15 Steps to Starting Your Own Freelance Graphic Design Business

For the majority of graphic designers, the day will come when you’ve had your fill of working for other people. When that time comes, you want to be prepared so that you can make a smooth transition from employee to freelance entrepreneur.

Deciding to finally take the leap and branch out on your own can be exciting! Being a freelancer means taking control of your career by becoming your own boss. But in a highly competitive environment like graphic design, how do you make sure that your leap doesn’t turn into a nosedive?

Key Sections to Note

  1. Check Your Toolkit
  2. Read Up!
  3. Join The Community
  4. Build Your Portfolio
  5. Create a Website
  6. Take the Plunge
  7. Read Your Client
  8. Take It to the Streets
  9. Put Yourself Out There
  10. Don’t Be Stingy
  11. Don’t Work for Free, Either
  12. Try All Sorts of Jobs
  13. Constantly Take In New Content
  14. Manage Your Time Wisely
  15. Never Stop Learning

After mastering these 15 steps, learn how to Use DesignBold for a Successful Launch.

The Cold, Hard Truth

More than ever, both fresh graduates and salaried professional designers are turning to the freelance world. While making this change can be exciting, the fact of the matter is that many first-time freelancers fail. This failure can stem from many different areas. You may find that motivation becomes a challenge when you are able to set your own work hours. It also takes a hefty dose of perseverance to build your client list and get your name out into the design world. You may also find that dealing with actual customers is much less glamorous than you had thought it would be.

No matter what your stumbling block may be, a little foresight can help you jump over it right off the bat! By properly preparing yourself, you can build a successful career doing what you love in the world of graphic design!

The Key to Success

We’ve already talked about potential problems that graphic designers face when building their own businesses, but you can do a lot more than simply avoid the common pitfalls of your peers. Below, we are going to delve into 15 steps to create a thriving freelance career in graphic design.

Step 1: Check Your Toolkit

The very first thing that any aspiring graphic designer should do is make sure they’re using the proper programs. Outdated software will only complicate the process and set you miles behind the competition. In addition to having the newest and greatest design software, you really do need to know how to use it. So really plunge into those how-to forums, and learn all of the fancy keyboard shortcuts that will make your entire process more streamlined.

Take some time to figure out exactly what programs your specific niche requires. Going for high-profile clientele and providing a wide range of services? Then you are probably going to want more robust design programs. If you are aiming to provide high-quality image content but on a bit smaller of a scale, using online tools such as DesignBold can get you exactly what you need – but at a fraction of the cost. Also, don’t forget the basic stuff, like a capable computer and a sketchpad!

Step 2: Read Up!

Formal learning is great and all, but in the age of information, you may be surprised just how much you can learn from online tutorials and articles alone! Especially when it comes to innovative styles and trends, often the best learning will not come from the classroom. Another plus to picking up tips from other designers is that it is incredibly cost-effective! And many successful experts are happy to share their process with eager followers.

There are countless resources for designers to brush up on their skills or learn new things altogether. Amazing sites like Digital Arts and others like it allow both members and non-members to access a plethora of how-to write-ups and videos. Even beginners can pick up cutting-edge methods to make valid, eye-catching material.

Step 3: Join The Community

It really has never been so easy to freelance as it is now, thanks to the trusty world wide web! You can take your pick which freelancing platforms you’d like to join, with many of them being completely free to sign up to. And don’t feel like you need to stay loyal to just one freelancing site. To be successful, you want to be able to reach as many potential clients as possible!

Make sure you put some effort into each profile, as they really will be your selling feature for any services you wish to provide. It’s always a good idea to include lots of items in your portfolio to show off your personal style and capabilities.

Step 4: Build Your Portfolio

As we just mentioned, it is key for new freelancers to come to the table with a vast portfolio showcasing their work. So what do you do if your completed projects just aren’t that plentiful?

If your previous work is a little lacking, work on a selection of mock-ups to show just how good your design eye really is. And this task doesn’t have to be a daunting one. By using a more simple outlet like DesignBold, you can create a whole slew of images for all sorts of varying needs in a matter of moments. With tools like this available, there really is no need to have a skimpy portfolio.

Step 5: Create a Website

You’re going to want a page of your very own to direct clientele both on and off of the freelancing sites to. The best thing about building your own site is that it really lets you show off your ability to create a unified aesthetic. When developing your website, focus on who you are appealing to in terms of style.

It’s also very important to resist the urge to go overboard when it comes to the graphics on your own page. A simple scheme is going to highlight your portfolio in a better way than an overly busy palette. Leave room for your work to shine over your actual website.

Step 6: Take the Plunge

Once you have both your website and your online profiles up to par, it’s time to start applying for jobs! The first few applications that you submit may be a little nerve-wracking, but remember, you have nothing to lose!

Be prepared to send, and send, and send, and send! In all seriousness, you are going to apply for way more jobs than you are going to land. But think of this process as a training exercise. You may start to notice that after getting more comfortable with the process, you start to let your actual personality shine through a bit. This is a key part of standing out from the crowd, so draw from that and see where it takes you!

Step 7: Read Your Client

As you bid for more and more jobs, you are going to come across a wide range of customers. Instead of forwarding the same, generic info to each potential opportunity, take some time to learn who you are vying to work for.

Are they looking for ongoing work or do they just need help with one main project? Address this! Is their business of a professional nature or do they seem a bit more relaxed? Adjust your tone accordingly. By studying the company you are attempting to work for, you can ensure that you tailor your pitch to their needs.

Step 8: Take It to the Streets

While an online presence is vital for freelancers while they are starting out, don’t forget about the possibilities in your home town! Order yourself some business cards – pronto! And make sure that you come up with a card design that clearly displays your brand and what you stand for.

There is something about physical graphics that is just so gratifying. Seeing your work in print is the full fruition of your creation. It also lets you give potential clients something tangible to keep you in their memory. Though the business card is an oldie, it is still a goodie, so draw up something punchy and hand it out like hot-cakes.

Step 9: Put Yourself Out There

Though it may feel like it, calling or emailing clients is not overly aggressive – it’s simply a good business practice! The fact is, people stall to reach out to a designer for a whole slew of reasons. Many of these would-be-clients just need a gentle push to commit to a project. Be that push, by contacting these consumers and letting them know you are here, and you’d love to create the graphics they so badly need.

Going hand-in-hand with this, don’t make your clients wait too long to hear back from you. Yes, you are busy building your empire, but it won’t be much of anything without the excellent reviews and referrals from past customers. So be bold and get typing!

Step 10: Don’t Be Stingy

This advice is actually valid for all in the business, but especially for those building their clientele. Nothing turns a customer off faster than a designer with limited experience and ample attitude. Embrace the fact that they are taking a chance on you. Let them know you are there for the entire process, and that you will do whatever it takes to get the job done right.

Even if you don’t hit the nail right on the head the first time, if you are easy to work with and happy to make changes, you can leave your clients completely satisfied.

Step 11: Don’t Work for Free, Either

While being difficult to work with is undesirable, giving away your valuable hours is also not ideal. You’ve worked hard to be where you are, don’t lessen your worth by handing out free work! We’re not saying that throwing a freebie in here or there during an ongoing project is a bad thing, but setting the precedent that you will supply graphics without a price tag attached will leave you frustrated and may make getting future (well-paid) work more complicated.

Know your value, and don’t be afraid to turn away jobs that refuse to pay you properly. A client that believes in your capabilities won’t mind paying a reasonable amount for your services.

Step 12: Try All Sorts of Jobs

When you set out to be a freelancer, it’s likely that you had a vision in your mind of what kind of clients you’d be working for. While this is not a bad thing, when you are starting out, it is best not to limit yourself to only the glamorous jobs.

A solid review from a lower-profile client is of great value. The more of these you can stack up, the more likely that you will be able to land that dream job when it comes along. Your reviews speak to the quality of your work, which is often more important to potential customers than the content you created.

Step 13: Constantly Take In New Content

Graphic design is a career that is governed by visuals. With Pinterest and Instagram ruling the screens, people are exposed to beautiful imagery every single day. Because of this, if you aren’t up on what’s hot, you are not going to be able to create valid content.

You can put all the time and effort into creating a technically perfect graphic, but if the result is something that looks dated, even just a little bit, it’s going to affect your success. Make sure you are following visual innovators and looking to gthem for inspriation each and every day.

Step 14: Manage Your Time Wisely

To avoid burnout, you need to track your time properly and ask for payment that corresponds to the hours worked. There are so many awesome mobile and desktop apps that can help you log your hours and manage the time spent on specific projects. Keeping track of these details will also help you in adjusting your prices on future projects.

While you may at first think that a task will be simple and take little time, reality can be quite different. After actually knowing the amount of time each graphic type takes, you will be able to charge fair prices for your work and you won’t find yourself working for pennies.

Step 15: Never Stop Learning

One of the things that makes graphic design so exciting is how it constantly is changing. Devote time in your work week to develop new skills that can advance your career. This will help you to have an edge on the market, as you will be one of the first of your peers able to offer cutting-edge visuals. Continuous learning will also keep your job feeling fresh and rewarding despite the number of years you’ve clocked as a designer.

Use DesignBold for a Successful Launch

After reading all of the steps you need to take to make it as a freelance designer, it’s probably becoming pretty obvious to you that you’re going to be creating a LOT of images, and hopefully not taking forever to do so.

Save time and money by using DesignBold for your projects! DesignBold is ideal for creating high-quality graphics in a simple, fast manner. Use it’s many professionally designed templates and easy-to-manoeuvre palettes to conjure up a unified brand or style.

With template categories like “Social Media“, “Marketing Materials” and “Ads and Commercials“, you’re sure to find a size and style that fits your needs. What’s even better is that just by signing up for DesignBold, you get access to every designer’s best friend – free stock images!

Each graphic that you create on this handy online tool is downloadable in a high-quality format for professional use. For designers in demand, there are premium memberships that offer even more templates, images and customizable settings, helping you hit the ball out of the park every time.

Sign up today at DesignBold and see for yourself how easy making beautiful graphics can be.