Eight books to help you plot your escape and go freelance

We've heard it a million times. "Why didn't I go freelance earlier? Why did I wait this long?" The industry is full of designers who want to leave their jobs, but take years trying to pluck up the courage.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

If that's you, then we have some books that may help. Each of them is packed with practical advice to allay any fears you have about finding work, managing your finances, keeping clients on board, and paying those bills. They're also shot through with passion and inspiration that will give you the emotional kick you need to stop talking about it and start doing it.

1. Survive The Corporate World And Go Freelance As A Creative Designer: Drive through Corporate Hierarchy like a Boss and Succeed on Your Own as a Freelancer by Alex Aráez

In this honest and raw book, Alex Aráez shares a series of practical shortcuts to help you make it as a freelance designer using common sense and rational thinking. The corporate world, although it is exciting and rewarding, can be complicated, hard to impact and exhausting. Aráez doesn’t hold back in revealing both the good and not-so-good sides of the creative industry.

2. The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams by Sara Horowitz

Written by the founder of America’s Freelancers Union, this is a one-stop, all-encompassing guide to being an agile, flexible, and successful freelancer. Topics include the three essentials of getting clients and the three most important ways to keep them happy; 13 tactics for making it through a prolonged dry spell; a dozen negotiating dos and don'ts, and plenty more besides.

3. 100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers: Insider Secrets for Working Smart & Staying Creative by Steve Gordon Jr and Laurel Saville

The best way to learn about what a freelance life is really like is to talk to real-life freelancers. Here, 100 of them share the daily habits that continually inspire them to stay creative and business strategies that have helped them achieve financial success. Topics covered include deadlines, inspiration, competition, rules, respect, education, and how to handle criticism, and the designers’ opinions are all shared with honesty and irreverence.

4. Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business by David Airey

This book from designer and blogger David Airey answers the questions we all have when first going freelance, such as “How do I find new clients?”, “How much should I charge for my design work?” and “When should I say no to a client?” Based on the questions David receives from visitors to his blogs, the topics are all relevant and pertinent to any designer who’s considering going freelance.

5. The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed by Joseph D'Agnese and Denise Kiernan

This book is not aimed at designers specifically, but freelancers of all kinds and is focused on how to manage your finances. From interviews with financial experts to anecdotes from real-life freelancers, handy charts and graphs to help you visualise key concepts, you'll learn about topics including managing cash flow, getting real about you're earning and tools for getting out of debt.

6. Know Your Onions: Graphic Design: How to Think Like a Creative, Act Like a Businessman and Design Like a God by Drew de Soto

Although it’s not specifically aimed at freelancers, this book will give a great headstart to anyone about to strike out on their own. Based on a career development course run at Middlesex University in London, this book by Drew de Soto, the founder and creative director of Navig8, is practical and immediate, without being condescending or overly technical.

7. Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff They Don't Teach You in Design School, But Should by Michael Janda

It takes more than just a design school education and a killer portfolio to succeed as a creative freelancer. In this book, Michael Janda, owner of the Utah-based design firm Riser, reveals the real-world practices and unwritten rules of business most creatives only pick up after putting in years of experience on the job. And not only is it full of practical advice, but it’s surprisingly funny.

8. Make Your Own Luck: A DIY Attitude to Graphic Design and Illustration

If this book by notable designer Aries Moross doesn’t give you the inspiration you need to leave your job and make it on your own, we don’t know what will. Including chapters on developing your personal style, how to self-promote, collaboration with other artists, how to deal with 'copycats,' and when to consider working for free, this is written with passion yet full of practical tips and advice: a must-read for any budding freelancer.


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