Your next new full-time designer should be 100% Freelance and 100% remote

Ten months ago I sat at a desk and twiddle my fingers, scrolled down Slack, Twitter and Dribbble and felt unfulfilled as I waited for feedback. I wanted something more, I wanted more work. I wanted 3x the work. I wanted to go freelance - I was hungry.

The ideas are bouncing off one team member to the other. Iwatch the CEO of a new and, lets say, very hot startup in Boulder CO stare withglee through the Google Hangout meeting. His team was on to something, and Iwatch in the other screen two of my junior designers sketch frantically on aremote whiteboard.

“No, I think all of our users will eventually funnel down tothe messenger”, the CEO says with another does of excitement. “Let’s go aheadand erase that there, maybe move that arrow to point to the screen there on theleft – yes the ‘help center’ view.”

There is a pause.  Along one. The CEO is thinking intently.

“Okay Tayler (design lead), ill send you my notes in Slack,how much time do you need?”

Me: “A couple hours and Ill put this up on Invision”

“Okay can you handle that and then help a bit with the onegraphic on the pitch deck – we have another interview with two potentialinvestors on Thursday”.

“Sure, ill upload those changes in the Google Slides by fourtomorrow too – is that enough time?”


At the state of the conversation, you would have thought allof the designers, the ones erasing on the whiteboard, the one schedulingdeliverables were all full-time employees. Well in fact they are, except theyare all contract fulltimers. A new and beautiful term for the modern-dayemployee. Let’s explore.

Contract Fulltimers are More Creative

“All of the best and talented individuals will either befreelance or have a six-figure salary at a top tech firm and demand to beremote.” (Digital Computer Arts Magazine). The remote culture where the officeis more of a meeting place, a hangout or a coffee hub (maybe some ping-pong) iswhere the future is heading towards. Designers, unlike developers, PM’s or evenCEO’s seem, culturally, to be on the forefront of this trend.

“Ha, its like when you used to work with an Architect orLandscape designer back in the day, they were usually always the ones eitherlate or no-shows to meetings. I think its in their creative nature, not toassume that all designers or creatives are the same, but many seem to becreative in their schedule, where they work and when” Dona Hues, CMO, HealthLink. At times the unstructured nature of creative personalities can allowindividuals two things:

One – foster ideas organically. Ideas come when you leastexpect them. Shower ideas are a real thing. We at Pixel advise the idea ofhaving your iPad next to it so that you can quickly start drawing when it comes– seriously. While no creative process is finite, we have seen many of thefreelancers that we work with do better without structure. That means we liketo bring on people with their own sets of processes, their own timeline andtheir own creative theories.

Two – The end output shouldn’t be limited. (What!) if youdon’t limit the creators’ process than you shouldn’t limit the deliverableeither. Of course, the end goal might be a website or a logo (brand guide,animation or illustration). But take the creative brief as you will, it’s areference guide not a bible. We at Pixel love when freelancers can take aproject, take the outline or brief, and come up with two, maybe threerenditions of the finale design. Use the first one as a free for all, or howthe designer would design it in the way that speaks to them and then use theother renditions to be closer to the end goal. The important thing to note forthis step – use the client’s copy for both versions – this is very important,for using Lorum Ipsum throughout the entire mock up would feel far from theproject’s/client’s mission.

Contract Fulltimers give you more for your money

Because freelancers work when they want and how they won’t(within parameters), as a client you are not paying for the fluff, the overheador the Starbucks runs (in theory). Many agencies (large ones with 30-500fulltime employees) generally have two costs associated in their prices thatcontribute to a surge in their pricing (surge meaning a single 5-7-page websitethat costs more than $50K): Overhead (office and staff) and warranties orliability insurance coverages (seen in contract agreements). This Pixel emailbetween a client and one of our freelancers is a great example that helps breakthis down the difference between agencies and a boutique studio or freelancegroup:

“Hi John, thanks again for sending overthe contract. It all looks great except the warranty statement here:  Just a note we are not a technical ITservice, we are classified as a Design Studio and legally there is a differenceand I’ll explain lightly because there are some grey areas: You will see asmall note I made in red in the contract. I had to add a clause in red therethat suggests that server or “site-support” or other warranties are on thebehalf of you and your server providers (sadly we are looked at as a designprovider not a technical or hosting provider, therefore our supper smalllimited liability insurance won’t cover us for technical issues that you mightface going forward… I know it’s really confusing).

What this does is protect design studio’s(like me from having technical warranties that we won’t be able to afford)(which is a big reason why when you work with an Agency like a Marketing Agency(there are tons in Denver right now), their standard Website is around $50K(not $5-10K which is what it should cost))… if you can take that out of yourcontract we can get this project off the ground. Also note that if you arerequesting on-going work other than server maintenance we can work together atan hourly rate.”

What was done here. As a client that islooking for a “designer” and only design services looking for a specialist inthis area is not only ideal but also cost effective. Freelancers that don’thave to pay for unnecessary warranties or liability coverages can bring thecost of their services down tremendously. In the nature that your companydemands extra server securities or on-going maintenance, one might call theirlocal IT personal – not your designer.

Ideally, freelancers and specificallydesign freelancers can follow a modal that is positive for all parties and itis becoming easier and easier to bring on talent from all over the world,capitalizing on how personalized creative processes and bring down the costwith hiring specialists and specialists only.

Latest Posts
about the author

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.