Freelancing 101: What Every Design Aspirant Has To Know Before Diving In

Your journey as a freelance designer is just beginning, and you may be wondering: how do I make money? What are the best ways to market me? Where can I find clients?

Freelancing 101 is designed to answer these questions and more. This post will take you through the basics of what freelancing is, what it takes to succeed in this field, and how to get started on your journey.

Freelancing 101: Professional Best Practices on Upwork
1. Understand the Basics of Freelancing: Learn the fundamentals of freelancing, including its benefits and challenges, to make informed decisions about pursuing a freelance design career.
2. Develop Essential Design Skills: Hone your design skills to a professional level, as a strong foundation is crucial for success in the competitive world of freelancing.
3. Embrace Continuous Learning: Stay updated with design trends and industry tools to deliver cutting-edge work that resonates with clients and target audiences.
4. Build a Diverse Portfolio: Showcase a variety of design projects in your portfolio to demonstrate your versatility and attract a wider range of potential clients.
5. Master Communication and Negotiation: Effective communication and negotiation skills are vital for collaborating with clients, understanding their needs, and securing favorable terms.
6. Set Realistic Rates: Price your services appropriately by considering factors like your skill level, the complexity of the project, and market rates to ensure fair compensation.
7. Cultivate a Strong Work Ethic: Freelancing demands discipline, time management, and dedication to consistently meet deadlines and exceed client expectations.
8. Network and Build Relationships: Establish connections within the design community and industry to gain referrals, insights, and potential collaborations for growth.
9. Manage Finances Wisely: Implement effective financial management practices to handle income, taxes, and expenses, ensuring a stable and profitable freelance career.
10. Embrace the Entrepreneurial Spirit: Approach freelancing as a business venture, continuously seeking opportunities to innovate, expand your services, and achieve long-term success.

Make A Solid Network

One of the best ways to get your name out there and make connections is by attending industry events, forums, and other networking opportunities. You can also use social media platforms like LinkedIn to network with people you don’t know but who might be helpful for your business. 

If you’re not sure where or how to begin reaching out, try asking for referrals from your existing network (e.g., “Do you know anyone in my area that could use my services?”).

It’s also important to join a local Chamber of Commerce if possible; this will allow you access to valuable resources like training seminars, discounts on new equipment/software/services, and more!

Another way freelancers can build up their networks is by participating in online communities such as LinkedIn groups; doing so allows them access not only to these specific spaces but also provides them with an opportunity to meet others who may be interested in collaborating.

If you’re new to the world of marketing research, don’t worry. Our Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Research will walk you through the fundamentals and help you get started on the right foot.

Be A Master Of Contracts

Be a Contract Master. As a freelancer, you are your brand. That means that when you sign a contract it’s like signing an agreement with yourself. You need to be sure that:

You understand what you’re signing up for and have enough time in the day to do it. Even if it seems like something simple and straightforward on paper, there may be hidden clauses or other things thrown in without your knowledge (which could cause problems down the line).

The compensation being offered for services matches or exceeds what you normally charge. Don’t get paid less than the market rate! As much as possible, research what others are getting paid for similar work before agreeing to anything; don’t just take someone’s word for it either call them up and ask!

The client is clear about their expectations and deadlines (and promises). It might seem obvious but sometimes they forget who they’re dealing with you know better than anyone how long these projects will take. 

So makes sure there isn’t any ambiguity between when they expect the finished product by compared with how long it should actually take based on past experience working at this standard level of quality level against budget constraints etcetera…

Get Your Hands On Some Inspiring Books

Now that you’re ready to dive into the freelance world, it’s time to do some reading. If you don’t have any design books on hand (and if not, why not? A designer without a library is like a baker without flour), here are some top picks for your collection:

Curious about conducting market research without breaking the bank? Discover how one freelancer spent an entire year conducting market research for free, and learn valuable insights on a tight budget.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

  • The Design of Everyday Things for Web Developers by Mike Monteiro and Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  • Prototyping: A Practical Guide for UX Designers by Karen Holtzblatt, Hugh Beyer, and Sandra Myers
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Get A Mentor

One of the best ways to start off your freelance career is by getting a mentor. This can be someone who has had a successful track record in design or someone with knowledge of the industry. You can seek out potential mentors online or at local colleges and universities. 

If you don’t know anyone who fits these descriptions, there are many resources available for working professionals who are willing to share their experiences with others.

As a new designer, it’s important that you get advice from people who have been in your shoes before and they just might happen to be able to offer some insight on how they got where they are today!

Stop Being The Jack Of All Trades

If you’re not sure what kind of design you want to do, it’s perfectly fine to try a lot of different things out. It’s important to get a feel for your skillset and what makes you happy to work on it. If a project doesn’t feel like something that you would enjoy doing, then don’t take it! 

The only way that we can grow as designers is by being honest about our skill set and learning from our mistakes it’s always better than doing something for the sake of money or time efficiency.

If this sounds like something that rings true with your personality, then maybe freelancing isn’t right for you at this point in time. Maybe consider working at an agency or studio where there are other people who can help guide your growth as a designer while also providing feedback on how they see things done within their workplace culture! 

This will give both parties insight into each other’s values while also allowing them both room enough so they don’t get “lost” within an atmosphere where everyone thinks differently than each other.”

Set Your Price Point And Learn To Negotiate With Confidence

As with all things in life, it’s important to be prepared before you dive in. The following steps will help you set your price point and learn to negotiate with confidence:

Set Your Price Point

Before you even begin to consider hiring yourself out as a designer, you should have an idea of what the market will bear for your services. 

There are plenty of resources online that can help you determine this from pay rate surveys from sites like Glassdoor and Comparably (and some more advanced ones like PayScale) to crowdsourced rates by industry experts so spend some time looking into them on your own or consulting friends who work in design fields similar to yours. 

You may also find the following questions helpful when setting up a business plan for yourself: What is my hourly value? How much does it cost me per hour? Are my fees competitive? Are they fair? Who am I competing against? 

Am I willing to undercut my competition by lowering prices just because they’re offering cheaper work? If so, why would anyone ever hire me over another designer who can do better quality work at less expense?

Market research comes in many forms, each serving a unique purpose. Explore the 16 types of marketing research you need to know about to make informed decisions and drive your business forward.

Be Good At Negotiating​

Once you’ve got an idea about what people are paying others like yourself for similar services and products, talk with prospective clients about their needs before quoting them any prices it’ll allow them (and any future customers) more time to make informed decisions about whether or not hiring someone like yourself would be worth their while financially speaking! 

Remember though: no matter how well prepared we think we are going into negotiations sometimes there’s nothing worse than getting everything ready only then realizing there was something missing from our preparation process along the way back up through these steps…

Know The Tax Laws

As a freelancer, you are expected to pay taxes on all the money you earn. You can keep track of your earnings and expenses by using a separate ledger for each.

You may also need to keep accurate records of all your business transactions so that you can fill out tax forms at the end of the year. To avoid any confusion, make sure that all your personal expenses (like entertainment or eating out) stay separate from those related to your freelance business (such as travel and office supplies).

Always estimate how much tax money will be due at the end of each quarter and pay it! If you don’t budget enough for quarterly taxes, then it’s likely that something else in your personal budget will suffer. 

This is because many freelancers don’t know their exact earnings until they file their quarterly paperwork with their state or international governments, which could take up to six months after finishing working on projects during those three months.

It’s possible that some countries may require people who work remotely overseas including those who do design work to file annual returns even if they don’t reside there full-time; others might require only occasional filings if any at all so make sure what requirements exist before accepting work outside home country limits!

Invest In Software That Will Help You Solve Problems And Save Time

A lot of designers make the mistake of not investing in software that will help them manage their business. That’s because they don’t want to spend money on something they can do for free, like using a spreadsheet or Google Docs.

But there are so many great tools out there for freelancers and small businesses that will save time, keep track of expenses and taxes and even help with invoicing clients. Here are just some examples:

[Google Suite]( is an all-in-one solution that includes Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts Chat (for communicating with teammates), Sheets (spreadsheets), and Docs (word processing). 

You can also use it to create invoices right within Google Docs by linking your bank account information directly into the document itself at no cost whatsoever!

[Wave]( has been around since 2009 but still offers one of the best solutions for freelancers looking to invoice their clients online without paying any monthly fees whatsoever! 

As long as you have a $5 USD minimum balance in your account then you can start using this service immediately without having to set up any kind of credit card payment which makes it ideal if someone doesn’t want their client seeing their personal bank details every month when getting paid via direct deposit into Wave’s system instead.”

Tight budget? No problem. Learn the secrets of conducting market research for free and gather valuable insights that will help you make smart business choices without spending a dime.

Build Your Brand

You need to build your brand. The first thing you can do is to build a professional website that showcases your work and contact details. On top of that, show the quality of your work by adding it in the form of a portfolio, which should be updated at least once every month or so. 

Also make sure that you have a good social media presence on Instagram and Twitter for example, as these platforms can help you showcase the talent and skills you possess as an aspiring designer.

Other than this, it is also important for designers to keep their branding consistent across all platforms (such as website design, business cards, etc). This will help them become more recognizable in the industry!

Go Beyond Design Skills, Work On Your Soft Skills Too

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Soft skills, also known as social skills or people skills, are the ones that enable you to work well with others and build positive relationships. They include things like communication, leadership, empathy, and more all of which will help you thrive in any workplace.

Soft skills are not easy to learn but they can be improved by doing so regularly over time. For example: if your job requires you to communicate a lot with others, then you should practice this skill every day by communicating with different people at home or in your daily interactions at school or work (whether it’s through emailing or talking). 

You must also practice listening carefully when other people speak so that you know what they’re saying clearly before replying back with your own opinion about the subject matter at hand!

Learn From Failure And Keep Moving Forward

Okay, so you’ve just gone through your first project and it didn’t quite work out the way you expected. Maybe that’s because your client was too demanding or your budget was too low.

Maybe they wanted something that would take hours of research and prep time but they wouldn’t pay for it. Maybe they refused to let go of their long-held design preferences, even when those preferences were clearly out of date or just plain wrong for their business goals.

Whatever the case may be, there are some things you can learn from this experience:

Failure is not permanent (unless it’s life-threatening). You’re not doomed to fail at every project from now on if one thing didn’t work out; if anything, failure will only make future endeavors better because now you know what works best for YOU!

Don’t be afraid to try again with something else in mind next time around. No matter how many times I’ve been fired as an editor/writer before finding my true passion (design), being able-bodied enough

Buy A Business Insurance Policy

If you’re going to be running your own business, it’s important to have an insurance policy. Business owners are required to carry a certain amount of liability insurance. This type of insurance covers the cost of any damages that occur as a result of an accident or injury within your field of work.

For example, if you’re a web designer and one of your clients slips on the stairs in the new office space that you designed for them, then this would be covered by your business insurance policy. 

The same goes for designers who provide website maintenance services: if one of their clients’ websites were hacked and leaked personal information about their customers due to poor security measures taken by the client’s IT, team, that would also fall under “damage caused.” 

If a designer drives his or her car while working on a project and gets into an accident (even if he/she was on company time), it’s considered damage caused by him/herself as well and thus should be covered by his/her own personal auto insurance plan.

The main takeaway here is that there’s no such thing as “get rich quick” in freelancing! It takes time and hard work before even making enough money just from design gigs alone (let alone anything else). 

You’ll need good business practices right off the bat so that people take notice when they see what kind of value-added service offering comes along with working with someone like yourself for example 🙂

Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Good Health. Take Care Of Yourself!

Good health is an often-overlooked aspect of freelancing, but it’s one that can make or break your ability to produce high-quality work. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of freelancing, especially if you’re working all the time but taking care of yourself is vital.

Some suggestions: Get enough sleep, exercise regularly (at least three times a week), eat healthy food (vegetables are best), take care of your mental health by challenging yourself with new experiences, and don’t work too much (less than 10 hours per day), take breaks from work once in a while (for example each hour for five minutes). 

And lastly: spend time with friends and family; learn how to say no sometimes; learn how meditation can help you relax even when there’s so much going on around you!

Find A Place To Work From Outside Of Home.  Set Boundaries!  You Are Now A “Business”!

If you’re going to work from home, you have to be an adult about it. This means setting boundaries with the rest of your family and friends. Do you know your mother won’t be happy if she finds out that you’ve been working on a project for 3 hours straight without taking a break? 

Well, guess what? She has no reason to be unhappy about it! Because this is your business now; it isn’t just another hobby or pastime anymore. It is what will provide food on the table for all those mouths at home (or their equivalent). 

So make sure that everyone around you understands that unless there is an emergency, they should not disturb you when you are working from home.

Also, get yourself some equipment that will help keep things running smoothly: laptops are must-have items these days but desktops are still relevant in some cases; get one (or both) depending on your personal preference or needs (if traveling often). 

Also invest in noise-canceling headphones as well as screen protection film/glass/etc., especially if there is anyone else who also works at home.

Reddit isn’t just for discussions – it’s a goldmine for market research! Uncover the techniques for using this platform with our guide on how to use Reddit to conduct market research and tap into a vast source of consumer insights.

Freelancing In Design Can Be Fun And Profitable

Freelancing in design can be fun and profitable. It can also be stressful. There are many things to consider before you take the plunge into freelancing, like how much money you’ll make and whether or not there’s a market for your skillset.


You might be thinking, “What’s the point of all this?” Here’s the thing: freelancing is tough. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have bad days and weeks and months. But if you stick with it long enough (and you will), you’ll get better at what you do because there are so many ways to improve your work as a designer.

What I’m trying to say is that no matter what happens, just keep pushing through until things start working out again. And if they don’t? Well then maybe being a freelancer isn’t for you but if it is? If it is… then here’s hoping this piece helped!

Further Reading

14 Essential Skills for Freelance Social Media Managers: Explore the crucial skills every freelance social media manager should possess to succeed in the dynamic world of social media marketing.

Freelancing 101: What is Freelancing?: Delve into the basics of freelancing, understanding what it means, its benefits, and how it works as a flexible career option.

7 Key Things to Know About Freelancing: Gain insights into the important aspects of freelancing, including how to get started, managing finances, and thriving as an independent professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between A Freelancer And A Consultant?

A freelance designer works on projects, one by one. A consultant maintains long-term relationships with clients. They help them solve problems or make decisions, while designers deliver finished products.

What Is The Difference Between A Freelancer And A Self-Employed Person?

Self-employed people run their own businesses; they’re responsible for all aspects of running their business, including taxes, marketing, and accounting. Freelancers work under their own name but are employed by another company to complete specific projects (they are not legally considered employees).

There are many questions you may have about freelancing, but here’s a quick list of the most common ones. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, feel free to reach out to us and we can help!

How Can I Find Clients?

The best way to find clients is through referrals. Ask your friends if they know anyone looking for design work and send them your portfolio. You can also check review sites like Clutch or 99designs where companies post their needs publicly. 

If you have specific skills in logo design or branding, it’s a good idea to get signed up on freelance sites like Elance or PeoplePerHour as well. It takes time and effort but if done right, it will pay off down the road when people see your portfolio online and recommend you without having met in person first!

How Can I Negotiate A Contract?

You should always negotiate contracts before accepting any job offer from a client. 

Because that way both sides know what they’re getting into from day one rather than after working together several months only then realizing there were some issues with communication along the way which could’ve been avoided had there been more discussion upfront instead of after-the-fact when something went wrong…

What Is Freelancing?

Freelancing is the practice of engaging in a profession or trade on one’s own account rather than working for a fixed salary or wage. In other words, it means you’re your own boss and determine how much money you make every month.

What Is Freelance Design?

A freelance designer is someone who creates designs for other people through contracts. A contract can be any type of agreement between two parties that outlines the terms and conditions under which they will exchange goods and services. 

The term most often refers to agreements between professionals (freelance designers) and those seeking services (clients). Contracts protect both parties: they outline what each expects from their relationship with each other, set out responsibilities and deadlines, provide recourse should either party break the agreement, etc…

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