It’s always nice to get inside the mind of a freelancer. Here we interview with Graham Wilkins, a freelance designer and illustrator.

What made you start your own business?

I was made redundant from an advertising agency and decided to join my partner who had already set up her own business. We have now been running our design company for 25 years.

How long did it take you to establish yourself / the business?

Fortunately I managed to get a contract producing 3D scale site plan models for Charles Church builders, which took the pressure off and gave me a bit of time to develop other business.

Do you have any tips for anyone looking to start out in business or looking to grow an existing business?

Well, things are a lot different today than they were in the 90s, so with instant communication, Facebook, Twitter and the pressure to meet shorter deadlines – which, I think sometimes has the effect of diminishing and lowering the quality of graphic design – you need to be up-to-speed with networking and getting yourself known by as many people as possible. Face-to-face initial meetings are still best though.

Also be focused on what you actually want to do. Be realistic about your capabilities and build on your strengths, and of course have confidence and knowledge about the job by looking at a project from all perspectives.

How has it been juggling your work with your personal life?

Its not been too bad as my partner is in the same boat. You have to be prepared to work in fits and starts sometimes, and long hours when necessary. The only difficulty for some people is being able to shut off from work completely – especially when a lot of freelancers work from home.

What does your typical work day look like?

I always get into my home office at 9 o’clock washed, dressed and breakfasted! I then deal with emails and house-keeping if there is no urgent job underway. I make sure I get up from my computer every hour or so and have a lunch break away from my workstation. I usually finish at 6.00 if possible.

At some point during the day I have to take my dog for a walk, which is good therapy when we are busy, and if I’m ever stuck creatively I play my guitar for a while!

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Although everything constantly changes, with new technology and software, social networking and new trends, the biggest challenge for me has always been one of perception on the part of the client.

For example I started working with a new client, a very small company and produced their identity, advertising, brochures etc. They became successful and a marketing manager was employed by the company. I suddenly discovered that a large agency had taken over all the design work and when I asked why, I was told I wasn’t big enough, even though I coped perfectly well with the work and had contributed significantly to their success.

Some people expect certain things from you that actually have no bearing on the work you may do for them. Creative freelance designers can sometimes seem a little quirky to marketing executives.

What are the perks that come with your job?

Liaising face-to-face with clients. When I worked in an agency I didn’t meet a single client, so everything hinged on the brief given by the account manager. It’s also great to have the opportunity to be creative every day and enjoy the freedom to work where I want and how I want.

Being able to take days off during the week and holidays out of peak season when the roads are not busy and you can easily find places to stay, and of course it’s a lot cheaper, especially in the UK.

How do you tend to find new business?

Usually by word of mouth and through people who have come across our work and are looking for our distinctive style.

What advice would you give to aspiring freelancers?

Be yourself, try to offer something different and promote the benefits of dealing direct with you the creative designer, or whatever you may be. Some people won’t like what you do but it’s not the end of the world! Be open to any possibility. Refine and focus on what you want to do within your field. And if you can, love what you do.

How can our readers find out more about your business?

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