Freelancing is the preferred career for many independent and creative people. It allows you to have a lot of freedom when it comes to investment, time management, and workload. But before you jump into freelancing and make your own freelance design business, there are some important things that you should know to make sure your freelance business runs smoothly.
If you want to be successful as a freelancer, then keep reading; here are 14 important things you need to know before starting your freelance design business.
1. Networking Is Key
You’ll be doing a lot of networking. And I think it’s important to mention that this is different than marketing or selling yourself. That’s something that can come later down the road when you’re starting to narrow in on your niche and have more experience under your belt. For now, it’s all about meeting people, getting connected, and introducing yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but being able to talk to others will help you build trust in your ability as a designer, especially when you’re first starting out. So what does all this mean? It means volunteering at conferences and joining local and online groups that are specific to design or freelancing.
Things like Creative Mornings — attending relevant meetups in your area, reaching out to others on Twitter or LinkedIn, commenting on blogs and forums related to design…you get the point!
2. Find Your Niche
If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to define yourself as an expert in a specific field.
This doesn’t mean that you can only do design work for one type of client – it’s possible that your niche is broad, such as “web design for corporate clients” or “book design and illustrations” – many designers have multiple niche areas.
It also doesn’t mean that you have to turn away anyone who doesn’t fit into your niche area – there’s nothing wrong with taking on occasional non-niche work if you are struggling for work or if you simply want a change.
However, having a clearly defined niche will help you when marketing yourself because it will make it easier for potential clients to decide whether they should hire you. This is especially true in competitive sectors of the freelance market where there are thousands of competing designers (e.g. web & digital design).
Think about your ideal client, what they need and what they value in a designer, and how this differs from other types of clients. What would be the perfect job? Which kind of projects do you enjoy most? What skills do these projects most frequently require?
3. Understand Your Market
Have you ever thought about starting your own freelance design business? Do you have a true passion for design, marketing, and branding, but do not want to work for an agency? Would you rather work from home with your own schedule and clients? Then it’s time to start your own freelance design business.
Before diving into the world of self-employment, it’s important to understand the market and know what to charge. Understanding the market and knowing how much to charge is essential to running a successful freelance design business.
4. There Will Be A Lot Of Trial And Error
As a freelancer, you will face ongoing adjustments and changes. For example, the client you worked with two years ago has a new project manager. When you had worked with the previous project manager, a phone call was enough to get an answer about their upcoming design needs.
Now, the new project manager wants to schedule weekly status calls with you—so your workflow changes. Nothing is static; the informal agreements and processes of yesterday may be replaced by entirely new demands tomorrow. Your reaction? Be flexible and go with it!
You’ve already faced all this in your own work environment: change is happening all around us every day, whether we like it or not. Remember how cloud-based software changed how designers organize their files? And that time when responsive design made it necessary for designers to adjust their workflows?
Or when clients started asking for more interactive elements in their projects? You’re able to handle these changes because you know how important it is for your business to stay up-to-date on industry trends and tools—and because you want your designs and clients to be successful.
The same goes for freelancing: things will change (and often without any notice), but that doesn’t mean that everything has gone wrong or that there’s no hope left. It just means that as long as there’s work to do in this world, there will also be room for growth and improvement!
5. Build A Community
Being surrounded by others who are going through the same things as you can be a huge help. If you’re actively trying to avoid the isolation of working alone, find a space where you can work with other people (like a co-working space). If you don’t have access to that, join online communities like Designer Hangout and Make It Work Online. Ask questions and get your ideas critiqued by other designers in these groups—they’ll help you grow as a business owner.
Use this community to build relationships with other freelancers and business owners. Keep in touch with them on social media, especially Twitter, where it’s easy to strike up conversations with people about design or business topics that interest both of you.
Seeing what other designers are doing will help keep your motivation levels up and give you new ideas for how to evolve your own biz. You may even be able to do some freelancing cross-promotion with those folks at some point!
6. You Are The Brand Behind Your Business
Now, I’m not saying you have to start vlogging or sharing personal photos with your clients. However, what I am saying is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let your personality shine through.
One of the biggest advantages that freelancers have over corporations is that we are real people! Don’t underestimate the power of being genuine. People want to do business with people who are really just like them. It’s important for you to build rapport with potential clients and show them that you’re human behind the logo or website copy.
Be authentic and show your passion for what you do through your work, social media presence, and marketing materials. If you love helping small businesses succeed by creating amazing websites, share a quote on Twitter about how awesome it is to help entrepreneurs reach their goals through design or share a behind-the-scenes screenshot on Instagram of a project in progress. You’ll find that these efforts will only help your brand in the long run!
7. It Takes Time To Build Respect And Trust Amongst Clients
Building trust starts with being someone people can rely on. To gain this trust, you need to deliver what you say on time while over-delivering in terms of quality. If you find yourself struggling, take some time to fix the problem and be sure to let them know what happened or what is happening so that they can make arrangements and decisions accordingly.
At all times, try to focus on the end result so that when things are late it’s never because of laziness or lack of effort – but simply because there were unforeseen problems. When you work hard and produce good work, people will recognize that, especially if their business depends on it!
If you think about your own life, I’m sure there are plenty of times when someone has made a promise without delivering because they wanted something quick and easy – don’t let them forget how great it feels when someone follows through!
8. Be Patient Throughout The Process Of Growing Your Business And Building Your Portfolio
When starting your freelance design business, it is important to be patient throughout the process of growing your business and building your portfolio. In the beginning, your portfolio will not be as strong as you would like it to be.
However, you need to put in the work in order to build up a stronger portfolio, and this takes time. You may want everything to happen right away, but it is best that you take it one step at a time.
9. Learn How To Say No To Certain Projects To Protect Yourself From Burnout
We have all been there; you’re just starting out as a freelance designer and the projects are few and far between, so you take on every single project that comes your way. You have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and student loans to pay off. But once you build your client base up, it is important to learn how to say no.
I know this seems counterintuitive as an entrepreneur – shouldn’t I be taking on every single opportunity that comes my way? Well yes, but what about those projects that require more work than they are worth? Or the clients who are constantly sending more revisions? Or the clients who only want to pay peanuts for a ton of design work? Sometimes it can be better for your sanity (and your business) if you were picky with the projects that you accept.
10. The Most Successful Companies Have A Balance Of Great Design Paired With Effective Marketing And Branding Strategies
In order for your business to be successful, you need to pay attention to both design and marketing. It’s not enough to simply have a great product or service…you also need people interested in buying it!
Now, marketing and design are not the same things — marketing is a strategy that includes public relations, advertising, events, content creation, and more. Design is a component of your marketing strategy. You’ll want to make sure you understand how both work together.
11. Content Is King
Provide valuable content for clients to resonate with that draws them to you and convinces them to do business with you instead of someone else.
Clients are busy, and they don’t have time to read everything that comes across their path. If you want your content to grab someone’s attention, provide value for your clients that helps them solve a problem or teaches them something new.
To discover what you can provide for your potential clients, it’s essential to do some research on the ideal client profile so you know exactly who they are and what they need.
Once you understand your ideal client’s needs, find ways to meet them by creating helpful content. You could start a blog where you post tips on how to use design principles in business, publish case studies of past projects and write articles about how design impacts businesses.
You can also create free content specific to your expertise that helps people solve problems such as writing e-books about DIY web design or taking pictures for small businesses on a budget. The more valuable the content is, the more likely people will be drawn to it and remember your name when they need a designer!
12. Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial; Manage Stress, Maintain A Positive Mindset
Emotional intelligence is crucial for your success. You’ll need to know how to manage stress, maintain a positive mindset, learn how to adapt when things don’t go as planned, and manage conflict among others. If you’re the type of person who enjoys being with people, this should be easy peasy! If you’re a bit more introverted then learning these skills will definitely help you grow your business.
13. Learn About Copyright Law And The Rights Of Intellectual Property
Even though you’re not going to design a book cover, it’s important to know the basics of copyright law so that you are familiar with what you can and cannot use without permission or legal repercussions. When using an image or character (or anything protected by copyright laws) in your work, you must obtain permission from the person who owns it or face legal consequences.
If an image has been released into the public domain, anyone is free to use it without asking for permission. Public domain images can be found on websites like Pixabay and SoundCloud. But if there is no way to tell whether a particular image was published before 1923 (in which case it’s in the public domain), you should assume that it hasn’t been put into the public domain, and therefore is protected by copyright laws.
Fair use is a doctrine within copyright law that allows people to copy limited portions of copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, parody, scholarship, and research. The fair use doctrine is intended to prevent someone from just taking a portion of work because he/she doesn’t want to pay for the full thing.
While fair use does provide specific protections for certain uses (such as reproduction of short excerpts for educational purposes), fair use isn’t absolute and often requires prior approval from the intellectual property owner or risk facing legal action.
14. Know How Creatives Communicate
Understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and work styles so you can work together harmoniously and successfully deliver on design projects within deadlines; be open to constructive criticism throughout the design process.
At the start of every project, make sure that you understand how your colleagues work and communicate. You should also be clear about your own preferred style (do you like to do things yourself? does the idea of delegating stress you out?).
In order for your projects to run smoothly, it’s important to know what works for you. And don’t be afraid to ask others: how do they like to work? What’s their style? How do they prefer to receive information and share information with others?
Knowing this will help ensure the creative people on your team have the clearest possible picture of expectations, which means they’ll get things done more efficiently and everybody will be happier in the process.
This article highlights some important things to know before starting your freelance design business. It is a very comprehensive list and knowing all of these points is sure to help even the most seasoned of designers.
The article goes over how to start a freelance business, tax tips, insurance needs, equipment essentials, building a great website that you can use as a marketing tool, pricing yourself and your work, establishing payment plans, client relations and expectations, and contracts, and more. I highly recommend you take some time to familiarize yourself with this information before starting your freelance business if you are going to be in the field. Hopefully, it will help!
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Should Start A Freelance Design Business?
You should! Seriously, it’s a great way to make money doing what you love. You can charge clients by the hour or project. Even if you’re just starting out, you can make good money setting your own schedule and working for yourself. It’s also a great way to grow your network and build your portfolio.
How Do I Get Started As A Freelance Designer?
It’s easy! First, decide which skills you want to offer. Then, decide how much you want to charge your clients per hour or per project. Next, get signed up with a payment platform like Paypal or Venmo so that clients can pay you. Finally, create some ads on social media and start looking for clients!
What Happens If I Don’t Have Enough Clients?
If you are planning to ask your employer to let you work part-time or remotely, you might want to wait until you have all the resources you need, including a few clients lined up. After all, it’s not easy to go back once you’ve quit.
Where Do I Find Freelance Design Jobs?
Freelance design jobs can be found on freelance websites such as Upwork and Freelancer or through job boards such as Fiverr and PeoplePerHour. You can also offer your services through online marketplaces such as Envato and 99designs if you want to focus on logo design.
How Can I Find The Right Clients For Me?
To find the right clients for you, search for those that are comfortable with remote work. It is also helpful to find clients who are willing to pay for your services in advance or at least provide a contract that guarantees payment on time. If possible, try working with other freelancers who have experience in this area so they can help guide you through the process of finding good clients.