5 Tips for Starting Your Freelance Graphic Design Career

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 20, 2018

Jun 20, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

As of 2017, graphic designers earn a median pay of $48,700 per year. That's about $23.41 per hour.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that employment of designers is expected to grow at a rate of 4 percent towards 2016. This rate is slower than the average of all occupations. As such, the competition for opportunities is expected to be stiff.

So, if you're looking to start a career in freelance graphic design, you need to be creative and talented to succeed. Since you'll be self-employed, discipline is a key attribute for success. Your first step is always important!

Without further ado, let's explore the five essential tips for launching your career.

1. Start with the Basics

Without a boss, there are many things you can easily overlook. For example, the importance of time management, particularly when working on several projects. The last thing you want is to rush through tasks only to submit subpar work to clients.

As such, you should set specific hours for work every day. Avoid accepting more projects than you can handle. Of course, as you start, things will be pretty slow. But they will eventually pick up once clients start loving your work.

Another essential factor is the motivation to work. With no people to push you around or micromanage you, it all narrows down to why you want a freelance graphic design career in the first place. That should be the fire that burns within you to see you through every single project.

If you're working from home, your office should be separate from your living quarters. Basically, you want a conducive environment with little to no distractions. Also, consider ergonomics when buying your office desk and chair.

Lastly, ensure you have all the tools and materials you need. The essentials include a laptop/desktop, hard drive, software, graphics tablet, notebook, monitor calibrator, and a swatch book. Keep in mind that having the best tools doesn't make you the best designer -- your ideas and execution do.

2. Build Your Portfolio

An impressive online portfolio is the most crucial asset for earning new clients, and consequently, high-paying gigs. It allows you to showcase your skills, style, personality, and experience.

New clients or employers will want to review your work before trusting you with their projects. A great website that speaks your talent should do the trick. Create a page that showcases your samples and past projects.

Also, ensure your "about me" page tells potential clients more about you.

Do not just focus on the basics: contact details, portfolio, and "about" me page. Go to great lengths by including a case study on one of your past clients. It should highlight the problem they had, the solution you provided, and how you did it.

You can also create a case study on logo design trends to show how they affect businesses.

However, as a beginner, your case study can focus on what existing brands are doing, and how you can replicate the same results for your clients. Ideally, your portfolio should sell your services without you putting in much effort.

3. Network, Network, Network

As noted before, the onset of your freelance graphic design career can be pretty slow. Acquiring your first, second or even third client may seem almost impossible. This is one of the reasons many beginners accept projects at absurdly low rates.

Some even work on trial projects first.

You can ease that burden by networking. Your freelance career success depends on the connections you have. So, consider building and cultivating relationships with writers, photographers, web developers, and other graphic designers.

One way to build your network is online marketing. You can optimize your website, build a blog, create video content, share your work, use social media, and publish articles on other sites.

Use social media and forums, such as Graphicdesignforums.co.uk, to connect with like-minded people. Some can even offer expert feedback on your work. Also, look for professional networks in your area to earn real-world connections.

The more connections you build, the better.

4. Finding and Winning Clients

Today, freelance sites have made it feasible to find clients. All you need is to create a stellar profile that appeals to clients. Example of sites you should join include AwesomeWeb, 99designs, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, and Toptal.

Craigslist is the Wild West of freelance opportunities. If you know how to use it, it's possible to earn well-paying opportunities.

Also, create a compelling profile on LinkedIn. With the LinkedIn ProFinder tool, you can be easily matched to projects that fit your profile and past projects.

When capitalized optimally, these two sites and social media offer great ways to build lasting relationships beyond the platforms.

Finding clients can be easy, but winning them is another animal. With the stiff competition in the graphic design space, your work, skills, and experience must be quite convincing.

The best way to win clients is to hook them with something familiar. Identify their issue and suggest the ideal and cost-effective solution for them. Take the time to work on your pitch and improve your presentation skills to woo clients.

5. Reaching Agreements with Clients

At this point, you have already earned the trust of a few clients. But how can you agree with them without scaring them away? Remember you want to establish and develop long-lasting relationships.

The first step is to create a contract for your clients. But don't make it too long and detailed. Clients don't like trudging through pages of paperwork. Just keep it basic with key information, such as deadlines, project's scope, and payment.

You can also add cancellation and revision clauses to protect yourself.

This contract is just for the start. As your career grows, you can make improvements and changes to it to accommodate more clauses and work elements.

Also, always give quotes based on the project details and the market rate. Don't be quick to say no to offers. If you are busy with other projects, you can always recommend another designer for the client.

Kick Start Your Freelance Graphic Design Career

Every successful designer has a start. What matters is how you work with clients to deliver the solutions they need. Don't underestimate yourself and always be confident in your pricing.

When you earn clients, go the extra mile for them, and they'll bring you more opportunities. Most importantly, believe in your work and always be passionate about it.

Do you want to grow your freelance graphic design career? These unconventional career development tips can help.