How To Start Freelance Graphic Design & Earn A Good Living

Freelance graphic design can be a very lucrative and rewarding career path. It often allows designers to make more money than they would in an agency or office, and it gives them the freedom to work on their own terms. 

However, as with most freelance careers, it also comes with its share of challenges. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about starting a successful freelance graphic design business. 

How to get started, build your client base, manage your finances effectively, and make sure that you’re earning a good living while doing what you love.

How to Make Money as a Freelance Graphic Designer
Key Takeaways
1. Embrace your passion for graphic design.
2. Build a strong and versatile design portfolio.
3. Hone your skills with continuous learning.
4. Establish a professional online presence.
5. Network within the design community.
6. Determine your freelance rates strategically.
7. Deliver exceptional client service.
8. Manage finances effectively for stability.
9. Prioritize time management and project deadlines.
10. Stay persistent and adaptable for success.

1. Find Your Niche

Find something you are passionate about: If you can’t stand the subject matter, it will show in your work.

Find a niche that you can be the best at: Nobody likes to hire an amateur, so practice up and learn everything there is to know about your niche.

Find a niche that you can make money from: Not every client has deep pockets and they aren’t willing to pay high prices just because they see how talented you are (yet).

Find a niche that makes sense for your skillset: You don’t want to spend all of your time learning things outside of what was part of your original training or education just because someone wants it done cheaply or quickly when there are no guarantees of quality. 

Especially if this means selling yourself short by taking on projects outside of what will make money now while sacrificing long-term success with clients who do value quality over quantity.

If you’re aspiring to become a freelance graphic designer, follow these 10 essential steps to pave your path towards success in the design industry.

2. Build A Portfolio Website

If you’re going to be a freelancer, you’ll need a website. It can be as simple as using a free website builder and hosting service.

There are many options for creating your website, but here are the most popular:

Use a free website builder and hosting services like WordPress or Weebly. You will have access to many themes that let you customize your site’s look and feel in minutes, without writing any code yourself (but if you want to get into coding, later on, all the better). 

These sites offer free domain names for life if you sign up for their premium plans (which range from $4-$8 per month).

Use Squarespace or Wix instead of WordPress or Weebly because their templates are beautiful and they cost money! 

However, they also give great customer support through phone calls and live chat sessions with experts who can help answer any questions about using these apps on your computer screen in real-time right away without having to wait on hold first which makes them better than trying

3. Make Up Some Business Cards

Business cards are an important part of your business. They’re how people will remember you and contact you again, so they need to be on-brand and professional. While it is possible to buy business cards online, I recommend making your own at home. 

You’ll have total control over the design and can print as many as needed without having to worry about paying for them or shipping time.

If you want high-quality business cards, make sure that your printer can handle card stock (typically 80lb or 100lb) with ease! If not, look into getting a new printer before starting this step.

It’s worth mentioning that printing something larger than the standard size will cost more money per sheet (or square foot). So if you want bigger cards than 4 x 2 inches (the size most freelancers go with), then expect to pay extra for them!

When you’re unsure about how to hire a freelance designer, our guide on hiring freelancers with zero clue will help you navigate the process and find the right creative professional for your project.

4. Check Out Your Competition

Now that you know what your competition is charging, it’s time to see how they’re doing it.

At this point, you can start checking out the competition in your industry and see what they’re offering. Here are some things to look for:

What are their rates? How do those compare with your own? If they’re higher than yours, why is that? Are they doing anything different from you that’s worth paying extra for?

What kinds of clients does this freelancer work with most often (e.g., local businesses vs large corporations)? Who is their ideal client and why does that matter for pricing strategy decisions? 

Does this freelancer have a niche area where he/she specializes in certain types of design projects more often than others and if so, why would clients request those types over others (e.g., price point)?

5. Set Yourself Up For Success And Failure

Your success in freelance graphic design depends on your ability to handle both success and failure. As a freelancer, you’ll have to deal with clients who are worried about the quality of their work and clients who are confident about their work but can’t pay you what they promised. You must be able to handle both situations gracefully.

You need to be prepared for everything that could go wrong when starting your freelance graphic design business but this doesn’t just mean having an emergency fund and insurance policies in place; it also means knowing how much money you need every month as a living wage while still keeping some room in case things get tough. 

This is where setting up proper financial accounts comes into play: if you have an emergency fund ready, then at least one thing won’t come back around again as another crisis! 

It’s okay if it happens once or twice (and it will), but when it happens over and over again without respite, then something has gone very wrong somewhere along the line–and there’s no one else responsible for fixing those mistakes except yourself!

6. Keep Learning

Good design is a never-ending process of learning, improving, and refining. As soon as you think that you know everything about graphic design and how to do it well, there will be something new that will come up and show you what you don’t know.

If you want to keep your skills fresh and relevant in the industry, then keep learning by:

Keeping up with the latest trends in design (check out this list)

Learning from others’ work – either by seeing examples online or in person at conferences/meetups/workshops

Learn from your mistakes – look back over your past projects and identify parts of them that could have been done better or differently. 

Think about how they would have turned out if they’d been done differently so that next time around these lessons are learned before even starting rather than after making the same mistake yourself again!

Are you considering a career in design but have misconceptions about working for an agency? Check out the top 15 misconceptions to gain insights into agency life and make informed decisions about your design journey.

7. Meet Other Freelancers And Get A Mentor

If you want to be the best freelancer you can be, it’s important to meet other freelancers. Freelancing is a lot of work, but it also means that you have less oversight from your bosses and can work independently on tasks without having to wait for the approval. 

You won’t have as much time for socializing as you did in an office setting where everyone works on the same floor or department and interacts regularly.

With that being said, meeting others in your industry will help you grow as a professional and make connections with people who might need your services someday. 

8. Find Clients And Market Yourself

Now that you have a portfolio, it’s time to get your name out there. There are many ways to do this:

Use social media. Post pictures of your work on Instagram and Facebook, then share them in relevant groups where people who would be interested in hiring you may see them.

Connect with potential clients on LinkedIn and Twitter, but don’t spam them! You should only reach out if the client has posted something about their business or needs for graphic designers in general then offer yourself as an expert resource for their needs.

Learn what your target market is looking for by following influencers who post about their day-to-day life or interests you can even use hashtags related to these topics so potential clients can easily find you!

9. Create A Workflow That Suits You

Creating a workflow that suits you is one of the most important steps to freelancing. A workflow is a set of rules, guidelines, or procedures that help you perform tasks in an organized way. 

These will be different for each person depending on how they prefer to work and what tools they use. For example, one designer might prefer to do all their web design in Adobe Fireworks and then move it over into Photoshop afterward whereas another designer might jump right into creating mockups inside of Sketch or Affinity Designer. 

The one thing they both have in common though is that they’ve already decided which software they’re going to use before starting any project files so there’s no back and forth between programs during this process.

There are many types of workflows out there including linear (one task at a time), parallel (doing several things at once), adaptive (changing based on feedback), and hybrid (mixing various styles). Each type has its benefits and drawbacks so deciding which works best for your needs is important before starting any new projects!

10. Manage Your Clients Effectively, And Don’t Be Afraid To Fire Them

As you grow your business, be prepared to fire clients who don’t respect your time or money. You’ll also have to decide if it is worth the headache of working with someone who doesn’t pay on time. 

There are plenty of freelancers out there that will wait for their paychecks before paying for anything so when you do finally get paid, it feels like a waste anyway because it was used to cover costs from earlier in the month.

Similarly, some clients might not be able to keep up with their schedule or deadlines which can put a strain on your schedule as well as stress out other clients who expect quality work from you and aren’t going to want delays on their projects due to late payment or missed deadlines by other designers/developers/etc… 

And finally, some people just don’t respect how much time goes into each part of an assignment…so at some point eventually, they’ll start taking advantage of one thing or another which would make me feel like “why am I doing this?”

Curious about how to kickstart your design career? Our article featuring tips from top designers offers valuable advice and guidance from experienced professionals in the field.

11. Use Tools To Help Your Business Succeed

Once you have a client, the next step is to keep track of them. This is where tools like CRM (customer relationship management) and invoicing software come in handy. 

A CRM can help you organize the information about your clients so that it’s easy for you to find who needs what when it comes time for them to pay their bills. 

You can also use this tool as an archive for previous projects that were completed by your business, so if someone wants to see samples of your work or references from past clients, all they need do is look up the relevant information on the CRM platform.

Another useful tool for any creative freelancer is calendar software; but rather than just keeping track of events like meetings or birthdays, we mean calendars designed specifically with freelancers in mind, for example, Trello or Asana are great options here! 

These kinds of programs allow us not only ensure we don’t miss deadlines but also help us stay organized while juggling multiple tasks at once. 

Finally, there are project management systems such as Basecamp which streamline how we communicate with our clients throughout each stage of any given project; this includes everything from discussions about timelines and content through delivery via e-mail attachments right down until payment requests come through later down the road.”

12. Stay On Top Of The Latest Developments In Graphic Design Technology And Software.

To keep up with the latest developments in graphic design and technology, you will need to stay on top of the trends. These days, new software is being released constantly. There are also lots of tools that allow you to do things that were previously impossible or too expensive for most people.

Some examples of this include Photoshop plugins (small programs that let you do more with Photoshop), vector shapes (instead of rasterized images), PSDs (photoshop documents), and AI files (Adobe Illustrator files).

To learn about all these new developments, check out blogs like Adobe’s “Creative Cloud Blog” or Smashing Magazine’s “The Freelancer’s Guide To Getting Started With Web Design And Development.”

It Is Helpful To Start With Freelancing Now!

Now is a great time to start freelancing. It’s always good to get a little experience before you jump into this thing full-time. Here are some of the reasons why it helps to start with freelance work:

To get a feel for the work – You can learn more about what your skills and interests are, which will help you find your niche and make sure that you’re happy doing what you do.

To get a feel for what clients want – You’ll also be able to figure out who would hire someone like you and how much they pay for their designs. This information is useful when it comes time to raise rates later on in your career (or when negotiating with prospective employers).

To get a feel for what clients don’t want – Sometimes people will come up with ideas that appear original but aren’t unique or interesting enough in practice; knowing how other designers react positively or negatively towards certain concepts can help shape future choices in direction/style/etc.

Freelance design comes with its unique challenges. Discover the 11 untold truths about freelance design that will prepare you for the realities of the industry and help you thrive as a creative freelancer.


If you’re a graphic designer, getting started in freelance work can seem daunting. However, with the right resources and skills, you can be on your way to starting a great career as a freelancer. 

As we covered above, it’s important to have some experience under your belt before making the jump into full-time freelancing; for most people, this means finding an internship or entry-level job first. 

Once you feel comfortable enough with your skills and portfolio (and have done some preliminary research), then it’s time to start pitching clients by networking online or in person, creating an online presence through social media accounts or personal websites/blogs that showcase your work, and setting up freelance contracts. 

It may take time for things to take off but don’t get discouraged! As long as you keep putting yourself out there and doing quality work for clients that come along, eventually, more opportunities will arise. After all, what better way is there to learn more about how to sell yourself than by actually selling yourself?

Further Reading

For more insights and information on becoming a successful freelance graphic designer, check out these resources:

WaveApps: A Guide to Freelancing as a Graphic Designer
Discover tips and strategies to thrive as a freelance graphic designer, from managing finances to building a strong client base.

Shillington Education: How to Become a Graphic Design Freelancer
Learn about the steps you can take to transition into a rewarding career as a graphic design freelancer, from honing your skills to marketing your services effectively.

Chegg India: A Guide to Being a Successful Freelance Graphic Designer
Explore practical advice and insights on becoming a successful freelance graphic designer in the dynamic online marketplace.


What Are The Best Tools For Graphic Design?

To be a good graphic designer, it’s important to use the right tools. In this section, I will give you some recommendations on the software and hardware that you should use for your freelance work.

What Is Some Advice About Starting My Own Freelance Business?

Starting a new business can be tricky, but if you have learned from other successful businesses and applied those principles to your project then I do not doubt that it will work out well for you! Here are some tips:

Find a niche market online where there is demand for your services. There are many places where people post their needs including Upwork and Craigslist (but also local newspapers).

Don’t forget about marketing yourself as an expert in this particular field! Make sure that when someone searches Google they see what they need because nobody else has been doing their job before now…or at least not as well as we did so far 🙂

What Is The Best Way To Start Freelancing?

The best way to start freelancing is by creating a portfolio. A portfolio is usually a set of your work that you can show clients, who may want to hire you for their projects. You should include all sorts of different types of designs, from logos and business cards to websites and social media graphics.

How Do You Start Freelancing?

Once you have created a portfolio, it’s time to get started! You can offer your services on sites like Fiverr or Upwork which are great places for beginners because they allow them to test out their skills as well as make money quickly without any commitments yet (if someone wants something more extensive than what’s offered on these sites). 

Otherwise, simply offer your services via word-of-mouth or emails with friends who might be interested in receiving some graphic design help from people just starting like yourself!

How Do You Find Clients?

Check out our blog post on how to get started freelancing as a graphic designer. You can also check out our podcast episodes on the topic of finding clients and marketing yourself.

How Do You Make Sure You Get Paid?

When first starting, it’s a good idea to take on small jobs for free or at a very low cost to build up your portfolio and gain experience. Once you have built up your portfolio with both experience and quality work, then it’s time to start charging more for your services.

If someone hires you as a client but doesn’t pay (or doesn’t show any intention of paying), don’t feel bad about cutting ties with them! There are plenty more fish in the sea.* What if they ask me for my best work without paying anything upfront? Should I give it away? 

No! Make them pay something upfront before being able to access this “best” stuff.* If they don’t have any money right now but promise future payment when their business gets better…how do I know if that will ever happen? 

This one is tricky because no one knows what will happen tomorrow but don’t give away what makes money today just because someone promises something later down the road.* What if their project takes longer than expected or goes off course from what was originally agreed upon? 

The most important thing here is communication between client and designer make sure there is open dialogue about how long things may take so that both parties are prepared for any changes that may occur during production/delivery.* 

Will my clients always be happy with my work no matter what happens along the way? Nope! But if there isn’t some level of frustration due to unforeseen difficulties arising during collaborative projects where all parties involved are invested equally into making things work.

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