Dragos is an experienced and self-taught Product Designer with 14 years of experience in the field. Starting off originally as a side hustle, Dragos has turned his freelancing gigs into a full-blown career. He shares his story with us today!
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what do you do?
I am Dragos, a Romanian freelance product designer, living in Berlin. I’ve started this some time ago, it’s been 14 years already and counting.
Sneak peek into Dragos portfolio ©
What was the source of inspiration behind entering the field of design? How did you start your career?
Need. The need for designing skills for a freelance project.
Back in University, I was studying Computer Science, and when the first gig came up, my friend and colleague, covered the programming part, and I started the design. Designing my very first website. I borrowed some CDs with Photoshop tutorials and learned how to create a shadow, how to create an emboss. Not that hard. Of course, only later I understood that design is so much more than just pretty pixels.
Later I understood that design is so much more than just pretty pixels.
When did you actually decide to become a freelancer?
This decision came naturally. My friend had a small business, so we both worked on projects. In my hometown, there was no design major or anything to teach you about design. So I had to learn it all by myself. Accessing the Internet started to get more aﬀordable and it had lots of tutorials and information about design. A true goldmine. When I graduated from University, I had apps that didn’t quite work but they were always the best-looking apps.
Most of the time, freelance was an afterthought, a way to make some money on the side. But after a while, it started to become a part-time job, after the “9 to 5”. Now, it’s a full-time gig.
Was it diﬀicult for you to start freelancing? Did you ever want to quit or give up?
I never took it too seriously, but never thought to quit because it was just a side gig. Freelancing pushed me into improving my creativity, gave me joy from the great results and from the social impact. It did not only give me extra money for my studies, and my vacations, but what I’ve always liked about it is how good design improves the human environment.
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What kind of services do you oﬀer the most? What kind of projects do you enjoy most doing? Any particular work you’re especially proud of?
Right now I’ve transitioned to being a product designer. It is so much better to be involved in the thinking behind the project, in strategy, research, and design. Of course, this depends on the project scope and budget.
Nowadays I prefer working more like a remote team member, than just to design something quick and be paid the money. I like being involved in a project for a longer time, so I can understand it better to create something that is really good for the users and the business.
I also have the luxury to choose the projects I work on. Currently, I am working with several teams on diﬀerent projects: a self-guided tour app where the tours are quests – you need to find clues on location so you can answer a question and get the story of that place, a coaching platform that helps all employees get coaching, not only for high-level management, and a male yoga app for performance athletes that want to get the edge over the competition.
Sneak peek into Dragos portfolio ©
Do you work with other freelancers or outsource tasks that you don’t enjoy much doing?
Due to the nature of my approach to projects, I need to be a full member of the team, in order to provide the best value. So it is hard for me to outsource any design work.
How do you find new clients that are interested in your services? How did this change from the very beginning?
All beginnings are diﬀicult. Most projects came through word of mouth. Now, I also have a website www.dragos.is, and I am active on LinkedIn and Instagram, constantly updating my profile with new work or thoughts, learning nuggets that resulted from work. I force myself to be active and to reach out to people and projects.
What does a typical work day look like for you? Do you work 9-5? How do you organize your time? Would you say that you manage to have a healthy work-life balance?
Each day is diﬀerent. I start my mornings with a workout routine, eat and prepare coﬀee. Then, I reply to emails, read the news and continue working on projects, or with international clients, I might go straight into a video meeting, or take a 45-minute bike ride through Berlin to a client’s oﬀice (everything in Berlin is at least 45 min away, which I enjoy).
After lunch, a bit of sunshine and then back to work, research, or a bit of planning for the week.
In the evening I attend meetups, together with other designer friends, taking the pulse of the design community, or go for a run with my wife, so we can de-stress. Later, we either meet friends or watch Netflix or play video games.
What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?
It is very hard to start a business in a new country, more so if you don’t speak the language. Everything State-related is in German, as it should be, but it is not easy. That being said, the market for freelancers, here in Germany, is amazing, it is just a matter of getting to the right client, at the right time. This is why you need to be out there on social media and meetups, all the time.
It took me 1 year of doing this, just to get my 1st local client. Now it has all snowballed and is way better. But you need patience and consistency. If I would stop now, in 1 year maybe I will not have any more projects. You have to be in their faces all the time. They need to see your name, and when the time is right, you will be the person to go to.
The market for freelancers in Germany is amazing. It is just a matter of getting to the right client, at the right time.
Do you think moving out from your home country was a key move in your freelance success?
Moving to a new country was the best move ever. It is a very hard process, but it is totally worth it. It makes you rediscover yourself and set your priorities straight. A new country means a new system, a new society with new social rules. This all is very demanding and adds up stress. You need to adapt and transform into a new person. Maybe we all need to do this once in our lifetime.
Freestyle! Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
If you have to choose peace of mind for now or for later, always go for the latter. For those who are in Berlin and want to discover the city, here is a promo code for QuestoApp. The first 10 people to use it, will get a tour for free using the code: “freestyleberlinquest”. Download the app and use the code for the Berlin quest.
See you out there,
Where can you find Dragos?
You can follow Dragos’ work on:
Dragos on Instagram (He just started this new community for like-minded people talking about coffe and design – So go check it out!)
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