Surviving Your First Year as a Self-Employed Designer

Surviving Your First Year as a Self-Employed DesignerGoing it alone can be both liberating and terrifying! Leaving the cosy surroundings of the office can be a big step but it may just pay off in the long run.

It can be tough going solo. Although the work can be much more flexible which will allow you to stretch your creative juices, rewards in your first year will eventually culminate from hard graft and perseverance.


The Traits You’ll Need for Success

Now that you are your own boss, you will need to act like a boss rather than an employee beavering away in the background.

First and foremost, in order to survive as a long term self-employed professional, you will need to encompass certain traits. Confidence and communication skills are important in order to sell yourself and your business as confidence and competence will set you apart from your competitors.

You will need to promote professionalism and a good sense of self-awareness in order to liaise with clients. Once you have found work, self-discipline is needed in order to meet targets and keep focused outside of an office environment, particularly if you are working from home.

As your work will now be more varied, you will need to find ways to flexibly adapt to projects with a willingness to learn new technology and skills in order to keep up with demands.

Start Promoting Yourself

It may be time to brush up on your marketing skills as you will need to reach out to new clients in order for your skills to be recognised.


Setting up your own blog creates a gateway to share your ideas, skills, work and news with others. Providing valuable SEO-friendly content as well as visual work will promote your business ethos and professionalism.

As more people use the net for e-commerce and engaging with others, social media will also become a great tool to promote your blossoming business.

Incorporate an array of social media sites such as Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with more demographics. There are also the good old fashioned methods of emailing and investing in advertising space both online and in newspapers and industry magazines.

Try Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a mutually beneficial alternative way of doing business which was first coined in 2006.


Some say that crowdsourcing can have an adverse affect for professionals as thousands of crowdsourcing sites all looking for a logo for example can make the job pool very competitive and saturated. However, crowdsourcing can be a great way for a newly established freelancer to build their portfolio. Good creative crowdsourcing sites include Kickstarter, Crowdspring and 99Designs.

Time Management – Download Project Management Spreadsheet

Becoming organised by managing your time effectively will not only allow you to keep up with your workload but it can also preserve your sanity too. Learn to prioritise tasks for clients depending on dates and time in order to meet deadlines and organise everything into a well constructed filing system.

time management

Using Excel spreadsheets is also a great way of managing projects and the amount of time you spend on them.

Managing Your Finances – Download Income & Expenditure Spreadsheet

As the owner of your business, you will also need to keep on top of your finances. Self-employed professionals are responsible for sorting out their own taxes so keep a record of all your earnings and expenditure throughout the year.

You will also need to retain any receipts for items you buy to help you run your business such as computers and office furniture, because you can offset these against the tax you will need to pay.

If you earn less than the taxable band in your first year, you should be entitled to tax refunds. You will need to contact HM Revenue and Customs in order to reclaim your refund. If you’re not sure how to do this, consider hiring an accountant to help you with this and indeed to help you file your tax return.  

Further Reading…

At some point in the future, you may be faced with the decision of whether to remain self employed or to become a Limited Company.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and you can read a good account of these on our sister website, the UK Business Directory in a blog post entitled “Sole Trader vs Limited Company – Which Should You Choose?

avatar Name: James Briggs
About: James is a Digital Marketing Consultant with over 12 years of design, development, search engine optimisation and project managment experience previously fullfilling a number of senior roles for two of the South's most well established and successful digital marketing agencies before setting up WebSafe Solutions Ltd in 2009. In his own words..."I've planned, designed and developed countless websites and am proud to have helped hundreds of clients to get the very best from their digital marketing campaigns. Some would say I have an unusual blend of knowledge, skill and experience and for my sins I'm an absolute perfectionist!"
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