How To Get Started as a Freelance Graphic Designer

In the digital world, graphic design has become one of the most desirable careers out there – and competition is tough.  In London alone, there are hundreds of design agencies vying for the big contracts and, for those who decide to go it alone, it takes talent, determination and stamina to go the distance.

Just what is a graphic designer?

In a nutshell, a graphic designer is an artist – only, instead of brushes and pencils, he or she uses a computer to create their art.  Almost every piece of artwork you see –  from product packaging to infographics on websites – is the handiwork of a graphic designer.  In addition to a natural creativity, a graphic designer needs to be able to utilise tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator in order to produce professional work.  Although a design agency offers a steady income, graphic design lends itself perfectly to the freelance world as, all the designer really needs is a computer, a handful of tools and, of course, their own talent.

Some of the projects that a graphic designer might tackle are:

  • Developing visual ideas for branding
  • Layouts for magazines and periodicals
  • Infographics for branding
  • Product packaging design
  • Government leaflets and marketing materials
  • Websites

What’s the colour of money?

When working for an agency or employer, a graphic designer can expect to earn between £16,000 and £50,000 a year depending on experience and location.  Once a designer goes it alone, they get to set their own rates – which sounds great in principle but, as we’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of competition out there.  Figures show that a competent freelance graphic designer can earn between £200 and £400 per day – but don’t expect to be earning these kinds of numbers straight out of the gate.  Savvy freelancers tend to keep their rates reasonably low to begin with in order to attract customers and pad out their portfolios.  As your experience and client-base grows, you can always revise your rates accordingly.

The bottom line

Although you may be super-arty and have a knack for coming up with great ideas, that’s rarely enough to set you up as a paid graphic designer.  When looking to hire a graphic designer, most employers or clients will look for two things – qualifications and experience.  The good news is that you can usually skate through with just one of these things.  A qualification in graphic design from a college or university, such as a HNC, HND or Masters will stand you in good stead to bag a job in an agency – from where you can work on the experience part.  If, however, you have the experience but not the qualifications, you can still make a living as a freelance graphic designer as long as you make sure that you have a strong portfolio which showcases your skills.

Getting down to business

So, you’ve got the skills and experience – and the portfolio to prove it; how do you go about turning that into a business?  The answer is, of course, that you need clients.  Before scouting for work, get yourself a website – or even just a Facebook page – which highlights your previous work and, clearly sets out your rates.  Using this as a base, you can then use your graphic design skills to create fancy emails and other marketing materials to promote your business.

Grabbing those initial clients is probably the toughest part of becoming a freelance graphic designer; particularly if you’re targeting local businesses and organisations.  While you’re waiting for the clients to come to you, there are some really useful freelancer sites out there which will not only start you off with making some cash but, can also be really helpful in terms of networking.

Sites for freelance graphic designers

As with any kind of business, the way to get more customers is to do a great job!  In the digital world, it’s easier than ever to get your work reviewed – and to show those great reviews off through your social media accounts.  If you have a satisfied customer, there’s a good chance that they’ll recommend you to others – even in 2019, word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising you can lay your hands on.

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