BENLEANDER_Design Studio

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Design Freelancer Ben Willgruber

Staying true to yourself as a Freelancer

Working as a freelancer means being your own boss, setting your own rules and working according to your own standards. This brings up a big question. How much are you willing to change to be able to keep going?

When I was working in/with creative advertising agencies I often came to the point where I wish I was the boss of everything. I wanted to talk to clients more openly and honestly about their projects. Often, I would have wanted to tell them that what they’re making us do is utter nonsense.

But as an employee, you cannot do that. You have to be polite and do as you’re told. You can tell the person above you to please talk to your client. But the one thing that keeps this whole market going is, of course, money. And money doesn’t lie, even if the end product sucks. 

As a freelancer, I don’t want that.

I don’t wanna be the design monkey doing whatever the client wants. I wanna find out what the best solution for my clients is, working in an open exchange. I wanna be able to tell them if I think what they’re doing hurts their business and give them alternatives. I wanna work conceptually too and not just make things look pretty.

Superficially the job of a designer looks pretty simple. And sometimes it is. But if you want to produce good designs, you have to dig deep, find something that is simple that carries a lot of meaning with it. That is the value you get from working with a real designer, and not using Wix or some other dumb services to create your own designs. Let me give an example here of a logo with a deeper meaning, the logo I made for the SPÖ Feldbach. In this case, I made the Ö appear in a way that makes it resemble the Austrian flag and my clients loved that.

freelancer logo

Staying true to yourself

It’s a good motto to believe that you can do better than the people you’ve learned from. And if you’re lucky you’ll have awesome clients who are easy to work with, value your input and will listen to what you’re saying. Even if they are rare, I can assure you that they exist. The tricky thing is that you’ll never know how a client will be to work with until you do.

Giving in doesn’t mean giving up

At a certain point, however, you will realize that sometimes the people you’ve learned from were right. Sometimes a client will want something you’re not entirely convinced of. You just have to figure out if that’s OK with you or if you’d rather decline a project. Doing that, however, is a luxury that not every freelancer can afford.

So, sometimes I will work against my better judgment. I will change and learn and hopefully grow. Maybe I will even find the answer to when you should keep going and when it is best to just say ‘No’.




By the way: If you’re someone who is looking for a design and values input from the outside, check out my Services to find out more about how I work. 

Compulsive nonconformist who left the 9-to-5 world after studying psychology and has since then devoted himself to design and writing on a freelance basis. Has at least four different kinds of chips at home at any given time.


  • 9. June 2020

    I had to google the Austrian Flag. So…now I know what that looks like. 🤓

      • 10. June 2020

        Are you sure? Remember, I basically got the same education as our president – who referred to several South American countries as “lesser Mexicos”…🤷🏽‍♂️

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