Jenny Kraemer is a Brooklyn-based freelance graphic designer specializing in print design, digital design, branding, book design, and art direction. She has collaborated with a range of clients, including Refinery29, J.Crew, Kate Spade, Penguin Random House, and Grand Army.
What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?
In college, branding was my one true love. But after I graduated, I sort of fell into the publishing industry and stayed there for a while. I liked designing books, but I was getting a little restless and afraid of being pigeonholed. I didn’t think anyone would hire me to design a logo when my portfolio was full of books, so I needed a way to branch out. Luckily I have a super supportive boyfriend who was willing to catch me if I fell, so I just went for it! I quit my publishing job and vowed to find my way back to branding.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
My old publishing job offered me several freelance projects, which kept me busy for the first year. It wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it was amazing to have steady income during what is probably the toughest part of most freelance careers. After that—and a very scary dry spell—I landed a 6-week freelance gig at J.Crew through a friend from college (thank you, Rosie!). Everything from that point on has been complete word-of-mouth and networking. You don’t even need to be that great at networking (I am TERRIBLE at it). You just need to work hard and be nice to people, and they will want to work with you!
If you work from home, do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I have this list on my fridge. It keeps me on track!
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Figuring out who I am as a designer. Earlier this year I had a major “aha!” moment when I realized that my style was all over the place. I pride myself on being versatile, but I think potential clients weren’t sure what to expect. I took a few weeks and did a major overhaul of my portfolio, Pinterest page, Dribbble… basically anywhere I showed up on the web. I made a mood board and rebranded myself. It’s made such a difference in the type of clients that I attract, and I highly recommend a strong, cohesive web presence for every freelancer.
What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?
The versatility. I never get bored, and I’m always learning something new. I took a few weeks and did a major overhaul of my portfolio, Pinterest page, Dribbble... I made a mood board and rebranded myself. It’s made such a difference in the type of clients that I attract, and I highly recommend a strong, cohesive web presence for every freelancer.
Tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Get an accountant! The peace of mind is worth every penny. Keep track of every business-related expense. Pay quarterly taxes! Open a savings account and name it “Taxes”. Every time you get paid, immediately transfer 30% into that savings account. Don’t even think of it as your money.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
It’s great when things fall into place, but almost impossible to schedule it that way all the time. There’s no way to guarantee that a project will come in when it’s convenient for you. My strategy is to say yes to the good projects no matter what’s going on, work too hard for a while, and then give myself some time off to recover. I guess part of that balance is learning when to say no to a project that doesn’t really excite you or fit your aesthetic.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance designer are:
Organization, decisiveness, resourcefulness.
"It’s great when things fall into place, but almost impossible to schedule it that way all the time. There’s no way to guarantee that a project will come in when it’s convenient for you."
Hope you learned a little something from the lovely Jenny!