Transition from Full-time to Freelance

A Designer's Journey to Independence and Success
Transition from Full-time to Freelance

Transitioning from a full-time design job to freelancing can be an exciting and challenging journey. In an interview with Karan Gujar, we explore his path to becoming a successful freelance designer and entrepreneur.

Vibrant Void | An abstract art project. It portrays an empty space filled with energy and emotion, aiming to connect
Vibrant Void | An abstract art project. It portrays an empty space filled with energy and emotion, aiming to connect
Q

How did you find your calling in design?

A

My fascination with design began with my love for collecting magazines and toys. I would eagerly ask my family members to bring me magazines from other cities. Initially, it was just a hobby, but over time, I became curious about how things worked and who made these designs.

Additionally, my family's connection to Marathi theatre and drama played a significant role in shaping my love for storytelling and visualisation. My late grandfather was a passionate enthusiast of Marathi theatre, and my grandmother supported his passion.

I didn't even know there are colleges that teach design. When I finally joined design school, it opened up a whole new world for me.

So, in essence, my path to becoming a designer was a combination of curiosity, a love for visual aesthetics, and a desire to do something different.

Soulful Aura | It symbolises glass as humanity, reflecting how our environment influences us
Soulful Aura | It symbolises glass as humanity, reflecting how our environment influences us
Q

When you were studying at MIT, Pune, Adobe approached you to feature your work. How was the experience?

A

I couldn't believe it was real. Collaborating with Adobe, seeing my work featured as the splash screen for Adobe Audition CC 2019, and gaining international recognition was both overwhelming and thrilling. It boosted my confidence as a designer and marked a significant turning point in my career.

Adobe Audition CC 2019 Splash Screen Design
Adobe Audition CC 2019 Splash Screen Design

The project consisted of an iteration of my existing artwork. I created multiple renders and drafts, actively solicited feedback from the Adobe team, and iteratively refined the artwork through post-production efforts.

Adobe Audition CC 2019 Splash Screen Design
Adobe Audition CC 2019 Splash Screen Design
Q

Why did you choose to switch from full-time jobs to freelance?

A

I shifted to freelancing to pursue greater artistic freedom, flexibility, and personal fulfilment in my career. Today I can work on projects that align with my creative passions and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. It also provides opportunities to diversify my portfolio and collaborate with clients from various industries, enriching my skill set and artistic journey.

The Diorama | Changing colours, light mimic weather, time and emotions, weaving a visual narrative connected to human feelings
The Diorama | Changing colours, light mimic weather, time and emotions, weaving a visual narrative connected to human feelings
Q

What do you think are the top skills that are essential to a freelancer?

A

As a freelancer, I believe that there are three essential skills for success in working as a freelancer.

  • Effective communication to understand client needs and expectations

  • Financial management by budgeting, invoicing, and saving for stability

  • Self-discipline in managing time and maintaining focus on creative goals

Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Q

What do you believe are the challenges and advantages of freelancing? Any advice for those starting?

A

In my view, freelancing presents both unique challenges and advantages. Challenges include managing variable income, handling client expectations, and staying self-motivated. On the positive side, freelancing offers flexibility in work hours, the freedom to choose projects aligned with your passions, and the potential for higher income. 

If you are just starting, I'd advise building a strong portfolio, networking to find opportunities, setting clear contracts, managing finances wisely, and staying self-motivated. Continuous learning, resilience in the face of rejection, and dedication to professional growth are key to navigating the freelance journey successfully.

Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Q

Back when you started freelancing, how did you go about making industry friends? Any tips you'd toss to designers looking to expand their contacts?

A

I started by attending events, both online and offline, to meet other designers and potential clients. Social networks like LinkedIn and Behance are also a great way to meet professionals. Collaborative projects helped me not only expand my portfolio but also establish meaningful connections. Offering help and value to my network and following up after interactions were key strategies for building and nurturing industry relationships. 

Expanding your contacts in the design industry is an ongoing effort that requires a genuine interest in connecting with others.

Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Gleam | It symbolises glass as the future and technology, depicting how our future environment will shape us
Q

When you were setting up your portfolio, what approach did you take to make it stand out? What elements, in your view, really catch the eye of a portfolio?

A

I took a minimalist approach to ensure it highlights my artwork and its meaning. I believe that simplicity allows art to take centre stage without distractions. In my view, elements that catch the eye in a portfolio include a clean layout, high-quality imagery that showcases the artwork's details and colours, consistency in style or theme, brief artistic statements that provide insight into the work's meaning, user-friendly navigation, and a clear contact section for potential clients or collaborators to get in touch. My goal was to create a portfolio that reflects my unique style and vision while engaging viewers on a deeper level through my artwork and its context.

Soulful Aura | It symbolises glass as humanity, reflecting how our environment influences us
Soulful Aura | It symbolises glass as humanity, reflecting how our environment influences us
Q

Figuring out project prices can be a puzzle. How did you crack the code on pricing your freelance gigs to keep things competitive yet worthwhile? How'd you explain your value to clients?

A

Pricing freelance projects is about finding that sweet spot where clients see the value in your services while ensuring your pricing is competitive within the market.

I first conducted thorough market research to understand industry standards and pricing benchmarks. Then, I evaluated the specific project's scope, complexity, and the value I would bring to the client. I adopted a transparent approach, clearly breaking down the costs involved, including my time, expertise, and any additional expenses. Moreover, I emphasised the unique value I offered, such as my artistic vision, skills, and dedication to delivering exceptional results.

The Diorama | Changing colours, light mimic weather, time and emotions, weaving a visual narrative connected to human feelings
The Diorama | Changing colours, light mimic weather, time and emotions, weaving a visual narrative connected to human feelings
Q

Any price negotiation tactic you have always found helpful?

A

One price negotiation tactic I've found helpful is the "tiered pricing" approach. Instead of offering a single fixed price, I present clients with different pricing tiers that correspond to varying levels of service or additional features, allowing them to choose a package that aligns with their budget and project needs.

Q

Starting as a freelancer involves some personal branding. How did you create yours?

A

To be honest, I didn't actively focus on creating a traditional personal branding strategy when I started as a freelancer. Instead, the majority of my work came through Behance, contacts, word of mouth, and recognition within the industry. These channels naturally became a part of my brand as they showcased my work, skills, and reputation.

The Cogitation of Glass | Abstract and captivating, it mirrors life’s adaptability, narrating a visual tale of resilience
The Cogitation of Glass | Abstract and captivating, it mirrors life’s adaptability, narrating a visual tale of resilience
Q

Can you share a cool story about how you clicked with a client while freelancing? What strategies did you use to build a strong bond with them?

A

Once, I was working on a branding project for a startup and the client had some reservations. So my job wasn’t only making designs, it was also to build trust and address their concerns. I started by actively listening to make them feel heard and valued. I even offered a discount, which not only eased their budget concerns but also showed my commitment to their success.

Throughout the project, I regularly provided updates and sought their input. This collaborative approach made the client feel more involved and confident in the project's progress. Additionally, I always maintained a friendly and enthusiastic tone in our interactions, which helped create a positive and comfortable working environment.

As a result, the client not only became satisfied with the project's outcome but also turned into a long-term partner.

Lost Dreams | It represents dreams as objects lost in an unknown place, surrounded by clusters like mushrooms, symbolising potential revival and discovery
Lost Dreams | It represents dreams as objects lost in an unknown place, surrounded by clusters like mushrooms, symbolising potential revival and discovery
Q

You've ventured into creating NFTs. Can you share your experience with that?

A

In 2021 when the NFT market was booming, I decided to drop my first NFT, which was a visual from my project "Cogitation of Glass". It was an incredible experience as I started receiving a significant response across various social platforms, and my artwork was sold for 1 ETH in just three days. 

I continued to drop more NFTs, collaborating with different platforms and artists. While I faced challenges, such as not every artwork being sold, I took it as a learning experience and eventually shifted my focus back to creating art that truly resonated with me. Currently, I'm not planning to launch any new NFT collection, but it was an exciting phase which taught me a lot about life and how fortune can change.

The Cogitation of Glass | Abstract and captivating, it mirrors life’s adaptability, narrating a visual tale of resilience
The Cogitation of Glass | Abstract and captivating, it mirrors life’s adaptability, narrating a visual tale of resilience
Q

While we are on the topic of new-age tech. What's your take on AI? How has it affected you so far?

A

I believe that AI is a transformative force. It has the potential to significantly impact various aspects of our lives, including how we work, communicate, and even create art. So far, AI has affected me by enabling me to access information more efficiently and assisting in tasks like generating content or providing insights.

I agree that AI won't necessarily take over, but we must adapt to its presence and learn how to work alongside it. Embracing AI as a tool that enhances our capabilities can lead to more productive and innovative outcomes. It's about finding a balance between harnessing the power of AI and preserving the unique qualities that make us human, such as creativity, empathy, and intuition.

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