Freelancing in Durban

Stathi Kougianos is a Durban freelance designer who took a couple hours out of his busy freelance schedule to talk about, well, freelancing, stingy Durban clients, Oatees, and afternoon naps. Pearls of wisdom await, after the jump.

I have been freelancing for 6 months now, and have come to the realization that it can work; you just have to lower your prices and come to terms with the fact that prostitutes outside Zoom make more money than you do. It all depends on how hard you work and how many times you miss a HOC sesh. There are good months and there are I’M FUCKED! months. I had a chat with local illustrator Dustin Holmes and photographer Kevin Goss-Ross about how they feel about the Durban freelance scene, and they agreed with me: “People don’t seem to value a great idea, or hard work and time put into a final product. I just find that clients in Durban like to argue over pricings for work and time spent on design” Dustin told me. “Talented people coming out of University/Tech/Whatever are sometimes getting paid the same amount as your gardener, and your gardener works a nice nine to five, whereas most creative positions commonly include a hell of a lot of overtime and weekends for fuck all extra money” echoed Kevin.

Working for yourself is cool, I mean you can eat a bowl of Oatees whenever you want and afternoon naps are essential preparation for a mighty all-nighter. It’s easier working on a project until 3 in the morning if you know that when you send it off for approval the next day you will have the ‘ohshit!’ effect.

Getting your work out there is another challenge, and cats like Skullboy and Tyrone Bradley have been working hard to organize exhibitions and place this little town on the creative map. “Exhibitions are invaluable as an avenue of advertising” says Kevin.

Dustin Holmes - Towers Poster

There are still at least a few things that need to change if freelancers are ever going to survive in this city. People need to collaborate; they need to network: “What I have learnt is that you’ve got to just make it happen wherever you are. In a sense you have to just man up, do business, take notes and shake hands etc. That’s the only way real work happens anywhere. Network, network, network and you’ll get work anywhere from the comfort of your Durban flat” Dustin told me. Kevin clearly agrees: He works closely with another stalwart photographer, Xavier Vahed. Together they form the collective, Our, whose work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions already. They have a project lined up through which they’re going to try promote Durban night life, which should be done in August.

Kevin Goss-Ross - Thots

So, what else do we freelancing Durbanoids need to make ends meet? Here’s my own little list of essential skills:


  1. Treat the client like a “God”
  2. Don’t back down on your price, if they want to drop a zero tell them to eat shit
  3. There is a 2 day window period for clients to reply to your email.
  4. If you missed a deadline be ready for an awkies telephone convo
  5. Don’t make enemies in Durban, chances are you will see them in Spar the next day
  6. Be prepared to give friend prices
  7. No one knows how hard you worked but yourself – so tell the client
  8. Changes, changes, changes
  9. When you haven’t been paid? BITCH HARD
  10. Word of mouth. Use it to your advantage

To check out more of Dustin and Kevin’s work, check out their websites:


8 Responses to “Freelancing in Durban”
  1. Freelancing in Durban is like mining for ‘Lanthanum’ (I chose this obscure mineral over other just as obscure minerals in my analogy mainly because it’s name comes from the Greek “lanthanein”, meaning to be hidden which is way cooler than, say ‘Praseodymium’ from the Greek “prasios”, meaning leek-green). It’s pretty tough going for the long while, you have to figure out where to dig and then dig really deep. But, when you find a good patch of Lanthanum, you mine it for all it’s worth, making you obscenely rich. (I’m not really obscenely rich) I do however have some of the coolest clients around. It is important though, in this mining for all it’s worth business, to make sure you do it sustainably (lesson learned from recent developments in our biosphere) – treat your clients like family (I hear the vibe about treating them like a god but people like to be family more, i think.) Give some freebies here and there, discount your invoice when you know the agency screwed up and will fit the bill. Think permaculture and apply it to business.

    All in all, if you stick to what you do and you do it well (and you self market like a mother cusser) you’ll develop good clients who pay you well and respect your art. Then if you can learn to manage you wealth and live a little more frugally, you can glide right over those dry months.

    Viva Durban is yours! We have a great city and site like this make it greater.

  2. It is tough but staying very hard arse while keeping a good flow of outgoing work can be just as effective:

    Work for full price or for free – never for cheap.

    Draft up a contract for clients where you confirm the brief and what will be delivered and take 50% upfront before starting – the balance to be paid before open files are handed over. I offer a discounted price to clients who pay before the agreed date. Any client who won’t sign this contract is one like you mentioned who won’t take our craft seriously and won’t rush to pay you.

  3. Kiff article. It’s pretty hard finding clients here, but I suppose it’s all down to networking.

  4. Diff says:

    Networking all the way.

    I think when you meet people that understand your work ethic and that you are passionate about getting the right end result for them, those people are the ones that make the best clients. Try and take on work that you have some sort of interest in aswell, it makes the process easier.

    Definitely make sure they know how you work, establish a ‘no bull’ policy from the start and from there on it should be rosy!

    Paul couldn’t have said it better :

    Work for full price or for free – never for cheap.

  5. IOIIOOIO says:

    Just a note, please remember US vs UK spelling rules.

    US: realization
    UK: realisation

    Jus sayin.

  6. Trevor Paul says:

    @Diff – Sometimes you have to work for cheap. Those “I’M FUCKED!” months… Nov through Feb? when all the clients are having a nice holiday and you’re cold calling skeleton staff. You know you should have saved through the year, but you didn’t. Got to love that feeling when your head is finally above water again, makes it all worthwhile.

  7. Bob says:

    Thanks. We’re all doing this in our spare time so there are bound to be mistakes every now and again. Will try keep it in mind.

  8. Leann Ruth says:

    Dear Kaving I really hope that you will fined time to answer my questions.

    I am a struggling student photography.

    On the 23TH of January 1995 I stared studding part one of my freelancing photographic career.

    I competed my first lot of photographic studies though Intec College on the 25TH of August 1996.

    Every since then I have being struggling to fined some one to take me on as a trainee in the

    photographic field.

    I would like to become a freelancer out side of doing weddings, parties, nudity, doing photo shoots of small

    children, & flashing shoots at flashing shows.

    I would like to ask you just how did you get in to the photographic field?

    I mast all sow add that I have a learning problem sow that high school I was forts to go did not go up

    to grand12 but only went up to a grand 11.

    I mast all sow add that I have a stuff left knee as well as an eye ills that if not treated with special eye drops I can

    go completely blind just like my late grandfather went from the same eye ills.

    I must all sow give you the reasons why I am not able to completed my photographic studies & why I am not able

    to be in a pistons to buy a new Nikon D7100.

    The reasons 4 all this is thanks to a finally company that lost all my money & my persons money as well as my

    brothers money that we had invested though them.

    Because of this big finally lost not only has my photographic dream being smashed.

    My family & I have being hit hared by this big finally lost.

    That is why I am asking you 4 your help the other reasons 4 me asking for your help is because my family &

    I would like to move from Pretoria down to your neck of the woods sow that my dad’s hearth can in prove

    & that would be thank to the most & worm air that Durban has to offer.

    The other reasons why my persons & I would like to come & settle down in Durban is because I would like to not

    only stared working down in Durban but all sow completed my photographic studies at one of your top

    photographic schools.

    I really hope that you will fined the time to help me out here as I really don’t know what to do

    about solving my problem which in my eye is a uneasily problem which I never thought I would go though

    in the photographic field.

    I am asking 4 your help with tears in my eyes & tears in my heart to please help me solve my big problem.

    Thank you sow match all your help from LR.M

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