Freelancing in Berlin

over 9 years ago from , Freelance Digital Designer - http://paulbamford.me

Hi all,

"Business decisions" have meant that I finishing my current job as a designer and front-end dev with a startup incubator here in Berlin soon.

So I'm thinking it's time to give freelancing a try. I've got 5+ years working in a UK agency and 6 months over here working with startups under my belt and was looking for any tips you guys have.

Doesn't have to be Berlin specific but any idea of rates, networking channels, potential job leads and experiences in this great city would be useful along with any other pearls of wisdom that might help me out along the way.




  • Joris RigerlJoris Rigerl, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Some things I've learned the last 5 years:

    • Get yourself a ironclad set of contracts and use them. Every time.
    • Don't try to "network" excessively, but be sure to make some friends.
    • Don't take on too much work.
    • Never miss a deadline.
    • Make sure every project gets the attention and care it deserves.
    • Don't freak out if you don't know what your next project is going to be.
    • Find yourself a couple of people you enjoy working with and stick with them – you can't do everything by yourself.
    • Be humble (I'm not, but I'm an asshole).
    • Don't chase the easy solutions, it'll make your work boring.
    • What you have in your portfolio is what you get hired for, so pick carefully.
    • Always stay hungry and never give up.
    21 points
  • Nicolai KnollNicolai Knoll, over 9 years ago

    Hey Paul, I also started freelancing in Berlin at the beginning of this year. My experience so far is that you should avoid the two-three large "creative" recruiting agencies. They usually just provide you with jobs at mediocre agencies and focus on a quick placing rather than finding the right fit for you and the company. Personally, I got the best jobs through my personal network, ex-colleagues or people I meet at some networking-events. In that sense Berlin is quiet small and you always bump into the same people and a lot of jobs are offered by personal recommendations.

    Some links that might help you:

    www.functionalaesthetics.eu - a quiet nice freelancing network www.berlinstartupjobs.com - product jobs http://de.indeed.com/ - set up a search und subscribe to it. There are usually 3-5 new jobs (even-though most of them are contract) www.uxjobsberlin.com - my personal list that i update a few times a week

    Are you looking for agencies, startups or both?

    2 points
    • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

      Thanks Nicolai,

      I'll check out the links. Most of my background is agency but I'd love to work with some more start-ups here too. My main aim is to get to a point where I can get the work that excites me and that make me a better designer.

      0 points
  • Jonathan CourtneyJonathan Courtney, over 9 years ago

    Hey Paul,

    One networking channel I can suggest is https://www.facebook.com/groups/designernetworkberlin/

    I set it up a while ago to drop some of the work that our agency wasn't taking on. Now a lot of people post jobs there.

    In terms of rates, they vary wildly based on your skills, experience and personality. Anything from €250 - €1000 a day. So ya. Wild. It also depends what kind of designer you are. Pure UX, visual etc.

    Cheers. Jonathan

    2 points
    • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

      Hey Jonathan,

      Yeah I know there's a wide range of rates out there. I've done a bit of everything - UX, visual, responsive, mobile apps, front-end dev. That used to be the job but I'm not sure whether that's a positive when freelancing or whether I should specialise in one discipline, probably more UI/visual design.

      Seems you're more likely to be called in to fill one specific role but my ideal process would include a range of elements whether it's designing and prototyping in browser, creating interaction prototypes and generally solving problems in a team where everyone has a decent level of knowledge of each other's roles rather than working in a silo. We'll see.

      I'll keep my eye on the FB group.



      0 points
      • Jonathan CourtneyJonathan Courtney, over 9 years ago

        I personally used to do a bit of everything too, but recently made the conscious decision to drop any sort of visual design. I'm a UX Designer/Product Strategist now and I find being able to stay in one general direction helps you to focus the hell out of learning about it, getting better etc.

        This also, of course in the end, raises your day rate. When we look for hires, we generally look for people who are very good at a specific skill rather than people who are just good at a bit of everything.

        As a yard stick number for a good visual designer, €450-500 is a normal range

        1 point
        • Sjors TimmerSjors Timmer, over 9 years ago

          Is it necessary to speak German fluently (or very well) or do you get along fine with english?

          0 points
          • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

            My experience of the start-up scene is that English is usually fine with German being a bonus. That's for designers, different roles require different language skills obviously. Same goes for the larger agencies working across different markets but in both cases a good command of German can only help. That's something I'm still working on :)

            1 point
  • Hugo FernandesHugo Fernandes, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Paul, I've been freelancing since November 2011. Let me share with you some things I learned during this period:

    • You're now a business man. Think like it.

    • You'll have to have some selling skills. But always stay true to yourself.

    • Avoid distraction (email, facebook, etc) if you want to have the work done.

    • Reward yourself with that distractions. I use the Pomodoro Technique to manage those reward minutes ( Focus Booster ).

    • Make a separate bank account and take your salary from there, leaving the remain untouchable.

    • Delegate.

    • And most important, learn to say no.

    One last thing. This book literally changed my life as a freelancer. Please, read it. Breaking The Time Barrier

    Wish you all the luck. And don't give easely. It takes time and perserverance to succeed.


    1 point
  • Justin SeiterJustin Seiter, over 9 years ago


    Two channels that have really helped me generate work as a freelancer are co-working spaces and developer meetups. In either environment both parties really perk up when you mention you have a design interest.

    1 point
  • Oz ChenOz Chen, over 9 years ago

    Read Brennan Dunn (IMO), the godfather of freelance advice:



    0 points
  • Account deleted over 9 years ago

    Hi Paul.

    Finding myself in a similar situation and moving to Berlin this year. I'm hoping to team up with some talent. Would you be interested, or are you looking to work alone?

    0 points
    • Elliott ReganElliott Regan, over 9 years ago

      From where, and why Berlin?

      0 points
      • Account deleted over 9 years ago

        Hi Elliott,

        From London. The main reason is the housing costs (which are huge in London), and to be near a better startup culture.

        1 point
    • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

      Hey Daniel,

      I'm always up for some collaboration on projects if the chance comes up. Don't have much work to bring to the table just yet but I'm hoping that will change in the next few weeks.

      Same goes for anyone else here, if there are any chances to work on something cool in a small, informal team I think it'd be a good experience. DN collective anyone?

      0 points
      • Account deleted over 9 years ago

        Do you use HipChat Paul? Might be worth collecting a very small group of designers?

        0 points
        • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

          I've not used it yet but we could set up a small group if people are interested, could be useful

          0 points
          • Account deleted over 9 years ago

            I'm trying to set up a virtual design studio based on what I already have as an individual freelancer, and already have a company + website set up as Airwalk Studios. The website needs more work but here it is: http://airwalk-studios.com/

            I have a HipChat set up, unless you'd rather use Slack.com.

            0 points
  • Phil OakleyPhil Oakley, over 9 years ago

    Trying to do the same thing - but on a smaller scale as I don't have as much experience as you - also in Berlin.

    I'm free all this week if you want to meet up; always looking for design people in Berlin. :)

    0 points
    • Paul Bamford, over 9 years ago

      This week is no good for me Phil but maybe we could get some people together at some point. Think I just missed a DN meet up in Berlin so I guess that's the place to be. Can anyone tell me when the next one is?

      0 points
  • Pedro Ivo HudsonPedro Ivo Hudson, over 9 years ago

    Freelancing is another world. You gonna have to take care of everything, not just the design part.

    It's not an easy task, so test different ways of doing things and don't give up on the initial falls. Embrace the failure.

    0 points