Katya Haro’s story begins like many other freelancers - the desire to be - and experience - more. From a lack-lustre corporate job came her need to find location independence. But she has experience-backed advice for you - prepare, including your finances and mindset, before taking the plunge. Here is her story.
I’m a freelance graphic designer and I specialize in branding and visual identity design. That means that I work with businesses and solopreneurs at the very beginning of their business creation process, just after they finalize their brand mission, values, vision, story and done their market research. I usually come in to help them put together the data and create a visual identity for their brand.
Most of my clients are start-up entrepreneurs, solopreneurs in different industries (bloggers, coaches, independent industry specialists), and boutique brand owners. It is very often one-on-one communication and I love that because the connection you create with people is incomparable to when you work within a big corporation.
Also, businesses are often super edgy, while start-ups are all about seizing the opportunity and foreseeing the future (demand and market conditions), so it’s very interesting. I absolutely love what I do and the people I have a privilege to work with.
It is super exciting to see a business being born. My clients inspire me every single day to do better and to learn more for me to grow my own business.
I had a very successful corporate career and a high-level position within a luxury hospitality company. I was always involved in marketing and part of my job was to guide designers to create marketing collaterals. I always had an eye for design. I worked to revamp sales, marketing, and PR presentations as well as collaterals because often they were forgotten and irrelevant.
Three or four years ago, I realized that my 9-to-5 corporate job bored me. It didn’t inspire me anymore to learn new things or to get involved in new projects. I was doing my 9-to-5 like a robot, just getting my paycheck at the end of the day. I even tried changing companies to see if maybe I was just bored, but 3 months into my new job I had the same old feeling. I knew I needed to change something.
After a few months of soul searching, I realized that I not only wanted to change what I did for a living, but I also wanted to be location independent.
Graphic design was always my passion, so I took a two-year course with The Graphic Design School, and I studied evenings and weekends while still working. I was also doing some saving and planning so that I could start my own business.
I’ve been freelancing full-time for two years now and I don’t regret it a minute. I have flexibility, amazing people to work with, and I know that my success depends 100% on myself.
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Oh gosh, there are so many! I remember when I just started, I was so eager to pick up any client. I wasted a lot of time on prospective “dream clients”, only to realize that their business ideas would remain a “dream” forever. I also had some start-ups who would stop half-way through a project because of funding, their economic situation, or other reasons. It’s always very sad, especially because you know your great ideas for their branding won’t ever see the day of light.
At first, I couldn’t understand why people would waste someone else’s time like this. Now I can tell from almost the very first time communication if the client is serious about their business or not. What I learned is to always carry on. You have your own journey.
Prepare your financial cushion (save, save, save!), get your technical knowledge right, prepare your website before you launch. If possible, pick up clients and start freelancing while still working your 9-to-5 to build that base you’ll need when you start. And get your mindset right: you will make mistakes and it’s okay. Mistakes are the best learning experience.
Social media branding packages. Most of my clients who use my services for social media design are doing it on a regular basis, so it's an ongoing job in many cases. Once you’ve done the first batch of designs for a particular client or brand, get feedback. You’ll understand their marketing strategy and continue creating graphics for them with confidence, almost like it is your own brand. It is always easier and smoother to work this way.
It gave me huge flexibility, not only to work from anywhere but also to be able to choose my clients. This is the most important aspect for me.
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