Five years ago, Diana Hernandez worked full time as a designer for a small Web design studio in Nicaragua. Before that, she designed Web graphics and provided customer support for similar startups and local agencies. "I wanted to become an illustrator. After working for a few years, I found out that my real talent is in illustration. However, the companies I worked for didn't need the skill," she said.
Diana wasn't ready for what came after she quit. It was difficult to find the job where her skills and aspirations fit right in. She was unemployed for months until a fellow designer suggested she look for freelance projects in order to earn while waiting for job interviews to come. "My friend recommended GetAFreelancer.com (now Freelancer.com). I never heard of the site before; I used to find independent work through LinkedIn," Diana said.
After working for a few months on Freelancer.com, Diana's artistic style changed in many ways. She got to experiment on plenty of illustrations she wasn't able to do before. "I worked on interesting projects such as children's books, character designs, brand drawings, and many more."
Being an inexperienced illustrator, she took on small projects, such as US$30-US$50 logo designs with quick turnarounds. She also admitted that the quality of her work wasn't good enough for big projects at the time, and she didn't want to disappoint clients.
Eventually, Diana leveled up her game. Six months after working on Freelancer.com, she purchased her first laptop and graphic tablet solely through her earnings on the site. "The best thing about working on Freelancer.com apart from the experience was the earnings. In my previous local jobs, my monthly income was US$400. On Freelancer.com, I earn three times more."
A year later, Diana stopped looking for local prospects and focused full-time on the site. Her income was very stable because of the steady stream of work. Her design skills also improved and she started working on larger projects with bigger budgets. Her earnings also increased, averaging US$1,500 a month.
Diana said her Freelancer.com portfolio contributed a lot in piquing clients' interest. A couple of her illustrations were published and were sold online and in bookstores such as The Artt of Early Learning Series by D.A. Batrowny, and My Autistic X-Factor by Brynjan Karl. "I loved working on children's book illustrations because of the exposure I get. It is also fun and the earnings are great," she said. Her advice for new freelancers is to build a great portfolio because it helps in getting the confidence of clients. She also believes in never giving up. "At one point, I bid on more than 30 jobs before getting one project," she said.
Working as a freelancer can be hectic, but Diana said the flexibility helps her pace herself. "I enjoy having my own approach on every project. I get to put my personal touch. At the same time, I learn new tricks and techniques that improve my craft."