How I Went From Working Full Time To Freelance Graphic Design

It’s difficult to think about leaving a steady paycheck, especially in today’s uncertain economy. But for me, the freedom and flexibility of freelancing were too attractive to pass up. So I quit my job as a graphic designer at a marketing agency and made the leap into the freelance world. 

To be transparent, I had no idea what I was doing or even how to get started. This was completely new territory! Luckily, after four months of trial and error (and many late nights), I figured out a decent system that would help me succeed. Here are some of my tips for making it work:

If you’re thinking about quitting your day job to pursue a career freelance, then this is for you.

The first thing is to realize that freelance work is a lot of work. If you’re ready and willing to do the work, then go for it! It’s a great way to get started with freelance work while still holding down your day job and earning some extra cash on the side.

But don’t just quit your day job because that’s what everyone else is doing, or because they told you how easy it will be. Make sure it’s right for you, because if not…

How to Go from Full Time Job to Freelance Designer – YouTube
Transitioning from a traditional job to freelancing requires careful planning and consideration.
Embrace the challenges and uncertainties of freelancing, using them as opportunities for growth.
Building a strong portfolio and online presence is essential for attracting freelance clients.
Effective time management and self-discipline are crucial to maintaining a successful freelance career.
Networking and building relationships within the industry can lead to valuable opportunities.

1. Find Your Confidence

You have to believe in yourself, and I’m not talking about the kind of confidence that comes from knowing that you can do a job well. I’m talking about the kind of confidence that lets you approach someone, despite feeling like an idiot when they reject your work or idea, because deep down inside you know they’re wrong and it’ll be fine if they just give it a chance.

I started doing freelance design because I needed more money than my full-time job was offering me; however, this wasn’t enough for me to take action on my plan ​I still had doubts about whether or not I would succeed in freelancing or even find work at all!

Building a successful career in freelance graphic design requires a solid foundation. Discover the essential steps in our guide on how to become a freelance graphic designer in 10 steps and set yourself on the path to creative independence.

2. Pick Your Specialization And Expertise

Being a freelancer means that you’re your boss. It also means that you have 100% control over how much money you make and what kind of work you do, but it can be overwhelming to start on your own.

The first step is picking one or two services to focus on, like logo design or letterhead creation. Once you’ve done that, start making contacts now so when the time comes for clients to hire someone, they’ll know who to call! Next up: create your website (here’s a guide if needed), figure out what makes you happy and set your prices accordingly!. 

Lastly, don’t wait until everything is perfect before jumping into full-time freelance work; mistakes happen all the time don’t let them keep holding back from living life on YOUR terms!

3. Make Sure You Have Enough Money Saved Up To Live Comfortably

If you’re going to temporarily leave a full-time job, you need to be confident that your savings will support you. You might want to consider making more money than you typically do now so that when you go freelance, the transition isn’t as difficult.

To create this cushion of savings, think about what the bare minimum living expenses would be for your new life as a freelancer:

  • Rent or mortgage payment (or rent plus utilities if renting)
  • Car payment if applicable
  • Food budget every month (this includes groceries and meals out)
  • Travel expenses (if necessary)

Gaining clients and achieving success as a freelance graphic designer involves a strategic approach. Explore the insights shared in The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Graphic Design Clients Success to master the art of client interaction and project management.

4. Start Making Contacts Now!


Join professional associations. You’ll be able to make connections with other professionals, while also learning about what they do and the challenges they face.

Attend industry conferences. These are great opportunities to network with other designers, learn about the latest trends in design, and make connections that could yield future work opportunities for yourself.

Get involved on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn (or whatever other platforms you like), where you can connect with people who may have an interest in your services or could create a referral lead for you as time goes on. 

In general, don’t be afraid to ask for help from anyone they may feel awkward at first but will most likely appreciate being asked because it shows them that their expertise is valuable enough for you to want it!

5. Create Your Portfolio/Website/Social Media Priority!

Make sure you have a good portfolio. You need to showcase what you can do and how fast (or slow) you can do it. You want to be able to show prospective clients awesome examples of your work and make it easy for them to contact you with questions or requests. 

A good place I recommend starting with is Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook (for personal branding). Other options include Twitter and LinkedIn if they fit into the scope of services that are offered by freelancers like myself.

Get yourself on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but make sure those accounts don’t take up too much time because they may distract you from doing actual freelance work!

Also, create some profiles on other sites such as Behance & Dribbble – these are great places where designers can share their latest projects! 

They’re also useful if someone else wants more information about who made something before contacting them directly; nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out which person did something so just make sure all this info is readily accessible somewhere online 🙂

Unsure about how to select the right freelance designer for your project? Learn valuable tips in our article on how to hire a freelance designer when you have zero clue and make informed decisions when bringing creative professionals on board.

6. Figure Out What Makes You Happy And Set Your Priced Accordingly!

Once you’ve gone through the process of setting up a freelance business and have worked through the first few months, you need to figure out what makes you happy. What kind of work do you want to do? What kind of clients do you want to work with? How much money do you want to make?

You can only answer these questions by understanding your market and what makes other people succeed in it. Research the industry, its trends, and how they affect pricing and value. 

Understand what sets you apart from your competition so that when someone is looking for a freelancer like yourself, they know exactly why they should hire YOU instead of someone else!

7. Don’t Wait Until You’ve Made All The Mistakes To Start Doing Things Right!

The most important thing to remember is that you’re not going to get it right the first time. No matter how much research and planning you do, there will be things that don’t go according to plan. 

Don’t wait until everything is perfect before starting your business you’ll never get started! The sooner you start, the more mistakes and lessons you’ll have under your belt by the time things are working smoothly.

There’s an adage: “You learn from your mistakes.” Well, this isn’t always true. You can learn from other people’s mistakes too and even better than learning from your own is learning from other people’s successes! 

If there were no one else doing what I’m trying to do now (freelance graphic design), I’d have nothing but my own experience with which to draw on for advice on how to succeed at freelancing full-time as a designer in 4 months (or less).

8. Make A List Of All The “Little” Expenses That Come Up

At this point, we’re going to make a list of all the “little” expenses that come up, such as domain names, agencies, and other things.

If you want to set up your website or get an online store then you will need a domain name. This can cost anywhere from $10 per year to hundreds. Domain names are important because they help people find their way back to your site by using search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.

The next thing on our list is agencies who handle clients for us when we are busy or not available for work (you can also use them if there are no clients available). 

Agencies charge a 15% commission on each project so when looking at potential freelancers make sure they have multiple offers from other companies before deciding if one works well with your style of work; otherwise, save time by hiring an entire company instead of just one person!

Making the leap from a traditional career to freelancing can be a life-changing decision. Dive into the story of how I decided to become a freelance designer to gain insights and inspiration from someone who took the path less traveled.

9. Write Down A Contract With Every Client Before Starting Any Project!

Writing a contract with every client is a vital part of starting your freelance business. It’s important to write a contract so that you can be protected from any possible disputes or misunderstandings between you and the client.

Include in the contract the following:

  • The name of your company
  • The name of your company’s attorney (if you have one)
  • A list of all services you will provide to the client, including anything specific to their project (such as design concepts, revisions, final files, etc.)
  • Payment terms (when they will pay) and due dates for payment (keep separate records for each client)
  • You may also want to include sections about confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements if applicable.

10. Get Yourself An Accountant! Duh! I Can’t Believe I Almost Forgot This One :-)!

Get yourself an accountant! Duh! I can’t believe I almost forgot this one 🙂 !!! You can do it yourself, but the second pair of eyes never hurts, especially when it comes to money matters!

If you do it yourself, it’s going to take time. And if you make mistakes… well… the IRS is not going to be happy about that 😉

Having your financial records in order will make things easier for both you and your accountant.

If you’re self-employed and want some tax advice on how to optimize your situation (like what type of business structure), then having an accountant is the way to go!

11. Learn How To Say No To Projects That Don’t Interest You

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started freelancing was saying “yes” to everything.

I said yes because it felt good to help someone or because I wanted the money, but doing so prevented me from completing my projects and getting paid for them. This meant that I had less time for myself, which led to burnout.

I had no idea how to prioritize until a client told me something that changed my life: “No is a complete sentence; use it frequently!”

Transitioning your freelance graphic design business into a full-time venture requires careful planning. Explore effective strategies and considerations in our article on how to turn your freelance graphic design business into a full-time job to make the most of your creative career aspirations.


In conclusion, freelancing is a rewarding career choice. The benefits of being your boss cannot be overstated, and freedom can’t be beaten. Hopefully, this post has given you some insight into my experience with changing careers and provided you with some tips to help make your transition easier.

Further Reading

Explore these additional resources to enhance your understanding of freelancing in graphic design:

Freelance Designer Work: A Deep Dive
Discover the ins and outs of the life of a freelance designer, from client interactions to project management and creative processes.

How to Become a Graphic Design Freelancer
Learn step-by-step tips and strategies to embark on your journey to becoming a successful graphic design freelancer.

Going Freelance: A Guide from Dribbble
Delve into Dribbble’s comprehensive guide that covers various aspects of transitioning to freelancing, including building a portfolio and finding clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Did You Get Your First Clients/Customers?

I started with a local business with that I had a connection. They needed their website updated, so I offered my services for free (or at least for less than what it would cost them). Once they saw how great the site looked and how easy it was to navigate, they were happy to pay me for more work in the future.

Did You Ever Feel Like Giving Up?

Yes! The first few months were really difficult and discouraging because I was working so hard but not seeing any results or money coming in even though I thought my work was great and that people should be snapping it up left and right! 

It also took longer than expected to build up buffer cash reserves so that if something went wrong financially (like being late on rent), I wouldn’t have to cancel projects or cut back on expenses unnecessarily until things got better again. 

But as long as there weren’t any major life changes (like losing my job), quitting wasn’t an option because freelancing offered something better than what my old career gave me freedom!

To help you make sense of the different types of graphic designers out there, we’ve put together a quick guide.

What Is The Difference Between A Graphic Designer And A Web Designer?

Graphic Designers design logos and branding, whereas Web Designers build websites. If you want to be a graphic designer, your portfolio must include logos because this is one of the most important parts of your portfolio.

What Is The Difference Between A Graphic Designer And A Photographer?

Photographers take pictures with their cameras while Graphic Designers use software like Adobe Illustrator to put together logos, brochures, and advertisements using images they have taken or found online (such as stock photos).

How Did You Get Started?

I’ve been a freelance graphic designer for eight years and have always had a passion for blogging, so when I found out about the blogging program at Skillshare, I decided to apply. My application was accepted and I had an amazing experience learning from some of my favorite bloggers in the industry.

What Are Your Current Goals For Your Business?

My goal is to continue building my clientele as well as grow my blog readership. It’s wonderful seeing how much my clients have grown in just four months!

What Advice Do You Have For Other People Who Want To Start Their Businesses?

If there’s something that makes you happy, then follow it even if others tell you otherwise! Your career should be something that fuels inspiration both professionally and personally; anything less than that will lead to burnout sooner rather than later. I’m so happy to see how much my clients have grown in just a few months!

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