5 Tips for Graphic Design Freelancers
Oh no another blog post about a list of tips for freelance graphic designers. As a freelancing graphic designer who has years of working experience in both a side hustle and full-time capacity, I've learned a thing or two about the industry and always find it helpful to hear what other folks in the similar positions have to say. A lot of times, advice is ill-advised because they know nothing about your situation. And every situation is unique. But if I could give just five major keys to aspiring or current freelance graphic designers, it'd be this:
1. Be prepared to work more hours with more responsibilities.
Sure you get the convenience of creating your own schedule, but that schedule will soon be packed. As a freelance graphic designer, your time is literally your money. You don't create a product in bulk and just let it sell around the clock. (Unless you're a stock graphic designer which is an entirely different beast.) You literally have to spend the time concepting, designing, meeting with clients, doing research, managing projects, bookkeeping, etc. It's not a passive position. You will play several different roles every day and still have to constantly put in the design work to create something worthwhile.
2. Shop around for clients.
Designer-client relationships work best on a two-way street. As clients shop for designers, designers should also know what kind of client they want to work for. Do your due diligence and research a client before you commit to saying yes to a project. Even if the financial offer may sound enticing, you don’t wanna end up working for a company or organization you are conflicted with. That's a passion-sucker. Find clients that share similar morals and communication styles that complement yours. Most of all, adopt clients that you truly believe in. Your best work comes from working for people you genuinely want to be successful.
3. Learn how to say no.
Or at least give yourself more time for a solid answer. I’ve freelanced for years and I still grapple with this one myself. Kindly saying no turns out much better than having a project fall flat. When an offer comes in to hire you, it’s very easy to jump at the prospect, especially when you need to get paid. But remember, more responsibilities include being an account and project manager, and knowing your true capacity to take on more work. Your quality of work will suffer when you don't have the time commitment to do good work on a project and saying yes can backfire, doing more harm than good. Nobody likes a half ass. Everybody loves a full ass. At least for a price.
4. Speaking of price, know your value and keep up with your money.
Don't work for free if you don't get something in return - sometimes it's not monetary but it should be of monetary value. Like a trade of services. Or a complimentary product. And adversely, don't think you can charge $100/hour just because you heard some other designer did. Know your expertise, your value, what you need to make a living and what the project is asking of you. Lastly, use software like Invoice2Go or FreshBooks. They make the accountant role much easier to manager and you'll always know which clients are late or haven't paid you.
5. Finally, never heed advice from someone who has never asked you a question.
Yes, even an article like this. Every situation is unique and there are nuances when it comes to advice. Sure, listen to what everyone has to say. But if they haven’t been in your shoes, there’s no need to apply it in action. Seek practical business advice from people in positions you want to be in. Or consultants who specialize in your field with a good track record. Ultimately, find what works for you. Some people dig the coffee shop office. Others need to rent a solo studio, or rent a cowering office. Some of us like the work-from-pajamas scenario. Whatever it is, find what works for you. Solicit advice and take what’s applicable. Be curious, be adventurous, explore and go forth. Use your imagination. After all, that’s what designers do best.
*Bonus: Link up with freelancers of different industries and unite to share resources and support. We may be self-employed, but we still deserve the same workers rights and unions like anyone else out there. The New York City Council recently passed the Freelancing Isn't Free act which extends protections against nonpayment for millions of NYC freelance workers. We are a growing workforce that should assert it's rights and it can begin with unions and legislation just like this.
**Another Bonus: avoid using corny stock photography like I did for this article.