Building a Freelance Business: Advice From Creative Director Danielle Becker

By Christine Warner, Contributor, on December 5, 2017

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Momentum and passion are the driving forces behind creative director Danielle Becker’s foray into building a freelance business. She first started her own design shop, Lefty’s Right Mind, on the side while working as a retail graphic designer with Aeropostale, Walmart and Bloomingdales. Eventually, she hit a turning point. “One by one, I felt the pieces that comprised my side hustle for the past 11 years come together and evolve into a steady business,” Becker shares. After realizing that her increasing freelance workload was too much to handle on top of her day job, she made the move to start freelancing full time.

Becker’s freelance creative work includes logos, branding, mirrors, clothing and custom paintings for high-profile clients, including Gordon Ramsay and some top New York restaurants. She relishes her constant flow of business and continuous growth that come from her years of perseverance. “The different clientele and variety of projects that come my way is extraordinary,” she says. “In one day, I can go from developing a brand identity or designing a menu to painting a chalkboard by hand. The opportunities for expression and creativity are endless.” Now, she’s sharing her experience and advice for other freelance creatives.

Prepare to Take on More Business Tasks

Although you no longer have to deal with the annoyances of employment, freelancing brings new business responsibilities. This posed a challenge for Becker’s artistic instincts. “When you are a full-time employee, sales, finances, health insurance and all of that other ‘fun’ stuff is taken care of for you,” she explains. “Running your own company leaves you completely exposed.”

Before you make the move to full-time freelancing, check the boxes when it comes to the more-mundane-yet-critical foundations for building a freelance business. Thankfully, Becker was able to partner with her mother’s established event company, Town Crier Paperworks, for support.

Venture Beyond Your Comfort Zone to Grow

Besides business tasks, freelancing helps you develop all sorts of skills to refine your craft and run your business. “I used to loathe being out of my comfort zone, but the roadblocks I have had to face while I’ve been building my business have led me to unavoidable challenges,” Becker shares. “They have forced me to confront and conquer ‘left side of the brain’ responsibilities that do not come easily to me.”

Though Becker has experienced some challenges along the way, she recognizes the benefits of these difficult experiences: “Becoming a more well-rounded entrepreneur is an extremely rewarding feeling. Be a sponge and embrace all opportunities, both good and bad.”

Seek Motivation and Strength Within Yourself

In order to have a successful freelance career, you must nurture your internal motivation. Of course, it’s a relief to no longer have to get permission from a supervisor to take a vacation day. But, as Becker knows, it’s important to learn how to manage your own time. “When you’re on your own, you’re solely responsible, so you have to be strict with your day-to-day,” she explains.

As Becker points out, “passion and perseverance will push you only as far as you let them.” Connect with other freelancers who have similar specialties to increase your opportunities for growth. “Stay focused and learn something from everyone that comes your way,” she says. Set reasonable expectations for yourself — and stick to them.

Structure Your Days Around Hard Deadlines

In order to ensure you stick to strict standards, you should strive to create a regimented workflow with hard deadlines. Sure, everyone has a different work style, but Becker reiterates that you must do all you can to avoid procrastination. She explains her process: “I choose to stay a few steps ahead on a project because I hate rushing. I never do things last minute.” Client satisfaction, which largely depends on your reliability, is critical to your success when building a freelance business. But Becker also knows the importance of taking a break to rejuvenate. “Allow yourself to regroup and regain a sense of clarity,” she stresses. “You’ll be thankful for your newfound focus.”

Trust Your Intuition and Keep Learning

Self-doubt is a natural part of any new professional endeavor. But try to trust your own abilities and instincts. “Listen to your gut and be confident in your decision-making,” advises Becker. “Be a self-starter, make mistakes, but most importantly, learn from them.”

In particular, Becker stresses the advantages of using the limitless digital resources available to educate yourself and expand your network. Taking risks, working hard, staying positive and accepting the possibility of failure will serve you well as a freelancer. As Becker suggests, “Embrace change, evolve and keep challenging yourself. Never stop hustling!”

The desire to wait for the perfect time to move into full-time freelance work can hold you back from building your business. Think strategically about the feasibility of freelancing and prepare for the changes in your professional and personal lifestyle, but don’t overdo it. “I knew there wouldn’t be a ‘right time’ to take the risk, but I felt this was my moment and I chose to follow my gut,” says Becker. “Fear causes hesitation and excuses hold you back; regret wasn’t a feeling I was interested in having.” Take a page out of Becker’s book: Let your passion and perseverance launch — and sustain — your freelance career.

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