A year ago yesterday, I sat down at my shiny new desk setup and declared myself open for business as an Independent Graphic Designer. I drank coffee from the mug that I've used my entire career, and fired off some emails. Then I waited. And waited.
Watching your new inbox for emails to sail in on your first day of business is not how I'd recommend you spend your time. It's kinda demoralizing. All of those people who told you that you should totally go into business for yourself because they will totally send you business do NOT come banging down that door on your first day, even if they really truly love you. Unless you are incredibly lucky.
The cool thing about luck is it's possible to make your own. So I did.
I beefed up my LinkedIn profile, fired off a ton of connection requests, wrote an article. I posted on Facebook. I emailed more and more people. I started networking all over the place. A lot of those networking events turned up nothing, but I learned those types of events weren't where my niche was.
I had ordered my business cards in bulk and threw them around like they were nothing. When I tell clients how vitally important their business cards should be, I really mean it. Those business cards have been my best form of advertising. People love them, compliment me on them, call or email me because of them. BEST BUSINESS INVESTMENT EVER. (Side note: if your business cards do not elicit this type of response, call me. We can fix that.)
Over time, people started emailing me. I managed to be in the right place at the right time a few times, and that really helped. I'm sure I still missed out on a lot, my board of directors keep me busy, but really about 85% of the success I've had so far this year was because I just showed up. (The other 15% is doing an awesome job once you've got it.)
I've worked on over 50 projects this year, and countless more production gigs for other designers (you know who you are, and THANK YOU SO MUCH). I even won a national design award for a logo I did.
While I still miss working full-time with the amazing team I left behind to start this endeavor, I've gotten to continue working with them AND work with many more amazing teams that have brought me into their fold. I was worried about being too isolated here in my little home office, but the truth is I'm only as isolated as I want to be.
I have learned a LOT as a designer, as an entrepreneur, and about myself. At the beginning of the year I was introducing myself as a "reluctant entrepreneur." I didn't have any grand plans to make the world a better place or build something that would net me an enormous payday like so many of the entrepreneurs I met. I just wanted to be a designer, and be one on my own terms. Do good work that makes clients happy.
I still just want to design things that make clients happy. I still just want to be a designer on my own terms. But I'm not reluctant anymore. I'm an entrepreneur, baby, and I make my own luck. (You can too. Really. Promise.)
Thank you to everyone that has helped me make that possible. To those I've already worked with, thank you for trusting me with your business. I hope to work with you more in the coming years, because I believe in you. And to those of you reading this that I haven't worked with yet, let's fix that this year! I can't wait to help you out.
It's what I do. :)