How I Went from Working Full-Time to Being a Freelance Graphic Designer

It was a regular Tuesday morning when I had the scariest conversation of my life. I picked up the phone, pressed a single button, and said those words that would change everything for me: “I quit.” 

And then I went on to explain to my very surprised boss that after three years at my job, in which time I’d risen from intern to art director and won quite a few awards along the way I was leaving. 

My decision might have been sudden for him, but for me, it was three years in the making. It all started when I was studying graphic design as an undergrad and got an internship at a local ad agency.

How to Go from Full Time Job to Freelance Designer – YouTube
Transitioning from full-time to freelance graphic design requires careful planning and preparation.
Building a strong online portfolio and personal brand can attract clients and opportunities.
Networking within the design community can lead to valuable connections and referrals.
Developing effective time management skills is essential for balancing client work and personal time.
Embracing the challenges of freelance work can lead to personal and professional growth.

Take All The Jobs

One of my favorite things about freelancing is that I can choose to work for myself. But because there’s a lot of freedom in being your boss, it’s important to remember that you will have to be responsible for everything from paying taxes and getting health insurance to keeping track of your expenses and not working yourself into the ground.

When you’re first starting, take any job that comes your way. You never know what will lead to more work later on down the line, so don’t turn anything down just because it isn’t exactly what you want right now. 

Even if it doesn’t seem like a good fit at first or appears too small or unimpressive compared with other projects in your portfolio (which shouldn’t be an issue anyway), it could still provide valuable experience and help build up credibility for when bigger opportunities come along later on.

Leaving the corporate world behind was a big step, but I found my calling in the world of design. Discover how I decided to become a freelance designer and embraced this new journey.

Master Your Craft

The first step to becoming a freelancer is mastering your craft. This means you should know your tools inside and out, your software and industry terminology, the clients you’ll be working with, the competition within that field, and even yourself.

I didn’t just learn how to use Illustrator or Photoshop; I learned how they were built and why they work the way they do. I also learned how other designers used them in their workflows so I could improve my own by using different techniques and styles.

If you can master these skills then there will be no stopping you from being better than most designers out there!

Get Client Referrals

To get client referrals, you need to ask for them. When a client hires you, ask them if they know anyone else who needs your services. If the answer is no, ask if they could put in a good word with someone they might know. You never know what kind of relationship they have with others and whether or not they would be willing to help out.

When you do get a referral from one of your clients, follow up with that new client! Send them an email and let them know how much their friend raved about working with you; this will go a long way towards getting their trust as well as building relationships within your network.

After getting the referral from one of your existing clients, send a thank-you note explaining how much it means to have gained another customer through their recommendation this shows that you appreciate their business and are grateful for any future business that may come from this relationship as well!

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Be Your Boss

As a freelancer, you have the freedom to set your hours and work from anywhere. You don’t have to drive in traffic or deal with office politics you can wear pajamas or your favorite shirt every day (I’ve done both). 

You also get to choose the projects that are most interesting and important to you, rather than working on things that other people want but may not be right for you.

The downside is that being an independent worker means taking responsibility for yourself: 

Figuring out where your next meal is coming from, making sure all of your bills are paid on time, keeping track of when they’re due (and how much they cost), and generally making sure everything runs smoothly so that no one notices when something goes wrong! If this sounds stressful then maybe being self-employed isn’t right for you yet. 

But if it sounds exciting then keep reading because I have some tips on how exactly to do these things!

Be Kind, But Be Firm

The second thing you need to do is be kind, but be firm.

You are the boss of your business, and if you’re not a jerk about it and don’t treat people like crap (even if they deserve it), then your business will run better and more smoothly. You have to be the one making all of the decisions, so there’s no way around this. No one person can know everything there is to know about their field(s) or industry(s). 

That’s why I’ve hired a business coach who helps me with stuff that I don’t know or am struggling with on my own. 

But at the end of the day, I’m still responsible for everything that happens in my company: from hiring artists and designers; taking care of our finances; answering emails; writing blog posts; marketing myself, and getting new clients everything!

Create A Routine And Stick To It

A routine is a bit of structure that you implement in your life. For example, you could set aside 15 minutes on Sunday afternoons to catch up on email from the week before. Or maybe you’ll start each day with a long walk in the park and then spend 15 minutes making a cup of tea to enjoy while you catch up on social media. 

You could also choose to do one thing every day that makes you feel accomplished maybe it’s cleaning out your inbox or replying to LinkedIn messages for potential clients.

Whatever routine works for you, it must happen at roughly the same time each day so that your brain knows what time of day it is when this activity will occur. It will help make sure that nothing gets missed!

Decision-making is an art in the world of freelancing. As a graphic designer, every choice counts. I share insights on how I make decisions as a freelance graphic designer to ensure success in this dynamic field.

Maintain Good Relationships With Former Employers And Colleagues

Another key to my success was maintaining good relationships with former employers and colleagues. It can take years before you’re able to live off your freelance graphic design business, so you must keep your options open. 

You may want or need to go back full-time at some point, or even return part-time if the timing isn’t right for full-on freelancing.

It might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense not only to maintain contact with former colleagues but also sometimes help out when possible even if they aren’t paying clients! 

This is because these people will be more likely to recommend you when a new opportunity comes up (or have one themselves), which means more potential work for you in the future.

Find A Mentor

One of the best ways to learn how to freelance is by finding a mentor. A good mentor will be a successful person who has been working in your field for some time and can teach you what they’ve learned while doing it themselves.

The best mentors are people who are passionate about their work, so if you find someone who seems like they have fun doing what they do every day, that’s usually a good sign that they’re going to be an awesome mentor for you too!

You can search for potential mentors locally or online; if you don’t know anyone in real life, try searching on social media or online forums where graphic designers hang out (like Reddit). You can also check Instagram accounts with hashtags like #design or #graphicdesigner.

Ask For Help When You Need It

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather it’s an expression of your desire to achieve your goals. You should always look for opportunities to learn something new and improve yourself as a designer.

If you know someone who can provide useful insight into the industry that you are interested in joining, don’t hesitate to ask them how they got started! I have found that most people are more than happy to share their experiences with others because they want everyone else on the same path as them (and also because they want friends).

I also recommend joining online communities where other freelancers hang out and discuss topics related to their work such as Reddit (/r/graphic_design/) or LinkedIn Groups like Graphic Designers Networking Group (GDNG). These communities will give you access to valuable information about what it takes for freelancers just like yourself!

Starting a freelance career might seem risky, but there are strategies to minimize potential pitfalls. Explore how to become a freelance graphic designer without taking on any risk and build a foundation for lasting success.

Keep Growing Your Network Of Contacts

One of the most important things you can do is to continue growing your network of contacts. If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, this will be particularly important because you’ll need people to hire and work with.

The key to networking is finding out who else is in your industry, and being able to connect with them when an opportunity arises. But how do you get started? Here are some tips:

Meetup groups are one of the best ways to meet people who share similar interests like yours (or even if they don’t). You can use Meetup’s search function by location or keyword, but also look at other events happening in your area related to design or entrepreneurship (especially if they have alumni speakers). 

Find something that sounds interesting and goes! It doesn’t cost anything except for gas money most times, so it won’t hurt anything either way 🙂

Another good method would be attending conferences related specifically to graphic design such as HOW Design Live which takes place every year in Chicago IL USA where I live now after moving from New York City NY USA earlier. 

This year due mainly because my husband has family here but also because he found better job opportunities than back home where we were living before moving here together 🙂

Leave Time To Build Your Brand As An Artist

At the same time, don’t be afraid to take time out of your day to build yourself as an artist. This means putting in the hard work to build your brand and portfolio and creating a website and social media profiles. 

Keeping learning and growing as a designer through new books, courses, tutorials, and forums (like /r/graphic_design), and being active on social media so you can connect with other designers around the world who are looking for freelance design work like yours and most importantly: consistency. 

Even if it’s just once or twice a week at first until you get more comfortable with what you’re doing, set aside some time every single day or week where you can work on building up your skillset as a graphic designer.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Don’t get too comfortable.

I know this may sound like a strange thing to say, but it’s something that I’ve learned over the years and is a reminder for myself as well. As you’re building your freelance business, don’t get too comfortable with anyone’s client or project it’s good to feel nervous about them! 

This means that if they cancel a job on you at the last minute (and believe me, they will), don’t panic and think that everyone hates you or that there’s something wrong with your work. 

(Remember: even if they do hate your work, it doesn’t mean anything.) Instead of worrying about what others think about your skills, focus on improving those skills further by taking more classes or honing what knowledge base you already have.

Don’t feel bad about changing jobs either; we all need a change sometimes! Although I loved working for my old company and had great relationships there (and still do), I knew when it was time to leave so I could pursue other opportunities while still keeping my day job income steady during the transition period. 

It’s up to each person how long they want their “transition period” to last before making full-time freelancing their primary source of income but trust me: leaving an established position can be scary at first because everything feels uncertain but once again, remember not to worry too much because things always work out one way or another in life!

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It’s Possible To Work Full-Time And Freelance At The Same Time!

You can work full-time and freelance at the same time but it’s not easy. So, if you do want to do this, then here are some tips that will help you make it happen:

Be Organized

Organizing yourself as much as possible is essential in making sure that your two jobs don’t overlap or interfere with each other too much. Keep track of your time spent on each job and try to manage both equally so that neither suffers because of the other.

Be Motivated

This isn’t something I would have had without passion for my work I was so excited about working from home and being able to set my hours (and paychecks) that I worked around the clock! Even though this made me exhausted at times, it also made me productive and efficient when I needed to be!

Be Confident In Yourself And Your Abilities

There will always be someone who thinks what you do isn’t good enough – ignore them because they’re wrong 🙂

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to dive deeper into the world of freelance graphic design:

The Journey of a Freelance Designer: Work, Lifestyle, and Beyond

Explore the personal journey of a freelance designer, delving into the work, lifestyle, challenges, and rewards of the profession.

How I Quit My Job and Became a Freelance Graphic Designer

Gain insights from a professional who shares their experience of transitioning from traditional employment to freelance graphic design.

Becoming a Full-time Freelancer: A Comprehensive Guide

This guide offers comprehensive advice on making the transition from part-time freelancing to a full-time freelance graphic design career.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Did It Take To Transition From Full-Time To Freelance?

It took me 1 year and 6 months to fully transition into being a freelancer, but I did start slowly by doing freelance work on the side while still working full-time to get comfortable with the process of pitching and selling my services as well dealing with clients consistently. 

As soon as I was ready, though, I was completely 100% committed to going all-in on becoming a graphic designer for hire.

How Did You Negotiate Your First Freelance Project?

This will vary depending on your skillset, experience (or lack thereof), and what kind of business model you’re trying out for yourself at any given time; 

However, if you have an established client base (or even just one or two people who are willing to give their trust) then this can be an incredibly useful tool when negotiating contracts: “I’ll do X number of hours per week at Y rate.” 

It’s much easier for someone else to agree upon something they already know than try finding something new every single time they reach out!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Get Started?

That depends on what your current situation is, but the first step is always finding work and making money. Don’t worry about loving what you do yet; it will come in time. To start, look for freelance graphic designer jobs on Craigslist or Upwork. 

Remember: Don’t be afraid to charge less than other designers! You don’t know how valuable your skills are until someone pays for them and if you demand too much from the beginning, then no one will pay that amount of money at all.

How Can I Make Sure My Clients Are Happy With My Work?

It’s easy to forget that there is a real human being on the other end of this transaction someone who needs something very specific done, and who may not have had any previous experience with freelancers before coming across your page or hiring manager’s referral link (which means they could be skeptical). 

Make sure they feel comfortable working with you by checking in regularly throughout each project, sending progress updates whenever possible (but not every day!), and responding quickly when they send messages asking questions or requesting changes.* 

Also, make sure that everyone involved understands what kind of content should go where within their website pages before starting any work so there aren’t any surprises later down the line when things don’t fit together quite right due to different styles used between sections.*

What Does Being A Freelancer Mean? 

What does “freelance” mean exactly? What does being self-employed mean? Are these things synonymous terms for independent contractors/consultants/”contractor/consultant”? These words get thrown around fairly often nowadays so let’s talk about them more specifically so we understand their meanings better!

How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Quit My Job And Become A Freelancer?

This is a very common question. And the answer is that it depends on your situation. If you’re still new at freelancing, then it might not be the right time. But if your finances are in order and you’ve learned enough about running a business, then consider leaping!

How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Become A Freelancer?

For starters, take an honest look at your skill set and interests what kinds of projects would make you happy? What kind of work would keep your spirits up instead of feeling overwhelmed with stress all day long? 

Also, remember that this isn’t just about jumping into the freelance design without any planning (that’s how most people fail). It’s also important that before making any decisions about quitting full-time employment or starting as a freelance designer, there are some things worth considering carefully first.”


I hope that my story gives you a little more confidence in your ability to make the jump. You’ll never feel 100% ready, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. The best part of being a freelancer is that you can set the terms of your journey and make the rules as you go along! Don’t be afraid to get out there.

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