When I was a new freelancer I read countless of articles by other freelance designers soaking up all the advice I could find. Now than I’m in my 4th year in business I wanted to share my own experience and the things I learned during the years. I hope that new or aspiring freelance graphic designers will learn a thing or two from my experience.
Get your work out there
Don’t be afraid to share your work with the world. Put your work on as many platforms as you can. The more places your work can be found the greater the chance that someone will notice you. When I started out I was shy to share my work because I didn’t have any confidence in it. There were so many fantastic designers online and I felt like a fraud. But that won’t help you if you want to get found online. Learn from my mistake and share your work! Here are a few places you can display or link to your portfolio:
- your own website,
- online portfolios like Behance,
- upload your work to a photo album on your Facebook page and profile,
- tweet about your new work,
- pin it on Pinterest,
- link to your portfolio in your LinkedIn profile,
- upload your work to DeviantArt,
- create freebies and share it on social media
I can’t tell you how many times a client found one of my freebies on Pinterest, went to my website and decided to hire me to design their branding. Other designers found my work on other websites, found my blog and started following it, earning me a new reader!
Read the blogs of fellow freelance designers. Learn from them. You won’t get far in your business if you are cut off from others in your industry. Many freelancers share their business and design tips on their blogs. If you aren’t reading these blogs you are missing out on free advice! Just be sure to actually implement the advice instead of spending too much time reading it. I learned so much just by following free advice I found on blogs.
Invest in your business
When I started my feeelance business I was too afraid to invest in it because I was scared that my business would fail or that I won’t get the return on investment. But the thing is, investing in your business can help take it to the next level! By using premium fonts instead of free, overused fonts your designs will stand out more. By investing in an online course you won’t have to go search for information that could potentially waste hours of your time. If you hear of an online course will help you with what you are currently struggling with, then go on and buy it. You’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t put all your eggs into one basket
Don’t be dependent on one source for all your income. It’s risky to be dependent on one client. They could go bankrupt or decide to close their business, leaving you with no income. Similarly, don’t only depend on client work. Some months could go great and you have more work than you can handle, while other months are quiet and suddenly you are scrambling to pay the bills. If you have saved money prior to starting your freelance business, this will not be a problem. But I urge you to start looking for other ways to earn money from your talent. You can make and sell design templates, vectors, textures, fonts, stationery, stock photos, etc. It’s nice to have a backup when one of your income sources dries up.
You’ll only design 1/5 of the time
Being a freelance graphic designer doesn’t mean you’ll only be designing cool new stuff the whole day. You will also spend time on checking emails, replying to emails, doing your own books, marketing yourself, sending invoices, proposals and chasing payment. If you have a blog you will also be spending time replying to comments, writing new posts, marketing your blog, etc. You’ll feel more like a business owner than a designer at times. If that doesn’t sound great, you might want to reconsider. If on the other hand that makes you feel excited, then this job is right for you 🙂
When I started out I didn’t have set business hours. I worked at night and on weekends. I soon found myself burnt out and unmotivated about my work. Now I work from 9 AM – 4 PM from Monday to Friday. It’s important to also set boundaries with your clients. When can they expect to hear from you? Can they call you at 3 AM? Do they expect you to work on weekends? That doesn’t sound like a nice situation to me. Let clients know what your office hours are, how they can contact you and when to expect replies. If you don’t teach them this, don’t get angry at them for calling you while you eat dinner. Some people don’t know common courtesy and it’s up to you to set boundaries with your clients.
Take a break
Your business won’t fall apart if you take a break. This is something I’m still struggling with. Sometimes I forget that I’m a human – I just keep working like a robot. My advice would be to take care of yourself, get enough fresh air and exercise and eat healthy food.
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. It takes time to build a business. It took me 3 years to earn a full-time income from mine. When it seems like your peers are growing their businesses faster than you, working with clients you dream of working with, don’t lose hope. Keep moving forward. You’ll get there someday soon!
Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!