This month’s Featured Soloist is a freelance designer and art director from Vancouver, Canada.
Helen Eady spent 8 years working at agencies before deciding to strike it out on her own as a full-time freelancer. She’s been freelancing for 2 years and has worked with a variety of different clients in various industries and verticals.
She’s recently become a new mom and is now learning how to juggle her freelance business, running a second company, and raising her daughter. In addition, she mentors design students on building their personal brand and teaches a course as part of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Emily Carr University’s joint program on communication design.
What’s your elevator pitch to new clients?
I’m an independent designer and art director that works with a range of clients, from big to small. I try and give hands-on and personalized service to all my clients. I do graphic design and illustration.
How did you start freelancing?
Eight years working full-time at agencies before I decided to take the freelance leap.
I had always wanted to freelance, but held off for many years because my husband was starting a company that needed capital. So one of us needed a regular income. Once his company started working, I took the plunge into freelance.
I like that personal freedom of choosing who I can work with and the variety of working with different people. I also can work with people outside of Vancouver as well, which means I can work remote if I want.
You recently had a baby, how has being a freelancer affected that?
It’s fantastic and really hard at the same time.
There are options for a freelancer to take employment insurance, but I chose not to take that and chart my own course working a bit part time. That way I can take as much or as little work as I want. But working with a baby can be a challenge as she’s often on conference calls with me, haha.
That can be a bit distracting, but also fun. She comes with me on client meetings sometimes as well. It’s a nice lifestyle to be able to be a new mother and a part-time freelancer. My clients are pretty understanding as well.
Do you think freelancing is good or bad for being a new mother?
Overall I like it and am happy with my chosen path,and how we’re doing it. It’s nice to keep my work life as a part of my life, rather than just being a new mother 100% of the time.
It’s a challenge to juggle, but I’ve set myself up for a great long-term solution to get what I want out of being a parent and my career. Sometimes it can be exhausting if you didn’t get much sleep and have a deadline.
What percentage of your work is direct for clients versus subcontracting for agencies?
Fifty-fifty between direct and agency subcontracting.
What would you say are the differences between direct client work versus subcontracting for agencies?
I like having the mix and balance, rather than one or the other. On agency projects I get to work with bigger clients and the agency handles the client management so I focus more directly on design. There’s also a team environment that’s fun at agencies.
Working direct is fun and more personal, and you’re the one who has the client relationship. The agency clients are often longer projects, which means sometimes the pay is better because the project covers a longer period of time. The direct projects are generally smaller, so the pay rate might be the same, but they aren’t as long typically. Also, the direct clients can provide ongoing work over time, as you support them in a consistent manner.
How do most new clients find you? Or you them?
I have gotten some referrals and new clients from LocalSolo, so thank you!
A lot of how I get new clients is the product of spending 10 years in the industry. My former agencies hire me on contract, and the people I used to work with at agencies now refer me to their new companies. Then once you do good work for one client, they are happy to refer you to someone else.
Especially if you have a strong personal relationship with the client that makes them want to help you out.
How do you know when to say yes or no to a project?
When you’re young and starting out, you really need to say yes to as much as you can. If the work is good, things will happen for you. Build your network of people who know who you are and what you do.
What’s your freelance tool stack, the tools you can’t live without?
17Hats handles all the invoicing and quoting, love that tool.
Dropbox is critical for filesharing as a freelancer to share files easily with teams and clients. I use whatever project management tool my clients use. Basecamp, Asana, Trello — it doesn’t matter, I can slot into it. I also use Evernote a ton for taking notes and copying client feedback from emails.
What is your dream project?
Something in the athletic sphere because I’m an active rock climber and cyclist. I own a small cycling apparel company as well. It can be challenging to do both, but it’s cool to have two separate types of businesses that my brain can switch on.
What’s one major challenge all freelancers face?
Figuring out how to quote is difficult. Sometimes you can undervalue yourself. You’re afraid of over quoting. You need to get over that fear, and find that sweet spot and confidence in asking for what you are worth.
Check in every few weeks when we’ll highlight another LocalSolo Freelancer. If you’d like to be a featured Soloist, just send us a message.