How to Become a Successful Freelance Designer
Freelance designers can have the best of both worlds: the freedom to choose projects and free time to do the things they love. Yet, it doesn’t always turn out that way. That’s an ideal scenario. For many, carving out a successful career in freelance design takes work, discipline and commitment – the values of any successful career. However, when done right, freelance designing can be amazing. Here are a few well-thought-out steps to going about it the right way.
1. Have a client base
Freelancers aren’t salaried employees, which means they need to find their own clients. This can be surprisingly easier said than done. When you’re just starting out, you don’t have a brand value to rely on. You need to show potential clients how good you are, build their trust and, hopefully, retain them. One way to start forming a client base is to approach job sites. The money may not always be amazing but the jobs are quick wins.
2. Ask for referrals
Word of mouth marketing is among the most effective. Granted, it may take time for the magic to kick in but when it does, it’s lasting! If you’ve had clients (even friends and relatives) who’ve been happy with the work you’ve done for them, ask for referrals. Once you’ve consistently delivered quality work, you can be sure that you will be referred without having to ask for it. In the beginning, however, you need to push for it!
3. Keep the ball rolling with new clients
One of the biggest pitfalls of freelancing is lean periods. You may have work for several months and nothing for the next few. This can severely eat into your savings. One way to prevent this is to constantly be on the look-out for clients. It doesn’t matter if you get swamped with work. You can always schedule your time or even ease the load by sharing it with a fellow freelancer. The key is to have a steady flow of clients so there’s no gap in your earnings. Each week, dedicate a couple of hours to cold emailing, networking or filtering job opportunities (if you’ve signed up with a job portal).
4. Build a portfolio
Portfolios are the best way to show off your skills and the work you’ve done. Often times, freelance designers aim to build a large portfolio before showing it to clients. It’s a waste of time and money. Instead of filling your portfolio with each bit of work you’ve done, pick the best and highlight them. It will carry far more weight. Once you’ve chosen the prices, create a portfolio on a website that you can direct clients to. There are low cost and even free channels that you can use.
5. Learn the paperwork
It’s not the most exciting thing to do but paperwork is an integral part of running your own business. You need to learn how to create an invoice, make proposals, work with contracts, and maintain your accounts. Fortunately, there are plenty of freelancer programs to use. They can create professional invoices in a jiffy and come with perks like automation to simplify sending reminders to clients and requesting deposits from. You can even add your tracked time.
6. Market on social media
In 2018, around 2.65 billion people used social media. That’s more than a quarter of the population. With so many going online and more people expected to do so, it’s only natural that you need to do the same for your business. With 54% of social media browsers using social media to research products, it’s a great opportunity to get noticed. There are several channels to choose from, some geared towards designers. A quick search will list out the top. Market yourself on the best channels with your best work.
7. Be choosy but at the right time
It’s tempting to want to reject projects because they pay too low or the work isn’t to your liking. But when you’re just starting out, clients aren’t willing to pay you professional rates. You need to climb your way up. Once you’ve made a name for yourself, you have the freedom to pick and choose your projects. Until then, you need to take what you get (while keeping ethics in mind, of course!) Freelance designing can be a wonderful career provided you do it right. Like all ‘independent’ careers, it takes some planning, a lot of commitment and the will to do what it takes to succeed. Start doing it right today and you’ll have a fruitful career tomorrow!