11 Things You Learn As A Freelance Graphic Designer

It’s a big job, and you’re probably not sure where to start. We bet that at least one of your questions is “What does it take to become a graphic designer?” It’s a common question among aspiring designers, but the answer isn’t simple.

Here are some ideas for where to begin:

How to Succeed as a Freelance Graphic Designer
1. Time Management: Balancing client work and personal time becomes crucial.
2. Client Communication: Effective communication ensures clear project expectations.
3. Self-Motivation: Staying motivated and disciplined in a freelance setup is essential.
4. Business Skills: Learning to manage finances, contracts, and invoicing is necessary.
5. Creative Freedom: Freelancing allows for more creative expression in design work.
6. Networking: Building a strong professional network aids in getting clients and projects.
7. Adaptability: Being adaptable to changes and industry trends is beneficial.
8. Critique Handling: Accepting and implementing constructive criticism improves designs.
9. Problem Solving: Overcoming design challenges enhances problem-solving skills.
10. Continuous Learning: The field of graphic design requires staying updated and learning consistently.
11. Work-Life Balance: Striking a balance between work and personal life is crucial for well-being.

1. Clients Pay You To Do Your Job

You will encounter clients who try to micromanage you or give you the runaround. You will talk to people who feel entitled to your time and energy, even though they’re paying you for it. 

The best way to deal with these situations is simply by being kind and professional responding quickly, following up if they haven’t responded yet, and always being clear about what’s happening next in the process. A good client relationship should feel like a partnership: both sides are working toward a common goal of providing great work!

Client relationships are central to making your business successful. Your job as a freelance graphic designer is often not just about creating beautiful designs; it’s also about building client relationships that lead to repeat business!

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2. Your Contracts Are Important And Need To Be Updated And Customized For Each Client

You need to keep good records of everything. Taxes and deductions are important, and there are some things you can only deduct if you have proof.

You need accurate records of your income. You need to keep an accurate log of all the work you’ve done for each client and how much each project paid in order to report the correct amount on your taxes. If you forget to collect a payment from a client, it might be hard for them to pay you later so try not to forget!

Keep accurate records of your expenses as well (your computer, business cards, art supplies) so that when tax time rolls around again next year, all those costs will help lower what percentage of taxes someone has to pay!

3. You Learn How To Manage Your Time Better

I’m not going to sugarcoat this one. Managing your time as a freelancer is hard work, especially if you’re just starting out. 

There are so many things that can get in the way of actually getting work done; procrastination being one of the biggest culprits (and there’s nothing more frustrating than having a client breathing down your neck asking for their project and thinking you don’t have enough time). 

We’ve all been there you’ll be sitting at your desk when suddenly “lunch” pops into your head, followed by a quick detour to Netflix and then back again, only to realize that 5 hours have passed and oh my gosh I need to get started on right now! 

But if you make yourself stick with it through these times and I mean really stick with it you’ll find yourself becoming more productive over time and will see some real progress happening around those projects that have been hanging over your head like an enormous cloud threatening rain at any moment.

There Is A Difference Between Clients Who Pay On Time And Those Who Don’t

There is a difference between clients who pay on time and those who don’t. If you don’t have a system for tracking client payment history, it will be hard to know which clients are late with their payments or if they are even planning to pay at all. 

You should also take note of how much time passes before the client pays you after they receive an invoice. This can be helpful in determining whether or not they will pay on time in the future.

It is very important that you do not get frustrated when clients do not pay you right away because this may cause them to become irritated with your work, which could lead to fewer jobs in the future! 

However, it is always good practice to follow up with your clients after six weeks (or whatever amount of time makes sense for your business). 

Not only does this show that you value their business but it gives them extra motivation when they see how hardworking and determined you are as well as any progress made towards completing their project or task.

Are you aspiring to start a successful design career? Gain valuable insights from seasoned professionals with our article: The Secrets to Starting a Design Career: Tips from Top Designers to receive expert advice and guidance.

4. You Need To Set Boundaries For Yourself

One of the most important things you learn as a freelance graphic designer is to set boundaries for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in working all day every day and letting your job take over your life, but it’s really important that you don’t do this. You must set aside time for yourself, family, and friends and exercise!

I try to take off at least one day or two each week from work. On those days I don’t respond to emails or phone calls from clients it’s just not possible because if they need something done urgently then they should have budgeted their project accordingly so that they can hire an additional team member who will be unavailable during those times anyway (like me).

5. Downtime Is Okay

It’s okay not to work. I know this is a hard concept to grasp, but hear me out: it’s completely fine if you decide that today or tomorrow isn’t going to be a productive day. Sometimes and I mean sometimes we all just need some downtime, and that’s okay! 

If you want to take off your shoes and sit around on the couch in your underwear watching Netflix for the entire day, do it! If you want to go on vacation without any plans whatsoever other than “be somewhere warm” or “eat great food with friends while drinking lots of wine” then do that too! 

The point here is that working all the time won’t make things better; in fact, it can make them worse over time because our brains need rest in order for creativity and productivity to flourish.

6. Keep Files Organized Because You Will Want To Reference Them Later

As a graphic designer, you will be creating multiple iterations of your designs. Some will be rough, some will be refined and others might not see the light of day. 

It’s important to keep them organized so that you can refer back to them later if need be and avoid having to recreate pieces that have already been completed.

Keep files organized because you will want to reference them later. At least in my experience, working on projects for clients means I sometimes have multiple versions of the same document open at once. 

If I don’t keep all my files organized by client name or job title then it’s very easy for me not only to get confused about which file is which but also waste time trying to find what I’m looking for when there are literally hundreds of documents open on my desktop at any given moment (yes…this has happened).

Transitioning from full-time work to freelancing can be both exciting and challenging. Discover how one designer made the leap with insights shared in How I Went from Working Full-Time to Being a Freelance Graphic Designer, providing valuable lessons for your journey.

7. You Need To Diversify What You Do Outside Of Work

While you may be able to get away with working on the same project for a few days or weeks, eventually your brain will begin to feel worn out. So it’s important that you find ways to diversify what you do outside of work. If nothing else, this can help prevent burnout and make you feel more productive in general (rather than just being able to type faster).

Here are some ideas:

Find a hobby that helps you de-stress. Hobbies such as playing video games or watching Netflix might seem like they’re just another distraction from getting things done, but sometimes they’re exactly what we need when our brains are overloaded from staring at computer screens all day long! 

I personally enjoy cooking and baking it’s one of my favorite ways to relax at home after a hard day at the office! Just be sure not to let those hobbies turn into an excuse for not actually doing any work…

Connecting with friends and family is important for your mental health too! It can also give us inspiration when we need it most or just something fun (and silly)  to talk about later over dinner 😉

8. People Will Want You To Work For Free Or On Spec, And It’s Okay To Say No

When you start out as a freelance graphic designer, you’ll find that people will want you to work for free or on spec. Spec work is not necessary for designers. If someone is not willing to pay your rate and compensate you fairly, then they should not be using your services. 

You are working for free if you do spec work. Even if the client promises future payment if the project gets accepted by their company and/or clients, consider this: there is no guarantee of a job after the first job has been completed successfully.

The key thing here is that every person needs to look after themselves first; nobody else will care about how much money they make as much as they will care about making sure that they themselves have enough money in their bank account each month so that they can pay their bills on time without any problems arising from it (e.g., being unable to pay rent because of financial difficulties).

Uncover the truth behind misconceptions about working for design agencies. Get the facts from our article: Top 15 Misconceptions About Working for a Design Agency, and make informed decisions about your career path.

9. You Don’t Always Have To Say Yes To Every Opportunity, Especially If It Doesn’t Align With Your Goals And Values

The ability to say no is an essential part of being a freelancer. When you’re working for yourself, it’s important to be selective about which opportunities you accept and which ones you decline. This isn’t just good practice in terms of efficiency it also ensures that your career stays aligned with what really matters most to you.

In fact, there are many times when it would be a mistake not to turn down work: if the project doesn’t align with your goals or values, if the client seems shady or unprofessional (or both), or if the pay is too low compared with other jobs in your portfolio so far this year. 

The bottom line? Don’t feel pressured into taking any opportunity that comes along; instead, assess whether it makes sense for your business and career at this time before signing on.

10. Freelancing Sometimes Means Working All Hours Of The Day, But That’s Okay Because You Chose That Lifestyle

Being a freelance graphic designer means that you don’t have set hours. Sometimes, you might be working at midnight and other times, you may find yourself not starting work until 5:00 p.m. 

It’s all about what works for your schedule and lifestyle, but in most cases when freelancing means working long hours to get the job done on time.

But that’s okay because this is your choice you chose to do this type of work because of its flexibility and autonomy (and probably because it pays better than a 9-to-5 job).

11. Freelancing Is Rewarding, But There Will Be Peaks And Valleys That You Have To Navigate Around

Freelancing is a roller coaster, so you have to learn to ride the wave and not expect everything to be great all of the time. You need to know that there will be down periods where you’re not making much money. 

It’s all about managing yourself and your finances throughout these times, and knowing that there are upsides as well the freedom, for example!

Avoid common pitfalls that can hinder your freelance design career. Learn from the experiences of others in our article: 15 Rookie Mistakes That Can Kill Your Freelance Design Career, and position yourself for success in the competitive design industry.


You need to understand that there are many people out there who are willing to work for less than your hourly rate, and they will be able to produce a similar quality of work. 

If you want to make any real money in this field, you’ve got to take control of your own career and start charging more. In order to do that, you must show potential clients how much value your skills add and how skilled you really are.

This means showing them examples of other projects where they can see the finished product look better than what they had imagined when they hired me! 

Your portfolio needs more than just “a logo” or another boring piece of branding collateral it needs something that shows off how creative and versatile you are as an artist or designer.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that you might find helpful to expand your knowledge in freelance graphic design and related topics:

10 Essential Graphic Design Skills You Need to Be Successful Learn about the key graphic design skills that can set you up for success in the industry and help you create compelling visuals.

Boost Your Graphic Design Skills with These Tips Discover practical tips and advice to enhance your graphic design skills and take your work to the next level.

10 Things I Have Learned in My Ten Years as a Freelance Designer Gain insights from a seasoned freelance designer’s experiences and learn valuable lessons from a decade of working in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Freelance Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer can be someone who works in-house at a company, or they could work freelance. They design the visuals that go on everything from websites to magazines, advertisements, and more! 

A freelance graphic designer generally works with clients to create their brand’s image through different types of marketing materials (such as logos, brochures, and social media graphics).

How Do You Find Your First Freelance Gig?

The best way to get started is to go online and check out the websites of companies whose work you admire. Look for any opportunities that might be available, but don’t feel like you have to apply for everything. 

If a company doesn’t seem like it would be a good fit for you, don’t waste their time by applying. Instead, keep looking until you find something that really speaks to you and where your skills could benefit them.

What Are Some Of The Most Common Mistakes Freelancers Make?

There’s so much advice out there about how to market yourself as a freelancer and how not to! do that sometimes it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out what works best when marketing yourself as someone who does graphic design work from home or wherever else they might choose (although if at all possible I recommend doing this kind of work from home). 

As long as there are no legal restrictions against doing so then anything goes really; however, I would recommend using caution with what images/videos, etc. 

We put them out there publicly because once they’re up on websites such as Facebook or Twitter they’re there forever unless we actively delete them ourselves – which is why it’s important not only before posting anything somewhere public but also afterward too (like maybe after seeing an old photo).

What Are The Benefits Of Freelancing?

You get to work for yourself, on your own time. You set your own schedule and can pick and choose what projects you want to take on.

You can make more money than working full-time in a corporate setting. The salary range for graphic designers is somewhere between $43k-$77k per year depending on experience level and location (source: Glassdoor). 

If you’re looking at taking home an average of $55k/year while working at a company, that means that being self-employed could make you anywhere from $14k-$42k more than what you would earn if you took a full-time job immediately after college graduation!

What Are The Disadvantages Of Freelancing?

It’s not as steady as having a traditional employment situation there may be periods where clients won’t pay their invoices or offer any new projects for weeks at a time, which can leave freelancers feeling stressed about making ends meet!

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