Vanessa Wade is the owner of Noirve Design Studio, a boutique design firm based in San Diego, CA, focusing on brand development and website design for small businesses. She has a knack for small details, clean and modern design. Vanessa loves collaborating with individuals who appreciate simplicity and strive to work hard. Since venturing out on her own 2 years ago as a small business owner, she has never worked harder, but she wouldn't trade that hard work for anything!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.
After relocating to San Diego right after college I worked at an advertising agency where I was able to build up my portfolio and soak up as much experience as I could in the design and marketing world. After work each night I’d come home and work on freelance projects to make a little bit of cash on the side and found myself way more excited about my freelance projects than I was about the work I was doing during the day. Eventually one night after a few glasses of wine I had a chat with my husband about what the next steps for me were in my career. For years I had talked about wanting to work for myself full-time but I had always been too scared of failing. I was finally in a place where I felt like freelance work was coming in slowly but regularly and like I could really try this freelancing full-time thing out. I think just realizing what that failure would mean really opened my eyes. If I failed I could just go out and get another job, not a big deal! So the next day I gave my notice at my job and spent that month reaching out to friends, old clients, and posting on my blog regularly to prep for the chaos that was to come. That was exactly two years ago. :)
"I think just realizing what that failure would mean really opened my eyes. If I failed I could just go out and get another job, not a big deal!"
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Blogging had helped me a lot when I was first starting to get the right clients. I was blogging a ton about my design projects, my life, my process and was also able to use blogging as a creative outlet to try different styles of design. This is where I was really able to grow and learn, and I think eventually potential clients were able to see this.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Definitely setting specific hours for work and writing a to-do list daily for myself. Some days are easier than others but if you don’t get everything done in one day don’t beat yourself up about it. Just get it done the next day!
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Not taking feedback the wrong way! My feelings used to get SO hurt if my clients didn’t love something right away and I think stepping back and not being so attached to the work has helped me grow. Also learning to ask the right questions when a client is giving feedback has helped tremendously.
"Learning to ask the right questions when a client is giving feedback has helped tremendously."
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
I’ve met a lot of friends in San Diego who are working for themselves as well, and being able to meet up with them for coffee in the middle of a weekday to collaborate, discuss ideas, or even just have brunch, is the best. It really makes the long hours worth it.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
Word of mouth! When you go above and beyond to do great work for your clients they’ll continue to pass your info along.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Invest the money in a lawyer to write a solid contract for you. When I first started out I had used a contract I got off google and my current contract has saved me in so many ways. You definitely want to ensure you’re fully protected if a client tries to add more work onto a project that was never discussed or if a client tries to push a deadline out. Protect yourself!
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Drive, communication, being nice.