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Freelance Survival Skills

An interview with
Sarah Townsend


For many designers, the ultimate dream is to work as an independent graphic designer, studio owner or freelancer. To work when you want, on the type of projects you want, with the clients of your choice.

The reality however isn’t as easy as we might expect. Heck, it can be tough. To discuss the reality of freelancing, and the survival skills you’ll need to survive I’ve invited Sarah Townsend, author of Survival Skills for Freelancers: Tried and Tested Tips to Help You Ace Self-Employment Without Burnout.

This episode is sponsored by The Perfect Match, a game where designers submit mood boards created using Adobe Stock assets. If your skilful project is chosen, you will be featured on Adobe's monthly live streaming game show with other talented designers, art directors, and creatives, where the winner goes home with $750!

Sarah Townsend Interview Transcription

Ian Paget: Graphic designers, whatever level they're at, a lot of people tend to see going freelance or becoming their own independent graphic designer is almost like the pinnacle or the peak of success. And I see so many people aiming for this, but you've recently wrote a book called Survival Skills for Freelancers, but I think, rather than just diving into how people can do that, I think we should have a bit of a reality check. Would you mind sharing a bit from your perspective of what the reality is of freelancing?

Sarah Townsend: Yeah, absolutely. It's one of those things that is a real issue to trip people up, I think. I think that we don't often talk about the reality. We all have this really clear grasp of what we expect freelance life to be like, and we're attracted to freelancing because we have the special skill. And in the case of your audience, that's graphic design. And we want to share that skill with the world, preferably on our own terms. So we're attracted by the freedom and the flexibility of freelance life. And the idea that we get to make good money, preferably, from doing the thing we love, working where we like, when we like and how we like, but in reality... So last year, the start of last year, there were 2 million freelancers in the UK alone and of the 5 million self-employed businesses in the UK, 20% of those businesses don't actually make it through the first year of trading.