My first year as a Freelancer

The end of this month marks exactly 1 year since I decided to freelance full-time, and what a roller coaster it has been..

My initial plan when I moved to Cape Town almost 3 years ago was for my career – I had been offered a job at a naval architect. Prior to that I had been working at an aluminium boatyard for 2 years, and prior to that at a luxury composite yacht boatyard for 2 years. And a good few jobs before that as well, it’s been quite a ride. My intention was to build on my experience in the industry by being exposed to the inner workings of the boat design process. And I achieved just that, creating the model and drawing pack for a 14m Ocean Research Cat.

Looking back over the last 12 months I am incredibly grateful to my old company, as they have provided me with most of my income since. My efforts to develop a customer base on my own outside of this however hasn’t exactly taken off so far. I initially put together a brochure of some examples of projects that I have been involved with in the past and sent it to the 15-odd boatyards in Cape Town. I had a bit of interest initially, but in all honesty it has not translated into any jobs. The jobs that I have done have mainly come from referrals from people I have worked with in the past, which makes complete sense to me. If I was a boatbuilder needing design work done, I probably wouldn’t hire someone I had never worked with before unless I was desperate.

I have also had some success from online freelance platforms, and have managed to turn one of those jobs into a more regular customer (outside of the online platform I might add).

And now of course I have built my website to showcase my skills. I decided on a blog format as I can’t really share images of the designs that I work on, as they belong to companies, but I figure I can write about how I design. I am really happy with the ‘views’ so far. Although once again I have yet to earn money from them..

The most important thing for me is customer satisfaction, and I can honestly say that every job I have worked on has impressed the customer. I always aim to create clean, simple work, building my 3d models using best practices and keeping them error-free. I have also done some concept jobs and have really enjoyed the process of evolving a model over time through continuous dialogue with the customer.

So looking back, and I am someone who is never afraid to call a spade a spade. It has been an extremely tough year, and I am sure our current global pandemic hasn’t helped. But at the same time I should focus on the positives, despite some tough months financially I have managed to pay all my bills and put food on the table. All the jobs that I have completed have been very successful, and I have a couple of loyal customers who use me whenever they can. I never expected the first year or 2 to be easy, but then again never expected it to be quite this tough.

Looking forward, it is still my intention to find more of a niche within the industry, although I am in no hurry. So for the time being I will continue with 3D modelling, plate development, cut files and fabrication drawings, concept design and rendering, GA’s, 2D to 3D…(and in honesty I love the all)

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