“Setting up as a freelancer is the opportunity to work on something you enjoy, although whether you achieve this or not is never down to chance: you are the one who must take every step on the road to achieving that goal.” The introduction to Martina Flor’s new book is a declaration of intent. ‘The Great Leap. A guide to getting started as a freelancer in the creative industries’ features everything that the Argentinean designer and illustrator, who specialises in lettering and typography design, has learned through her successes and mistakes ever since she decided to found her own studio in Berlin around 10 years ago. “The big question isn’t about learning a certain trade, but how to work and make a living from it,” she tells us from her studio.
After graduating in Graphic Design from the University of Buenos Aires, her home town, Martina Flor settled in Barcelona, where she studied a postgraduate course in Communication Design at the Elisava school. She later moved to The Hague and obtained a Master’s in Typographical Design from the Royal Academy of Art. While illustration began as a hobby to help clear her mind after a long day’s work, it ended up becoming her main activity. And so she began to work with publishers, magazines and advertising agencies all around the world. The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Harper Collins, Monotype, Etsy, Adobe, Levi’s, Mercedes Benz, Lufthansa and Cosmopolitan are just some of her regular clients.
The challenges of freelancing
Throughout this time Martina Flor has had many questions, from how to get a client to how to price a job, build a portfolio without experience, set up on your own, or find alternative ways to generate income. A large part of her time is spent travelling around the world to present her work at conferences and hold workshops, where both established and new designers can improve their lettering skills. It was there she realised that they all faced the same challenges, and that these challenges sometimes prevented them from getting going. “In our training as creatives we learn about art, but we are taught little about how to run a business,” she says.
Hence the idea of writing a book with hand drawn illustrations to answer all the questions and situations that arise or will arise when getting into a career not just in design, but also in writing, photography or filming, among other artistic disciplines. In ‘The Great Leap’, Martina Flor explains, drawing on her personal experience, what it means to be a freelancer, how to organise the most basic aspects and build an independent sustainable career. After each chapter, a blank page is reserved for the reader to write personal notes, allowing them to reach the end of the book with a road map that can be used to start their own project. And, if you still want to learn more, you can download extra information from the website http://thebigleapclub.com.
Your main working tool: yourself
One of the most important lessons to be learned from the guide is that “nowadays a freelancer’s profile doesn’t necessarily derive from providing a service to a client – you can also add value with giving talks or selling your own line of products. You also have the ability to reach a wider audience with platforms like Instagram.” But without a doubt, the most valuable message from the Argentinean designer is that the most important thing is to take care of your main working tool – “yourself”.
For Martina Flor, the hardest part about taking the leap was believing in herself, “having the courage to stop and realise that you have a talent that you can share.” And what makes her happiest about being a freelancer is “that people can identify you from a project that you’ve built, something that has your fingerprints and your values. That’s really rewarding,” she concludes.