Talking Shop with
Graphic Designer from London, UK
Interview by Carly Ayres
Illustration by Ping Zhu
Talking Shop is an interview series where we talk to freelancers about freelancing. In this interview, we talk to Claire Boston, a graphic designer based in London, United Kingdom.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Claire: I’ve been a full-time freelance graphic designer since September 2015, but I was freelancing on the side for several years before that. I have quite a few regular clients, who I work both in-house and at home for, most of whom are start-ups or small businesses.
How did you strike that balance?
I think partially because I can be a bit cautious and always liked the security of a regular paycheck, the idea of freelancing always seemed too perilous. It wasn’t until I had a client asking if I could come in-house for a couple of days a week that I got the courage to take the jump from full-time to freelance. Now I get the benefit of varied work with great clients, with a bit of stable income that I can plan around.
What has been the biggest challenge of freelancing?
Having free time. I tend to always be working, since I’m juggling quite a lot. I’d love to maintain a better sense of work / life balance. Working from home makes it hard to put an end to the work day. You can easily work from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM without stopping, so that’s been a challenge.
I also experience this sense of FOMO when it comes to projects — I never want to miss out on anything. So, when someone asks me to do this thing and I know I can’t, I still want to say yes anyway. Discipline around saying no is a big challenge for me.
I relate to all of that. So, what’s the solution?
I’m getting better at it. The longer that you work, the more you realize that the work keeps coming, and saying no doesn’t mean that they’re never going to ask you again.
“It’s also having confidence in yourself and your skills — learning to say no is hard, but if your clients value your work then they will understand when your schedule is tight.”
I also have a deal with myself not to ever cancel on plans with friends to work, as even if I’m up against deadlines, getting out and about in London can do wonders for my creativity and focus.
What do you think was the most important lesson you learned this year?
I’m constantly learning to value my time. When I was working full-time, my side freelance gigs were a lot of fun, but I didn’t pay too much attention to how long they took or what I was being paid. When it becomes your living wages, you learn that everything has a cost and your time is a finite resource. I’m not embarrassed to have that conversation with clients.
As a part of that, I’ve gotten a lot better at working with my clients to refine the brief so that I’m clear on what they want, and they’re clear on how long I think it will take and the cost associated. By getting this process right at the very beginning, ultimately I save a lot of time across the whole project.
What are you excited about right now?
In terms of work, I’m most excited about an upcoming project for a client where I’ve pitched a new online storytelling platform that I’ve never used before so I’ll be learning a lot of new skills. I’m just going to work it out as we go. I think it will be fine. I’m sure it will be fine. Okay, I’m a little apprehensive, but it’s going to be great.
You can visit Claire Boston’s website at www.claire-boston.com/.