Peter Loving - When freelance success teaches you to lead others


Peter Loving shares his advice on becoming a successful freelancer and then transitioning into running a product design agency. Read the blog below and listen to the full episode for great career and management advice!

🔥 Expand your skillset and your network simultaneously.

Working with an agency as a freelancer will give you ample opportunity to meet new clients, learn new skills, and fine-tune your craft.

🧩 Build a dream team in your head before you need it.

When freelance work comes in that you do not have the right skillset, bring in someone to help get it done. Working with others gives you the chance to see who you may want to hire down the road when you open your own agency

🎯 Establish a clear focus to get what you want in your career!

“Get clear on a vision and commit to the specific area that makes you unique. This clarity will give you the ability to get what you want out of your career.” -Peter Loving

When freelance success teaches you to lead others

In episode 19 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Peter Loving, Founder of User Active, his agency where they create software interfaces that users love. He is a Product Designer based in Barcelona and originally from London in the UK. Peter transitioned from a degree in product design focused on interior lighting and furniture but quickly realized that the toolkit he gathered in this area easily translated into UX and software design. He shares with us his journey into freelance and then how he founded and has grown his agency from there!


From designing interior lighting, furniture, and consumer gadgets to web design

Peter has always identified as a creative person. From a young age, he enjoyed drawing, art and music. The earliest time Peter could pinpoint his interest in design was around age 7 when he began designing Nike trainers with his friend. As he grew, he realized that he had an interest in some science-related topics. By the time he was heading to University, he had identified that product design was a good match because it combined his creative and artistic ability with his interest in scientific engineering theory.

While earning his degree in consumer products, he designed things like interior lighting, furniture, and consumer gadgets like MP3 players. When he finished his degree, he started to apply for jobs, but most of the opportunities in industrial design would require him to locate. At this time, he wanted to stay in the UK, so he started to look for other options. UI/UX and web design were growing in popularity at the time. When he looked further into this option, he realized that his traditional product design skills would translate well into web and digital design.

When he graduated, he initially took a graduate job, not in design, but on side projects and freelance gigs to build his experience and knowledge to move into web design.

How Peter built a successful freelance career

Peter did not have a traditional route into a career in product design, so he never had to decide to dive from an in-house web design or agency job into freelancing, as many product designers do. Most of his web design skills were self-taught, and he had gotten his experience through freelance side projects.

Freelancing full-time was the natural progression of Peter's side projects building up. His curiosity to learn and grow and his interest in being an autonomous person and working with many different clients and industries made it the perfect career opportunity for him. He shared several tips on how he could build a successful freelance career.

💻 Develop your portfolio.

Use your portfolio website to present your ability, skillset, and the types of work you want to do as a freelancer. If you do not have work to present on your portfolio, take on some unpaid opportunities or do your own projects to establish the skills and practical examples to draw in the work you want to do!

🎯 Establish and expand your network.

To maintain a full-time freelance career, you have to keep steady work coming in. By establishing and expanding a strong network, you will be able to find new opportunities to keep you busy.

“Get clear on a vision and commit to the specific area that makes you unique. This clarity will give you the ability to get what you want out of your career.”

🔥 Work with agencies as a freelancer.

When you work with an agency as a freelancer, you have the opportunity to work with a lot of different clients on an assortment of projects. In this type of arrangement, the agency will get the work and bring it to you. You will have the chance to see the work ethic that an agency requires and continue to expand your skills while expanding your network.

📢 Don’t forget about the business side of freelancing!

There are many business housekeeping tasks to consider as you keep your freelancing career on the right track. These two will help get you started:

1. Make sure to set a contract with a clearly defined pay rate for each type of project you will work on with prospective clients.

2. Don't forget to set up a DBA or sole proprietorship to do business and pay your taxes. As a freelancer, you are considered self-employed and need to make sure you set yourself up to do so legally.

How to transition from freelance success to running an agency

Using the above strategies consistently, Peter started to get offers for projects that he did not have time to deliver. This level of success as a freelancer required Peter to build a team to support all of the work coming in. This eventually led him to open his agency User Active. When you become a Founder of an agency, there are even more business factors to consider. Peter shared a few of them with us below.

💪 Hire a strong and diverse team.

In the beginning, Peter realized that some projects required different skills or more people than just himself to accomplish. He began putting together small teams to cover specific client projects. Now that Peter is running User active, he hires new people based on their energy during the interview process. He knows that if he is excited to work with someone, his team will also be excited to work with them!

👏 Keep your team motivated!

Top talent will stay engaged and motivated when they have two key things:

1. Interesting and exciting projects

2. Opportunity to work with other talented people

Peter takes the projects that he knows will excite his team and hires the people that will help to inspire his team!

“What I’ve learned from my experience is that talented people are motivated by projects that they’re excited to work on and also working with other talented people.”

💡 Recognize the different skill sets required to run an agency.

When running an agency, you start to step away from the service delivery and more into project management, client relationships, and setting up work for your team to deliver. This shift from freelancer to founder is not for everyone, but it will be needed to run a successful agency.

Thank you so much, Peter!

We had such a great conversation with Peter on freelancing. It is always interesting to hear how product designers have moved from freelance to running an agency and building a team. We are so thankful that he shared his tips, strategies, and what has worked for him along his career path. We hope that he inspired you to set yourself up to become the successful freelance product designer you have always wanted to become!

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes the highs and lows Peter has experienced along his career path, a deeper conversation on the experience of moving from freelance to founder, and more advice on managing a team.

Don't forget to follow Peter and watch as he continues to grow his agency and provide valuable advice to the design community! You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and his website!

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