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Freelancing Guide Week 12: The Secret Sauce and Final Tips

Posted by | September 12, 2014 | Freelance | 3 Comments


These last 12 weeks have gone by fast! It’s been a fun exercise to put my own thoughts on freelancing down on paper (or screen?) in a way that can be educational and helpful to others. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with friends & colleagues who have helped shape the discussions each week. It’s been rewarding to get e-mails & have Skype calls with several people who have ventured out into freelance because of this series. I’m so excited to keep in touch with you all and see what your futures hold…

Before I impart my final bits of wisdom and recap the series, I want to let you know what’s still to come from these posts. As promised at the beginning, we’ll be taking a couple weeks to spruce up the posts into a beautiful little e-book for you, for the steep price of $FREE.99 (minus .99). Make sure to sign up for our newsletter (scroll down to the site footer) to know exactly when that’s being released.

So what final tips can I pass on to you or emphasize once more before we wrap up this series? Here they are:

1. Be yourself.

So often people feel they need to separate their work personality from who they really are when they clock out. The truth is, just like friendships, some people will like you & your business while others don’t. That’s not just ok, but it’s a good thing if you be true to who you are. You’ll be more likely to avoid clients that you don’t mesh with and you’ll be hired for the types of projects you enjoy.

A great example of this is Ryan Hamrick & Rogie King. I got to hang out with them both at Creative South ’13. It doesn’t take long to figure out Ryan loves a good drink, biking, and looking sharp. That’s exactly the type of online presence Ryan showcases and he’s been doing work for those types of companies. You can check out some of his recent work for Squatters, State Bicycle Co, Lululemon, Alpha Styling Co. and more.

Lululemon Retail Artwork by Ryan Hamrick

State Bicycle Co. | Motivation Monday by Ryan Hamrick

Rogie is basically a 5 year old Disney fanatic trapped in the body of a full grown adult. His deep passion for all things Disney led him to exercise different illustration styles using Disney characters. It was his dream to do work with Disney. That dream became a reality when Disney asked him to do some incredible artwork for their parks & guide books.

Avatar Refinements by Rogie King

The Big Kid by Rogie King

Disneyland Survival Kit by Rogie King

2. Value yourself.

You’re a professional, act like it. Part of being professional is running a business like any other and charging what you’re worth. You don’t walk into a restaurant and haggle the menu prices with the chef, so don’t let potential clients do that to you.

I had a phone call recently responding to a inquiry for a branding project. After hearing what the prospective client wanted, he mentioned they had a “super small budget” for the project. Curious what he considered a small budget, I asked what it was. He said that he didn’t know at the time, but was calling around to several designers that he had been referred to in hopes of getting bids and seeing who would come in lowest. I politely stopped him right there and said, “I don’t compete in bid wars. If someone else comes in less than I do, but you really want to work with me, I will not reduce my rate to match or get closer to a lower offer. My rate is my rate and I know I put out quality work that will be a worthy investment for the success of your business. I hope you’ll go with me, but if you are seeking the lowest price possible for this project, I won’t be it. If you’re unhappy with the quality of work you get if you go with the lowest bidder, I’ll still be here for you afterwards.” Said in the proper tone, not only does this help raise the standard for the respect and treatment of designers everywhere, but it makes you stand out as a real professional. If the client is someone you’d actually want to work with, they’ll probably respect you more and be more likely to work with you if you behave like a professional and not someone who doesn’t believe in themselves and the service they are offering. The moment you cave on your pricing, is the moment you no longer look like you know what you’re doing.

3. Your success is limited by your hustle.

Here’s perhaps my favorite thing about freelancing. My success/failure is based on me and me alone. If I have a successful year, it’s because I hustled it to a. find new clients, b. produced quality work that helped clients find me, c. worked efficiently to keep projects managed on a timeline that ensures I optimized my available work time. By the same standards, if I have a bad year or few months, I have no one but myself to blame.

For me, failure (income wise) is not an option. I have my wife and a family that we want to start one day to provide for. I don’t spend my days goofing off while working at home watching TV, playing video games, or other things that are a waste of time. I work hard, bring in new work, and if I have breaks while waiting on client feedback I now make products to sell (so I can make money while I sleep!). Just this morning, working alongside Mike Jones and Alicja Colon, we put out a new PSD Mockup pack. It was a great creative exercise for us and a start to less financial reliance on client work. Check it out:

I manage to do this in about a 5-6 hour window every day, Monday through Friday. No nights, no weekends. Get down to business, work smart & hustle. You can do it too.

4. Take care of yourself.

Be social. Talk to your industry peers, hang out with friends & family. Have a life. What’s the point of being your own boss if you can’t do the things you love (outside of work) and spend time with the people you love. Stay fit, stay healthy (mentally and physically) and stay motivated.

5. Ask questions.

If you think other business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers don’t seek council from others, you are sadly mistaken. During the best of times and during the worst of times you should constantly be communicating with mentors and other people in your inner circle to keep you at your best. Learn from others mistakes and teach others your own mistakes. I’m constantly talking to others about important business decisions.

What is the secret sauce? The final question & answer.


You are the “it” factor that will make your freelance career thrive. It’s not just your raw talent that will make you successful, but your ability to learn, adapt, correct, and grow.

While writing a 12 week course about freelancing may lead some folks to think I’ve got this “all figured out”, I’m still learning and improving things daily. It’s really exciting for me to look back 2 years ago at the types of projects I was working on, to see the projects/clients I’ve had the privilege of working with now is just unreal. Knowing I’ll look back in a few more years with the same attitude is even cooler. I’ve still got a long way to go before I reach some of my own personal “work goals”, but I know that if I keep the fire & hustle alive, I’ll reach them.

I wish you the best of luck in your freelance career. I hope the topics we have discussed over the past 12 weeks have helped you kick things off or improve your existing businesses. I’d love to stay in touch with as many folks as possible that have taken things away from this series. Please comment below or get in touch with us here on the Design vs Cancer site or on my personal site here.

If you found this series helpful, we’d greatly appreciate if you considered supporting our efforts here at Design vs Cancer by purchasing a poster or t-shirt. Profits from our sales goes directly to helping folks fighting cancer.

About Peter Deltondo

Founder of Design vs Cancer. Christ Follower. Husband. Bearded Gentlemen. Graphic Designer & Photographer.

  • Kathryn Smith

    Thanks so much for all the tips and advice! I have to say that I found myself looking forward to these blog posts each week. I am currently a tattoo artist with a brief background in design and my goal is to make make a permanent switch into the field of design. It’s amazing how different the communities of these two careers can be. Typically, tattoo artists don’t like to share their secrets, knowledge or how they learned from their mistakes. It can be very dog eat dog and highly competitive, at least in my experience. I have found that in the community of designers, it’s so much about connecting and sharing. It’s really a breath of fresh air and very motivating, especially in finding that so many talented artists and designers also happen to be believers (a rarity among tattoo artists).
    I thank you again and will remember your advice as I transition into this new career!

  • Kyle

    Can’t wait for the ebook! So much great advice.

  • James St Louis

    Hey Peter! Thanks for taking the time to write this series. Super helpful.