First Year Freelancing

First Year Freelancing by Spruce Rd. | I’m recapping my first year in business as a design studio! I’m sharing the details on what I’ve learned, what’s worked (and not worked) for my business, and next steps for Spruce Rd. My goal is to provide a resource for you, if you are planning on transitioning to freelancing on your own.


This past year has gone by SO fast. I started my business in January of 2015, and have learned so much about my brand, working with clients, and starting a business. While it is fresh on my mind, I thought it would be appropriate to recap my first year of business.

I’m sharing my experience not to promote myself, or portray my business as any sort of success. My intention is to freely share what has worked best for me, with the goal of providing a behind the scenes peek for those interested in starting a freelance business. If that is you, I’ve been where you are sitting right now. Maybe you have a full-time job, and are freelancing on the side. Maybe your full-time job doesn’t allow contract work (I’ve been there too). So, I hope this workshop encourages you to pursue your goal, as well as portraying an accurate depiction on my first year.

Disclaimer: Everyone’s journey is different from each other. Chances are, if you start your business today you will have much more “success” than I have experienced. But, you may also end up with 0 clients. I mention this to share what has worked for me, may not work for you. I hope you find some sort of action steps for you to take based off of my experience :).

Let’s jump into the workshop! Here are a few notes to follow along with the recording above.

My story:

In case we are just meeting for the first time, or you need a refresher, I will give you a quick recap.

  • 6 years experience (in-house designer, and also at a design studio, as well as freelancing on the side) While I never intended to start my own business, I really gained the urge to work with more passionate entrepreneurs, and more specifically branding projects.
  • I am not an overnight success. Years of hard work, and it is still hard work.
  • I don’t want to provide a false lens at freelancing, and that it is the most liberating job. While I love it, first and foremost I want to be honest.
  • Quit my job, due to some questionable practices at the design studio I worked with.
  • NO overlap, I wasn’t allowed to freelance on the side due to my contract. (I don’t recommend this method, but will say it ended up okay)
     
First Year Freelancing by Spruce Rd. | I’m recapping my first year in business as a design studio! I’m sharing the details on what I’ve learned, what’s worked (and not worked) for my business, and next steps for Spruce Rd. My goal is to provide a resource for you, if you are planning on transitioning to freelancing on your own.
First Year Freelancing by Spruce Rd. | I’m recapping my first year in business as a design studio! I’m sharing the details on what I’ve learned, what’s worked (and not worked) for my business, and next steps for Spruce Rd. My goal is to provide a resource for you, if you are planning on transitioning to freelancing on your own.

Timeline:

Above is a timeline of my first year freelancing, broken up by quarter. The clients represents the number of new clients. A few clients rolled over to the next quarter, purchased additional services in a different quarter, or had ongoing work. This timeline reflects the number of new clients added, in order to emphasize the increased reach.

First Quarter: 3 new clients, 27 blog posts. My focus during the first quarter was to start getting my name out there. Though it seemed that I was writing to no one, I kept at it and pursued my blog. Eventually this lead to my first client who found me online through Pinterest. Long story short, YES blogging works in attracting your ideal clients.

Second Quarter: 5 new clients, 29 blog posts. I continued blogging frequently, as well as launched my first lunch + learn workshop. I began contributing to the Elle & Co library of digital products. Collaboration made its way to a priority for Spruce Rd., and continues to do so today.

Third Quarter: 6 new clients, 12 blog posts. August was the first month where Spruce Rd. had more consistent leads (with the ideal clients). I launched my first paid workshop (Mastering content upgrades), and began collaborating with freelance designers for client projects.

Fourth Quarter: 5 new clients, 11 blog posts. This last quarter I continued to collaborate with fellow designers for client work. I launched Share-worthy Design (my first ecourse on graphic design + branding), and plan to continue adding to the course. I felt overwhelmed, and sought help in a wonderful virtual assistant who has made weekly tasks more manageable :).
 

First Year Freelancing by Spruce Rd. | I’m recapping my first year in business as a design studio! I’m sharing the details on what I’ve learned, what’s worked (and not worked) for my business, and next steps for Spruce Rd. My goal is to provide a resource for you, if you are planning on transitioning to freelancing on your own.
First Year Freelancing by Spruce Rd. | I’m recapping my first year in business as a design studio! I’m sharing the details on what I’ve learned, what’s worked (and not worked) for my business, and next steps for Spruce Rd. My goal is to provide a resource for you, if you are planning on transitioning to freelancing on your own.

Pie chart of client referral sources

This chart shows how new clients came to Spruce Rd. As mentioned in the workshop video, a good chunk of these referrals are attributed to my blog.

Social Media: 31.5% Content Marketing: 15.9% Friends/Family: 15.9% Referral: 31.5% Trade Work: 5.2%

Content marketing

Content marketing is the key to what jump started my business. Through blogging (and guest blogging) I was able to quickly reach my ideal clients. For my business, blogging has allowed me to 1) establish myself as an expert, 2) Increase traffic to my site, and 3) attract my ideal audience.

Collaborations

One of the most impactful resources in my business has been collaborating with others. Whether it is an informal collaboration (no income directly involved), or a business relationship. I am a part of a “mastermind” group, which I can’t even begin to quantify its impact in my business. Having a support of industry friends has encouraged me, pushed me forward, and provided valuable feedback for my brand. I’ve learned SO MUCH from the other ladies I collaborate with. I highly recommend a group like this to anyone who starts a business! The value is priceless, and you will walk away with some great friends as well :)

Looking forward

Now that this year has come to a close, I’m looking forward to what next year has in store! I’m planning on continuing the lunch + learn workshops. I hope that you have enjoyed them so far, and are looking forward to attending them more frequently starting in January!

I’m also planning on releasing a few select products + workshops to the Spruce Rd. shop. As with everything else in my brand, I will ensure these are high quality products, and not just thrown together. My goal is to be a resource for design + branding advice, as well as those eager to begin freelancing. With that in mind, feel free to let me know if you have any ideas!

I’ve also changed my design packages (more on that soon!), to better reflect my holistic perspective on branding. Rather than simply providing the starting point for small businesses, my goal is provide the branding, collateral (packaging, marketing materials, etc), custom styled brand photography and illustration. My goal is to provide a cohesive experience for businesses looking to move away from the DIY duct-tape branding, and ready to take their brand to the next level.