum while the rest is just younger, less experienced designers making endless free resources and icon sets to get exposure. It’s also burdened by trends – with many who are too scared to break the mould if the dribbble gods are on an off day (no likes).
When I come across clients who don’t know what they want, I try to get as much information as possible by setting up a skype call for a chat to pick their brain. Most of the time you will notice that they do know what they want, but have trouble putting it across. I find a great question to ask is “do you have an example of a site or a competitor that you think does it perfectly?”. Usually they will be able to name more than a couple, from which you can gather what they like and what they may be going for. Once they produce the answer, ask them what elements they like about it and make plenty of notes. Your notes will come in handy when you are alone in Photoshop. Remember that not everyone is clued up on design, so you have to have patience. Talk for as long as you can, and make them feel comfortable. If they don’t understand certain methods, offer your education should they want to learn. Once you know what they do like, ask them what they really don’t like and you will start to build a more accurate idea in your head.
Tanya asks… I wanted to know if (or why not) you will be offering any design resources or tutorials on the blog?
Originally I had planned to do this but so far, I have found that the Q&A takes up the majority of my allocated time for it. If this changes in the future I will certainly be doing some tutorials, but I will not be giving out free resources.
Junayd asks… Hi Kyee, you have a strong individual style of design that my teacher always points out in class. If I see a design by you amongst dribbble, I can tell it was designed by you before reading the author. How do you achieve this (your own style)? also, why do you think we have so many trends started on dribbble?
Dribbble is not the reason we have web design trends. We have web design trends because it’s easier to follow the heard than it is to do something new. Outside of a few designers who have styles that you can spot a mile away, there is a blurry mess of photoshop blending modes and glossy icons. I would make a strong guestimate that only a few hundred designers on dribbble actually do it full time as a job – with the vast majority being hobbyists and new designers that want to learn and get their exposure.
As for finding your own style, I think it’s something that comes over time. I have been a designer now for over a decade, and eventually you find yourself favouring certain styles and techniques – which is what you may associate to a the designer. I stick to a bunch of my own rules when I design, this goes for fonts, colours and layout techniques. Over time you recognize patterns in your own work so I would say that others easily recognize them too, whether consciously or subconsciously. A good friend of mine called this my “kyee touch”. You will develop your own touch over time!
While I was preparing the last plans for my holidays, I got to the part where you buy clothes to take with you. I got some shorts and tried them on when I arrived. They fit fine, but it was then when I noticed the weight I had put on around my stomach over the past few years.
I’ve always been quite a slim build. When I was in college briefly, I worked out 4-5 times a week and had quite a fit and healthy physique (although at the time, I was a little under weight for my age and height). Mostly I had this down to metabolism, and the fact that I did not eat properly to maintain the workout and lifestyle I had back then. I remember how much money I wasted on all the products you can buy that supposedly give you a ripped body in no time at all, and how much time I wasted in the gym with bad workout routines and even injuring myself a couple of times. After a while, I gave up.
Years later, I thought I would give it another shot. I had around 3-4 pounds to shove off of my midriff, and I wanted to be able to see my abs again. Eventually I thought, I’d like to properly build up some real healthy muscle and gain some strength. But this time around, I was going to do it the right way, do the research and put the effort in.
First things first, I want to make it clear that what I am actually doing (despite my tweets of late and many asking for this blog post to be written)… It is not strictly a ‘diet’. It’s more of a lifestyle change that you simply have to adopt to see any real changes in your body. Muscles build slowly, almost painfully slowly, despite what all the crazy supplements out there may tell you. More importantly, targeted or spot fat reduction is impossible. Your body will gradually burn excess fat away over time from all over your body, not just one area. If you want to lose the love handles and gut, you have to eat healthier and do cardio. There is no miracle method or workout that does anything for you until it’s gone. Can I do 250 situps a day and get a flat stomach? nope. Can I really take a miracle supplement and get a huge set of muscles and a ripped body without effort? nope. But it can be done healthily and it wont cost you the cash you wasted on those products. You don’t even need a gym membership (machines are Ok but most of them are useless for losing weight).
#1 The food (most important part)
When you workout you need to make sure you are eating right, supplying your body with the right amount of protein, carbs, fat and nutrients to rebuild your muscle stronger and shed the excess fat off. And what better way to do it than the 100% natural, old fashioned way? A good, healthy, crap free diet and a basic, simple workout routine. There is only a couple of things you need to spend money on and thankfully, they are not that expensive (and neither is the food required).
So to get this out of the way… You have to strip all of the unhealthy crap from your diet. There is simply no gain without sacrifice, and all of it must go. This includes : fizzy drinks, cakes, chocolate, sauces, sugar, pastries, ice cream…. anything that is man-made and tastes good is going to be removed from your diet entirely. Just go to the fridge, go through the cupboards and bin the lot. The only thing you will be eating is good lean meats, a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, good carbs and wholegrains.
At the start of the losing bellyfat week, here is the shopping list:
2-3 packs of diced, fresh chicken breasts
1 pack of lean fresh turkey breasts
4-5 pints of semi skimmed milk
1 pack of wholegrain bagels
1 pack of wholegrain tortillas
a big bag of oats (if you must get porridge, get one that is all natural and flavoring free, low in sugar)
A big bunch of green vegetables and salad (tomatoes, baby leaf spinach, peppers, kale, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, asparagus… the more variety the better)
Low fat Greek yoghurt (or any low fat yoghurt is good, just watch the sugar)
A big batch of fresh fruit (bananas, apples, strawberries, grapes… again, whatever floats your boat.)
A big bag of brown rice (no white rice folks!)
A pack of large free range eggs
A bag of almonds, and Brazilnuts (mixed nuts are fine)
A bag of dried fruit (make sure they are not coated in any sugars / flavorings)
A big tub of healthy Salsa (as long as it is low in, or completely crap free you’re good)
A big bag of frozen vedge
A block of low fat cheese (I get cathedral city mature, light)
A tub of squeezy honey (natural, no added bs)
Ditch all of those expensive products and gym memberships. All I have used is the basics: Running/walking, cycling. Cardiovascular exercise and a couple of simple workouts is the way this is going to work folks, 1 hour a day of either or both. No more, no less. And it’s working.
I take at least a 30 minute bike ride every day. Then in the afternoons I will go for a 30 minute walk with my iPod. A brisk walk, but not a power walk. Don’t forget to take a nice cold shower when you get back. I hadn’t left my damn chair to exercise in years so the first few days were rough.
Every 3 days I will do a simple set of pushups, using this video: (told by a nice guy who knows what he is doing)
And every 3-4 days I do a simple but tough set of crunches, using this video:
#3 – A typical day of meals
Breakfast – 9AM – (or earlier if you are not freelance) Healthy porridge. 2 minutes in the microwave.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body has been shut down for a long time and you wake up in starvation mode. Get eating healthy food quick!
- 50grams of oats and 200ml semi skimmed milk – no flavorings or toppings
- Tall glass of water
Clocks in at around 400 kcals.
Lunch – 12:30AM Bowl of chicken and brown rice
- Flip open the George and cook up 150-200 grams of chicken
- 75 grams of brown rice, boiled for 20-25 minutes
- 1 chopped tomato
- Handful of shredded baby leaf spinach
- Sprinkle of basic salt
- table spoon of salsa mixed in
Clocks in at around 450kcals
Afternoon snack – 3:30PM Fruit’n'Nuts
This can be anything you want… on a typical day I have:
- 1 pink lady apple
- handful of blueberries
- 50g of almonds
- tall glass of water
Clocks in at around 300 kcals (and healthy fats from the nuts!)
Turkey and vedge. The vedge can be anything you want as long as you eat plenty!
- 2 Turkey breasts on the George
- 250 grams of mashed potato, with 2 tablespoons of semi skimmed milk to smooth, pinch of salt
- 1.5 cup of green veggies (broccoli, kale, asparagus)
- Salt and pepper (just a pinch, don’t go overboard)
- Slice of wholegrain bread with table spoon of natural honey
Clocks in at around 600 kcals
Evening snack – 9PM
Bowl of fruit and a low fat Greek yoghurt ~ 130 kcals
There you have it. A typical day. This clocks in at around 1800 calories, and contains everything you will need to maintain your good health and still lose weight. The meat in here is a great source of protein and a little bit of fat to keep your muscles strong. There is also plenty of fiber to keep your digestive system in shape, and make sure you have at least one glass of water every time you eat.
If you get hungry through out the day, just eat more fruit (or add more fruit to the meals). Bananas are great as they fill you up and burn slowly.
So using this (slightly varied the meats in the day times, as long as they meet the same calorie intake) I managed to shed the 4 pounds I wanted in just 2 weeks. I am now starting to adapt to the next step; building up strong, beefy muscle the right way. If you put your mind to it, and stick to it without breaking even once… I am pretty certain it will work for you.
Hope this answers your questions guys, I thought best to write this up instead of tweeting a million times to each of you!
Hello everyone! it’s been a little while. I had a great holiday in Croatia to charge my batteries. Holidays are a staple in the freelance lifestyle. When you hustle hard you have to relax harder
Questions piled up so I have had to roll through as many as I could. They will stack, so I wont miss your question if you submit it.
Tom asks… what you think of sites like 99designs.com where you enter competitions? Even if it means entering the lower-level competitions where the competition is not so fierce.
No, no no no no…. and no. Sites like 99designs are disastrous for the industry, and bad for your freelance health! They promote exploitation of young designers and you end up burning so much time that could be far better spent getting real paying clients. The chances are, even if you won, you will be getting minimum wage or less for your time. The prize money is also laughable considering how much 99designs makes from each competition, and the volume they receive. More and more people are thinking it’s ok to use hundreds, thousands of designers time and never give them a penny for it. Don’t become a statistic!
This also goes for ‘Spec work’ too. You should never do any work before you receive a downpayment. If a company wants to hire you legitimately, they should never ask for a bit of free work to see if you are good enough. Your portfolio and copy within it should be more than enough for them to gather the quality of your work. I would better spend the time reading the previous Q+A posts!
Matthiasasks… What do you tell a client, when you think his next product will be a big failure? Do you prefer working on it and getting the money, or will you decline the project?
Fortunately we live in a world that is full of ideas, but unfortunately very few of them are good. I come up against this a lot, and these days I never work on a project unless I believe in it and / or it’s success. If it’s a startup or an app that has potential to work, absolutely. If it’s a terrible idea I often still take the project if it is within an area I believe in (for example, apps that help people, regardless of how successful they become financially). But if it’s both a bad idea and within an area I am not comfortable or interested in then I let it go. This being said, when you are a budding new freelancer, it is better to take the zipped mouth approach and take on whatever you get offered. It’s a matter of morality I’m afraid, and there is nothing wrong with taking on a paid project if you don’t believe in it. I am just a little further down the line, meaning I have the comfortable routine and regular work that gives me the full choice of projects I work on. There is absolutely no shame in working on any project regardless of it being a huge success or a burning failure – get money get paid.
I always try to give my 2 cents to a client when I get the chance – it’s a good way to bond with your client. Given they are willing to listen, give your best ideas to them and help their project reach it’s full potential. Several times I have received much gratitude and even occasional payment bonuses just from improving the product as a whole, instead of just designing it. Don’t be rude though, make sure your words of wisdom are welcome before you tell them how to do things. Some don’t take kindly to it.
Richardasks… Being a designer how do you keep track of your finances? Do you use a spread sheet type tracking system or is there another format?
No one wants a run in with the taxman, and messy paperwork is a burden on you that will cause endless problems. I’m surprised this has only came up now! so I actually use an application for this, and a wonderful one at that. It costs £15 a month and keeps your finances in shape with ease. Head over to FreeAgent here and signup. You get a free trial and trust me, once you find your way around you will never go back. It allows full control over incoming and outgoings, bills and expenses. It also has a built in invoicing system so you can automate everything. The analytic side it provides are also top notch, allowing you to see how well your business is coming along. It also automatically works out your tax bill based on your location, so you have a strong idea of how much it will be months in advance of your tax date. Good luck!
Daniel asks… You require that your clients pay you 50% of your fee upfront, how do you reflect this in your books? I intend to use some bookkeeping software such as / FreeAgent, so would it be logical to create two invoices for each project? What happens if the project runs longer than your original estimation and an additional fee is required from the client?
I create 2 invoices using FreeAgent. One for the downpayment, and one for the final payment. If additional time is needed, I contact the client way in advance (or as much as possible) and amend the final invoice with the additional payments. It is really rude to just add to the invoice without a heads up, so make sure you are both in agreement of the extra billing. If not, you need to look back at your pricing system. This is often why I bill by the day and leave an extra day within the original quote, so I can take care of any last minute changes without going over the time billed for! I detailed it in Q+A number 3.
Anonymous asks… How do you get around NDA’s or clients “finding out” about shots of their future products being up on dribbble… or is it just not an issue?
Simple! I just ask the client if it’s ok that I post on Dribbble. Most of them will take a look at the site, see that it is harmless (as long as their project isn’t heavily NDA protected) and allow it. The ones who don’t usually have you sign an NDA. It’s always better to be safe than sorry though so make sure you do ask.
Liam asks… What is your favorite album to listen to while working? (not playlist)
I do listen to a variety of music, but one of my favorites is Power Of The Dollar album by 50 Cent. I also like a lot of the early Jay Z albums. Very motivating to hustle your ass off and get paid.