We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Horwitz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what do you attribute your success to?
Reliability has been the key to building a successful graphic design business. Freelancers and artists can have a negative reputation for being flaky or inflexible. I have my work cut out for me to prove that a client can depend on me. There are the simple, daily acts—responding quickly, meeting deadlines, providing quality work. Trust also comes from the business components—creating contracts, providing detailed monthly invoices, having insurance, establishing an LLC. The magic happens on the personal side because this is not just a business—it’s my passion. Knowing that a client has a lot of deadlines but is not good at project management, I will follow up on outstanding projects to make sure that they don’t fall through the cracks. Noticing that a client struggles with details, I will double-check info and spelling. If a client needs something I can’t provide myself, I’ll find a colleague or service that can help. Reliability has helped me establish long-term clients as well as finding new clients—100% of new business is referrals.
What should our readers know about your business?
I actually have a degree in English literature and did not plan on being a graphic designer, much less having my own business. Working an entry-level job at USC, I was enlisted to help with a design project, and I was entranced. I taught myself programs like QuarkXPress and CorelDRAW. Graphic design using computers was still new enough that I was able to find a job as a self-taught designer. At my first job, I made connections with print reps who referred me to their customers. Those early projects led to clients I have to this day, who have helped to build my business with referrals. I believe that what has helped me succeed as a freelancer are the skills I have other than creativity. Things I enjoy: lists, schedules, organization, completing tasks, proofreading. Not exciting, but very handy when working for yourself. I’ve had to learn not only how to use software and how to design, but also how to be my own tech support, bookkeeper, project manager, and promoter. I struggled with business aspects. I had no contracts, no payment terms, no insurance. I had months where I didn’t make enough money. I hustled for jobs, driving across town to drop off handmade mockups or pet sitting for a client who needed an assistant as much as a designer. In the beginning, I worked all hours, lived cheaply, and took every job. As work became steady, I hired a lawyer to create contracts and an LLC, an accountant to prepare my taxes, and other freelancers to help with the workload. I met an incredible web development and marketing team who could provide services to my clients and who had clients that needed design help. I established business hours and became selective in taking on new clients. And now every day goes exactly as planned, and life is perfect. HA! Every day is a juggling act, but I believe in myself and I love what I do. For me, the reward is not the bottom line, but being able to make someone else’s life a little happier or easier. A client sending me a note of thanks for being someone they can count on or making their project look great is what brings me joy.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ll start by saying I am an introvert who works from home and moved to Arizona just before the pandemic, so I am not someone who gets out all that much. That said, my best friend loves getting dressed up and going out on the town, so for sure we would be all over Phoenix if she visited for a week. We’d start local, with my favorite spots in downtown Chandler: Hidden House restaurant and The Ostrich speakeasy. I would take her to downtown Phoenix to the Herberger, where I’ve loved seeing live theatre. Before the play, we’d pop into Seamus McCaffrey Irish Pub, which is walking distance and has great corned beef and cabbage. I’d make reservations for an outdoor table at House of Tricks—amazing food in a beautiful garden. She is also a graphic designer and super creative, so we would sip wine and unleash our paintbrushes at Wine & Design in Scottsdale and then check out the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. We’d join my brother in Mesa, and visit Cider Corps, a veteran-owned craft cider taproom that is also the home of the mouthwatering Myke’s Pizza. We would meet up with friends in Gilbert and walk through the farmer’s market and then refresh ourselves with brunch at Liberty Market. We would end by watching a musical at home, drinking margaritas, and ordering pizza from Fired Pie, which has a delicious cauliflower crust.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents have always given me unconditional love and support. They praised my drawings, paid for painting lessons, proudly displayed my work, and even got me my very first freelance job—creating watercolor invitations when I was twelve. I never planned to be a graphic designer, but it ended up being the perfect intersection of art and business. Having my parents ‘encouragement as I found my way was crucial. They constantly tell me how proud they are that I’ve created my own business and found a way to support myself doing something I love. Thank you, Donna and Martin Horwitz.