Tips for marketing yourself as a freelancer

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Editor's note: Freelancing is an option many have considered, but few have mastered. Some common questions we hear are usually around marketing yourself to new clients.

So we asked Oasim Karmieh, a Pluralsight author and freelancer for over fifteen years, to offer some of his tips. No matter what you do as a freelancer, Oasim's tips are something we can all use to learn a thing or two.


Price projects for your clients

I don't charge per hour, so you're going to see my talk about pricing per project a lot. I think per project quotes are more fair to the client and to the freelancer, but that's for another topic. It might sound trivial, but you can't imagine how important it is to price yourself fair to get your clients.

And I say “your clients” because you have to ask yourself what type of clients you want to work for when pricing your work. That's a crucial element when pricing your work and services. If you want the type of client that needs something fast, doesn't care about the quality and you're happy to provide that service, then that's the type of clients you'll keep getting.

Some people don't care about the type of clients or projects they're doing, as long they have money coming in on a regular basis.

And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you acknowledge those type of projects are just your bread and butter. That's not what's going to help you grow your business and yourself as an artist.

Don't charge your clients extra (even if they have the budget)

I met a couple of designers who'd tell me about a project they got which was super simple to do, like a couple of hours work. But they got paid 10x and even 20x the amount they'd usually charge just because the client told them what budget they had for the project.

This is a huge NO, NO!

When you get a client who tells you the project's budget (which is on its own an amazing thing) and it's 10x the amount you'd usually charge, email the client and let them know the budget is way too big. Then send an actual quote for the project.

You might lose some money, but trust me, you'll win a client for life and you'll earn even more money on the long run.


Work on personal projects

It doesn't matter how busy you are. It doesn't matter if you're a n00b or a veteran. Find the time to work on personal projects.

Small projects, big projects…it doesn't matter, all that matters is that you're always growing at your own pace.

You got into this business because you love it. Don't let deadline, clients and crappy paid projects make you forget that!

Personal projects are a great source of clients. Especially if you want to jump from one medium to another, or you wanted to try a new style to see if you enjoy it. And, while working on this project, you might end up getting some clients who want to pay you for exactly those projects that you love creating.

"Turning your passion into your job is easier than finding a job that matches your passion.”

- Seth Godin


Be social

Create an account on all social media and art websites and keep them updated. Yes, even on the ones you don’t like!

I'll often hear: "I don't have a Facebook account for my freelance portfolio or business because I don't like Facebook."

Last year, half the projects I worked on came from my Facebook account. The new age of entrepreneur doesn't look to Facebook just for entertainment. For them, it's a place of business and connections.

For one of the projects I worked on, I didn't exchange even one email with the client. All the discussion and feedback happened on Facebook.

Make sure you have an account on sites like Behance, ArtStation, Deviant Art, Draw Crowd and Pinterest, too.


Start a blog

It doesn't matter if you're good at writing. Start a blog about what you're working on everyday, or about the struggles that you're having on a particular software or technique.

Creativity thrives on trying and failing. It's about trying again and again until something works.

Share your failures.

Don't be afraid to share a project that didn't work out the way you wanted. Share what you would've done differently and engage with your community. People want genuine stories.

Share your blog posts, share them on forums, on all social media websites. Don’t write them on your blog and wait for people to find them.

Bobby Chiu describes your website or blog in his beautiful book “The Perfect Bait” as a small island in a huge ocean that nobody will find. The only way people will hear about your island is if you start visiting other islands and invite them for some coffee an cookies on your island.

You've got to engage with your network if you really want those people to start noticing you. Some of the my best clients and friends I met through my blog.

If you have a friend whose work you love, interview him, talk about his works, ask him about his or her struggles.


Start creating tutorials

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" Albert Einstein

It's true! Do you think you're good at what you are doing?

Well, try writing a tutorial about it or record a video tutorial. You'll notice how many of the techniques we use on daily basis are just done so mechanical sometimes, without even thinking for a second about them.

This might sound great, but at the same time we might have been using this based on a recipe without understanding why or really how.

You'll become so much better at what you do once you start teaching somebody else. You'll analyze every step you're doing to achieve that look or style

And you'll respect our craft that much more.

Start selling assets

Every time you finish a project, ask yourself what byproduct, tools, plugins, brushes, textures you had to create for it.

Start a Gumroad, Cubebrush, Creative Market, Envato Market account, or even Fivver.

Yes, you read it right! No... it's not about being paid 5 dollars. If that's the only thing that you see, you're missing the whole point.

“Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” ― Seth Godin

Or even better, share them for free on your blog or website to start building a community of people who have the same interests as you do.


Treat your clients right

Give them bonuses from time to time or on special occasions. When they send you a lot of projects and you'd like to thank them for their business.

Offer them free updates, or even free projects. Those clients will never hire another artist if you are always thinking about them.

Business isn't all about making money. It’s not about a deadline. It's not about reaching inbox zero or that big promotion.

It's simply about caring.

The world needs more people who care, who care deeply about their art, about the people that will use their services or products.


Try new tools, don’t cling to your software

January 9th, 2007 is the day Steve Jobs made my services obsolete.

My income was 70% from Flash websites - 3D Flash websites to be precise. I'd found my own niche and I had a nice client list.

I loved every second of it.

But when that day came, not even one of my clients wanted to hear anything that started with the word “Flash”. So I had to regroup and find a new direction for my freelancing career.

Don't think for a second that the software that you're using will be there forever. Don't rely on any particular software, technique, or recipe for all your income.

Don’t be afraid to try new tools. Don’t be that grumpy person who hates everything new and talks about the "good old days of design”.

Always be prepared to jump ship. Don't think about it too much and don't blame your luck. Just find a new thing you love doing and start doing that.

"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” ― Seth Godin

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Oasim Karmieh

is a Pluralsight author and freelance CG generalist working as a lighting artist, graphic and web designer. For over a decade, he's worked on projects ranging from web design, graphic UIs, branding, 3D animation, 3D lighting for commercials and animated TV shows.