1) Firstly, thank you Scott for the possibility of an interview. It’s a pleasure for us to have you in our inside series. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what are you up to right now?Thanks for thinking of me for this interview! I’m excited to be here and hopefully I can share some experiences to help others. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio and later moved to Phoenix, Arizona when I was about 10 years old. Ever since then I have been living in Arizona until last summer when I made the move to New York for the Type @ Cooper program. The program lasted a year and now that it’s over, I decided to move back to my Arizona homeland. I actually just returned a few days ago!
As for who I am, I consider myself an illustrator with an obsession with typography. My work usually consists of some drawn letterforms. After going through the Type @ Cooper program, I’d now consider myself a type designer as well. I just love everything type related. I’ve been freelancing full-time for a little over a year now! It’s been a crazy ride and I didn’t think the full-time freelance world was possible but I somehow made it work in New York City of all places.
2) What was your inspiration and when did you actually decide to become a freelancer?I think I began my freelancing career during my sophomore year in college. Back then, I was designing book covers, emails, flyers, etc. just small design jobs for small companies and/or friends. I looked at freelance as a way to continue doing what I love and still make some additional money from my day job at an advertising agency. Working at the advertising agency allowed me to still have that steady flow of income so I wouldn’t stress about paying the bills. But, doing the freelance work allowed me to take on projects that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to do while at my advertising design job.
During that time, I was going to school full-time, working at the advertising agency part-time, and somehow squeezing in the time for freelance work at the end of the day on top of my homework! It was all about the time-management, really.
3) Was it difficult for you to start freelancing? Did you face many problems? Could you share with our readers the most important lessons you learned on the way?It was a difficult process to begin because getting clients is the key to freelancing! Without the clients, you’re just doing personal projects. Additionally, I was learning each day. I had no idea what contracts were, how I would get paid, how much to charge, etc. the list goes on and on! It’s so hard to figure out that kind of stuff when you first start out. Honestly, the best and easiest way to learn is to just make mistakes and learn along the way.
As for the most important lesson I learned, I’d say sending out an invoice and getting paid on time is key. I feel that’s always the hardest part of freelancing is getting paid. You have to be adamant about getting paid and getting paid in a timely manner too since you’re depending on that money to live. I’ve had certain situations arise in the past where I didn’t get paid until 8 months later which is INSANE. It happens to every freelancer, sadly. Having the client sign a contract about payment deadlines will definitely help keep them accountable. If they don’t pay on time, you can always charge a late fee and snag some more money for their poor decisions.
4) But it is not all bad! In your opinion, which are the main advantages of working as a freelancer?Oh there are so many things! You can make your own hours of course. Wake up whenever, start your “work” at 10pm if you really wanted to and work into the night / early morning. You can pick and choose which projects you want to take on. Being a freelancer allows you to be free! Everything you do is under your terms and your decisions. Honestly, the best part is just being your own boss. Not worrying about anyone else but yourself is really nice – although there are lots of downsides to the freelance life of course. It’s not always glamorous!
5) Adobe, Starbucks, TGI Fridays, Warner Bros…and the list goes on! How do you find new clients that are interested in your services?As for new clients, I know lots of freelancers that do the cold calls, networking events, etc. but I personally don’t reach out to clients. I’ve honestly never done that because I’ve luckily never had to. I guess I try to utilize social media to its fullest extent. I share my work via Instagram, Twitter, Dribbble, etc. and I believe people just somehow find me and my work…Word of mouth must come into play at some point too. I do indeed have my own website which helps matters. But, like I said, almost all of my clients have found me via social media websites and I am grateful that I don’t have to go searching for the work.
6) Do you use other freelancers or companies to provide skills that you don’t possess or to delegate tasks that are not related to designing?Nope! If a client comes to me needing something that I can do but I’ve never attempted, I always try to tackle that work because I love to learn new things. It allows me to explore myself and my style in new ways. With that said, if a client comes to me needing something like…food typography, 3D modeling, etc. that requires a certain “skill”, I’ll definitely recommend another freelancer for the job. I won’t work alongside that freelancer, I’ll just pass the job along to someone that can tackle it better than I could. As for finding other freelancers, I’ve personally found connections with people via the social media sites that I regularly check.
7) How do you set yourself apart from your competitors? What makes you special?That’s a tough one! I’ve never really thought about it to be honest. I guess I’d have to say I set myself apart by constantly switching up my style / end product. I would say each project ends up looking much different from the last. Whether that’s using a different color palette, a different type style or overall illustration style, I try to keep things unique and ever-changing. Sticking to one specific thing gets boring and later becomes “overused”.
8) What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a freelance career? And what does it takes to be successful as a freelancer?If you’re just starting you’re freelance career, I just want to share that it’ll take time. It’s not an overnight success sort of thing. It took me 4 years to work up to being a full-time freelancer. To be successful you absolutely need to have determination, dedication, and a work/life balance. It’s so easy to get caught up in working too much and it’s just as easy to be hardly working too. There needs to be a nice balance between them both – that’s the key to not only a successful freelance career, but a successful and healthy life.
9) How do you manage the pressure of meeting deadlines? Do you use any specific apps or software tools for self-organization, invoicing and something else?I know lots of people, like my brothers for instance that love to do things the day before they’re due. That’s just how some people operate and they operate well under the pressure. For me, I love to start a project weeks or many days in advance so I can do a little bit each day. For example, I’ll work on a project 1-3 hours, work on another project 1-3 hours then the next day, I do the same. That way, the project slowly gets done over time and it gives me the time to think things through and nothing is overlooked. I can certainly operate within those 1 day deadlines too, I just don’t like them as much, of course!
As for specific apps and such to keep myself organized, I actually use a simple Moleskine planner. For me, writing my agenda and to-do list down with a pencil allows me to really remember what I need to do and easily see what’s coming up in the future. I’ve attempted to use certain task apps and note-taking apps but I just can’t get into using them efficiently. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible.
I will mention I use Freshbooks for sending invoices because it’s a breeze to setup and send off an invoice. Same for Bonsai or Shake Law for sending contracts because again, it’s beyond easy to setup a contract, make some edits, and send it off to the client for review. I’m all about saving time in any way possible!
10) Apart from your obsession with typography and design, what are your interests? How do you manage to balance work and life?I absolutely love to cycle and be outdoors! Also, getting crafty and making something with my hands is something I find myself doing almost every day. It’s important to do things other than design so that your entire world doesn’t revolve around your work.
As for balancing my work and life, that’s always a challenge! I still have troubles with that to this day. Personally, I try to do a little work in the morning, take a break (go outside), do more work, take another break (grab lunch with a friend perhaps), do more work…and the cycle repeats. I tend to take breaks throughout the day so I’m not working from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep at night. I think it’s also important to have a typical work schedule. For me, I work from roughly 8am-5pm. After 5pm, I don’t work any longer (even if I am a freelancer and can choose my own hours) because I like the consistency and normal work day hours. Lastly, I try not to work on weekends either…I certainly used to, but after my burnout that occurred 2 years ago, I now know that there’s much more to life than work.
Freestyle! Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?My last piece of advice is: be patient! Like I mentioned above, it took me 4 years to begin freelancing full-time. If you put in the time and keep working towards your end goal, it will happen! That sounds super cliché, but I honestly believe it. Anyone can achieve the success they’re dreaming of if they just put in the time and the effort.
Where to find Scott:Personal website: www.scottbiersack.com
A sneak peak into Scott's work:
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Pic: © Scott Biersack