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How to Become a Freelance Designer

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Last editedNov 20223 min read

Freelancing can be a challenge in any industry, but graphic designers face particularly stiff competition. Clients can be demanding, and payment cycles delayed with resulting cash flow issues. Yet the flexibility that freelancing offers is hard to beat, as is the freedom of being in creative control over your career. If you’ve been brushing up on your design skills and are ready to give it a go, here’s how to become a freelance designer.

Freelance graphic designer guide: how to get started?

Before we dive into more specific freelancer tips, there are a few factors to take into consideration as you’re getting started. One of the first things to keep in mind is that freelancing doesn’t offer the same security and benefits that a 9-5 job does, so you should work on saving a cushion of cash to keep you afloat. Think of it as your start-up investment funds to launch a new business.

You’ll need to register your business as a sole contractor or limited company, choose a name, and register to file taxes using Self Assessment returns with HMRC.

Apart from these logistical issues, the main concerns for new graphic designers include creating a website and portfolio. Don’t let your lack of paid experience hold you back. Your portfolio can be as simple as a single page to show your influences – this is often all you need to land that first client. Your website also offers an opportunity to show off your eye for design. Rather than choosing a standard template, you might want to customise it with some of your artwork or unique colour palettes and typography.

Freelance graphic designer guide: five freelance designer tips

With your business registered and website launched, you’re ready to start attracting clients. Here are five key freelance designer tips to keep in mind as you grow your business.

1. Use your personal network.

For your first few jobs, reach out to your personal network. Think about friends and family who have recently launched their own businesses who might need the services of a graphic designer. Create a personalised pitch and email it to potential customers. From there, increase your network by attending events, courses, and conferences to meet new people and collaborate on projects.

2. Be a great communicator.

Your work may be visual, but you need to concentrate on written and verbal communication skills as well. Respond promptly to any emails and queries. As a freelancer, you are your own advocate. This means if you have questions and concerns, you’ll need to speak up. Outline things like your freelance graphic designer payment period and terms in advance. If you need more time to complete the work, it’s better to communicate this rather than go into radio silence.

3. Keep your workload manageable.

When you’re just starting out, you might feel like you need to accept every project that comes your way. This is a sure path to both subpar work and burnout, and a common mistake made by new freelancers. Instead of saying yes to every client, manage your workload with an organised system. You might not be able to take on a new project now, but what about in a few weeks? Offer clients an alternative timeline.

4. Use the power of social media.

Social media platforms are powerful tools for freelancers. Share your portfolio on Instagram and Facebook to show off what you’re up to and get eyes on your work. Connect with current and former colleagues on LinkedIn or discuss design influences on Twitter. Using these platforms allows you to connect with potential customers and grow your network.

5. Continue to hunt for new clients.

We’ve mentioned the danger of attracting too many clients, but on the other hand you don’t want to run dry. One of the greatest pitfalls of freelancing is the feast-or-famine nature of it. One month, you may have more work than you can handle. The following month, you may sit waiting by the phone. Even during busy times, be sure to dedicate a few hours each week to client outreach. Whether it’s guest blogging or targeted email campaigns, make sure your business is growing. 

What are the best freelance designer payment methods?

Freelance designers might work on one-off projects, such as creating a brand logo or designing a website. They might also perform ongoing work for long-term clients on a rolling basis. The best freelance designer payment methods will depend on the length and terms of this work. Most designers will send invoices requesting payment. It’s helpful to use an automated invoicing tool using popular software like QuickBooks or Xero. These keep track of all your billable hours, completed contracts, and outstanding invoices.

GoCardless partners with accounting and invoicing software, enabling freelancers to take invoice payments directly from client bank accounts on the day they’re due. Designers can take recurring payments for ongoing contracts via Direct Debit, while our Instant Bank Pay solution is ideal for those one-off payments. This puts you in control over your freelance graphic designer payment terms. As a result, 85% of SMEs using GoCardless report spending less time chasing late payments.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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