How To Break Into The Freelance Graphic Design Industry

Freelance graphic design is a great career choice: you get to flex your creative muscles, set your own rates, and work from anywhere in the world. But how do you make freelance design a reality? Here are 5 ways to break into the industry:

How To Start Your Freelance Graphic Design Career – YouTube
Research the Industry Trends
Build a Strong Portfolio
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition
Network and Connect with Peers
Start Small and Gain Experience
Set Clear Pricing and Terms
Establish a Professional Online Presence
Market Yourself Effectively
Stay Updated with Tools and Techniques
Continuously Improve and Learn
Be Patient and Persistent
Provide Exceptional Client Service

Set Yourself Some Goals

Set yourself some goals: When you’re just starting, it can be difficult to know what you want from your freelance career. And if there’s no goal in place, then how will you know when you’ve achieved it? 

Setting goals is the first step toward getting where you want to be and is a good way to measure your progress along the way.

Set yourself some targets: Once those goals are in place, they need targets specific aims that help narrow down what exactly needs to be done for them to become reality. These may include things like “I’ll make $100 by next month” or “I’ll have my portfolio ready by next week.”

Set yourself some deadlines: As well as setting targets, it’s also important that they have deadlines attached so that they’re achievable within a reasonable amount of time (this will allow room for error). 

For example, if your target is “I’ll earn $100 by next month,” this means every Thursday at 6 pm sharp until then counts as one day toward achieving this goal (and therefore one-day closer).

Deciding to venture into the world of freelance design takes careful consideration and planning. Learn how I decided to become a freelance designer and the steps I took to make this career choice.

Develop A Portfolio

The first and most important thing you need to do to break into freelance graphic design is to develop a portfolio. Your portfolio is your calling card, and it’s the first item prospective clients will see when they are trying to find designers for their projects. 

It doesn’t matter if you have been working in another field or industry before moving into freelance graphic design: everyone needs one!

You’ll want your portfolio website to be easy for potential clients to access from anywhere. If a person wants to contact you about hiring you for their project, there should be no reason why they can’t just drop by and take a look at your work without having an appointment or being introduced by someone else (maybe even someone who isn’t trustworthy).

Establish A Social Media Presence.

To be successful in this industry, you need to first have a strong online presence. This means building a website and using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for promotion purposes. 

You must use your website as a tool for building relationships with potential clients, getting feedback on your work and learning from other designers in the field as well as finding inspiration. 

You should also make sure that you are taking advantage of all available social media platforms; Instagram is great for visual content while Pinterest is perfect if you’re looking to target women demographics who tend not to use Twitter or Facebook very often (and therefore won’t see many ads).

Finally, don’t forget about LinkedIn! A lot of small businesses use this platform so it could prove invaluable when reaching out directly via email or phone call rather than wanting an immediate response via text message or tweet reply (which may not happen at all).

If you’re aspiring to become a freelance graphic designer, you’re on the right track. Discover a comprehensive guide on how to become a freelance graphic designer in 10 steps, covering everything from honing your skills to finding clients.

Be Comfortable With Self-Promotion

You’re going to need to be comfortable with self-promotion. You’ll have to be an expert at it. If you’re not already well known in your industry or if you don’t already have a large following across social media platforms and your website, then consider this your first objective.

Promote yourself through social media. This means building a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn as well as any other sites that are relevant to your industry (i.e., Behance).

Promote your work on Behance and similar sites like Dribbble and Creative Market where others can view it for free!

Promote services that showcase what makes you unique as a designer or designer/developer duo (if applicable). For example: “I specialize in logo design; website creation from scratch or templates; branding identity packages; business cards” etcetera.”

Look For People Who Need Your Style Of Work

As the adage goes, you can’t make something for everyone. A common mistake of freelancers is trying to be all things to all people.

When you’re starting as a designer, it’s important to focus on what you do best and how that can be applied in various ways. If you’re good at designing icons, then focus on creating icon sets and templates for other designers to use in their work. If you’re great at making memes but not so hot on marketing materials or logos, find clients who need those services and leave the marketing materials for someone else (or start by doing contract work for them).

The easiest way to find these kinds of clients is by looking at what’s currently selling well online: if one particular style or product has been selling like crazy lately, there’s probably a reason why and that reason might be because it matches with your skill set perfectly!

Work Hard To Get Referrals From Existing Clients

There are a variety of ways to get referrals from existing clients. You could ask them directly, but sometimes this can feel awkward or difficult as your client has probably never thought about referring you before.

Another way is to simply work hard on the project and make it great. When your clients are happy with what they have received, they will be more likely to recommend you to others in their network. They may even offer to pass along the business card or brochure that you gave them when starting on the project!

Whatever method works best for you, remember: don’t be afraid to ask! Even if it doesn’t lead directly into another gig right away, keeping track of all of these contacts will help keep things rolling along down the road when opportunities begin coming up again (and trust me they will).

Considering a career as a freelance graphic designer? Explore the reasons why it’s worth looking into with insights in the article on why you should consider a freelance graphic design career.

Get Some Professional Experience Under Your Belt

You want to get some experience under your belt before you begin freelancing. The best way to do this is by working for a company: if you have an internship, then use it! It will look great on your resume and the company will see that you’re a hard worker. 

If there aren’t any internships available at a company in your area, try working for a non-profit or volunteering with them. This will give you experience working for someone who cares about something other than money and it shows that you care about other people as well.

If no jobs are available for interns or volunteers or if those positions don’t exist then look into getting experience at a design agency instead of just going straight into freelancing from home (unless of course this is what makes sense financially). 

This can be done by finding an agency where they need help designing their website headers or logos or any other projects they might be working on in-house but don’t have enough time/money/people power available to complete without additional assistance from outside sources such as yourself!

Afterward comes self-employment: once again starting small can go both ways depending on how long-term goals are being planned out here since oftentimes starting small means less overhead costs which could lead down different paths than those who started big right away with high overhead costs.”

Consider What Kind Of Freelancing You Want To Do

Once you’ve decided what kind of freelancing you want to do, the next step is to figure out how much money you can make in that area. If you want to be a freelance graphic designer and make as much money as possible, then you need to consider which industries are paying the most.

You probably know that there are many different types of graphic designers: product designers, web designers, print designers, and more, and each type of graphic designer can work on very different projects for very different clients.

This means that some areas pay better than others; for example, web design pays less than print design because there is no physical product being made by the designer himself (the client has an existing team who will create the actual website).

Choose Your Pricing Policy Carefully.

Choosing a pricing strategy can be one of the most difficult decisions to make when you’re starting. The most common mistake is to undercut your competition by too much, which will likely result in freelance work that doesn’t pay enough to cover your costs of doing business. 

It’s important to look at other designers who are working on similar projects in your area and compare their rates, but this should only be done after deciding on an hourly rate for yourself. 

The second mistake is being too competitive; if you charge less than everyone else does, clients will come back with lower budgets next time around, and then where does that leave you? 

You can also make things worse by charging too much money (and giving them sticker shock) or not having any flexibility at all with scheduling deadlines or revisions (again: sticker shock).

Lastly, there’s being overly inflexible when setting deadlines because even though it might get you more work initially (because no one wants a client who changes their mind constantly), it could also give some clients the impression that they have more control over projects than they do and cause future problems down the road because once again: 

There’s no such thing as free lunch

Misconceptions can cloud the perception of working in the design industry. To get a clearer picture, dive into the details about the top 15 misconceptions about working for a design agency and debunk myths about agency work.

Pay Attention To Contracts And Invoices.

One of the best ways to ensure that you receive payment for your work is to pay attention to contracts and invoices. As a freelancer, you should always read the contract before signing it. 

Likewise, you should never sign anything without reading it first. After all, no one wants to be caught in legal trouble over something they didn’t understand or care about at the time they signed it!

The same goes for invoices; always get one in writing before agreeing to do any work. You want proof that someone owes you money and not just an invoice saying they owe some vague amount of money sometime soon (which could be construed as an open-ended promise). 

Also, make sure that these invoices include detailed information about what kind of services were provided and how much was paid, and make sure both parties agree on these details before sending out any paperwork!

Research More Experienced Freelancers.

Once you’ve done your research on the freelance graphic design industry, it’s time to start looking at more experienced freelancers. The best way to do this is by looking at their portfolios and reviews.

Look at their work: The more samples of someone’s previous projects they have in their portfolio, the better. If they only have one or two samples of work and it’s not very good, then move on! 

You don’t want to be working with someone who isn’t very experienced in what they do yet and won’t be able to deliver quality results on projects that pay well.

Look at the clients they have worked with: If a freelancer has worked with big brands like Nike or Coca-Cola in the past, the chances are that person has some serious skills under their belt when it comes down to making money online via freelance gigs such as this one! 

In general though just make sure these companies are reputable before investing too much time into researching them individually though because sometimes companies can be fakes so just use common sense when going through an application process like this one 🙂


Networking is one of the most important skills in this industry. You can’t make it without connections, and you won’t get any connections if you don’t network. Networking can be hard for some people, but it’s something that can be learned and improved over time. 

You don’t have to go around introducing yourself to every person at a party just because they’re there; instead, you should find someone at the party who knows someone else from your industry or city and ask them to introduce you.

If networking isn’t your strong suit now, that’s okay just start small with friends and family! Try setting up meetings where everyone involved has something in common. 

Maybe all of them are designers working on their projects as well as freelancing jobs (so they’re all familiar with what freelancing is like) or maybe they’re all designers looking for new opportunities (but might not know how). 

Maybe even try joining an online group centered around design topics there are tons out there!

Use The Right Business Tools.

As a freelancer, you need to have the right tools in place to stay organized and productive. For example, using a CRM like HubSpot helps you keep track of clients and projects better than any spreadsheet could. 

Similarly, project management apps like Trello or Asana can help you organize your workflow and keep track of what needs doing. Another popular app for this is Toggl or Harvest both allow users to track their time so they know exactly how many hours they worked each day on which project.

Finally, invoice software makes life easier when it comes time to send out invoices after completing a job. Many freelancers use FreshBooks but there are plenty more options out there (and we’ve got some more tips on how to find invoicing software here).

Starting a design career can be challenging, but learning from the experiences of top designers can provide invaluable insights. Gain inspiration and advice from seasoned professionals in the post on the secrets to starting a design career: tips from top designers.

Make Use Of Online Video Tutorials.

Use online video tutorials to learn new skills. There are a ton of great websites out there that have tutorial videos on them. For instance, Skillshare has several thousand video tutorials that you can watch and learn from.

Use online video tutorials to refresh your skillset. This could be something as simple as watching a couple of YouTube videos about how to use Photoshop or InDesign, or it could be more complex like going through an entire class on a new software program like Illustrator CC (which is what I did). 

Freelancers in this industry need to keep up with the latest trends in design so that they’re always able to provide their clients with quality work!

Learn new software programs or techniques from online video tutorials or even better yet: take an online course through one of these services such as Lynda or CreativeLive!

With These Tips, You Can Become Successful At Freelance Graphic Design

Set Goals For Yourself

If you’re going to make it in the freelance graphic design industry, you’ll need to set some realistic goals for yourself. 

You can do this by taking stock of what you have and what you want to achieve, and then creating a plan of action that will get you from point A (wherever your current skill level is) to point B (the skills level that will allow for success).

Build A Portfolio

Your portfolio is one of the most important things when it comes to getting hired as a graphic designer on freelancing sites such as Upwork or Fiverr because it’s an easy way for potential employers to see your work and decide whether they think they’d like working with/for you or not. 

To build an awesome portfolio full of pieces that show off all different types of design styles and don’t forget to keep adding new pieces regularly!

Get Active On Social Media! 

Social media is an excellent resource if used correctly; it allows users instant access across multiple platforms where anyone could potentially find out about the good news travels fast! Always use hashtags when tweeting so people can easily find information about topics related specifically to graphic design jobs online via Twitter search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Keep track of which hashtags are being used most frequently so when someone searches those words within Twitter itself there’ll be more chances of finding relevant posts which means more chances of landing gigs! 

Don’t forget though: just because something works well doesn’t mean using the same strategy every single time either – try different approaches until finding the formula that most effective works best…


Good luck with your freelance career! It’s a great way to build your creative chops and make some extra money on the side. Start small, but start now. The best time to get started was yesterday, so today is the next best thing!

To summarize, I have three takeaways from this activity:

Using the concept that you are writing for a friend can help me write in a more relatable tone. It also made things easier because I knew what kind of relationship our “friend” had with us which helps to understand his/her needs and wants in how we explain certain concepts. 

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that can provide further insights into the world of freelance graphic design:

Dribbble’s Freelance Designing Resources

Discover a collection of resources, tips, and inspiration for freelance designers on Dribbble’s platform.

How to Become a Graphic Design Freelancer

Learn essential steps and strategies to kickstart your journey as a successful graphic design freelancer.

Wave’s Guide for Freelance Graphic Designers

Explore practical advice, tools, and financial tips tailored for freelance graphic designers from Wave.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Way To Get Started?

Finding clients is the key to becoming a successful freelance graphic designer. The best place to start looking for work is online and offline through friends, family, colleagues, and past employers.

If you don’t know anyone personally in the industry yet, then there are plenty of websites where you can post your services. Sites like Upwork or Freelancer are great platforms for finding new clients (just make sure that you read their terms of service before signing up).

How Do I Find Clients?

You must have a solid portfolio when trying to attract new clients. You should be prepared with samples of your work so potential customers can see what type of designs you produce as well as examples of previous projects that were completed by using similar styles/colors/fonts etcetera.) 

You should also take into consideration how much time each piece took over its development process before deciding on its final price point because this will help with determining whether or not it’s worth selling at all costs if it hasn’t been sold yet!

How Do I Know If I Am Charging Too Much?

How do I get clients?

Be sure to be diverse in your portfolio. If you’re a web designer, create a site that showcases your best work and links it to past projects. If you’re a logo designer, include some of the logos you’ve designed in the past. 

This will help potential clients see what kind of designs appeal to them so they can get an idea of what sort of look they want out of their next project.

Where Can I Find Clients?

There are several places where freelancers like yourself can post their work for others to see: Behance (for designers), PeoplePerHour (for writers), Upwork (for general freelancers) and Craigslist are just some examples that come straight off top mind! 

It’s important not only to have an account on these sites but also actively use them by posting new content regularly this isn’t only because it helps build up your portfolio but also creates more opportunities for people looking at your profile who might want something done by someone with experience working on similar projects before! 

It’s also useful because many times these platforms offer free tools such as resume builders or Google forms templates which make sending resumes easy peasy lemon squeezy!

What Are The Best Tools To Use?

There are a lot of great programs out there, but some graphic designers swear by Photoshop and Illustrator. The main thing is to find what works for you and stick with it. If a program isn’t working for you, try something else. 

Don’t get frustrated! And make sure to always have backups of your work on multiple devices or in the cloud so that if anything happens (like losing all your files), you’re covered.

How Do I Find Clients?

You can reach potential clients through freelance job boards like Upwork or Fiverr, or social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Instagram. You can also post flyers around town this is one way that many designers break into the field! 

Whatever method works best for you will be different from how another person finds business; don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals either though since those tend to be very helpful in building up clientele quickly too!

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