3 important lessons learned as a young freelancer

My desire to do graphic work for metal bands stems back to my freshman year of high school. Doodling pointy, aggressive type on paper was fun, but I knew I had to take it further by exploring digital application.

I acquired my first project of designing a logo for a Heavy Metal band named Aries out of Maryland. At this time in 2011, I was a senior in high school whose strongest composition skills were demonstrated in Photoshop, so that was the program I used. I was beyond ecstatic to take this project on while only charging $25. Obviously my lack of experience and understanding of pay rates resulted in a comical number that I pulled out of thin air, but I was still paid for it and the band used it for a number of years before they eventually disbanded in 2015.

First Heavy Metal logo commission.

Fast forward a couple years, I now understood that a proper identity should be created in illustrator and highly graphic pieces should be composed in Photoshop. My new clients were now paying for a more professionally produced product and that made me feel good. This newfound knowledge was discovered once I began the graphic design program at Ferris State University, where we were taught fundamental information such as this. My knowledge in typographic skills also began to improve as a result of my coursework and I was able to of course reflect that in my freelance projects. I have now created half-a-dozen album art cover/layouts, 30 logos, and 4 shirt designs and have learned a few things.

(1) Don't undervalue your skill. I used to just feel privileged that bands would come to me for work and that these projects would get produced and distributed to their fans. However, I was putting A TON more work and going the extra mile even though the final commission amount was peanuts compared to what I should have earned. Needless to say, my project quotes early on were severely low and I have learned my lesson the hard way, but it was a good lesson to learn through the experiences I had.

(2) Never assume anything. An example of where this became an issue with one client was when I was under the impression they would mail me a copy of any merchandise they printed with my work at no cost to myself. They obviously disagreed when I made the request for them to send me some items and claimed that I should have made that contractually clear if that is what I expected. This is the first time I had an issue with a client sending out printed merch to myself as part of the transaction. Bands were generally more than willing to send copies to me, but they were in the right and I made that fact clear to them. We ended the discussion on good terms, and he actually decided to send me the requested CD afterall several weeks later. This is still a client I have to this day.

(3) Word of Mouth is a powerful tool. When I made a facebook page for my freelance company several years back. There was no doubt in mind this was going to be what got my name out on the internet and how my work would gain traction. Of course, it really did not pan out this way. I can say with certainty that I have acquired most of my clients via a brand ambassador. They were happy with the value they received and they spread the word to their friends in bands that they know are looking to get some designs for that upcoming tour or they just a need a facelift. That is why going the extra mile I have learned may result in initial monetary losses for a project (sometimes). However, it will pay off when that client comes back for the third time and is so happy with the work, they willingly suggest you to their friends.

If you are interested to see the full portfolio, please check my page on facebook. Rip the Void (Design & Illustration)