How to Become a Graphic Design Freelancer – Complete Guide

If you want to know how to become a graphic design freelancer, this is for you. Whether you are fresh out of university or a professional who is looking for a change, an experienced artist, or just starting out, you need top-notch information on how to freelance graphic design.

The graphic design industry is booming, and you have definitely made a good decision in joining the trend. But, of course, since this is a skyrocketing freelance industry, you should know the best way to start a freelance graphic design business. After all, with many other graphic designers out there, you should be armed with tested and fail-proof tips!

In this complete guide, you will understand that while settling into freelance graphic design may be overwhelming; you can be successful with valuable pointers and game-changing tips. Check out these strategies and discover how to start freelance graphic design.

1. Explore Graphic Designing

people looking at laptop in library

You may have the experience and proper background in designing, but as you may very well know, trends are continuously changing—there’s always a new craze! It is then important that you know what’s in, what’s out, what’s hot, and what’s not. So it is not a bad idea to attend short courses or webinars. You may also want to join graphic designers’ associations and social media groups. You can never underestimate the valuable insights small discussions can make. Finally, subscribe to newsletters, magazines, and relevant websites. The main goal here is not to produce outdated designs.

The same goes if you are just starting out and still learning how to be a freelance graphic designer. You may lack experience, but being up to date with developments in design is one step ahead of other newbies.

2. Find Your Specialty

laptop, color palette, pens and pen mouse

There are different types of graphic design. You approach each specialty differently, from web design to advertising to product designs. It is a must that before you start a freelance graphic design business, you have already identified your niche or specialty. Accepting different designing jobs is okay, but having a specialty will set you apart from others. What’s more, it would be more advantageous for you if you get to catch a specific market. If you focus on motion graphics or animation, you can quickly get clients because you already know the trend and what they will be looking for. That is one secret on how to become a graphic design freelancer, knowing where to place yourself.

Ask yourself, will you specialize in the type of design where you excel? Or will you take a chance on where the demand is high? You may be really good at books and magazine layouts, but with the print industry weakening, you may get fewer jobs. But on the other hand, the game industry is at its peak. So joining the gaming design market will easily land you a job. Additionally, having a unique skill set will land you high-paying jobs. If you excel in the complex interactive design field, and there are only a few of you with that level of mastery, you will be hired immediately.

3. How to Become a Graphic Design Freelancer? BE A BRAND.

Part of knowing how to be a freelance graphic designer is realizing that you have to be a brand yourself. Identify yourself as a product. Identify your brand. Knowing your brand will help you start a freelance graphic design business with strong directions.

Being creative as you are, you can have something distinctive. A logo, a special QR code, or a catchy business name is all part of having a strong brand. Align your brand with your expertise. Use icons that are well identifiable to your field of expertise. For example, if you are an animator, your logo should obviously be animated.

Keep in mind that you have to be a brand name that has a good recall. It should sound universal and can easily be pronounced. More importantly, it should be visually memorable. Using your name may be enough if you want to continue freelancing as an individual. Your signature may be your best logo yet!

4. You Need Your Tools

two imac computers on table

Remember, this is a business and you are starting the career of your life! Invest, invest, invest. You won’t survive in this industry with just a pen and paper. With the ever-fast-evolving technology, you need to always be in the game and have the design tools you need. New design software and apps are being launched left and right. Being talented is not enough if you cannot translate it to your output well. Use the design tools that suit you best and ace it.

Designer tools are not the only tools you should have. As a freelance graphic designer, you do not only do the creative part. You also attend to admin matters like creating proposals, drafting contracts, managing schedules, issuing invoices, and tracking payments. Good thing that complete project management software like Kosmo is available. Do not stress yourself with the nitty gritty admin concerns in running your business, use your tools.

5. Create a Master Portfolio

Now that you have a brand, armed with the proper tools and specialization, it’s time to create your master portfolio. You cannot start a freelance graphic design business without this. If you do not have projects to flex yet, design some sample works. Remember that the portfolio will showcase your brand, your skill, and your promise. A digital portfolio is most practical, but it is also recommended to have a physical copy ready. Just in case a client wants to see it personally.

Strategically compose your portfolio. However, do not place all your work there. Choose only the best ones. Choose the designs that actually made your name a brand. Having a design for a big client in your portfolio is also a good strategy. It means big companies are trusting their business with you. Whether it’s a single or multiple-paged portfolio, it doesn’t matter. As someone who excels in the creative field, make sure your portfolio is absolutely impressive.

6. Be Here, There, and Everywhere

It’s not enough to know how to become a graphic design freelancer. You have to also know how to market yourself. See, at this time and age, this is probably the easiest thing you can do as you start. Sell yourself. Tell the world what you got. Have your own website. Create a professional social media page. Have a vlog channel. Publish blogs. Anything and everything that will boost your name and highlight your portfolio is good marketing. Be involved in issues and discussions about your field. Always be available for inquiries. Be reachable. Be connected.

In learning how to become a graphic design freelancer, you have to remember that as a freelancer, you do not have a big pool of potential client lists just yet. So the best thing to do is make your name, your brand, be heard, and visible.

7. Build Relationships

In any business, you are only as good as how your clients rate you and react to your work. Especially when it comes to freelancing when the flow of clients is unpredictable, you have to have a solid network of past, current, and potential clients. Always demonstrate good work ethics and professionalism. Remember that professionalism not only leads to a positive reputation but also ensures returning clients.

Building good relationships with clients also means knowing how to properly quote a design project. Have a competitive but fair starting rate. A client that feels he was treated fairly, will definitely be a returning client. In starting your graphic design career, remember that the key to gaining more clients is establishing good relationships from the start. Be modest and yet confident when dealing with your first clients. It wouldn’t hurt to over-deliver too.

At the end of the day, referrals and compliments by word of mouth are what would jump-start your business. Do not be afraid to ask for referrals. Give them extra calling cards to hand out to their friends (make sure you have an amazing calling card). And of course, ask your clients to give testimonials. Have a page on your website or social media page dedicated to receiving reviews. Because you know it, potential clients do read the reviews.

8. Protect Your Business

It is important to note that you need to protect your business. Have a contract with your clients. One thing you want to avoid is feeling discouraged in continuing your career because of a bad business transaction.

Understand that as a freelance graphic designer, you do not have the same luxury as those working under a company. You do not have a human resource department that will protect you from unjust treatment. You do not have a superior that can back you up when things start going south. There’s no accountant to help you with your taxes and other legal obligations. So make sure that all your bases are covered with properly drafted contracts.

9. Inspire Yourself

man relaxing while working

Decide on whether you will be working at home or in an office. If you intend to do business at home, make sure you have a comfortable nook and that your housemates know how to respect your space. If you are planning on starting up an office, make sure this setup is something you can actually afford during the beginning stages of your freelancing career. You do not want to be drowning in rent and other utilities while still focusing on building your business.

Do not overwork yourself. Remember to take breaks. Travel and go on adventures. This is one of the perks of being a freelancer anyway. You have total control of your schedule. So, go ahead and take those short breaks. This way, you wouldn’t get burned out immediately. As a creative professional, in order for you to keep on developing sellable designs, you need to always be inspired and have fresh ideas. Have a good work-life balance.

10. Remember Your Goals

Most definitely, you have already set your goals. Transform it into a business plan and make sure to stick to your objectives. This is as simple as having a checklist. Write down the things you want to achieve. Jot down your simplest goals. Start with simple targets like having two clients in a month. Or, being able to publish a blog. This is a discipline you’d want to pursue. In the long run, your goals will keep you motivated and push you to work harder no matter what obstacles come your way. Understand that this will not be an easy road at the start, so to keep you moving forward, always remember your goals.

Ready, Set, Go

Everything you need to know about how to freelance graphic design boils down to your confidence in pursuing this road. As you can see, this will not be easy. You need to continuously develop your craft and make sure you are not left behind. You are the only key to making this work and yes, your hard work will pay off. As in-depth as this guide is, there is no better way to sum up the guide on how to become a graphic design freelancer than this: Invest in yourself.

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