So, we know what design recruitment agency freelance is and how it works, but what does it take to become a design recruitment agency freelancer? What qualities do you need to work this way?

To those who don’t work freelance, it may seem like a luxurious, even privileged, lifestyle. In fact, it is quite the opposite! There are many benefits to working this way, but those benefits are well earned. It’s not easy being a freelancing, especially working with design recruitment agencies. It’s hard work and there are certain qualities you’ll need if you want to be a design recruitment agency freelancer and succeed. 

1 – You need to be proactive

Now, while it may seem easier for a freelancer who is working with design recruitment agencies to get work, there’s actually a bit of work required from the freelancer. Sometimes the phone will ring and you’ll be offered work, however sometimes it won’t. 

It can be quite disconcerting when it doesn’t ring, but this is just one of the uncertainties of being freelance. So, what are you going to do? You can’t just sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You need to be proactive and chase the agents!

Firstly, register with as many design recruitment agencies as you can. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I did this when I first started and quickly learned that it is NOT the way to do it. Over the years, I’ve been registered with multiple agencies at a time and will speak to all of them when I’m ready for a new contract. 

So, don’t sit on your hands and wait for work to come knocking. Pick up the phone and start dialing! Call as many agents as you can. After all, you never know where the work will be coming from.

2 – You need to be relentless

Now this is a continuation from the first point. You need to be relentless in your work search or you aren’t going to get anywhere. This is especially true at the beginning of your design recruitment agency freelance career, as you need to put yourself on the map. 

Search for all the design recruitment agencies in your area, call them up and speak to someone. They may try to get you to leave a message or register online. Do what you need to, but try to be put through to an agent. If you don’t get through the first time, keep calling until you do.

Be smart about when you call too. Try not to call during lunch as you’ll probably be faced with an empty office, bar the receptionist. Avoid late Friday afternoon as best you can as many people have clocked off by then. Try calling around these times to ensure the best possibility of speaking to someone.

Send follow up emails and make sure they know you are available and eager to work. Don’t be concerned that you’re coming across as desperate or that you’re annoying them. You want to get work, you need to get work, and to do that you need to be relentless.

3 – You need to be able to work under pressure

As a freelancer, you’ll work on a contract and be paid by the day. Depending on the project, the client may only have you contracted for a short period of time. 

You’re not a permanent employee, you’re temporary and therefore won’t have lots of time to get the job done. However, the client will still be expecting good results. So, you need to be able to work under pressure to deliver your work within the required timeframe and to a good standard. 

When I first went freelance, I’d sometimes only have a few days to get a big job done, which was quite stressful. I’d always deliver, but there was always a certain amount of anxiety involved. 

Anxiety can be good sometimes as it can act as a source of motivation. It can also be stressful and, if built up too much, can result in poor work. Although difficult at first, I’ve become used to working under pressure and have become better at it. Over the years I’ve developed a process that I now follow, which allows me to deliver good results in the required timeframe with minimal stress every time.

4 – You need to be highly motivated

As a freelance designer, you will constantly be under pressure, from both yourself and the clients. You’ll have time pressures and need to complete a job to a good standard. Then once the job is finished, you’ll be chasing the next contract. You’re then on another job with another tight deadline, and therefore more pressure and anxiety. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and get a job with a long timeframe, but mostly it will be shorter contracts. 

It can be an endless cycle and can become quite tiring after a while. This is an intense way of working that requires a lot of energy. So, you need to stay motivated! As I’ve grown in my career the jobs I’ve worked on have become more senior. With that has come longer timeframes for projects. So, it’s important to maintain motivation, especially in the early days when you’re building a reputation and experience. 

5 – You need to be adaptable

Now this is a big one! As a design recruitment agency freelancer you’ll be working on all sorts of projects, with all sorts of people. Every studio has its own culture with its own process of doing things. No job will ever be the same, so for you to hit the ground running, you need to be adaptable. 

Sometimes you’ll need to work quickly, whilst other times you’ll be given longer to complete the project. You may be working on your own or you may be working within a team. Sometimes you’ll work with senior staff, sometimes with junior staff. You may even lead projects, or you may need to take direction.

Whatever the scenario, it helps to keep an open mind and go with the flow. To be adaptable and not phased by unpredictability will be one of your best qualities. This is how you will succeed. This is how you will learn and gain experience. 

6 – You will need to take direction 

Once a freelancer accepts a contract and arrives at the studio, they must work with the client within the parameters of the company, the team and the brief to carry out the creative task until it’s complete and the contract is over. 

If the contract is with a design agency, there will typically be senior staff running a project or a project manager may be involved. The freelancer will be expected to work within the structure of the company and take direction from senior members of the creative team, project management or even the client. 

A freelancer won’t always be able to work to the process they prefer or even have final say on a design. Each job will vary, but there will be a time when you may have to take direction. You will need to be able to take direction and handle it well. 

In my experience, it’s been a mixed bag and it all depends on who you find yourself working with. So, again, it really helps to be adaptable to all working situations. Sometimes I’ve been left alone with the freedom to execute my own process. Other times I‘ve had to work to someone else’s direction and change work to their design and personal tastes. 

This has been tough at times, but I’ve always found it pays to be respectful, tactful and patient. You want to avoid getting into an argument as you may not be invited back or get bad feedback. Often these are times where you may have a chance to learn something from someone more experienced so it helps to have a positive and open attitude.

7 – You need to be able to take criticism and manage it well

To continue from the previous point, you need to be able to handle criticism. If you find yourself working with senior staff or even by yourself, at some point you will be putting your work in front of a team or the client. 

Now I can guarantee that whatever you do, however good you think it is, the client, someone on the marketing team or a colleague will always have something to say about it. So be prepared and don’t react with emotion or be defensive. Keep calm, collected, and talk it through. 

Try and make sure that every design decision you make has a good reason, which you can back up confidently should you be challenged and need to explain.

A good design will always come out on top over someone who only has an emotional response. This is because you have a good reason for your decisions rather than simply a matter of taste. 

8 – You will need to show initiative

Now as a freelance designer you will only be on a project for a designated amount of time. This could be a week, a month or, if you’re lucky, longer. Some studios will have a high turnover of freelancers, so if you want to stand out, get a call back, or even stay at a studio, show initiative and go the extra mile. 

You will be earning a day rate, so you want to maximise your days if you can. To do this is simple. Just be really good at your job, be proactive, be a person people want to have around, be a pleasure to work with and get involved!

Be sociable and be as helpful as you possibly can! Have a really positive attitude, get into work just a little bit early and leave just a little later, get involved in meetings and contribute where you’re not expected. Show you are really committed to the job and want to do the best you can. It won’t go unnoticed and will reflect very well on you. 

I’ve been to studios with high freelance turnover where I have been contracted for a week and ended up staying for 4 months because I showed initiative. By showing lots of initiative and going the extra mile, I have been called back, asked to stay longer and even offered a job.

I also have many peers who have remained in some contracts for months and even years because they are really good at what they do. They show initiative and prove to be a valuable member of the team. 

9 – You need to work well with others 

Now more often than not, a design recruitment agency freelancer will be working on location at a studio within a team. Each contract will be a different environment with different people with different personalities.

One of the important things a design recruitment agency freelancer will want to do is build a reputation. As well as being good at your job, it helps if you’re able to work well with others. This always goes a long way and makes a really good impression. It can also help you get good feedback or even a good reference after a contract.

If you want to be called back by a previous placement it pays to make a big effort with other team members. 

10 – You need to be organised & diligent 

A design recruitment agency freelancer will often be expected to produce work swiftly and to a high standard to meet tight deadlines. This can be a bit stressful if you don’t have a creative process, or your equipment ready to make progress.

Over the years, I’ve developed a creative process that helps me quickly develop ideas and execute them. This means that no matter the timespan, I can produce high quality work. 

So, before I start a project I make sure that all my processes are ready and I have all the equipment I need so I can hit the ground running. In my experience, I find that being as organized and prepared as possible ensures I can spend more time and energy on being creative.

Now, organisation does not just apply to the creative work. A design recruitment agency freelancer will have to deal with their own admin too. A design recruitment agency freelancer will need to fill out timesheets, invoices, consult with accountants and take care of their expenses, taxes and VAT.

A freelancer will need to keep an eye on things to make sure everything is being processed accordingly and invoices are being paid. There are quite a few things to keep on top of and things can easily be missed, so it really pays to stay organised. 

To recap 

Qualities you will need to be a design recruitment agency freelancer:

  1. Proactive
  2. Relentless
  3. Able to work under pressure
  4. Highly motivated
  5. Adaptable
  6. Able to take direction 
  7. Able to take criticism and manage it well
  8. Show initiative
  9. Work well with others 
  10.  Organised & diligent 

What are your thoughts? Do you think there are any qualities a design recruitment agency freelancer needs? Let me know in the comments below.