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Often times, us freelancers become so busy with designing and creating, we never have the time to just sit down and talk freelancing. Today, I have that time and I want to shed light with you all on some of the problems I ran into when I first became a female freelancer.
How It Began
Photography provided by @K_DougDE
My journey as a freelance graphic designer and painter began back in 2010. Eight years ago, on Wednesday, December 21, 2010. I began the process of starting my own business. Unlike others I have noticed, I was not hesitant about starting my service. I guess curiosity set in more than anything so I jumped right in with no fears at all. Along with no knowledge on certain things at all as well. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew what I wanted and made sure I took the steps to make it happen. But it was not easy and many problems came about before I could begin designing and creating for the public fully.
- Lack of Organization: One major problem I had in the very beginning of my freelancing journey is that nothing was organized at all. With me jumping right in so fast, everything was everywhere. If you were to visit my home at the time and my office space, you would automatically notice a lot of sticky notes everywhere on top of paintings and files just thrown all over my desk. With the lack of organization it made it hard for me to find anything when it came to getting work done and making sure my business was running successfully.
- Budgeting: Surprisingly for me, lack of funds in the beginning was not a problem at all. I was working full time and in school, right along with profits coming in for freelancing so the money flow was pretty good I must say for myself and me being only 18 years old at the time. Problems came from me not budgeting out my money as it came in. I would just pay whatever bills that were needed to be paid and go on about my business monthly. I never set aside funds for the specific things I wanted to do with my business and I never tracked my income at all. As long as the money was coming in, I was cool with it. I didn’t care where it was coming from nor what amounts, as long as bills got paid.
- Peer Doubt: Along with organizational and budgeting problems, peer doubt was another problem for me. I would often reach out to my fellow peers for just moral support and advice on certain things concerning what I wanted to do with my business and unfortunately I would run into a lot of road blocks. Of course, I had major support. So major, the support was coming from some very high places in areas I had never been to before in my life, and the good support has not stopped since. But there were times where I would run into people who did not have me nor my business’s best interest at heart.
- Guilt Trips: In the beginning I accepted work from any and everybody. I wanted to support as many people as I could, right along with making the most money I could in a short amount of time. This led me to running into those same people who didn’t have my best interest at heart. I didn’t realize that you don’t have to accept all freelance work sent to you at the time. I believed that it was unethical to turn business away, even if the business was bad. This led me to feeling guilty about turning work away from people and other businesses I knew I did not need to be associating myself nor my service with at all.
- Micro-Managers: I’m not sure if this is the proper and politically correct term for this, but I ran into a lot of micro-managers. To me, this is a person or people who give unwanted and un-needed advice about how to run your service or business; people who undermine what goals you have set just to see you do what they want to see you do. They manage your business from afar, telling you how things should go and how you need to manage your own service as though it is their own. The advice they give is never truly advice, more like ways to sabotage your progress for their own enjoyment on the low. This almost killed my service completely. This created self-doubt for me constantly. I always felt like I was doing something wrong when someone would give their unwanted advice on my service that they had no knowledge on at all. It led me to listening to the wrong people when it came to running a business, almost destroying everything I had ever worked for.
- Stolen Artwork: Starting off, I did not know about copyrights and all that legal stuff as I stated I jumped right in with no safety net. This led to a handful of clients stealing my artwork from me completely without paying. Not only were full designs stolen, but art ideas were stolen as well. This led to a lose of profit and funds that were rightfully mine.
- Sexual Harassment: The sexual harassment as a freelancer was the worst problem I went through in the beginning. I am assuming that most people who thought of freelancers and graphic designers automatically assumed I was a man for some reason. I would get these surprising looks and expressions when a select handful of male clients would find out that I am in fact a woman, and a black woman at that. The major parts of the constant harassment came when I would accept a design order, create the design and then it came time to pay. There was one occasion where one guy (not saying any names) wanted me to create some promotional flyers for an event he was having in which I was cool with doing, in which I ended up creating them ahead of time. But when it came time to pay, he refused to pay me unless I offered myself sexually to him. He stated he wanted me to “work for it” even though I had already done my job. Other occasions came when guys would find out I was a woman running the show through my social media pages. They would send me messages acting as though they wanted me to create something, only to ask for dates and my personal phone number through sexual advances. This also led to a lot of self-doubt in myself as a business owner because I was not being respected nor was my business. I did not want to be looked at as a sexual object and did not want other people deciding on who I should sleep with based on my graphic design service. This killed me when it came to my personal self-esteem, which led me to not trust clients from that point forward.
- Cash Payments: Accepting payments via cash transactions became dangerous. I never really liked the idea of cash payments, but of course in the beginning I accepted what ever money was coming in. The last cash payment I accepted was from a guy whom I did not know at all. Nothing major happened with the transaction but it was where and when he wanted to meet up to make his payment that caught my attention and changed how I do business to this day. The area was dark and it was at night. That was a big no-no for me automatically. Luckily for me, the transaction went through safely but I always thought about what would have happened if it had not have went well. What if the police had’ve shown up and accused us both of a drug transaction. I had no proof that the money was coming into my hands for graphic designs. What if he decided he did not want to pay me and took matters into his own hands. How could I explain that to my family and friends that I placed myself in harms way by not being careful. Very dangerous and reckless.
After my first year of designing my butt off and creating artwork for over 100 different clients around the United States, I realized this is a tougher business than what most think. It is not always about just creating. You have to set rules. You have to set goals. You have to go about things legally and professionally in order to make it in this world as a business owner. Since then, DE has grown and improved based on the difficulties I have faced in the past with my service. Hopefully, it will continue to grow positively from this point forward into the future as well.
What problems have you faced as a female freelancer? Did those problems cause a tremendous amount of damage to your service? How did you overcome your problems and move forward? Leave your thoughts in our comment section shown below.
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