Amber Asay is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in Graphic Design, she has gone on to design in a number of positions for a wide range of companies and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, UCLA, UNO Pizzeria & Grill, Mozi Magazine, and more. She also owns and operates Variety Show Studio, an online shop and graphic design studio, with her husband, Mike.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.
Technically I've always been a freelancer on the side of my day jobs. I'm one of those designers that likes to keep one foot in freelance and one foot in studio/agency work. I hope there are more out there like me, because it always feels like you're either one or the other. But I'm always both of everything! Introvert & Extrovert, Idealistic & Pragmatic, I just can't choose! I love being able to collaborate at my day job because I feel like some of my best work comes from that, but I also love being able to do my own thing. I don't know if there's a name for our kind, if anyone comes up with one, let me know!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Honestly, they found me. I had submitted a bunch of my student work to popular blogs and once they posted it, I got a lot more inquiries. Sometimes you have to make yourself accessible to clients looking for talented designers. Since I work full-time, I don't have much time to seek out work, so I let it find me and then pick and choose.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I'm not a morning person at all, but I recently read an article that said our most productive hours are 9am-12pm, and it's proven to be very true for me. I also tend to get a second wave after dinner, from 8pm-11pm. It's important to know when your most productive hours are and to really utilize them. When I use those hours to email and get into project management mode, I notice that it's harder for me to work on my off hours.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Honestly, finding good clients. That is still a struggle of mine. If I had the coolest clients with big budgets to create amazing work (everyone's dream, right?), I probably wouldn't need a day job.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
One thing I've always liked about freelance is that I get to work closer with the client than I do at my jobs. There was always at least 2 degrees of separation between me and the client. It didn't feel efficient, like I wasn't able to really solve their design problems — it felt more like working at a factory and being told what to do. It's all about creative control for me. I'm in a small studio now where I feel more connected with the client and am able to sell them ideas and design that in the past I wasn't able to do.
Do you have any advice for promoting an online shop?
Social Media! I can't say enough about it. The more you join the community and collaborate with others, the more your name will get out there and the ball will start rolling. The second you stop, no one will know you're there.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
A printer I worked with introduced me to Harvest and it has changed my life for the better. It's helped me track my hours and invoice easily. I highly recommend it.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
For some crazy reason, I have a hard time finding balance. I can be a bit of a workaholic, must be the capricorn in me. My husband is the one who helps me with that. He's like a little kid knocking at my door and saying "Wanna go out and play?" They say opposites attract—I work hard and he teaches me to play hard.
Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Discernment, communication, and cultural awareness.