11 Things People Don’t Tell You About Freelance Design

You’re a designer. You’ve got great ideas, and you know how to put them into practice. You want to work for yourself, but you’re worried about the logistics of running your own business. If this sounds like you, then freelance design might be the perfect career for you!

In this article I’ll tell you about 11 things people don’t tell you about being a freelance designer:

The Ugly Truth About Freelancing | Freelance Design Tutorial
Freelance design involves consistent self-motivation.
Building a strong network can lead to more opportunities.
Dealing with irregular income requires financial planning.
Time management is essential to balance work and life.
Client communication skills greatly impact project success.
Rejection is a part of the freelance journey; resilience is key.
Continuous learning and skill development are crucial.
Setting clear boundaries helps maintain work-life balance.
Freelancers often wear multiple hats beyond just design work.
Finding a niche can lead to more specialized and higher-paying projects.
Self-care is important to prevent burnout and maintain creativity.

1. Salesmanship, Perseverance, And Singing Skills Are Useful

The best advice I can give you is to be a salesperson.

Being a freelance designer means that you’re your own boss, but it also means that you don’t get paid if no one knows about your work. You need to be able to sell yourself and your ideas, which can be hard if you aren’t used to doing so in an office or agency setting. 

The good news is that salesmanship comes naturally as soon as there’s money on the table and there’s always money on the table when it comes time for clients (or prospective clients) to make decisions about their branding needs.

The other thing I’ve learned is that perseverance matters more than talent and skill when starting out freelancing, or at any point in life when we find ourselves needing something new or different than what we have now.

We all know this from experience: sometimes we have our hearts set on something big and beautiful, but then life happens and we just can’t seem to get there right away.* So how do we persevere? It’s simple: keep trying until something works! 

That might mean taking some classes at night school while working full-time during the day; it might mean asking someone else if they’d mind helping with some part of the project they enjoy better than others (and offering them space within your budget), or maybe even just getting up early enough each morning so no one has time left over by lunchtime… whatever helps! 

Just keep going!

Finally… singing helps me relieve stress when things are tough; so does having friends around who love music as much as I do 🙂

Finding the right freelance designer might seem daunting, especially if you’re new to the process. Learn how to navigate this journey with our guide on hiring a freelance designer when you have zero clue, and ensure your project is in capable hands.

2. It’s All About Finding The Right Niche

In the design world, it is important to know what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it before starting a project. If you don’t know what your goals are, then how can you even begin working on them?

Defining the problem before starting on a solution will help keep your focus when things get tough and trust me, they will get tough! This allows for better decision-making throughout the project as well as more efficient use of resources (time and budget).

For example: let’s say one of your goals is to lose weight. You could break this down into smaller goals like exercising more often or eating healthier foods. These smaller goals will help keep you motivated by creating small wins along the way which make all those extra miles seem worthwhile in comparison!

3. You Have To Be Willing To Take Chances

It’s true that you can get stuck in a rut or do the same thing over and over without realizing it, but the best way to grow is by stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things. 

For example, when I designed this website (at least 6 years ago), I had no idea what an HTML table was or how they worked but I learned how they were structured and eventually created my own custom layouts using them. In doing so, my design skills improved dramatically and opened up doors for me professionally.”

4. You Have To Be Disciplined

Discipline isn’t the most glamorous of traits, but it’s necessary for success as a freelancer. Freelancing is like having your own business: you’re responsible for creating and managing all your own work. So you have to be disciplined about doing the work, finishing the work, following up with clients, and staying on schedule with deadlines.

But if that’s not enough discipline for you (because it’s not enough for me!), there’s more! You also have to be disciplined about learning new things and keeping yourself current in your industry and if all that wasn’t enough, then you need to stay organized!

Embarking on effective online marketing research involves creative strategies. Discover 10 insightful tips and techniques in our article about 10 creative things to know about online marketing research, and elevate your market analysis to the next level.

5. You Need To Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

A lot of freelancers find themselves getting distracted by the small stuff, and my personal experience is no exception. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re on a deadline and there are a million other things that need to be done. 

But remember: If you don’t know where your end goal is, how will you know when it has been achieved? If all else fails, try taking frequent smoke breaks or going out for coffee with friends (or even just spending some time alone).

6. Don’t Forget To Network

Networking is a very important part of being a freelancer, but the truth is that it can be pretty intimidating at first. You might feel like you’re not ready or that you don’t know enough people, but I assure you: everyone was in your shoes once upon a time! 

The key with networking is not to assume anything about the person you want as an acquaintance or colleague they may have just as much to offer as you do, and even if they don’t have any connections for your business right now (which will happen), who knows what good could come from an unexpected friendship?

7. Know How To Network Without Being Awkward

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in design school and then post-graduation working freelance, it’s this: people love talking about themselves! 

This is especially true when it comes down to making new connections in your industry, but even if someone seems uninterested at first glance (or second glance…or third), give them more than one chance before giving up on them altogether! 

There are plenty of reasons why someone might be reluctant when approached by someone asking for help maybe they’re sick of hearing requests all day long; maybe they’re scared because they still haven’t recovered financially after their last job ended; maybe they just don’t want anyone else knowing how broke they actually are ;). 

But whatever their reasoning may be (and trust me when I say there isn’t always one reason), there’s usually something deeper going on behind those eyes which make us hesitant about reaching out ourselves sometimes too…so reach out anyway!

The decision to transition into freelance design isn’t always easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Gain insights into this personal journey by reading about how I decided to become a freelance designer, and discover the factors that led to this career path.

8. Sometimes, You Won’t Get Paid For Your Work

Some clients will not pay you for your work. If a client owes you money and doesn’t respond to your requests for payment, there are some steps you can take to get paid.

Hire an attorney. Your first step is to hire an attorney specializing in collections law and make sure he or she has experience with the type of work that you do; this helps ensure that any communication about the debt is handled properly and legally (and not just by telling the debtor what a jerk s/he is). 

Make sure your attorney has access to all necessary information so s/he can make informed decisions about how best to proceed with collecting payment from your client(s).

Contact a credit agency. If all else fails, contact one or more credit bureaus and report these debts as delinquent this may lead to potential lenders who require proof of good standing within 72 hours before approving loans due to this activity being seen negatively on their reports.

Be wary of working with these clients again! Even if they do eventually pay up after weeks or months of harassment by lawyers, collection agencies, and credit bureaus which happens often enough but still rarely enough there’s no guarantee that things won’t go south again when it comes time for the next month’s invoice or quarterly project deadline hits without sufficient planning ahead of time from both sides involved…

9. You’ll Find Yourself Working Odd Hours And Unusual Places

You’ll be working more than you think you should. You’ll also be working in some unexpected places. Once I was forced to use my laptop at a Starbucks because I hadn’t saved the file on my flash drive before it crashed, and another time I had to work from home when there was a tornado warning in my neighborhood.

It’s a lifestyle choice that can be difficult for many people to adjust to, especially if they’re used to having set hours and being able to leave their desk by 5 p.m., but once you get over the initial shock of not having much structure, it becomes easier and more enjoyable than sitting at an office all day long!

10. You Will Get ‘no’ A Lot More Than You’ll Get ‘yes.’

If you’re anything like me, you’ll receive a lot of ‘no’s’ during those early days. It’s just the nature of the freelance design. 

And it can be frustrating! But don’t take it personally. Rejection is a fact of life, and even if they say something like “it just wasn’t quite right for us” or something similar, they might mean that it was actually good work but not what they were looking for at this time. 

You never know unless you ask and sometimes even then we don’t know why someone chooses one thing over another until much later on down the line when we look back on our career with perspective (and hindsight).

Don’t give up! Take notes from each project: What did people like? What didn’t work as well? Was there a certain element that made your piece stand out from all others? What themes did people respond to most strongly?

Finding the perfect freelance graphic designer for your project requires careful consideration. Explore our expert tips in the guide on 10 tips for finding the perfect freelance graphic designer, and ensure a successful collaboration that brings your vision to life.

11. You Must Have A Portfolio Of Your Greatest Hits 

What is a portfolio? A portfolio is a collection of work, usually on display in digital format. It’s an opportunity for you to share your best work with potential clients and show them what you can do. Your portfolio should be tailored to the audience you’re hoping to attract. 

For instance, if you’re looking for clients in the fashion industry, they might want your best fashion illustrations but if you’re targeting tech companies with websites or apps in need of design help, they’ll want something else entirely (and probably not an illustration).

The point is: that everyone has different needs and likes different things when it comes to visuals! But no matter who’s viewing your portfolio, it should always be visually appealing and easy to read at first glance.

Considering a career in freelance graphic design? Uncover the compelling reasons and advantages of this path in our article on why you should consider a freelance graphic design career, and make an informed choice about your professional journey.


Now that you have a better understanding of the process, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you. If so, congratulations! You’re on your way to living the freelance life, which is sure to be one of freedom and flexibility.

If freelancing isn’t what you want out of your career but you still want to work from home, there are many other ways to do so. You could try virtual assistant work (VA). 

This is an excellent opportunity for those who want to stay home but don’t have design skills. It’s also a great option for those who don’t like sitting alone at their laptops all day a VA position requires social interaction with clients over phone calls or video chats.

Further Reading

10 Things Freelancers Wish Every Client Knew: Gain insights into the perspective of freelancers and discover 10 things they wish every client understood for smoother collaborations.

14 Facts About Graphic Designers That Everyone Thinks Are True: Challenge common misconceptions about graphic designers with 14 surprising facts that provide a deeper understanding of their profession.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Freelancing in 2023: Explore the realities of freelancing in the current year and uncover 10 insights that go beyond the usual advice.


What are some key considerations when hiring a freelance designer?

When hiring a freelance designer, it’s essential to review their portfolio, check references, and discuss project timelines and expectations to ensure a successful collaboration.

What are some common misconceptions about graphic designers?

Contrary to popular belief, graphic designers don’t just “make things look pretty.” They play a crucial role in communication, problem-solving, and creating meaningful visual experiences.

What challenges should freelancers anticipate in 2023?

Freelancers in 2023 might face challenges related to market competition, changing client demands, maintaining work-life balance, staying updated with industry trends, and adapting to new technologies.

How can clients better understand the freelance perspective?

Clients can foster positive relationships with freelancers by communicating clearly, respecting project timelines, providing constructive feedback, understanding the freelance lifestyle, and valuing their expertise.

What are some lesser-known aspects of freelancing?

Freelancers often deal with variable income, self-discipline, managing taxes, client communication, and the need to constantly update their skills to stay competitive in the market.

Who Should Consider Becoming A Freelance Designer?

If you want to work on your own schedule and don’t want to deal with office politics, then becoming a freelance designer may be right for you.

If you’re good at what you do but are tired of the 9-to-5 grind, then freelancing might be your ticket to financial freedom.

If you’re looking for more freedom than what working for someone else can provide, then being your own boss as a freelancer might be the ideal situation for you! How do I get started as a freelance designer?   * Ask yourself if this is really what you want from life. 

Are there other things that interest or excite me more than what I see in my professional career? This process will take some time and effort, but it could end up being worth it in the end! What do I need to become a freelance designer?   

A computer (or two) with a fast internet connection – preferably Wi-Fi access if possible; high-speed internet connection like cable or DSL would also suffice though it’s not necessary since most people still use dialup services nowadays though they tend not to work well if we ever need them while traveling abroad since they won’t have any service providers nearby. 

So having one always means being prepared using something like Skype Call Recorder Pro which allows recording conversations either through telephone calls made over landlines/landline phones without having issues like losing signal quality due “satellite” systems.”

Can I Work From Home?

Yes! As a freelancer, you can work from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. This is especially helpful if your budget is tight and you want to avoid paying for office space. 

However, it’s important to remember that many clients will expect you to be reachable on the phone or via email throughout the day/week/month so plan accordingly by setting aside some time before and after your real job where no one can reach you for client-related reasons.

What’s The Best Way To Market Yourself As A Freelance Designer?

If you have a portfolio, there are many ways to promote yourself and gain new clients:

  • Start networking with people in your industry. Attend events and talk about what you do, who you work with, and what your skills are.
  • Create a website for your business that makes it easy for potential clients to get information about how they can work with you (i.e., contact info, pricing structure).

Tweet or post on LinkedIn about projects that caught your eye recently! Be sure to include relevant hashtags like #designersuccessstory so people can find it easily when they search-related topics on Twitter or LinkedIn respectively. 

This will help keep them updated on what’s happening in the world of design while also showing off some of their favorite pieces from other designers out there too!

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