- Save your pennies. I highly recommend starting your freelance career with a savings cushion. …
- Know thy customer. …
- Crank up the marketing machine. …
- Build a partner network. …
- Consider a specialisation. …
- Pay yourself a living wage…or better.
How To Get Started As A Freelance Graphic Designer1
Have you ever wondered what it takes to get started out as a freelance graphic designer? If you are thinking about venturing into the field of graphic design for yourself, then this article should prove to help you tremendously!
I will be giving you a look at how I got started out in the freelancing world, provide you with some excellent learning resources many of which I use again and again, as well as educate you on how you can begin your own graphic design career as a freelancer!
So what is a graphic designer?
The graphic designer’s job is to effectively communicate the intended message of the project at hand visually to a specified audience. Designers do this through arranging type, symbols, color, and imagery to create a brand “feel” related to the business they are working with for the project at hand.
Typical projects graphic designers work on often are: visual brand identity which includes: logo designs, business cards, brochures, flyers, folders, print advertisements, postcards, company letterhead & envelopes, booklets, catalogs, packaging design, greeting cards and invitations, social media pages including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, as well as web advertisements, and web graphic elements. Designers can also create simple, beautiful websites in Adobe Muse and can customize WordPress website templates for their clients as well.
Learn the skills
So, you may ask yourself: What type of education do I need to become a graphic designer? Well, for me, I chose to obtain an associates degree in graphic design. You can choose to go after a bachelors, or a certificate, or even solely do your own self-study.
I highly recommend having the foundation that formal education provides, however it is not 1010% mandatory, especially if you have an excellent eye for design to begin with and are a go-getter when it comes to seeking out the known experts in the field and going through their books or online courses to learn everything you need to know and set you on the path for success.
What you choose really depends on your lifestyle and how much time and monetary investment you can put towards building your all-essential portfolio of work samples.
You can invest in college
Choosing the college route is a fantastic starting place if your time and your finances allow you to partake in this option. There are so many great college options to choose between. You could work towards a certificate or associates degree at your local community college, or you can opt for an online college such as Full Sail University.
The benefits of obtaining a degree in the field are great because you will be provided with a well-rounded education that will cover all areas of graphic design. You will learn the crucial design principles, learn how to meet deadlines, and learn how to take critiques on your many design projects.
By going through formal education, you will come out with a great grasp on all of the foundational fundamentals that you will need to know as a graphic designer so that you can be confident that you will be able to provide nothing but the best service for your ideal soon-to-come clients. You could opt for only taking a couple of college classes if you wanted and then pursue the rest of your education through your own self-study.
However, even if you do decide to pursue a degree, I would also definitely recommend supplementing what you learn in school with your own self-study. By doing so, your work and your clients will only benefit!
You can do your own self-study
Sometimes, the finances just aren’t available or you simply don’t have that much time to dedicate outside of your home to go to your local community college. If this is your situation, then you must know that you don’t need to have a diploma sitting on your desk to become a freelance graphic designer!
The most crucial thing that I have found potential clients are looking for is not a degree, but a quality work portfolio for them to see. I have experienced this to be the number one element that they base their decision on. If you put together a great portfolio full of at least 4-6 beautiful, solid samples of design work you have done – then that is enough to get started.
So, how do you learn from your own self-study? With the wealth of information available at your fingertips, it is now easier than ever to learn everything you need to know by just knowing where to go to educate yourself.
I suggest that you put together your own learning course by getting a hold of every design book you can, soak up design inspiration from great and successful designers and emulate their work for your own personal practice. Start an online learning track on Treehouse and begin taking a set list of courses on Lynda.com and learn all you can for the specific work you want to focus on at SkillShare. There is also a wealth of courses you can choose between at Udemy on the topic of graphic design.
Let’s face it. There are a lot of us out there: creatives trying to become a successful freelance designer.
Freelance designing is wonderful but the market is so saturated that we often lack what we need to become successful.
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Below you will find 10 tips on becoming a successful freelance designer.
1. Brand yourself. Nearly any company or organization falls apart without an established style. Without a impressive personalized logo you will simply fade into the background where literally thousands of freelance designers wander.
Becoming a successful freelance designer means becoming a successful, memorable, quality brand.
2. Create an effective online portfolio. It is nearly impossible to become a successful freelance designer without having an impressive online presence. Any potential clients or employers will want to see your work and most of them will prefer to type in a URL and click on what they want to see.
Take some time to create an effective online portfolio or you can kiss your chances of becoming a successful freelance designer goodbye.
3. Create an equally effective print portfolio, business cards, resume, etc. This is somewhat a combination of the previous two steps. Be sure to create an impressive tangible portfolio that you can give to those who want to see your work “in person”. If you’re a print designer, that is.
Also use your branding and identity to create business cards, stationery, etc. Any time you can slap your personal logo on something, do it.
4. Be brave, bold, and professional. Don’t be afraid to call people, offer services, email businesses and more. Recently, I was printing a job for a client and at the printing shop, a man complimented me on the design of the piece.
How To Start Your Freelance Career & Get Your First Client
The most asked question I get is, “how do you find clients?” In this post I hope to answer this question and guide you through the exact steps you need to take to get your freelance graphic design business off the ground and headed in the right direction.
Before you continue reading, I want to let you know that I’m here to help! Feel free to reach out on twitter and ask the questions you’ve been dying to know the answers to. It can be about design, marketing, networking, finance, or anything behind-the-scenes.
If you’re serious about starting and growing your own freelance career, consider checking out my book: Start Your Freelance Career, a transparent guide on starting and growing your own freelance business!
It’s important to mention that in order to actually grow your freelance business, you need to take the information you learn and put it to use. Taking action right now is the secret to your success!
Okay, with that being said, let’s jump into how to start your freelance career and get your first client!
Make the jump to freelance & plan everything
Whether you plan on freelancing part-time or full-time, you need to make that decision and commit. You’re going to have to put in a lot of time to learn the trade and be the best service provider possible. If you aren’t willing to put in a year or two to get your business off the ground, then this is not for you!
Still believe that this is what you want? Good.
Take a few minutes and write down your answers to the questions below. The more in depth you answer, the better you’ll understand yourself and your freelance business. Your answers will help reassure you that this is what you want to do.
Take out a notebook or open a text editor and answer these questions:
- Can you handle running your own business alone?
- Do you have self-motivation to work alone and teach yourself?
- How much will you need to earn each month to make a living? (Use this free freelance hourly rate calculator.)
- What type of work are you going to specialize in? (Logo design, t-shirt design, wedding photography, WordPress development, etc.)
- What type of clients do you want to work with? (Startups, local businesses, organizations/non-profits, lawyers, realtors, etc.)
- Do you have good communication skills?
- Can you take criticism? (You will get rejected!)
- Are you going to be able to keep up with the constant changes in your field?
- Are you able to work under pressure and stress?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- Do you have a backup plan?