Amanda Jane Jones is a Chicago-based freelance graphic designer and art director whose minimal, classic aesthetic has been incredibly influential in the design world. She earned her BFA in Graphic Design from Brigham Young University, and has worked in a variety of design positions throughout her career, including as the founding art director for Kinfolk magazine.
What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?
Two reasons - 1) My husband is a forever student, which means for the first five years of our marriage, he did five different internships. We stick together no matter what, so I needed a job that could travel with me. 2) After graduating, I worked at a desk design job at a small studio for two years. I learned a lot, but ultimately knew that sitting at a desk designing things I didn't enjoy wasn't for me. Working from home, I can pick my pace, my music, my location, my project, my client. Its the best way to go in my opinion.
"Setting work hours helps a ton and scheduling breaks. When I started out, I got in the awful habit of eating at my desk and not taking breaks. A really silly idea"
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I'm a strong believer in making sure you have time for personal and pro bono projects. Those types of project, even though up front they don't bring income, they'll pay off in the end. Personal projects can be fully and completely your voice. It's the perfect way to represent what you want to do as a designer. When you can showcase work that is 100% you and hasn't been filtered through the client, you'll attract the type of client that wants your style.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Setting work hours helps a ton and scheduling breaks. When I started out, I got in the awful habit of eating at my desk and not taking breaks. A really silly idea. My brain is more creative and more productive when I have a better life balance. If I force myself to stop and step away and go for a walk or take a lunch/snack break, I usually come back with a great idea or a renewed energy.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
The business side for sure. Taxes, invoices, contracts etc. I took a class on it in college and should have paid better attention. :) I'm still learning as I go.
What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?
The flexibility! I'm a new mom - so I can work when it's convenient.
Tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
1) Always set aside 50% of each paycheck for taxes (federal/state) and then you'll have a little left over for those surprise business expenses.
2) Write a solid contract! Even if it's a friend or someone you trust - always include an overtime fee - make sure everything is spelled out before you begin.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
I'm still trying to figure this out. When I started out, I put in probably 60-80 hours a week. My husband was in law school so we both just worked all the time. Now that I'm a mom and have been freelancing for 4 years, I can afford to not work as much....but that's because I put in the crazy hours up front. I guess my advice is that hard work pays off...but you also need a life. :)
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance designer are:
Organization, Discipline, Motivation
I hope you enjoyed this wisdom from Amanda!