Belinda Love Lee is a Cardiff, UK-based graphic designer and illustrator specializing in hand lettering and illustrations. A cultural hybrid, she grew up in Hong Kong and went to university in Toronto before living in Wales. Her Instagram has earned her a loyal online following, and her signature hand-lettering style shows up everywhere from personal doodles to professional branding projects for clients.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer & letterer.
I actually unintentionally fell upon this path of working for myself. At the time I just finished a graphic design internship at a non-profit, and I tried applying to a ton of design jobs to keep me afloat. A month in, I still had no job offers but what I did have was a couple of freelance gigs from friends. Since that was working I thought, "why not just run with it?" Four years down the line, here I am today.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
In the beginning, I would just make up imaginary projects and clients that I wanted to work on. So my initial portfolio was full of branding designs and wedding invitations in the style that I wanted to attract. Slowly, the self initiated projects fell by the wayside and became real client projects.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
What works best for me to is to make sure I know my deadlines for the week. I like working under pressure on a tight deadline, so usually I find I'm my most productive on the day the project is due. If a project is due this coming Thursday, I literally leave it till noon to work on it, then I find that within those 4-5 hours, magic happens!
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
I think at the beginning, the biggest struggle was the fear of not being able to survive and make a living. Unlike a 9-5, freelancing doesn't provide you with a guaranteed pay check - so that's definitely scary! But now 4 years in, I feel like I've really learned to trust that it will all work out. Last year for example, I was able to go month to month without a worry, because I just 'knew' work would come in. Once in a while I'll have a little freak out when it gets super quiet, like around Christmas, but I guess it's all part of keeping you on your toes - it definitely makes the job a little more exciting!
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
My favourite thing about freelancing is being about to form your day's schedule according to what works for you. I'm a person that doesn't work very well with routine, so this job is perfect for me because I am able to have each day look completely different, with no routine whatsoever. As long as I get my deadlines done, and still remain motivated throughout the day, then it's all good!
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
The key to attracting my ideal clients has been simply that I continually post the type of work I want to attract. So just because I've done a project, it doesn't mean that I share it on my website. I make sure I have a clear voice and style to my website, so that it all looks cohesive and as a body of work. By posting only your best work, it will come full circle in attracting your ideal clients, because that's exactly what they're looking for.
"By posting only your best work, it will
come full circle in attracting your ideal clients, because that's exactly what they're
You have over 38k followers on Instagram. Do you have advice for growing a social audience?
I think the key to growing a good following on Instagram (beside having beautiful photos as that's a given) is to be active, comment, make friends, engage with the community around and also tell a story behind your beautiful photos! Everyone loves getting to know the personality behind the work. I certainly love it when you feel like you're getting an inside scope on the life of a creative.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
My one tip would be to keep a track of all your incoming and outgoing spending. I still struggle with being really meticulous with this, but I promise if you keep good track throughout the year, it'll only make your taxes easier.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
I keep a pretty hard and fast rule on not working weekends or after 5pm. So no email replies whatsoever, unless it's really necessary. My clients are based all around the world, so timezone wise we're never quite working at the same time. However, despite the fact that I might not reply immediately, they still respect my space and seem to have a really good understanding of my life and work choices. Being your own boss you have complete control of how much you work. You can definitely choose to go into overdrive if you want, but personally I value my sanity and wellbeing more than being 'super successful' at what I do.
Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
To believe in yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on what makes you and your work unique!