How To Get Started As a Freelancer

Before I give you a few simple tips on getting started, I have to get my “Jesus” on and give you a parable to strengthen the context of my tips. My path to becoming a freelancer was rather unusual. Back in 2005 I was a fresh out of college, having graduated in 2004 and still without a job. Besides applying to many west coast visual effects companies, (read my post about knowing when to pivot) I was hitting the concrete with my resume in hand making in-person visits to businesses and companies. The main area I targeted was the Miami Design District. During 2005, the Miami Design District was not what it is now. With it’s luxury retailers and high-end restaurants. At that time, it was still a nice and beautiful area that just didn’t progress with time.

After hours of hitting the pavement in the Miami sun, I only had two resumes left. I came across a building marked 4141. As I entered, I was greeted by a gentlemen, nice guy, but the angled teeth in his grill were something nightmares were made of. The inside of the office space looked like the set of rap video. Black dudes, gold chains, liquor, lights and women. After a brief introduction, he then tells me “Your hired!  Come by tomorrow around this time.” “Wait! Was that an interview?”  We barely spoke and I was to ask “What will I be doing?” but he just shoves me out the door stating that he had a meeting to attend.

At that point I was confused and nervous as shit. What just happened?… But that didn’t matter because I was desperate and in need of a job. Of course I showed up the next day. He greeted me at the door and quickly started telling me his ideas, “Yeah… I want to start making business cards and 3D animations. I want to charge these fools ridiculous prices!” All I responded with was, “Okay…” He then proceeded to ask me, “On your resume it says you know how to use programs to edit video?” “Yeah” I responded, “I am familiar with Avid, Final Cut and Adobe Premiere.” He replied “Good, sit down and watch how I edit this footage.” I said “Okay…,” but I was still perplexed. I was thinking they just shot a music video. As the file opened and he started scrubbing through the footage. I said “Wait… wait… Is this porn?! What the hell is BangB**?” Again, I was thrilled (because I had a job) but mortified that he hired me for this shit!?

Still in shock, I ask “So, hold on let me get this straight there is a van that drives around Miami and people are having sex in it?” He said “Yes, the van has two-way glass so you can’t see in.” I replied, “So, that makes it OK?” He said “Hey! I don’t shoot the shit; I just edit it!” He continued explaining the process of editing the video, “You know making sure the money shot is visible, the whole nine”. He proceeded with the tutorial and at times let me takeover and do some edits for segments of the footage. Throughout the process he continued to reiterate “We got to tell the story… We got to tell the story… We gotta make it look like she was deserted as they drive off!”

I had no clue as to what he meant, I never heard of BangB**, nor do I understand driving off and leaving a woman you just had sex with stranded.

I asked myself what the fuck am I doing here? I’m not an advocate against porn but this isn’t how I was looking to start my career. I finished out the day and got very small pay for it, around $40. Later that night, I decided not to return. I called the dude and told him that it wasn’t for me. I don’t mind working for peanuts but I cannot see male nuts every day. No thank you, I will pass. Luckily, 2006 rolls around and I finally got a break with a startup magazine. Again, the pay was peanuts but it allowed me to flex my graphic design muscle and actually have printed products in my portfolio. But this can be another story for another time.

 

Here are a few tips on How to get started as a Freelancer:

  • Although craigslist is a bit more dangerous than it was in 2005, it still has postings of individuals trying to do big things. Obviously, air on the side of caution.
  • Pound the pavement. Visit any local creative agencies in your area. Let them know who you are, your skill set (share your portfolio) and that you will work for peanuts.
  • Collect the advertisements from the mail or Sunday newspapers (is there still such a thing?). Evaluate from the stack in an aesthetical manner which of these business would benefit from your services as graphic designer. Pay them a visit with a proposal in hand suggesting how you can improve it.

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