12 killer tips for freelance success

OFFF 2015: Brand Nu explains how to navigate design's 'new playing field' and thrive as a freelance artist.

Radim Malinic didn't start off as designer. The award-winning art director, illustrator and graphic designer in fact has a degree in business management and didn't launch a full-time creative career until he was 24.

He's been working under the name Brand Nu since 2005, steadily building a diverse portfolio of clients – from household brands like PlayStation and Coca-Cold to new products – and gaining a reputation for vibrant, innovative design work.

However, Malinic also didn't turn into an award-winning freelancer overnight, either. "I had a failed start a few years before I tried successfully again," he says. "I didn't have any regular clients or even a website, I just decided to go at alone because I didn't get on with my boss."

"I returned to full time employment, learnt the vital skills and produced literally hundreds of pieces of work," he continues. "I gained a lot of regular clients working countless sleepless hours along with my day job. I then realised I wanted to do more with my work. It was the right time to go alone."

We caught up with Malinic ahead of his talk at three-day conference OFFF Barcelona 2015 to find out what he's learned about freelance life over the past decade. We're reporting live from the three-day creative fiesta so stay tuned for more from the likes of Malinic at OFFF Barcelona 2015 over the coming week…

01. A good reputation travels further than your work

Birger Yarl: Summer 2014 illustration by Brand Nu

There's nothing more important than to show there's a real person behind the name. For example, I provide help and advice to a few creatives, giving them honest advice on how to proceed with their careers. You want to be approachable and friendly when you give opinion on other people's work. A good reputation travels further than the campaign that's history six months later.

02. People listen to you more

People listen to you more when it's just you, and you're not just a number in an agency. Within six months of going solo, I was the lead artist on a huge brand relaunch. I was sat at the table with art directors and people far higher for me to even comprehend.

They all listened to me and I just couldn't believe it. Six months prior to this moment I'd been told by a guy with a carpet shop that I was a shit designer. He didn't like his business card. It was the last thing I did in my old job.

03. Don't shout about a project too early

Image by Brand Nu

Once I decided to blog about a huge multinational campaign halfway through the creative process. The agency wasn't pleased in the slightest because they hadn't presented any of the visuals to the client yet.

The agency didn't commission me for the second part of the campaign as a result of this blunder. It was my first blog post on my new blog. I still had a lot to learn.

04. You'll work with surprising clients

My most memorable highlights involve meeting amazing people and clients. Everyone has a different story to tell and every project is different. If it wasn't for client commissions, I would never have had the reason to meet the voice of Siri or work with the professor of film at Burbank University, or have my work signed off by Victoria Beckham.

05. Rotate your clients

When you stop working for a regular client, you think it's the end of the world. You need to find a replacement – it could be a bit anxious at first. However, you need to rotate your clients to make sure you keep producing good work. New clients always come.

06. Save for emergency situations

Illustration by Brand Nu

Luckily, when I went freelance I didn't live in London at the time and my rent was cheap. Only a little was enough to get by and it helped me to take gradual steps. When I went full-time freelance, I had saved for emergency situations. It wasn't much but it was enough to stop me worrying about the future.

Next page: six more killer tips for freelance success...