Whether you’re just getting ready to graduate from college or you’ve worked in graphic design and think it’s time to strike out on your own, figuring out how to become a freelance graphic designer is beneficial. Perhaps you plan to keep your day job and just want to pick up a few contracted positions on the side.
The idea of starting your own freelance graphic design business might seem daunting at first. Fortunately, you can start slow and add to what you’re doing. Without tens of thousands of freelancers already knowing how to become a freelance graphic designer, your task is made a lot easier.
Tips for How to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer
If you’ve made the decision to become a freelancer, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared so you don’t make any catastrophic mistakes. Now matter where you live, you can figure out how to become a freelance graphic designer with a few tips from those who’ve gone before you.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 19% of the 254,100 graphic designers are freelancers. All those people working for themselves had to figure out how to become a freelance graphic designer at some point. They likely would have loved to have a guide to keep them from the pitfalls of starting a new business.
1. Save an Emergency Fund
Having a sound financial plan to get you through the first year as a new freelancer is vital. You’ll either need to move back in with your parents for a bit or have enough money to pay rent and basic needs until you’re earning enough to do so out of your salary.
An emergency fund also prepares for the unexpected. While you might project a certain level of earnings, you never know what might happen. That big client you landed your first day in business might declare bankruptcy and leave you hanging with unpaid invoices.
2. Know Your Worth
The average graphic designer makes $53,380 per year. However, if you’re inexperienced or highly experienced, you may fall slightly below or above that range. Know what you’re worth for your area and compared to others in your field.
If you aren’t sure how to become a freelance graphic designer making decent money, punch the job description into job search sites for your area and see what companies pay. You should make more to cover expenses. You may have to get creative and do a bit of spying on your competition.
3. Define Your Niche
Know how to become a freelance graphic designer that stands out from the competition. What areas do you wish to specialize in? A good place to start is with the things that interest you and where you already have well-defined skills.
For example, if you’re excellent at creating logos, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Offer logo design packages. You can always add to your list as you gain more experience or bring in other designers to help you.
4. Set Goals
Before you worry about how to become a freelance graphic designer, you should first create some S.M.A.R.T. goals for your business. Your goals should be clear and measurable. You should also be certain you can obtain the objective with a bit of hard work and determination.
Try to stick to just a couple of goals at a time. You already will wear many hats as a freelance designer. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many things to tick off the list. Remember that your goals don’t always have to be numbers or financial statements. It’s fine to have a goal to learn a new skill, for example.
5. Secure Financing
The biggest issue most companies face is cash flow problems. Traditionally, around 20% of small businesses failed in their first year. However, with the pandemic, the number is closer to 41%. If you enter your freelance career knowing money issues could cause you to have to shutter your doors and get a nine to five job, then you should have a plan in place to overcome cash flow hurdles.
An emergency fund is a good start, but how do you handle a sudden influx of business when you don’t have the funds to hire help? Who do you turn to for financing and how will you pay investors back? Have a plan in place for securing cash when you need it to improve your business and you’re less likely to suffer from cash flow concerns.
6. Find New Clients
One of the most significant factors to how successful a new freelance graphic designer might be is both finding new clients and the quality of those leads. Start with your inner circle. Do you know any business owners who need just the services you offer?
Pound the pavement to find new leads. Go into stores and manufacturing facilities. Introduce yourself and ask to talk to the decision maker for all marketing matters. For smaller brands, this will be the company owner. For larger ones, it might be the head of marketing. Let them know what you do and that you’re available for assignments.
Put yourself online and use third-party freelance sites such as Fiverr and UpWork to fill the gap until you have a steady stream of clients.
Learn to Manage Money
If you’re researching how to become a freelance graphic designer, you’re probably ready to jump in with both feet. Before you take the leap, make sure you understand how to keep good books for your business. Spend time on how to automate invoicing, learning what to do when a client refuses to pay and talk to an attorney about a solid contract to ensure you get paid for your time and effort.
With a bit of work, your freelance graphic design career will take off and stay hot for as long as you want to do it. You’ll enjoy working for yourself and seeing how far your creativity and your clients can take you.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.