11 Weird Things I’ve Learned As A Freelance Graphic Designer

I’ve been a freelance graphic designer for the past five years. In that time, I’ve run into many weird things that have helped me see this industry from a different perspective (and learn some things about myself). This article will highlight some of those experiences.

Freelancing Secrets – 10 Things You Need To Know – YouTube
1. Embrace the Unpredictable: Freelance graphic design comes with unexpected twists and turns.
2. Adapt to Client Preferences: Clients’ preferences can be quirky; being flexible is essential.
3. Importance of Time Management: Freelancers must balance work, deadlines, and personal time.
4. Honing Communication Skills: Clear communication prevents misunderstandings and revisions.
5. Creative Freedom vs. Client Demands: Finding a balance between personal creativity and client requirements.
6. Dealing with Feedback: Learn to handle feedback constructively and make necessary adjustments.
7. Solitude and Self-Motivation: Freelancers often work alone, requiring self-discipline and motivation.
8. Networking is Key: Building connections within the industry can lead to valuable opportunities.
9. Financial Management: Handling irregular income and managing finances effectively.
10. Handling Rejections: Rejections are part of the process; use them as a chance to improve.
11. Personal Growth: Freelance graphic design teaches valuable life skills beyond design itself.

1. You Are Not Your Client’s Friend

You are not your client’s friend. You are their designer, and you are the one who will be designing what they want. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with them, but it does mean that if they have a problem with something, they need to bring it up with an adult (i.e., you).

I know this is easier said than done and I’m not perfect at it myself! But I’ve learned that being firm yet kind in my communication with clients is crucial for getting things done right and on time. 

If a client has an issue with something or wants something changed or added, I make sure that it’s clear why we’re doing what we’re doing before giving them any input on why their idea isn’t going to work out as well as another option might instead.

Sometimes, the freelance design journey is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Explore the 11 Things People Don’t Tell You About Freelance Design to gain insights into the lesser-known aspects of the industry.

2. You Are Not Your Client’s Friend

The term “client” can be a loaded one, especially if you have one-on-one relationships with the people you work with. It implies that there is an imbalance of power and knowledge between the two of you, and I do my best to avoid this phrase when talking about our collaborations together. But sometimes it slips out anyway! 

If I’m feeling stressed out, or if they’re feeling frustrated themselves sometimes it happens again…and again…and again… And while this is still technically true you are not your client’s friend it doesn’t feel like it anymore! 

You’ve grown closer over time; there has been trusting built up; maybe even mutual respect has been earned (if only because they know how good your designs are). So when someone asks me what kind of relationship I have with my clients now as opposed to five years ago, there isn’t much difference: They’re still paying me for my services (money helps keep things professional).

3. You’re Not A Support Worker

You might have some overlap with the role of a support worker, but it’s important to remember that you are not their therapist, friend, employee, or business partner. You are an independent contractor. 

In fact, in my opinion, most problems come about when you start thinking about yourself as someone who does this job for them and therefore owes them anything other than your best work for which they pay you directly (as opposed to being paid by the company). 

And even then – I’ve had clients call me at 3 am asking if I can do extra work because they don’t have enough money in their bank account until payday and need me to do some “extra” work so they can cover their bills before Friday arrives. That doesn’t mean that doing so would be right on my part; it definitely wouldn’t be right on theirs!

Freelance graphic designers have the unique advantage of infusing fun into their work routine. Discover 12 Fun Things to Do as a Freelance Graphic Designer that can help you maintain creativity and enthusiasm while tackling projects.

4. You Will Have To Come Out Of The Closet About Your Price And Your Time. A Lot

The more you work, the more you’ll find yourself being asked for a quote on a project by people who don’t know how much you charge and how long it takes to deliver (or even if they do, they may have a skewed idea). In these situations, it’s okay to ask them: “Are you looking for a quote?”

And then they’ll ask: “How much do you charge?” But that question holds some secrets within itself! You see…

5. Your Clients Will Expect The World From You And It Sucks

Clients are going to have a lot of expectations. Some of them are reasonable, and some are frankly not. Sometimes it’s up to you to figure out how much of your time and energy you want to spend on certain things.

Your client wants you to do something for them that takes 10 hours for an experienced graphic designer but only takes 1 hour for a beginner graphic designer. They don’t understand that it takes more than just plugging in the right fonts, picking out some stock images, and throwing them together into a graphic design before handing them off with their site or business card design projects. 

They think that if they’re willing to pay enough money then anyone can be as good at this as they need them to be (which is why they’ve hired YOU).

6. If They Criticize You For Getting Work Done Fast, Don’t Work With Them Again

If a client complains that you’re getting your work done too fast, it’s time to move on.

Yes, you can and should respond to their request for revisions promptly but this doesn’t mean that you have to meet their unrealistic expectations for how long it takes to complete projects. You can’t be expected to do the same amount of work as someone who works full-time, so why should they expect you to?

If they don’t respect your schedule or deadlines as a freelancer and are constantly asking for more changes after a project has been handed over and paid in full, then they aren’t worth working with again.

Embarking on a design business venture involves a learning curve. Learn from the experiences of others with 14 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Design Business, a guide to navigating the challenges and seizing opportunities.

7. You Become Their Go-To Person For Other Projects That Aren’t Even Part Of The Job Description

When you’re freelance, you become the go-to person for other projects that aren’t even part of your job description. This can be a good thing (if you’re interested in those other projects), or it can be a bad thing (if you’re not interested).

One client recently asked me to help them design a website for their new business venture a magazine that focuses on women’s health issues. I said yes because I’m passionate about helping people create something they’re passionate about and this magazine seemed like an opportunity to do just that.

But as much as I’d love to work on this project full time, my main focus at the moment is getting my own graphic design business off the ground so I can stop working from home or coffee shops and finally have my own office space!

8. People Will Ask Ridiculous Questions Like “do you have time for this?”

People will ask you to do work for them when they know you have time; The first question people will ask when hiring a designer is, “how much?” But that’s not the only thing they need to know. As a freelancer, it’s also your responsibility to make sure clients understand exactly what they’re getting into before signing on the dotted line. 

So even if they’ve already seen your portfolio and fallen in love with it, don’t be surprised if they ask questions like:

  • Can I contact you at all hours of the day? (If not, say so).
  • Is this guaranteed until I’m satisfied? (If not, say so).
  • Do you have any recommendations for other companies that can help me out? (If yes and it probably should be don’t hesitate to offer them.)

9. People Think They Always Need To Make Changes, But They Don’t Know What They Want Until It’s Right In Front Of Them

You will come to learn that most people don’t know what they want. At least not all the time. When I first started freelancing, I assumed all clients wanted to be involved in every step of the design process and had an exact idea of what they wanted me to create. That was not the case at all! 

Many times a client will tell me something like “I want my logo to look just like this other logo.” Or maybe even worse: “Make it look exactly like that other company’s logo.” But then when I show them what I’ve created for them, their response is always along the lines of “Oh no! That’s not quite right this needs more work before we can use it.”

 It takes a while before you realize these things but once you do…you’ll have an easier time dealing with these situations than if you didn’t already know how they might go down with your current or future clients.

Creating a successful freelance graphic design business requires careful planning and execution. Gain valuable insights from the article on How I Created My Freelance Graphic Design Business and discover the steps to establishing your own creative empire.

10. There Is No Worst Thing Than A Client Who Wants To Approve Every Single Little Detail On An Illustration Or Design

When you start to work with a client, make sure they know what your process is. If you design stuff in Illustrator and use Photoshop for the final product, make sure that’s clear. Be very clear about what you will do and what they will do. In other words: “Here’s an outline of the project, here’s how much I charge for my services, and here are some examples of what I’ve done before.”

If a potential client has any ideas or requests, but those are outside your scope of work for example if someone wants to pay for some things but not others tell them upfront (again: be friendly!) that if they want something specific then maybe another designer is better suited for their needs.

11. People Will Think That Because You Work From Home/A Coffee Shop/Your Own Office

This is a tricky one. If a client wants to meet at their office, that’s one thing. If they want to meet in their home, that’s different. Sometimes it can be less formal if you have your own office or space (like an apartment), but even then you should be able to work remotely if need be.

I’ve been asked to come out and meet with clients at 9 PM on a Thursday while they’re eating dinner at their house because they need something done by Friday morning and there was already an appointment scheduled for tomorrow afternoon! 

While this isn’t necessarily egregious, it does show poor planning on the part of both parties involved: the client who didn’t do any research about how long something like this would take before setting up an appointment; or worse yet, simply assumed I’d be willing/able to drop everything and drive across town at a moment’s notice because my business card says “remote web design.”

The journey of a freelance graphic designer is one of continuous growth and learning. Explore the 11 Things You Learn as a Freelance Graphic Designer to find out about the valuable lessons that contribute to your professional evolution.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two about the life of a graphic designer. I’m not going to lie it’s not an easy path to walk, but it’s worth exploring. Graphic design is one of those careers that offer more than just money and stability; it also gives us a chance to make an impact on people’s lives by making their businesses look good and fun!

Whether you’re still in school or have already graduated, these tips can help you make the most out of your time as a student and prepare for an exciting career ahead. And if all else fails (or if you’re tired), remember: there are always ways out.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to explore for further insights into the world of freelance graphic design:

Nine Things I’ve Learned About Design Short Description: Discover valuable design lessons and tips from an experienced designer’s journey in this insightful article.

Graphic Designer Skills: The Complete List Short Description: Explore a comprehensive list of essential skills that every graphic designer should possess to excel in the field.

10 Things I Have Learned in My Ten Years as a Freelance Designer Short Description: Gain valuable insights from a freelance designer’s decade-long experience, covering lessons learned and strategies for success.

People Also Ask

What Is A Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer is someone who creates visual elements of a project, such as logos, illustrations, and advertisements. A web designer creates the visuals of websites. The two often overlap since websites need to look good to be successful, but they are different roles with different responsibilities.

How Do I Get Started As A Graphic Designer?

You can start by learning some basic skills on your own by taking online courses or reading books on the subject (many of these are available on Amazon), or by finding an internship through your school’s career center that will allow you to gain experience while still in school. 

After graduating college with an art degree or certificate, interning might not seem like it’s worth it because you’re already being paid by your parents for living expenses but trust me when I say that if you’re serious about becoming a freelance graphic designer someday soon (or even just having more than one client), then getting some experience under your belt before going out on your own will set you up for success later down the road!

What’s The Best Way To Find A Freelance Graphic Designer?

Word of mouth and referrals are always the best way to go! Ask around, talk to people in your industry, go on LinkedIn and see if anyone knows anyone who does what you need to be done.

If you can’t get any recommendations from friends or family members, try searching for designers on Google or Instagram. There are often freelance groups online where designers post their portfolios so you can research them before reaching out directly. 

I would recommend doing this only after making sure that they specialize in what you need (i.e., don’t contact someone who only designs websites if all you want is some flyers made).

How Do I Get A Job As A Freelance Graphic Designer?

If you’re already working full-time, it may be difficult to transition into freelancing because your employer probably won’t want you moonlighting as well especially if they’re paying you an hourly wage or salary! 

Your best bet would be to find another part-time job as an independent contractor at first so that your employer doesn’t know what’s going on (and so your activity isn’t being monitored by HR). 

After all, that time spent getting paid hourly rates instead of making money off every hour spent working outside regular hours then maybe this could become something more than just “moonlighting.” You might even find yourself loving it so much more than what had been before!

What’s The Difference Between A Freelancer And A Contractor?

Contractors are people who work for companies that give them projects to complete on behalf of their clients; it’s like an employee-client relationship with one company. Freelancers work as independent contractors they don’t have employees or coworkers at all, so they’re not limited by any given project or client.

What’s The Difference Between A Freelancer And An Employee?

Employees are part of your company (unless you’re specifically hiring them as contractors) and have benefits like health insurance through your organization. As someone who works for yourself 100% of the time, no one pays into your social security fund or gives you paid leave (unless they offer those things as part-time benefits). 

Although there are some perks to being self-employed like being able to put money in your retirement account and having more control over what type of work environment you want you’ll also need to pay for things like rent/mortgage payments & healthcare yourself instead of getting reimbursed by someone else for them (which is why “being self-employed” isn’t always better than being employed full time).

What Is The Best Computer To Run Graphic Design Programs?

If you are using a Mac, don’t use Mac OS X. Get a Mac that runs on ‘9’. It’s more stable when designing and easier to do simple things like finding a missing font. If you are using Windows, don’t use Windows XP. Get Windows 7 64 bit which comes with Service Pack 1 pre-installed.

Do You Have Any Advice For Graphic Designers Who Are Just Starting?

Yes! First off, find someone who will hire you to do their designs (whether it’s a friend or family member). That way they’ll be able to give you feedback on your work and help you grow as a designer. 

Also, try not to get overwhelmed if there are things in your design that aren’t perfect right away that’s normal! The key is not to give up if something doesn’t turn out how you want it to right away; just keep working at it until it does come together perfectly.

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