How creative freelancers can save much-needed cash this winter


No need to tell you about the cost of living crisis: we are all experiencing it right now. But some of us stick our heads in the sand. Thinking, perhaps, that the government will fix everything for us. Or maybe just don’t want to think about it at all.

And we don’t blame you because at the end of the day, soaring global energy prices mean that our standard of living is going to drop, and we’re going to have to make do with less. It happened in the early 1970s, and it’s happening again now. And all the saving advice in the world won’t prevent that from being a reality.

At the same time, taking a proactive approach to reducing our costs and increasing our revenues could mean the difference between inflation hurting us a little and hurting us a lot. So with winter approaching, we asked Creative Boom readers for advice. As always, they found strengths. In the article below, we share some of their best ideas.

1. Find a cheaper place to work

Being able to work from a coffee shop or co-working space is one of the joys of being a freelancer. But tough times call for tough measures. It is therefore worth calculating how much you could save by working from home.

That said, as winter approaches you will pay more for home heating, electricity, etc., which will not be negligible.

With that in mind, writer Patrisha Robertson suggests, “Become a nomad in a workspace. Sit in the morning sun to save on lighting and heating. Move in the afternoon to where the sun can shine. Toques and socks are a must indoors.”

If you’re new to working from home, be sure to properly bill your home heating, lighting and other tax bills.

Designer and illustrator Alberto Rodriguez adds that “trying to work from home with more people and paying bills together could be helpful and also reduce energy waste. Alternatively, try to find a public place to work.” For example, in the UK, libraries and museums are gearing up specifically to serve as “warm havens” for people struggling to pay their energy bills.

2. Get creative by cutting expenses

With everyone focused on energy bills right now, it’s a good time to really dive into the finer details of what you’re spending across the board, especially when it comes to direct debits. recurring. “Eliminate expenses you don’t need,” advises illustrator Amy Lauren. “It may seem obvious, but I really don’t need my accounting software anymore because I know how to do most things now. So I’ll save around $200 just on that.”

This is only the beginning, however. You’re a creative, after all, so it’s time to be as creative in saving money as you are on client projects.

“A good tip for me last year and a bit was to get stamps from discount websites,” says Anna Hamill, aka And Hope Designs. “It saves me about 20% on postage, and they’re also beautiful stamps from my childhood.”

Also ask yourself if there is any hardware that you no longer use that you could make money (and free up space) by selling it. In addition to the obvious places like eBay and Facebook buy and sell groups, consider specialized exchanges like MPB, the online platform for used photography and videography equipment.

3. Change software

Tongue closes, graphic designer Sarah Fisher suggests: “Go to ‘cancel’ your Adobe subscription and accept the discounted offer!” Alternatively, if you really only use one or two Adobe tools, trade in your Creative Cloud subscription for all apps for a single-app subscription or one of the more limited photography plans.

Also check if you qualify for an education discount, which can save you a lot of money. This is not only for students but also for teachers and anyone working in education, including administrative staff: you just need a school-issued email address.

Maybe you don’t need Adobe at all? For example, we suggest signing up for a free trial of Affinity Photo, Designer, or Publisher. They’re inexpensive and subscription-free, and many professionals consider them a usable alternative to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, respectively. Also, check out our guide to free graphic design resources and you might find replacements for other paid subscriptions you’re currently pending.

In addition to cutting costs, find ways to make your money grow. Here’s a great example from web designer Mike Hindle. “If you run your own website and have a hosting package that allows up to three, five, or ten sites, you can create multiple new businesses/websites,” he points out. “There is no additional cost to do so other than a domain name and your time, and it never hurts to spread your wings a little.”

Get organized and try harder to make sure customers pay you quickly. Part of this means that you clearly communicate to them, in advance, what you need.

4. Raise your rates

Graphic designer Krists Darzins offers a simple but logical answer to the cost of living crisis. “The most important thing is to increase mass rates,” he says. “Even 50-100% if possible.”

It’s always a bit scary, and even more so at a time when customers may be struggling. But that’s no reason not to at least think about it.

Think about how long it’s been since you raised your rates. Have you grown as a creative since? Are you offering your customers more skills, capabilities and experience than before? If the answers to these questions are yes, there is no reason for you to ask more. Especially if you compare local rates for your discipline and find that you are underpaid compared to others.

For more advice on this, read our articles How to Raise Your Rates Without Losing Clients, How to Price an Illustration Job, and our 2022 Graphic Designer Salary Guide.

5. Get paid sooner and more regularly

Another way to increase the amount of money in your bank account is to improve your cash flow. And that means getting organized and trying harder to make sure customers pay you quickly.

Part of this means that you clearly communicate to them, in advance, what you need. “Make sure you have a policy agreement in place to share with your clients from the outset before starting any project,” advises Graphic Designers SA. “It gives clients a complete understanding of your design process, which makes things more transparent for both parties.”

It also means asking for money earlier in the process. “Ask for a 50% upfront payment for all projects over two weeks,” recommends illustrator Ari Liloan. “If you have to put in more hours, let them know you have to charge for that.”

Also, if you work internationally, dig into the details to make sure you don’t lose too much when transferring. “Check out payment options with low conversion fees for different currencies, such as Wise,” advises Ari.

6. Take on more work

Another obvious way to increase your income is to take on more work. This is the case even if you are already working hard, as it allows you to ditch some of your lower-paying or difficult clients and find higher-paying clients to replace them. (To learn more, see our article on How to End Amicable With Clients).

So how do you actually get more work done? The best approach is usually to ask existing clients to give you more work and to find new clients. Having trouble doing one or the other? Educator and designer Darnell Brown offers the following tips.

“First, re-ignite old customers,” he says. “Sign up, remind them of your value, share your new services, and encourage them to ‘buy now’ before the holiday rush. Second, ask for referrals, ask for testimonials, interview them, etc.

“Third, think seasonally. Align and update your work for the upcoming season. Match your offers to holidays/winter for freshness. Fourth, go rare. Create a little FOMO by reminding customers that you will be a bit out of the office this Think about “last chance deals” before retiring old services, etc. Finally, build loyalty Reward your VIP customers with exclusives, promote timely content, remember their stories and make time for them.”

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