Freelance Design: Finding the Balance Between Creativity and Control

(Or something like that) 

It’s hard to fully understand what doing freelance is like until you go out and start working with (or for) clients. And just like most things in life, you find that there are ups and downs. But what I always encourage new designers to do is find that balance of knowing when to be creative, and when to be controlled.

The idea of freelance means you’ve been hired by someone else to design something, that in most cases, is important to them. They have a goal, a vision, a dream…But don’t quite know how to execute it. That’s where you come in. You bring their dreams to life.

With this comes some responsibility. You have to find the mix between creating great design, and aligning the goals of your employer (your client). So often to I hear the stories of, “My client doesn’t know what they are talking about. They should trust that I know what I’m doing. I’m a designer!” (Or something along these lines). Stop. Right there. Didn’t we mention this was their dream? Yup. Even if they really really want that pink background and the picture of their cats in Christmas sweaters (long story…), sometimes you have to give it to them. After all, they’re paying you for this. They’re your boss.

Does this mean the client is always right? NO. (Hell, no) You have the experience. They don’t. They don’t know what’s ‘good’ design. You do. If you feel strongly about something, tell your client why. Explain that by listening their product/brand/dream will be that much better. You’re both committed to the same goal. Find the ground you both can walk on. It will be better for both of you in the end. I’ve gotten more jobs from happy customers than I have by ‘good designs’.

Why is this so hard? Well, it’s simple. We love good design. Beautiful typography. Easy to use, yet elegant UI. We see design all around us in things that others simply ignore. We see the difference from serif and sans-serif fonts. We constantly imagine and create things in our heads, then present them to people that don’t see the world the same way we do.

Take a deep breathe. Good clients, ‘bad’ clients. They come and go. But every day we get to do something we love. We get to design things, and make other’s dreams a reality. And that’s not bad. Not bad at all.