10 Questions with Ross Chapman

I'm kicking off this blog series with Ross Chapman, Founder of Etch Sprints, a product designer, design sprint facilitator and trainer. Currently Ross is creating content to share how design sprints can be used within teams.

Outside of work Ross spends his time with his family exploring the New Forest and cycling very far distances!

T: Anything else you'd like readers to know?

R: It took me 10 years to find what I love doing for a job and I'm grateful for the journey, even if at the time, it felt like I was going nowhere!

T: Agreed, patience is the key and the reward it's well worth the wait. Ok, let's talk a bit about freelancing. What drove you to it initially?

R: I originally came to freelancing while I was at University. I thought it was a great opportunity to learn how to interface with businesses and improve my design skills.

T: What was your biggest obstacle when you were starting out?

R: I never knew what to charge. I think the first project was around £600 and that felt like a lot of money then. Then figuring out how to chase for payments became the second greatest challenge.

T: What is for you the main advantage of Freelancing?

R: Most say it's about picking the kind of work you do, but I rarely found that the case. Or staying in bed. For me, the main advantage was starting to be more relevant. I want a long career and listening, understanding and responding in the right way gave me more job satisfaction that doing what I was told with little understanding of how we were delivering real value.

T: How about main disadvantage?

R: Late nights. Eating into weekends. At the start, most projects were based on estimates and as everyone knows, estimates are guesses. So when I under-estimated, I had to find the time somewhere. Cutting into personal time was that sacrifice. I also worked from home, so I never had a way to separate my work time and home time. I became a person my family didn't want to be around.

T: How did you overcame that?

R: How did I overcome that? I found myself a co-working space and that started to add some structure around my working day.

T: What is your approach to finding clients?

R: Sharing content and engaging in conversations. And meeting people. Refining your website to the nth degree isn't going to help. Seriously. My first freelance venture ended because of that exact strategy.

T: What is your advice on calculating rates and determining worth?

R: Assess what you actually need to survive. That's your costs. Then ask those doing similar work to you what they charge. Moving up to that rate adds profit. Then over time, increase. As you get better and busier, you're more in demand so you can command a higher rate.

T: As a freelancer, do you feel you sometimes need to compromise to keep the client? Did you ever find yourself in that type of situation?

R: Of course! We're in client services aren't we, but when you start out, you can't be so picky. Try not to compromise on quality and always add reasons to your decisions. Sending over designs with no explanation over email is a sure-fire way of entering difficult conversations.

T: What’s your no.1 tool you rely on as a freelancer?

R: An accountant. After that, a really good CRM.

T: What would be your message to someone thinking about pursuing freelance career?

R: You have to do it because you want to, not because of the money. And it's hard, so be prepared to eat beans for the first few years.

T: Great, all done. Anything to add?

R: I'm always happy to feedback and help. Hit me up on social and I'd be happy to share my experience and learnings.

T: Thank you Ross for your time, I am sure your experience will be helpful to other freelancers.

You can reach Ross via:

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Tom Kozacinski
Tom Kozacinski
I'm a London based product designer, creative entrepreneur, freelancer and advocate of remote work with over 12 years in the industry. I also have 12 years of experience as a stand-up comedian and I love to share my experience.
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