15 Mistakes Graphic Designers Should Avoid When Freelancing

The graphic design industry has changed a lot in the last few years. It is now a freelance-based business and it is expected that you will take on clients who may not be familiar with the ins and outs of your craft. 

You will also have to deal with communication issues, like language barriers and time zone differences. In addition to this, there are times when you might just have too many clients to handle at once; which can lead to mistakes in your work or even getting burned out.

To avoid these situations from happening, we’ve put together this list of common mistakes many freelancers make when they start out on their own:

The WORST Graphic Design MISTAKES 🚨
1. Set clear pricing and avoid undercharging.
2. Create contracts to establish expectations.
3. Communicate effectively with clients.
4. Don’t neglect self-promotion and marketing.
5. Balance workloads to prevent burnout.
6. Seek feedback and continuous improvement.
7. Avoid overcommitting and manage time wisely.
8. Keep up-to-date with industry trends.
9. Be cautious with offering free work.
10. Define and enforce boundaries with clients.

1. You’re Inexperienced

While this may seem obvious, it’s worth pointing out because the majority of graphic designers are freelancers.

If you don’t have any experience working as a designer, then it’s easy to get discouraged when someone pays you less than you think your work is worth. 

In fact, if you’re working on an hourly basis and someone asks for your services at $15 an hour and doesn’t want to pay more than that even if they like what you created you might be tempted to take their money and feel like a fool for doing so. 

The problem here is not the client: The problem is that in order for them to be able to offer $15/hour instead of more money, they’ll need something from somewhere else (possibly from themselves). In other words: Your client isn’t trying at all! You tell them what they should do instead…

Hiring a freelance designer when you’re new to the process can feel overwhelming. Learn how to navigate this challenge with our comprehensive guide on how to hire a freelance designer when you have zero clue, ensuring you make the right choice.

2. You Have No Business Plan

If you want to be successful as a freelancer, you need a business plan. Your business plan is an outline of your goals and ambitions, your strengths and weaknesses as a designer, and how you plan to fill those gaps in your skillset.

Think of it this way: A good business plan should be like a map that shows the way from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be). It provides the information you need along the way like stop signs or detours to help ensure that you don’t get lost on your journey.

While many people think of a business plan as only having financial details such as projected costs and sources of income, there are actually many other things that should be included in your plan if it’s going to be effective: who are my competitors? what makes me unique? how do I intend on marketing myself?

3. You Lack The Right Tools

You need to have the right tools to do your job. This is especially true when it comes to graphics design. You can’t take on a project that requires you to use Adobe Illustrator when all you have is a pencil and paper (or an ink pen).

You need a computer, software, printer, scanner, and more! The cost of such equipment can be pretty hefty if you buy it new but there are often great deals available for used or refurbished if your budget doesn’t allow for brand new gear right now.

Finding freelance graphic design work can be a rewarding journey. Explore our detailed insights in The Authoritative Guide to Finding Freelance Graphic Design Work, and discover valuable strategies to help you secure projects and clients.

4. You Don’t Charge Enough

Most designers don’t know how much to charge for their work. They undervalue their time, talents, and skills, and don’t have the confidence to ask for the rates they deserve. As a result of this, clients end up paying less than they should in order to get projects completed on time and you end up short-changing yourself as well!

You can charge more than you think you can. Be confident in your skills and be willing to say no if someone doesn’t want to pay what you need or deserve.

5. You Say “Yes” Too Often

You say “yes” too often, and for that reason alone you’re not going to be successful. It’s okay to have a lot of clients you should, in fact, but you always need to strive for quality over quantity. 

Saying yes all the time can get you into trouble because it isn’t sustainable and it makes your work look bad; saying no takes courage but will make both parties happier in the long run. 

Your rate is also likely going to be lower when clients think they can use guilt or desperation against you, so if they won’t pay what they’re worth, don’t do the work!

6. You Only Have One Client

If you’re worried about time management, don’t worry too much. You can always outsource the tasks to other people. The important thing is not to overstretch yourself by taking on too many clients at once. If you start feeling like your workload is too much, then it probably is.

The key here is to set yourself up in such a way that you have enough work but not too much work and the only way to achieve this is by having multiple clients at once. But how?

To get more clients:

Create an effective portfolio website or blog where potential clients can see your work, read testimonials from past clients, and learn more about what kind of projects you do best (for example logo design). 

This will help build trust between yourself and potential new customers which means they are more likely to hire someone without meeting them face-to-face first! 

That way there won’t be any surprises later down the line if both parties aren’t happy with what has been delivered so far (which could happen from time to time).

Transitioning from a full-time job to freelancing as a graphic designer is an exciting leap. Gain insights from someone who’s been there in our article on how I went from working full-time to being a freelance graphic designer, and learn about the challenges and successes of this shift.

7. You Forget To Market Yourself (Or Are Inconsistent With It)

Having a consistent and regular schedule of marketing yourself is key to getting clients. You need to get your name out there so that people know who you are and what you do, then they’ll come looking for you when they have an opportunity. 

They may not know exactly what it is they want, but after seeing your work enough times and getting an idea of the type of design services you provide, they will start coming up with ideas on their own.

You can’t just market when you need clients you must market regularly in order to stay in the minds of potential customers and prospects as well as keep up with current trends in design or whatever service(s) that are offered by others so that they don’t pass over your business because another designer did something similar first (even if it was completely different).

8. You Don’t Have A Website (Or A Good One)

As a graphic designer, you are in the business of creating websites. You should have a website. It’s important that your website is professional, easy to navigate, and showcases your work in an appealing manner.

Here are some things to keep in mind when building or updating your own personal portfolio site:

Have An Easy-To-Find Contact Page

This may seem obvious, but if clients don’t know who they can reach out to and how they can get in touch with you well then, why would they want to hire you? Make sure that there is an accessible “Contact Me” button on every page of your site as well as an email address so that potential clients can reach out with any questions or concerns they may have.

Build Links Back Into Other Sites Where People Might Be Looking For Designers (Like Behance)

If someone finds one of your pieces online through Google, it would be helpful if there were links back at the bottom which take them directly back here so that we don’t lose those leads by making them search through links elsewhere.

9. Your Website Is Unprofessional

Your website is the first thing potential clients see when they google your name. It’s also the first thing they will look at if they have questions about your work or if they want to book you for a project. 

A professional-looking website showcases all of your work in an organized, easy-to-see way that makes it clear what kind of graphic designer you are and what you can do for potential clients.

A professional website should be clean and simple too much clutter on the page looks like a sign that you haven’t bothered to take care of any aspect of its design (or worse, that someone else made the site for you). 

Make sure there aren’t too many images or fonts competing with each other; stick to 2 or 3 fonts max, and make them easy on the eyes so as not to strain visitors’ vision when reading text from them. And while it doesn’t need to be ultra-modern looking, some subtlety is appreciated: don’t go overboard with neon colors or clip art logos either!

Avoiding common pitfalls is essential for building a successful freelance design career. Discover the 15 mistakes that could hinder your progress in 15 Rookie Mistakes That Can Kill Your Freelance Design Career, and gain valuable insights on how to overcome them.

10. Your Portfolio Is Weird And Confusing

Your portfolio is the first thing a potential client will see, so it’s important to make sure it’s easy to navigate. The design should be intuitive and easy to understand so that anyone can quickly find the information they’re looking for.

It also needs to work across all devices, as people may view your portfolio on their phones or tablets as well as on larger monitors.

Your portfolio should be easy to update so that you don’t have to spend hours making changes when new projects come in. It should also be easy for others who aren’t familiar with graphic design software such as clients or colleagues to use and update themselves if need be.

11. You Try To Handle Everything On Your Own

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when freelancing is trying to do everything yourself. Even if you’re a highly-skilled designer and technically proficient in your field, there are times when it pays off to take a step back and focus on the work that’s best suited for your strengths. 

And while it may seem counterintuitive at first, handing off some of your work is an excellent way for you to both grow as an artist and make sure that the final product is exceptional.

There are a number of reasons why this strategy works well:

You get more experience working with others and especially communicating with clients which helps build better relationships with everyone involved in the creation process.

Being able to delegate allows greater flexibility in terms of time management; if something comes up unexpectedly, it won’t be hard for someone else on your team (or maybe even yourself) to pick up where another designer left off without missing a beat or rushing through something prematurely just because they were behind schedule!

12. Your Client Communication Skills Are Lacking

If a client is paying you to do the job, they expect you to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. You need to be confident enough in your skills that you can confidently say you can deliver what is needed. 

Don’t be afraid of asking questions and starting discussions with your clients about the project, as this shows that you care about doing it right and not just meeting expectations.

Keep them up-to-date with progress on the project at regular intervals (weekly or monthly) so they don’t have to wait until the final stages before seeing how things are going. Proactivity is key here: don’t leave it until the last minute before contacting them; their patience will wear thin quickly if they aren’t kept informed of everything happening behind the scenes!

13. Your Work Isn’t Original (Or Fresh) Enough

You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating: don’t be boring. Your work will never stand out if you keep churning out the same old stuff that everyone else is creating. Your job as a designer is to make your client’s brand memorable and interesting, not just another logo design or website template. 

It might seem like creativity is in short supply these days, but there are still plenty of ways for you to come up with something fresh and exciting.

First things first: avoid cliches at all costs! They may seem easy and obvious at first glance (and they often are), but even though we see them everywhere, clients still expect their designers not just to use them but also to get noticed for using them! 

You need something that’s both unique while also familiar enough so consumers recognize what they’re seeing immediately after seeing it once or twice within their lifetime span…

That’s why I specifically call this particular point out as one which needs careful consideration during our conversation here today: because there’s no way around making sure each piece stands out yet doesn’t stand too far away from what others have done before either. 

Otherwise, nobody will take notice of your efforts when all they’ll see are copies being made over again by other people who aren’t even trying hard enough!

14. You Do The Same Kind Of Design Work Over And Over Again (Without Variety)

If you’re going to be a graphic designer, it is important that you try to be diverse. This will ensure that you can be more versatile when it comes to designing for different types of clients and projects. You’ll become a better designer overall and attract more clients because they will like your style.

You might get bored of doing the same thing over and over again, but if there are other opportunities for variety in your work (such as new clients or projects), then it will not matter so much whether or not you enjoy the work itself. It might help if you think about these things ahead of time instead of just going into them blindly:

Continuous improvement is key in the world of freelance design. Explore our guide with 15 ways to become a better freelance designer, offering practical tips and strategies to enhance your skills, client relationships, and overall success.

15. Your Personal Branding Isn’t Clear Or Consistent Across Channels

Graphic designers have a tendency to get so caught up in their work that they neglect to build their personal brand. It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially when you’re just starting out, and it can be hard to make the time for it when you have clients breathing down your neck. 

But there is one thing that is more important than any of your clients: the value of your own name.

Your personal brand is a vital part of your freelancing success, especially as a graphic designer. So how do you build a great personal brand? 

We asked some experts on the subject for their secrets and advice on how they would advise new graphic designers building their brands from scratch and already established freelancers looking to improve theirs.


If you want to become a successful graphic designer, it’s essential that you avoid these mistakes. By avoiding them, your chances of getting hired will go up significantly!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources you might find valuable to enhance your understanding of graphic design freelancing:

5 Mistakes Graphic Designers Make When Starting Out and How to Avoid Them: Learn from the experience of others and avoid common pitfalls that new graphic designers often face in their freelancing journey.

11 Freelancing Mistakes You Need to Avoid: Explore a comprehensive list of freelancing mistakes and gain insights into how to steer clear of these issues to build a successful career.

20 Common Mistakes Graphic Designers Make: Dive into a comprehensive guide that highlights 20 frequent mistakes made by graphic designers, helping you learn and grow from their experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer uses the principles of visual communication and process to create and combine symbols, images, and text to create a visual representation of ideas and messages. Graphic designers use typography, visual arts, page layout techniques, and other items like color theory to produce the best way for that idea or message to be communicated.

What Is Freelance Graphic Design?

Freelance graphic designers are self-employed individuals who work from home or in their own studio setting as independent contractors for clients anywhere in the world. 

They don’t typically have an office space where they meet with clients face-to-face for meetings; instead, they communicate with clients via email or phone calls.

How Do You Avoid Making Mistakes As A Graphic Designer?

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them. The easiest way to avoid making new mistakes is by looking back at the old ones. If you’ve made some bad decisions in the past, don’t be afraid to look at those projects and think about what could have been different if they were done differently. 

There’s no sense in beating yourself up over something that happened years ago, but learning from your mistakes can make all the difference!

What Are The Most Common Mistakes That Graphic Designers Make?

It depends on who you ask! Some people say not following through with clients’ requests, while others might say forgetting about deadlines but here are a few common pitfalls that many designers face:

You Have A Great Portfolio, And You’re Eager To Start Working. Where Should You Begin?

Let’s start with the first step: finding freelance graphic design jobs. There are many websites offering work for freelancers, but not all of them are created equal. You’ll want to make sure that the sites you choose have high-quality clients who pay on time and value good work otherwise, your experience will likely be frustrating and unrewarding. 

A few places where we’ve found great freelance agencies include Graphic River (a marketplace of graphics), Imcreative (a community of artists), PeoplePerHour (an online marketplace), Upwork (formerly oDesk), Freelancer (another online marketplace), DesignCrowd, and Fiverr.

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