Rick Veronese: The Journey to Becoming a Success Freelancer

Rick talks about his hustle of becoming a designer, how to deal with tricky client situations, and what are the steps to becoming a successful freelancer.

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Product Design Freelancer

Rick Veronese

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Full transcript

Christian: Welcome to Design Meets Business – a show that inspires designers to think beyond pixels. I’m your host, Christian Vasile, and on this podcast I sit down with creatives to talk about their stories, lessons they’ve learned during their careers, and how you can use design to make a bigger impact in your organisation.

Today we’re talking to Rick Veronese. Rick is an Italian designer based in the UK, from where he runs a small design shop focusing on FinTech and PropTech companies. In this episode he is sharing with us the hustle of becoming a designer, what’s important when going freelancing, and how he deals with clients in difficult situations.

Rick, thank you so much for joining the podcast today. It’s really a pleasure to have you here. You’re working today as a freelancer, just like I am, and you’re trying to nail down that FinTech niche. So we’ll be talking about that a bit later because I think that’s really interesting, but first, before we go into all that design talk, tell me a bit about yourself, how did you end up in the UK, right, because you’re from Italy, and if you remember, I love asking this question, what’s the moment that made you want to become a designer?

Rick: Right. Okay. So there’s a bit to unpack, because obviously when you move countries, as you know, there’s a lot of things that you need to learn. And the naive me about maybe six or seven years ago thought that starting a new career in design and moving to a new country at the same time would be a great idea; without knowing the language or anything, so I moved here in the UK. I’m in Bristol currently, from Italy, about six years ago. And I got into design by chance, to be honest with you. It’s not a romantic story or anything. I started Googling jobs that I could do online. You know one of those top 10 lists blog posts.

Christian: Yes

Rick: Yes. That’s exactly how it happened. And I thought — well, I think I consider myself a creative person, so I’m going to give it a go, and that’s it. That’s how I fell in love with it, to be honest. I spent nights on trying to learn graphic design at the beginning and then web design and coding and things like that. And that’s when I decided to get serious with it. But at the time I couldn’t find a job in Italy. I wasn’t trusting that I would find a job.

So I moved to the UK with my then-girlfriend and now wife. That’s basically how I started my career – by making websites online, so just as a web designer, and after a couple of years I wasn’t happy with that anymore. I decided to specialise and become a UX designer, because that was the boom like a few years ago. That’s when everyone was becoming a UX designer. People that have been — that were doing it for years were like, “Oh, now you’re waking up?”

Christian: Yes, welcome to the party. 

Rick: Exactly, exactly. That’s how I started, and I found a full-time job as a designer, which was quite a big step for me because having taught myself design from my bedroom back in Italy, going to work in a different country, in a language that wasn’t mine. So it wasn’t that comfortable in expressing concepts and things like that. That was a big step. 

So when that started, everything changed in terms of how my career evolved. The plan was always to get into the industry, if you will, work for companies for a few years, and then eventually set out on my own and just do my own thing. And that’s pretty much what brings us here today.  

I’ve been at it at full time for some time. I realised I wasn’t really jiving with company politics and things like that. I decided to scale down in a way. I used to work for a big company in the UK. I decided to scale down and work for startups closely with the CEO and the CTO and the founding team. And from that, that was just what jump-started my freelance career a few months ago. 

Christian: Nice. That’s a a good, good background story. I love the fact that you just looked at the list and just picked one thing from the list and that’s how you started.

Rick: It’s random, right? 

Christian: So random, but I guess it turned out for the best, didn’t it? Let’s stay on that topic a bit, because I wanted to talk to you about education – design education. Some people have a degree in Design, and they’ve used that as a catalyst for their careers.

Some other people have a degree in Design, and they haven’t really used that at all; like me, for example. I used to do work before getting my degree. So the degree was more of a checklist exercise for me. And there are — there’s the third type of people like you, who don’t have a degree, yet somehow are still successful in the industry.

So there must be a lot of steps in between deciding to become a designer and where you are today in terms of learning. So let’s talk a bit about how you got here from a learning perspective. What — where did you learn? Was it all online? Did you do any courses or anything; reading articles and Medium? Or how did you do this? How did you get here? 

Rick: Yes, that’s a great question. I think for you, for example, that you have a degree, the path is completely different in a way, because that’s what you’re studying and what you’re going to do. And sometimes not even that, sometimes I reckon people finish Design school and decide that maybe it’s not for them. They’re going to do it something different.

Christian: Totally. Yes. 

Rick: But for me, yes, it was a lot what you said, to be honest. A lot of online courses. So I would work a few months to try to get a client and then whatever money I would get from that would use it to buy a new course, some books about design or anything that would interest me basically and I saw would upgrade me as a designer and as a professional in general, I would invest in. So I think that makes a difference. So it has to be self-initiated in a way. You need to be really aware that you need to work harder than maybe the people that had degrees. And you need to have that kind of discipline — to just have work ethic to be able to bridge that gap.

Christian: Your story is all about hustling, I guess. And I love that, because a lot of people starting in Design don’t necessarily, or didn’t necessarily have to hustle the way you did. So I guess what’s happening when you start the way you did is that you are so committed to it, because you need the next client to buy the next course, and then you buy the next course, and you upgrade your skills, and then you move on, you need the next client again. So it’s a big commitment to say, “Well, I’m going to spend so much money on a course.” That probably forces you to — or motivates you to stick to that path. Right? 

Rick: Exactly. And the way you said it is right, but I also think that you say you invest in a course. I actually see as an investment in myself. So it’s a change of perspective. If I’m investing in myself, I’m going to spend whatever money. I don’t care. If it results in me improved by whatever, it’s going to be a good investment. It doesn’t matter how much it is or how I’m going to get the money. I mean in legal ways, obviously. 

Christian: Sure. Yes, but it’s worth it. It’s worth investing in yourself like that. I love it. The reason I wanted to talk about this is because I think Design is becoming more and more of a cool job to have.

So a lot of people grow up thinking they want to do something creative, but don’t believe in the classical path of going to school. And then they have a lot of questions of how do I go from where I am right now become a designer that’s worth hiring or to be able to provide some value to my clients.

Hopefully, your story will be a bit of an inspiration, because that is how you start. You do one course, you get better. You do another one, you get better. You maybe get a client where you get to apply some of this knowledge, you get better. At every single step, you get better. It’s like karate kid polishing the windows, just doing the work.

Rick: That’s such a great example. 

Christian: I love that. I love that. So you’ve been in-house for a little bit. You said earlier you got tired of it. And then you moved into freelancing. What made you go into freelancing other than the fact that maybe you were not really feeling it that much in-house? 

Rick: That was always the plan. So the plan was to be a freelance web designer. I was liking the idea of being successful, but I wasn’t at the time, I was just trying to make ends meet, and I was working in retail. So it’s not like I went full-on with web design and was so talented that I would get clients every week.

So it was a bit — it was a struggle, don’t get me wrong. I think I needed to go through it to understand what I needed to do. So struggle is great, but I think that the way it happened is I worked full time, so I really like the vibe, the environment. Actually, I was working in a great company. I liked the people it was working with. I like the projects and things like that. Everything was new, and everything was exciting. Then eventually we got bought out, and I don’t want to get too much into the details, but there’s a shift in culture sometimes when companies get acquired and this new team has different ways of working and things like that.

And I experienced that, and I didn’t like it, because everything before was just really great to be working with them. It was just a good team and then eventually it got into the politics and the way it ended, I didn’t really like that vibe. So I decided to transition eventually to a position that will be more of — just like a connector, if you will, between the founding team in small startups. That’s pretty much how it started. 

Christian: Going freelance is a risk, isn’t it? So not only that. Going freelance in itself is a risk, but isn’t going even deeper down in a niche even more of a risk? Because that’s what you’ve done, right? You’ve niched down on FinTech.

Rick: Yes, I did. Yes, it’s a risk. It’s a risk like — what in life isn’t a risk, to be honest with you. I’ve got that kind of mentality. So I’m pretty prone to risk, which I appreciate not everyone is, but at the same time — so, going in phases, freelancing is a risk, yes, but over time, if you’re smart with your money and don’t spend everything on takeaways every day of the week, you can set aside some money… some emergency fund to kind of use for those days where you maybe decide to go independent and try something new.

And then yes, obviously niching down is a risk at face value, but I don’t think it actually is. It’s a way to — it’s like saying being a designer — let’s just put the same example, being a designer is a risk, but if you specialise in, say, user research, or if you’re a great interaction designer, you’re not going to be able to find as much work, but actually, people do appreciate expertise and knowledge and authority. So, yes, it’s a risk, but it’s really not. It’s a way of focusing. Niching down is focusing on one thing and trying to be really good at it. 

Christian: Yes, and I think a lot of clients actually appreciate that. I’m trying to think about myself sometimes when I need to hire some people to do a very specific work for me; what I’m actually looking for is someone who’s done that work before. I am looking for someone who understands exactly what I need and someone who can prove to me and show to me that he or she has done that exact type of work before. So it’s a bit similar, isn’t it? That’s what clients are looking for as well when they want to hire a designer.

Rick: Absolutely. And that’s what I do as well, what you just said. If I need to subcontract some work or anything like that, I need to be really specific with my instructions, of course, but I’m looking for someone that really knows what I’m talking about. I’m looking for the person that asks the right questions. And I know that’s the right person, because I’ve experienced it before.

Christian: Okay. You’ve gone down a niche. There are many niches to choose from… what attracted you to FinTech?

Rick: Well, first and foremost, I think the main thing about is for simplicity – the transition between working in financial services and PropTech made it simple for me to just kind of sit down and say, “Okay, well, what did I work on? What do I have knowledge of? What kind of industry do I know the most so far in my life?” And that was it. So that’s quite clear cut decision, pretty simple. 

On the other side of things, I like to think about “the why” of things, so why did I want to work in FinTech and on a more philosophical level? I like helping people. I liked the idea of improving people’s lives through improving their finances, but I’m not a financial coach or anything like that, nor I’m close to being able to do something like that. But what’s the best way to do that, because I’ve got really interested in finance and things like that on personal finance. So I decided to expand that to my work life as well, in a way. So on that level I would like to help people improve their education and financial literacy and things like that. 

Christian: So it sounds like it was a bit of a natural choice for you with what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Right? 

Rick: It made sense. Yes. 

Christian: Yes. So for how long have you been trying to niche down FinTech right now? 

Rick: Yes. So in the last — let’s say I went freelance in November last year. I started working in FinTech like I started — I decided to work in FinTech maybe after three months or so.

Christian: So would you say that right now, you have a much better understanding of what your type of client is struggling with, or are you still learning?

Rick: Yes, both, to be honest. After a little bit of time I do understand the problems of potential clients, but there’s so many different facets. There’s so many ways you can go about it that I’m still trying to understand what they’re looking for, what they struggle with.

Christian: Yes. Considering you’ve worked in-house and now you’ve had some experience as a designer on the freelance side, are there any differences in how designers in these two different situations tackle design or anything that you can highlight from your experience?

Rick: Yes, so I think — So, obviously it’s very different, but there are similarities in the way that – the way you need to organise your work, the way you need to think about different people in the company. A good designer, as I said earlier, I think it’s a connector between the different parts of the business. I think that the void is similar is that you need to — well, it’s actually the same thing. 

You need to deal with people, maybe at a different capacity when you’re in a company. The way you need to know your audience is the same for when you’re freelance or when you’re in-house, because you need to know who you’re speaking to and what they want from you. And you need to decipher that sometimes because people are not really that great at communicating in general. So you need to understand what they’re trying to get from you, and you do that both with the client and with your stakeholder. You do that with your project manager, other designers in your team. Communication is a common theme.

Christian: So let’s stay on that communication path, because this is something that to me became apparent when I went and started freelancing myself – that the type of communication you need to be good at when you work in-house is slightly different than the type of communication that you need to be good at when you go freelancing.

The reason I want to talk about this is because there’s a tendency nowadays to think that if you’re good at your craft, if you’re a great designer, that’s enough to become a freelancer or a business owner. Because as a freelancer, you’re nothing else other than a business owner. So what is actually necessary for you to be able to become a successful freelancer?

Rick: Okay. That’s a really good question. Personally, I think the way that someone can be a successful freelancer, to be honest, is a change, a shift in the mindset in the way that you really need to wear many different hats when you’re a designer, especially if you’re a product designer. And in the most modern concept of it, you need to do everything basically. 

I think that what makes a difference is being an entrepreneur, instead of trying to be just a designer. You need to take care of the marketing. when you’re freelancing, you need to take care of sales. There’s many parts of it that they don’t teach you in design school. Even if — they think they’re going to — I didn’t go to design school, don’t get me wrong. But that’s what I heard from most of the designers I spoke to that went to design school. And I don’t know if you can relate to it, but basically what they do is they don’t really teach you about real life. They teach you a set of skills, and then when you get out of it, you need to figure out how to be a person as well. So it’s kind of tricky. 

So I think in the same — in a similar way, when you’re a designer in-house, you’re kind of in a bubble — in the bubble in that industry maybe, or that type of product you’re working on. When you get out of it and start to work with different people from different backgrounds and having to do all of that workload to get clients and understand how to manage relationships and things like that. And that’s the main thing about it, really, trying to learn more skills that are outside of Design. So you’re not just a designer anymore, you’re a business owner, you’re an entrepreneur. So that’s pretty important.

Christian: So you’re great at design, but you said sales, you’ve said communication, probably accounting is another one. What I want to highlight is that going freelancing is not as easy as just saying, “I’m going to sign up to Upwork, or I’m going to get a few freelance gigs online.”

It’s so much more complicated. And I want to talk a bit about what’s required from you as a designer who, let’s say, is already good at design and I want to go and become a freelancer today. I’ve quit my job. I have three weeks’ notice, and I want to go freelance afterwards. Considering there are so many hats you need to wear, where do you start from?

Rick: That’s a great question. I think, obviously, the more generic trial and error. If I were to go back, for example, I would — actually, what I did was I sat down and wrote down what I wanted to get out of my freelance career, if you will, but out of my life in general, and then I would try to fit things around it. So I want to become a business owner, but I’m a designer, so I’ll go use my design skills to do that. 

And so think about the transferable skills that you already have, which are plenty if you’re a designer, and try to get some perspective on, “Okay, I know I maybe don’t like sales as much, but I’m going to try. What can I learn, the minimum I can learn to be efficient at it? I don’t like marketing, maybe, I don’t like writing content. What’s the bare minimum I can do? So start with small steps and then make a plan for it and try and ask someone that’s more experienced than you. Once you have that, go and ask them, what do you think about this? Maybe be more specific than that. There’s nothing worse than someone just asking you a really generic question “Ehm, I want to be really successful, how do I do it?”. Well, what do you want to do? What are you doing right now?

Try to ask for help, be open about your journey, and try to figure out from the get-go where you’re trying to go. Then it’s going to be valleys and peaks from there. It’s always going to be a ride that you’re going to find struggle, you’re going to find success, and it’s all a balance at the end of the day. 

Christian: Truer words have never been spoken. I think another thing that I would add as an answer to my other question is something that I recommend people to do is actually to have a runway. If you have a job in-house, put some money to the side before you become a freelancer, because when you don’t have the pressure of having to think of where the next paycheck is going to come from, because you already have an amount of savings, you can actually take your time to build your business the right way. Because that’s what it is. Being a freelancer is a business. You are building a business; a one-man business, but that’ss still a business. 

So I always say, if you don’t have six months to one year of runway in which you can potentially get no work at all and still survive, then I think it’s not a good idea to become a freelancer, because there’s going to be too much pressure for you. And when there’s too much pressure you will make some mistakes that normally you wouldn’t make if you wouldn’t be under pressure, like for example, underpricing yourself or ignoring important aspects of running your business like sales and lead generation and all that, because you’re spending all your time to try to find work. All these other aspects are important. And having a runway allows you to attack all of them in the right way, instead of being pressured all the time about where the next work is coming from. So that’s — on top of what you said, I think having a runway is also super important. 

And another example that I have is a lot of people start their careers by being freelancers. That’s how I started. And looking back… I haven’t during those years learn as much as I would have if I worked together with other people. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to become a freelancer when you’re in the beginning of your career, because you’re going to learn the most when you’re working around other people. And if you’re starting by working on your own, how are you going to learn? 

Rick: Yes, that’s such a great example. I think because we share that path, starting off as a freelancer. Initially I was a web design freelancer. I think what made the most difference and really what kickstarted my career was to find a job, a full-time job, and work in a design team and exchange ideas and confront your style of working with other people and trying to adjust and adapt to other people’s needs as well. Because you’re doing it with clients, but when it’s — it feels like sometimes you’re on a different team than your clients, but when you work in a company you’re in the same team, and you’re working towards a common goal.  

And I think, yes, it’s super important to have those people around. And to be honest with you just by seeing better designers, when I started working full time — just by seeing how much better than me they were, it gave me a huge motivation to improve myself and get to their level. But not from an envy standpoint, more like inspirational standpoint, say “Okay, so that’s what’s possible, I’m going to try and do that and maybe get even better.” 

Christian: Yes, and I think another reason you want to start like this is because by learning from other people and spending time around people who are better than you, you’re actually becoming more confident in your craft as well. And I think that confidence is super important when you go and freelance and have to deal directly with the client. 

So let’s talk a bit about dealing with the client and situations that you and I and every other freelancer has had many times in their careers. So I have a couple of examples here. I just want to know how would you deal or how do you deal when this happens to you, because I’m sure it has and I’m sure it will continue to happen. So you might have a potential client coming to you and in a way trying to downplay a little bit the work he needs done by just saying, “Hey Rick, I have this project. I just need you to design 10 screens for me. That’s all, just 10 screens. How much will it cost me?”

And I think behind that, if you’ve got experience, you know there’s a lot going on. It’s not just about the way they’re asking you to design those 10 screens, but by saying — by using the word screens, by downplaying the amount of work it goes behind, in a way they’re subconsciously maybe saying that your work is actually not that hard. But we all know that design is much more than just what’s on the surface. It’s much more than just visual design. There’s all that hard work behind. 

So how do you take a client from saying that to you to actually educating them and explaining to them that those 10 screens are actually much more than just 10 screens? 

Rick: Yes. Good one. That’s a good one. I don’t know if that happened to you actually recently, but it’s something that still happens sometimes. The way I go about it is… it depends, there are many variables. Do I feel like I want to educate this client right now? Have they reached out to me just with that, opening with that, or they’re trying to start some kind of conversation? So it depends. Do I have work at the time?

Usually I would say — so if I’m busy, I would direct them to maybe someone else. If I’m not busy and I do feel like maybe it could be an interesting project, there’s potential there; I actually flip the question. Not even flip the question, because that’s more of a command. I need this, tell me how much do you want to get it done or how long is it going to take? Which is, yes… don’t need to take that personal. It’s just what they think Design is. So I flip the question and just as maybe how — you need to be some — some way do you need to be challenging, I think, with your clients.

So you need to challenge them. And if we get on a call, let’s assume that I’m on a call with this person, I would just try to ask, “Why is it 20 screens? What are we talking about?” Trying to get a bit of context. I don’t really jump to, “Okay, well, what do you need to get done?” and trying to get instructions from that. If you come to me you need to understand that I’m a professional, so I’m going to look at what you just told me in a different way than you are. I’m going to have — I have to look at the details, the specifics, trying to understand the context a little bit more. 

So I do this on the phone with a client potentially, and just ask them, I try to turn the conversation around and ask the questions myself, instead of being asked something. So I’m trying to understand the context a bit more and what they’re trying to do, and if they have an actual problem I can help them solve. Because otherwise, they can go into — I had someone going through a whole sales pitch the other day of their company with slides and everything. And it’s not the same as starting a conversation around design… there needs to be context before you start a call.

So it’s really important to qualify the client. Before they actually ask something like that, you just turn the conversation around and say, “Okay, let’s jump on a call and do it that way.” That’s quite the way I do it. If you want to do in writing, it’s going to take a little longer, but try to understand what they need to get done from your perspective, instead of just taking that at face value. 

Christian: Do you think this happens because there’s a misconception of what a designer is and does?

Rick: Yes. And to be honest with you, it’s both our fault, in a way, or the way the industry has evolved or not evolved, in many ways. And I think, it’s also — I think let’s start from that, to be honest, because if you’re really clear about what you do, what a designer is and what kind of designer you are — because if you’re fine with say, there’s nothing wrong with being a logo designer on Fiverr; nothing wrong with that. But you decided to do that, so you know how it works. And you can also be really good at it at one point, but that’s where the price starts to become more evident as it’s going to be on the higher side and people are going to — you only get people with that budget contacting you. You’re not going to get the people that say… they really know how that works most times when they are willing to spend that much on logos or things like that. 

Christian: Talking about budgets, one of the things that I’ve learned is that clients who are willing to pay more are actually the good ones. You would think that the clients who are willing to pay more would be more difficult to work with because they’ve paid more. But actually it’s the other way around. It’s the clients who only have £2,000 to spend that are really difficult to work with because one, maybe they don’t necessarily value what you do, so they think that’s all your work is worth. 

Maybe the work is not that important to them, so they think, “Well, I’m willing to spend just that because I actually don’t care about this.” But maybe it’s also a matter of when you only have a little money to spend, you’re much more likely to want to be part of the process, just to make sure that whatever’s happening there happens the way you imagined it to happen.

While sometimes, you get a client who’s willing to pay much more money for the same type of project, and they don’t bother you. And you don’t hear from them unless you call them or you take initiative. And to me, that was a bit shocking because I always thought it would have been the other way around.

Rick: Yes, it’s an interesting observation. I think that there’s something about being on a budget that puts you in a scarcity mindset in a way. That’s the little money you have left sometimes. People tend to get really close to it, attached to it, and they think that if they control what happens with you, I don’t know, maybe they’re going to get a better bang for their buck or whatever. But it’s actually… when you let someone do their work without figuratively putting a gun to their head and keep pressing them with questions and trying to understand it, it’s going to be a much better result. 

The people that are willing to pay more are usually those that don’t do that. They just say, “Do your thing.” When they say do your thing you need to ask questions. You can’t just let someone say, “Do your thing,” but they’re usually more chilled. 

Christian: Yes. And I guess they know that by paying so much, they’re working with a professional. I think this happens subconsciously. If someone is charging you a lot of money, you’re going to think, “ Oh, it must be someone who is good at their job”. I guess it’s not very different than driving a Honda versus driving a Mercedes. The moment you pay for a Mercedes you know, and you have a higher expectation, that although it takes you from A to Z exactly the same, you have different expectation of it, because it was so much more expensive than the competitors. So maybe it’s the same. 

Rick: Yes, I think it’s a good analogy. 

Christian: How do you market yourself? You’re a freelancer; nobody does marketing for you. You need to do the work, and you also need to find the work as a freelancer. That’s yet another challenge of going on your own. So what do you do?

Rick: So, okay. It’s different points, but to be honest with you, it’s all around trying to keep things simple and connected in a way. And I’m going to explain your why. So I like writing, that’s something I discovered a few years into my design career. I like writing as much as I like designing, to be honest. And what I know, what I understood about marketing is that if you put yourself out there in a way that you’re comfortable with – so you have your voice, you have your way of doing things – your clients can see that you’re really transparent, can see your personal brand. They can see how good you are at what you do because you put passion in it. 

So the way I linked the things was “I like writing, so I’m going to write a few blog posts, put them out there.” They initially were for designers and for my own audience, because that felt comfortable. And then I decided to focus on LinkedIn. So the way I get clients at the moment is all through LinkedIn. And I write the daily posts on UX, and whatever comes to mind that’s relevant to my niche, and that’s basically how I market myself. That’s all I do.

Christian: Here’s the thing about that. When you do what you do, and you do it well, and you do it over a specific period of time, what you’re actually doing in front of your customers is that you’re proving your expertise. So two years down the line, when Michael from X company realises he needs a designer, because he suddenly has a project, but he knows no designer at all, what he will remember is that this designer on LinkedIn once wrote a post that really landed with him. And he’s going to get in touch. So that’s inbound marketing. That’s just creating content that is useful for your customers without necessarily expecting anything in return. And if you do that and if you do it well, it’s going to pay off sooner or later.

Rick: Yes. That’s exactly — funny enough, I got a message this morning about a post I published three months ago, which is hard to find on LinkedIn; you need to scroll through someone’s feed for a while – and from the CEO of the company and mentioned in that post. So it’s amazing, I think; after three months this person wants to talk to me, and that’s how it works. On a longer-term I think it’s the best way to go about it.  

Christian: I think marketing has changed a lot. It’s gone from that world where it was all about outbound and you putting your name out there and paying for ads and being on TV or the Superbowl ad or whatever it was depending on your size of company. And it’s going from that to everyone in the world being bombarded with advertising. It’s kind of like that banner blindness we have on the web, and nobody’s paying attention to any ads anymore, but what people are paying attention to is individuals or businesses who are trying to help. And that’s the new type of marketing. 

So I think for anyone who wants to start in freelancing, that’s a good avenue. And it doesn’t have to be only articles. Look, I don’t write as much. I actually do a lot of videos, because I’m comfortable on camera and I love it. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It doesn’t have to be either one of them. It has to be whatever you’re comfortable with. Some people are comfortable writing. Some are comfortable talking in a microphone, then you go podcasting. Some people are comfortable writing short content, then you go on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

So it’s all about figuring out what you’re comfortable with and then helping your audience that way. And the way you help them is by understanding what their needs are. And this circles back to what we were discussing earlier about your niche. You niched down – what that is making you is an expert in understanding what FinTech customers are struggling with. So now you can create content to help them. So that’s that circle of marketing for a freelancer.

Rick: You described it absolutely amazingly. So that’s exactly what’s happening there. And to what you said, you’re into video, you like video, as long as you share what you know, even if it’s little, as long as you’ve shared that and make your own opinion about it, I think that’s really the most simple level. That’s what it is. Writing or doing videos is just sharing knowledge and your struggles as well. I think it’s just sharing the journey and just being you, just putting you in that content. Whatever you’re creating is going to make a difference for the people that read it, because they’re going to relate to something. So if you’re a person that swears a lot, don’t hide it. 

Christian: Gary Vaynerchuk, right?

Rick: That’s exactly what I was thinking. So just be you and be unapologetic about being you. Not everyone is going to be the right fit for you, and you’re not going to be the right fit for everyone.

Christian: I love that. I think that is a point that we haven’t covered yet. When you create all this content to help other people, 100% there will be people who either don’t agree with you, don’t like the way you said it, don’t like what you said, and it’s important to take that with a pinch of salt. So I love you brought that up. That’s super important. 

When you get a client on a call, a potential client on a call, how do you qualify that person, and how do you — are there any red flags that you know automatically, “Oh this is going to be a problematic client”?

Rick: Yes, like sometimes it’s just a gut feeling. Let’s be honest; you don’t have to — like I just said, you don’t have to be liked by anyone, you don’t have to like anyone. So sometimes it’s just a matter of not getting the vibe from the call. I’m a quite open person, I like chatting a little bit, and some people are more like to the point, no jokes, that’s what we need to talk about. So sometimes you’re not going to jive with that. Sometimes you just realise it was just a clash of personality, maybe. 

But in terms of qualifying, yes, I’m quite clear at this point of what problems I can solve with what I do. So I just try to understand if there is a problem that I can help with. And I try to do that quite quickly. And I like to get on calls, even if it’s short ones, just to ask a few questions to see if there’s a fit on that perspective. And sometimes, yes, I just ask a few questions. It’s a very consultancy like approach, where you ask — if you ask a consultant, they try to understand what the problem is, the current situation, the desired situation, and you’re the person that bridges that gap. So those are usually structured in a way that will get me to understand if I can help, and if I do, then we can move into more interesting things to talk about.

Christian: Amazing. Rick, we’re nearing the end. I have two more questions. Everyone who’s on the show gets asked this. So the first one is what’s one thing you wish more designers would know?

Rick: I wish more designers — Well, I’ll speak for myself. I wish I knew more about human sciences and psychology, and that’s a topic that fascinates me a lot, and I wish more designers were interested in it, because I think there’s a lot of potential in knowing more about that for our profession.

Christian: Awesome. And last one, how do you reckon the future of design looks like?

Rick: I think it’s going to be like a sci-fi movie where designers collaborate with scientists to create the best interfaces for retina displays in a way that it’s in your retina, it’s not on a device. Something like something that, it could get creepy quite quickly.

Christian: It’s Black Mirror. It’s very Black Mirror-like. 

Rick: More positive. It’s just like it’s meant to be working with humans. I see what Elon Musk is doing, so. 

Christian: Okay. Well, eventually, let’s say — let’s see if that’s within our lifetime. We’ll see. Rick, thank you so much for being part of the show. Where can people find you, get in touch with you, read your stuff? 

Rick: I haven’t been active on Medium as of late, but I’m on Medium, and on LinkedIn, it’s just Rick Veronese, and you can find me there and, just follow, connect. I’m happy to connect, and hopefully, I’m putting out out something useful for people.

Christian: We’re going to put all of this in the show notes so people can easily find you. Rick, once again, thank you so much for being a part of the first season of Design Meets Business. It’s been a pleasure to have you here, and hopefully we’ll chat again soon.

Rick: Likewise, Christian, thank you so much for having me. 

Christian: Cheers, buddy. Thank you!

That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening to the show. Since you’ve made it this far, I hope you found this useful. And if you did, you should know there’s much more content just like this on the way. So if you want to learn more about how designers can impact businesses, please consider subscribing, and maybe sharing the episode with others. And before I say goodbye, remember that you can find show notes and links for this episode and others on our website, designmeetsbusiness.co. Catch you in the next one.