Whether you're already a graphic designer who wants to make the shift to working freelance or you're just starting, graphic design is a great field where you can use creativity to share important messages, and the field is growing. Just like the graphic design field is growing, so is the popularity of freelance work. With this combination, chances are you've caught yourself wondering how to become a freelance graphic designer.
If that sounds like you, then you're in the right place. From what graphic design really is and the perks of doing it freelance to expert tips on how to become a freelance graphic designer, we've got all the details you need right here.
What Does Graphic Design Encompass?
If you've ever wondered how to become a freelance graphic designer, then you probably have some idea of what graphic designers do, but before you can step into the world of freelance graphic design, it's essential to completely understand the different types of graphic design and how they're used. Graphic design is an art that involves using visual and textual content to portray a message. A graphic designer combines colors, typefaces, lines, and more to create a compelling visual impression, and the most skilled graphic designers do it all with a purpose.
Types of Graphic Design Work
Graphic design is a diverse field, and when you learn how to become a freelance graphic designer, you'll have many types of graphic design work to choose from. Graphic designers create visuals like logos, flyers, posters, billboards, business cards, brochures, magazines, catalogs, websites, invitations, social media pages, and so much more.
As a freelance graphic designer, you can work in the fields of brand recognition and awareness, marketing and advertisement, clothing and apparel, product design, social media page design, illustration and art, and website and application design. It's easy to see that working as a graphic designer opens many doors, and it's a field that's growing in demand too.
Benefits of a Freelance Graphic Designer
Graphic design is a rewarding job; it allows you to work artistically while filling a job role that is needed to sustain so many fields. But what is the appeal of learning how to become a freelance graphic designer? Freelance work is becoming more and more popular these days, and it's in large part because of these benefits:
Make Your Schedule
Arguably one of the most significant benefits of freelance work is picking your hours. When you master how to become a freelance graphic designer, you can say goodbye to clocking in and out, asking for time off, or missing out on things you want to do because of a work schedule. As a freelancer as long as you practice effective time management and meet your deadlines, you can work whatever hours you want.
More Income Potential
While making money as a freelance graphic designer can be challenging when you're just starting, in the long run, it allows you to make more money. As a freelancer, you can set your fees, take on more work whenever you want, and save on commuting expenses.
Work Wherever You Want
Another incredible benefit of working as a freelance graphic designer is that you can work anywhere. Not only does that mean you can work from the comfort of your home in your PJs if you want, but it also means that if you want to travel, you can bring your work with you, so you never have to miss out on clients or income.
Learning How to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer
Now that you're clear on exactly what a graphic designer does, the many work opportunities available for a graphic designer, and the perks of working as a freelancer let's dive into expert tips on how to become a freelance graphic designer.
1. Find Your Niche
We mentioned that as a graphic designer there are plenty of work options and different fields to choose from, and while you might be eager to master them all, it's best to find your niche. Working as a freelance graphic designer, especially when you're just starting is a time when “quality over quantity” really comes into play. You can't be an expert at everything and trying to master every component of graphic design would cause you to fall short. Instead, finding your niche will allow you to create exceptional work by putting your focus into one specific area.
2. Brand Yourself
Every day more graphic designers are coming into the workforce, and these days the surge of freelance work is higher than ever before, so there's a lot of competition. That doesn't mean that you can't find success; it just means you have to build a brand that stands out against the rest. This is especially important in today's highly digital work where the internet makes you compete not only with other local designers, but designers from all over the world.
For all freelance graphic designers, from those who are established to those who are just starting a strong brand presence is essential. This involves not only developing a brand, but creating a marketing plan and engaging your clients and target audience through avenues like social media to increase brand awareness, and more.
3. Make Connections
When you work in an office, making connections is easy, but when your focus is how to become a freelance graphic designer, you don't have colleagues and clients at your fingertips because you lack a social office setting. But building relationships, both with other graphic designers and with potential clients, is important for all freelancers.
Making connections has so many benefits, including:
While some people are naturals at networking, for other people it's a bit more of a challenge. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, networking is a necessary part of success as a freelance graphic designer, so it can't be avoided. If you're not sure how to take the first step into networking, meetups, and conferences or reaching out to others in online communities are great ways to start.
4. Maintain a Portfolio
Keeping your portfolio up to date is time-consuming, but it's a necessary evil when you're learning how to become a freelance graphic designer and as you grow your brand and business. Any client will want to see your work before they choose you as their designer, and you want always to make sure you have your best work updated so they don't miss out on it.
Not only should you keep your portfolio updated, so it always captures your best work, but you should always have it updated in a way that represents the work you want to do. If there are projects you've done in the past and aren't interested in doing similar work again, then keep those off of your portfolio. If you've just recently started with how to become a freelance designer and don't have client projects, that doesn't mean you have to miss out on having a portfolio. To build a portfolio when you don't have the professional experience, it's a good idea to create personal projects that display your skills.
5. Practice Patience
In every business, especially freelance work, clients matter, and sometimes you have to work with a difficult client. When this happens, especially if you're still in the process of learning how to become a freelance graphic designer and are building your brand, patience really is a virtue. Never show your clients anger through being rude, passive-aggressive, or disrespectful. When you deal with difficult clients, try to remember that the project will pass and that it will teach you something, and even if you don't work with a client again, it's always better to have a good reputation with them.
And when you work with all clients, try to be the best version of yourself as you are representing your brand. Be kind, deliver what you say you will on time, take ownership of your mistakes, and ensure that your clients can count on you.
6. Create a Balanced Work Routine
When you work as a freelancer you don't have traditional 9-5 hours, and you essentially become your own boss, while these are two great things, they can also be challenging to adjust to. When you're just starting, it's easy to both wastes too much work time with distractions or to overwork yourself and end up spending way too many hours in front of your computer every day. Establishing a routine will enable you to get all your work done without falling victim to distractions or overworking yourself.
7. Organize a Workspace
One of the biggest perks of working as a freelance graphic designer is that you can work from home if you want, but this can also pose a considerable challenge. Without a designated workspace, working from home can be a huge distraction, so to ensure you stay productive you need to establish a workspace in your home that's clutter and distraction-free and is only used for work. As an alternative, you can also opt to work at coffee shops or join a coworking space. This way you don't end up spending all of your time at home and can interact with other freelance workers too.
8. Plan Ahead
Another challenge that many freelancers face, especially when they're first starting, is meeting deadlines. The more projects you take on, the easier it can be to forget certain deadlines or spend too much time on some projects and not enough on others. To avoid this, it's best practice always to plan ahead.
Try to give yourself some time at the beginning of each week or the end of each week to look at everything you have going on and plan how much time you must spend on each project to meet your deadlines. You can plan this all out in a paper planner or a calendar or a digital format. Planning ahead will ensure that you meet your deadlines, retain clients, and free yourself of some stress.
9. Manage Your Money
As a freelance graphic designer, money can fluctuate with big clients and huge projects coming out of nowhere and days where you have little going on. While this is harder at first, when you practice effective money management, you won't have to worry about the ups and downs. Also, don't forget that as a freelancer you must pay your own taxes, so always keep that in mind when you tackle money management.
Remember, just because you're working as a freelancer doesn't mean you have to do everything alone. You can always collaborate with other freelance graphic designers on more complex projects. And you can give yourself more time to focus on graphic design by finding someone to handle your finances or marketing, instead of taking care of all of it yourself.
There are so many perks to mastering how to become a freelance designer, and now you have the tips to get you started. Whether you're most excited about picking your own clients and projects or about working in your PJs, you're one step closer to becoming a freelance graphic designer or growing as one.