How to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer

You may already be a graphic designer but how do you break away from the job world of graphic design? You’re tired of working for others doing graphic designs of things that don’t interest you.

So how do you start your freelance graphic designer business?

That is the question I hope to provide, give you a quick overview in this post…or at least give you the necessary stepping stones to get you going.

Freelance graphic designer definition

Starting your own business takes a certain level of risk. There will always be naysayers.

Just remember those that say you will fail at starting a business are usually those that wish they had the guts to go out and do the same as you.

Alright, let’s get going…

What You Need To Do

Education:

Now I’m not saying you need to go out get yourself a degree in Graphic Design. Some of the best designers out there never had a formal designer education. Although going the academic route may make it a little easier to get basics you need to understand graphic design. If you don’t have the formal education you should at least be talented in the art of creating designs and have a good knowledge of computer design. Now I don’t consider myself as being a graphic designer but over the years I have played around with a number of graphic design applications to earn the respect of family, friends and my peers at work. I have used software such as Corel Draw but have converted over to Adobe Photoshop and Premiere the last 10 years or so.  If you are one that has little to any knowledge on graphic design and you want to learn, you can sign up to

Now, I don’t consider myself as being a graphic designer but over the years I have played around with a number of graphic design applications to earn the respect of family, friends and my peers at work with my graphic designs. I have used software applications such as Corel Draw but have converted over to Adobe Photoshop and Premiere the last 10 years or so.  If you are one that has little to any knowledge on graphic design and you want to learn, you can sign up to Adobe Creative Cloud and follow their tutorials and forums.

Time

In most cases, most designers that do decide to go freelance will state that it took a lot of time to become successful to the point of making a good self-sustaining income. It is not a get rich quick type of business where you produce a couple of projects and make enough to retire type of business. The positive side is that working as a freelance designer you generally get to set your own hours and work out of your home. Everybody will have different flexibility and options to ensure they can survive while they build their business.  So some number crunching and goal setting will be in order. Ideally, you will want to create your business plan and follow it as closely as possible.

Self Identity

You need to know who you are, what you know well, what you like to do. If you decide to do posters because there is a higher demand for posters but what you really like doing is creating logos. That is a recipe for failure as after doing something you are not finding rewarding, you will most likely get bored and want to quit when the going gets rough…and there certainly will be rough times while you grow the business.

Focus

Freelance Graphic Designer Focus

Linking well with self-Identity and time is “Focus”.  You need to focus on your goals daily, you need to be present daily, you need to do something with your business daily. If you are not there your business is not there. Then focusing on the area that you want to do and becoming an expert in that area will be key to your success. If you are good and like doing logos, a person wanting a logo will come to you.

Marketing

That word sounds easy enough but how do you market yourself without any money. You want to make money not spend it and you may not have any money to spend to make money…the Ol’ catch 22 scenario.

You can work with sites like Fiverr where you can create designs for a specific fee per creation. Most graphic designers do not find the work gratifying as most people only want to pay a small fee so you need to do many creations to get a decent income.

Well, you will be happy to know that marketing doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. You can do it totally free by using social media services but it can take you a whole lot longer to get ahead. You can advertise, but if you don’t know what you are doing it may cost you that important arm of yours to cover the cost.

Your key to success is to stand out from the rest of the freelance designers. The best way at a low cost is to blog or vlog what you know. You can write or do video tutorials. It may sound out of your comfort zone to write or do videos but it will catapult your business ahead by miles ahead of the competition.

I can start by explaining how the whole blogging and marketing aspect of things work but I know another great site that can teach you everything there is to know about online marketing. Click here to learn more about this site.

Freelance graphic designer marketing

Structure

You will need to know how you will interact with your clients. Once you build traffic to your business you will need to know how much to charge, how you will be paid, how do you deliver your product.  You will need to develop a program or routine of how you will process these business interactions. Everybody will have different ways of processing, it is up to you to develop one that is right for you. Some people prefer to only work locally and meeting customers directly, others prefer working internationally and are comfortable to do video conferencing or communicating just by email.

Business Plan

Everything I have mentioned above should all be put in your business plan. Never made a business plan before? Sounds too complicated?

Don’t fret, it does not need to be complicated. It’s just a list of steps you plan to take to reach a given goal.

The most important thing when developing a business plan is, to be honest.

If you are not honest in your plan, you are only cheating yourself out of it being followed and successful.

You don’t want to say you will create 10 designs per day when you know that on a good day even when you are focused at only on doing designs, you can only do 2.

You will over-inflate your income and profits and the truth will soon catch up to you.

Here is a sample Business plan, provided by BDC that you can use as a guide ==> Business Plan Example

Recap

  1. Educate – If not already done, get formal training or self-train using software, online training forums **Get Feedback!
  2. Time – Time management -if you can’t quit your current job -then pencil in a set time/day to work on your design business
  3. Identity – Brand yourself with what you know and enjoy doing – if you enjoy it, you will reflect that positively in your designs
  4. Focus – avoid distractions – STAY OFF Social media – unless it is part of your task to market your business and/or education
  5. Marketing – just tell people what you do – in person, on the phone, online or by megaphone get the word out…WA can help!
  6. Structure -You managed to complete 1-5, now you have customers figure out how you will work with them from the get-go
  7. Business Plan -create -review – adjust – review…ongoing! The best plan is a flexible and ongoing adjusted plan – you never know what curve ball life will throw at you.

I do hope you find this blog helpful. As mentioned from the start, it is not a detailed list but a few things to consider if you are planning on becoming a freelance designer.

I reiterate that I am not a designer but have made an income from designs that I have created in the past. I continue to grow my knowledge and skills with the hopes that I too can switch over to becoming a freelance designer.

For now, I will stick with me being a husband, dad, working at my day job, affiliate marketing, blogging, woodworking, renovating, fixing stuff……

Have a question or comment? I would love to hear them drop them down below I usually reply within 24hrs.

Cheers

Paul

pbworkfromhome author alternate



4 comments on “How to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer
  1. Pitin says:

    Hi Paul,

    I am a graphic designer for the past 12 years – but I recently quit being full time. In the past, I used to do side jobs in Odesk but they are freaking cheap jobs – I sometimes wonder why I am doing them, LOL. Of course, we know the answer – it helps pay the bills.

    But when I learned to do my own website, it is way better to market your skills and offer your services as you can dictate your terms and conditions.

    Knowing SEO also helps as this would help you be found on the internet.

    Regards,
    Pitin

    • Paul says:

      Hi Pitin

      It is great to hear from a seasoned graphic designer 😉

      As you mentioned you can be a freelance designer by doing jobs for Odesk or Fiverr but they are low paying jobs usually. The time and work you put in for a job will likely be less than minimum wage. The only advantage is that you can do it from home with a flexible schedule. That alone can be a good reason for doing and it will help pay the bills in the meantime.

      The best way is to market yourself, become an online business presence by starting your website, then getting yourself ranked on first page on search engine sites like Google and Bing.

      The nice thing about search engines is that they do not penalize you for being a small business. If you have content and information that people are looking for they will paste your business on the front page of the search results…but it does take some knowledge and work to get there.

      That is where a training and support site like Wealthy Affiliate comes into play. They teach you about keyword search for low lying fruit. If you or anybody reading this does not know what I am talking about then it may be best you sign up to Wealthy Affiliate for free and learn the basics. Once you start understanding the whole online Search Engine Optimization process you will undoubtedly sign up for their premium membership like I did.

  2. Larry says:

    No easy road to success, as you allude to Paul. Having worked as a freelance technical writer and contractor I completely get what you mean. Education doesn’t hurt, but doing something you love to do – that’s golden. And you won’t get over the business bumps without it. Do you use any resources online for your graphic design work? I know Illustrator is kind of the graphic designer’s go-to toolkit (I use Gimp for Photoshop and FCP for Premier but I’m on the verge of switching) but are there any good, free, tools you’d recommend for doing basic graphic design?
    Great post.

    • Paul says:

      I would love to sign up to the whole Adobe Creative Cloud suite as it has all the Adobe apps and add-ons for one price but it is still just out of my price range for the blogging type of work I am doing now.

      Blogging and affiliate marketing is my primary focus for online work so I cannot see myself getting such a suite being a required expense for my line of work.

      For now I use my old Adobe Photoshop and Premiere versions and also use free online apps like Canva.

      Canva is something I use to create quick social media content. I’ve tried Gimp way back when so maybe it’s time I revisit that again.

      Keep on learning

      Cheers

      Paul

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Paul And Brenda from PBworkfromhomeHello from Paul and Brenda

Combined, we have over 14 years of experience working in home based jobs and businesses. Our site will provide you with many work-from-home options. You will learn what is needed to start a home-based job or business, including how to build a website like this one.

We learned everything we needed to know about starting an online business by following the courses at Wealthy Affiliate

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