Is your location killing your freelance business?

Location Freelance Business Graphic Design Blender

One of the beautiful things about being a freelance designer is the freedom to live where you want, be it within walking distance of the ocean, near family, or three floors above the most awesome coffee shop downtown.

But does location matter? Are freelancers elsewhere enjoying more business success due to their location? Would your business benefit from moving?

Whether you’re enjoying a steady stream of work or hoping for that next client, answer the questions below to determine whether your location is helping or hurting your design business.

Location Considerations

Cost of Living

Clientele

  • Is your business geared toward local clients (print procurement, etc.)?
  • Are you interested in acquiring more local business?
  • Does your area include your target audience or others who might be interested in your services?
  • Does your area promote local business through organizations or a chamber of commerce?
  • Is your business unique to your area?
  • Can local businesses afford your services?

Education

  • Are there continuing education classes available?
  • Are you within traveling distance to weekend workshops or day-long seminars?
  • Does your locale host trade shows?
  • Does your library have access to reference or educational books that may interest you?

Business Services

  • Do you have access to the local vendors you need (office supplies, printing, reliable internet, business consulting, etc.)?
  • Are your local business services cost-effective?

Time Zone

  • Do you find that your time zone makes communicating with others difficult?
  • Does your line of business often require conference calls?

If your answers about your locale are disheartening, perhaps your location is affecting your work load. Seek out ways to improve your situation or consider relocating to an area more conducive to your business.

What about Remote Business?

In my observation, location has very little effect on acquiring remote business. I know successful designers who live in towns shy of 15,000 people as well as in the midst of millions of denizens and many sizes in-between.

Personally, I’ve found that most people neither know nor care where I’m located; they rather like to know that I can meet their needs, they can afford me, and that we share some working hours for communication.

Share your Locale!

Where do you live (feel free to be as specific or generalized as you prefer)? How do you think it affects your business success and why? Where are most of your clients located? Leave a comment below!

I’ll go first…

I live in Salem, Oregon, which has roughly 150,000 people and is most certainly not a hot-bed of graphic/web design activity. Most of my clients are remote on the East Coast or in California, but I do have a few local clients. Reason? I’ve done extensive networking online and comparatively little locally.

My boyfriend and I are considering moving (for personal reasons), and our top two locales are along the I-25 corridor of northern Colorado or home to the Billings, Montana, area. Using these considerations has helped me write out a list of business pros and cons for each location to help us narrow down our search.

Okay, now it’s your turn, GDB readers! Let’s put my questions and observations to the test in our very own social experiment! Leave a comment on this post to participate!

About April Greer

April is a go-to freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She is available for subcontracting and speaking engagements – visit Greer Genius for more information.

Comments

  1. Interesting article, April.

    I live in a small rural town in KS (pop. 1200 – 1 hour to the closest “big city”). I’ve taken advantage of the lack of good design out here and used it to my benefit. Most of the local businesses want to keep up with the changing times, so I’ve been able provide updated print materials and as well as websites at a pretty cheap price because my overhead is so low. The lack of the rat-race atmosphere has allotted me more time to complete more projects. Also there is NO competition out here – it’s a mini gold mine!

    I’d say my location, although rural and small, has actually allowed me to flourish as a freelance designer and beef up my skills both in communication and design.

    • Stephen,

      I grew up in a small town in Montana (about 800 people and 1/2 hr from the “big city”) so I know that remote locations can either work for or against you, depending on how you use it!

      Good for you making sure your town is looking sharp in the design department – thanks for sharing!

      • April! I read that you’re considering moving to Billings and then I saw that you’re originally from Montana! What’s that small town called? I went to college in Missoula, briefly lived in Bozeman and currently live in Livingston. I haven’t lived in Livingston long though and am hoping to break more into the “local” scene. Many, many businesses in Livingston don’t even have a website let alone a Facebook page, so I’m hoping to offer my services to those businesses. Most of my work in the last two years I’ve been freelancing has been from state and nationwide clients, but I’m still learning to market myself and would really like to work with more local Livingston businesses. I’m really hoping the small town will WORK for me and that I can begin to flourish in this environment, as Stephen is in small town, Kansas. :)

    • PS – Love your “keep music in schools” campaign!

  2. Nice post! This is something I think about all the time! I live in a city about an hour away from Columbus, Ohio. There’s no doubt I’d make more in a city like Chicago or San Francisco (it would also be more expensive), but I also feel like I can focus more where I live. There aren’t really any design meet-ups, and it’s definitely not a creative place, but I think there’s enough online that makes me still feel like I’m part of a community. So I think it’s more of a personal preference on where to live when working from home, because to me, it doesn’t matter where I work. Just as long as I’m happy with who I’m with and what I’m doing.

    • Brent,

      I’m with you on big city = big cost of living! I prefer a smaller atmosphere anyway. It sounds like you’ve got a great handle on life – be happy and enjoy!

      I have a sense of community from online groups and blogs as well – for example, I’ve met some great people here on GDB whose input and comments I look forward to. I also enjoy LinkedIn and Behance, although sometimes LinkedIn feels more like a giant auditorium of people!

      Thanks for sharing, and looking forward to seeing your new portfolio design!

  3. I also live in Salem, Oregon and ironically connected with April through her writings here on GDB. I have taken the opposite approach to networking, in that I have done extensive local and very little online.

    As a result, one element that I think was missed is the psyche of the community. Is it open or closed. For example, here in Salem, people do business with people they know. I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me that the ONLY reason they came to me was because they knew me through some group we are a part of.

    Not because of my great service or great prices, but because I show up at an event once a month. That can be very challenging for new businesses. I have been working the rooms here for 3+ years now and have noticed that the work is really starting to flow in from these groups. But it took 3 years!

    All that being said, does location even matter for businesses like ours? Hasn’t the internet made location relatively unimportant? The majority of my clients, which stretch the I-5 corridor from NoCal to Seattle, don’t care. My clients scattered around the country don’t care. It’s nice if you can develop a strong base of clients locally, but should I ever think of my business as a Salem business, or as a business based in Salem.

    • Michael,

      I’ve been looking into expanding my local networking by joining the chamber of commerce – is that an avenue you’ve explored? Do you think it’s worth it if I share some of those new business cards you’ll be printing me at the events? I’d really love your input here. (You might at this point be thinking I’m crazy if I plan to move, but I’m still exploring just in case we don’t. I’m a preparer for all outcomes.)

      Your question is exactly the question I wanted to pose and discuss – does location matter? I think for my own business the answer is no, but I don’t know that that’s true for every designer. I want to know what others think – in part because I’m considering moving and want to know the consequences/benefits, and in part because I’m curious!

      Thanks for sharing, Michael! I always look forward to your insights.

  4. Hi GDB readers,

    Awesome coincidence – I just received this article about location-based marketing in my inbox today:

    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/location-based-marketing-tips/

  5. Ricky Schumacher says:

    I think I would have to agree with Michael. I feel that the very nature of our business negates location as a significant factor. However, if you’re in a location that would provide a significant amount of business potential for a long time (it would be easy to exhaust your market in the middle of nowhere) such as around a large city, then I think you could use that as a niche. Otherwise, I think that doing business locally can help to level out the playing field. I will be using local marketing exclusively to take advantage of the lack of competition to make up for my lack of experience.

    By he end of the Summer I’ll have to ease into a broader marketing strategy, as I’ll be relocating to Croatia. I’ll lose the ability to market locally, but hopefully I’ll still be bringing in some occasional work from clients) that I’ve had around here.

    • Ricky,

      I think I agree with both of you – one of the great things about being a freelancer in the digital age is the luxury of choosing where you’d like to live! The answer to my question above, for me anyway, is no – my location isn’t a liability.

      However, since I am considering a move, I wanted to know if we all agree or if some people feel stifled by their location…so I can make sure I don’t move there!!! (ha ha)

      Best of luck in your move!

  6. I live near Toronto, Canada, so there are about 20,000 designers (last counted a year ago) that are looking for a slice of the pie. There is less work going around in bigger cities because prospects looking to hire on the internet get overseas services which are cheaper/lesser quality work. However it is much more challenging in the bigger cities to acquire and keep clients. It requires great customer service/product with fast delivery will put you in the forefront, but it is not easy.

    • DesignFacet,

      I’ll agree that larger cities have more opportunity but more designers looking to capitalize. With global communications and technology, finding clients outside your locale is much easier, but also your local clientele can now find someone across the globe, too.

      Thanks for sharing.

  7. Definitely Billings would be the place!!!!!!!

  8. I live in Sydney, Australia and have a bunch of clients in the Sydney area and some in other Australian cities. To be honest though, I could be working on the moon and it wouldn’t matter. I rarely, if ever meet with them past the initial introduction. Some of my clients I’ve never even met in person. Some clients I’ve had to google to see what they look like.

    Mostly, I’ll use email, Skype or telephone (in that order) to communicate with them. I’ve put this method to the test over the last 2 years as I bought a vacation home in the US (Las Vegas) and spend 3 months at a time there. With a 16 hour time difference, I was worried it might have been an issue – but I need not have… it was no different. Work still got done, I still spoke with new clients to take on new work, I hosted meetings with multiple clients and didn’t miss a thing. The World is a small place with the invention of the Internet and all the tools at our disposal.

    I would strongly advise freelancers to take full advantage of the “FREE” bit in their job title.

    • Lee,

      I agree – most of my clients are out-of-state, and some out-of-country (Salem, Oregon, USA). Email is my preferred communication method. I haven’t used Skype yet but I also have telephone conversations via GoToMeeting or just to discuss proofs. I much prefer email, though. MUCH.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. An excellent read. From my own personal experience, location really is important to freelancers and clients alike. Clients often want to have an initial meeting and freelancers sometimes need to co-work on larger projects and such and again the ability to co-work in a space or have regular face-to-face meetings to draw up ideas/problems etc is really important.

    There’s a site called FreelancingMap which allows you to ‘mark’ your location to find other freelancers – quite interesting to see how remote people can work from too.

    • Tim,

      Thanks! I do find that many clients wish to have an initial meeting, or the ability of one if needed, with freelancers. Having the ability to work with other freelancers, or hash out something in a 2-hour meeting instead of a series of 25 emails over the course of a week is also very valuable.

      And thank you for pointing us to FreelancingMap – I’ll check it out.

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