7 Tips to Help You Grow as a Freelance Designer
The first thing you need to understand about freelance design is the fact that, like any other freelance job, it can be quite daunting and terrifying at moments.
On the one hand, you have no assurance that your next paycheck will be satisfactory, or arrive at all.
Second, you’re in charge of every single aspect of your business, which can be quite frightening.
Still, design is an art and, as such, it’s something that many people dream of pursuing.
1 – Understand the advantages
You need to understand all the advantages of becoming a freelancer to determine whether this lifestyle is something worth pursuing in your particular case.
First of all, you have so many options, ranging from increasing your fees due to recognition and exposure, all the way to abandoning the job of a freelancer and getting employed in a company in a much better position than you otherwise would.
Being a freelancer also implies that you have no direct supervisor (even though some of the pushier clients may try to impose this role).
Also, you have a flexible free time and workplace.
For instance, you could take your laptop somewhere else and work from a park or a coffee shop.
Aside from this, you also get to work on a plethora of devices, which also means that you have the privilege of working while in public transportation or even while in the bathroom.
Lying in a tub with your waterproof tablet, reviewing your latest piece may not be the optimal solution to this problem, but it is a solution.
2 – Make your offer more attractive
You see, as a freelance designer, you don’t have the privilege of having someone else finding work for you.
Even on sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer, you need to come up with the offer and then come up with a way to make an excellent first impression or attract clients and allow them to reach out to you.
For starters, you need to come up with an offer in terms of the price of your design services.
It would be best if you found a price that’s competitive but still within the bounds of the industry standard.
You don’t want to go far below the average price, seeing as how you’ll make the wrong impression that your work is somehow of lower quality which makes you undercharge it.
Second, you need to get some work as quickly as possible, even for next-to-nothing, to gain some positive reviews and so that you get something to display on your website.
We’re talking about the actual work (so that they can see your technical prowess), as well as some testimonials in the form of reviews.
Keep in mind that it’s your ultimate goal to start earning more per commission.
Well, to do so, you need to create a reputation of credibility and being able to deliver quality work.
3 – Improve your communication skills
Now, we come to the hardest part of this job – communication.
One of the most important things you need to learn is how to properly communicate with your clients, seeing as how this will enable you to create the design that they have in mind.
Remember, not everyone has the same verbal skills, and there are even some people who have the vaguest of ideas what they want.
This means that you need to learn how to ask all the right questions but also find a way to stay in touch throughout the entire process.
The last thing you want is to show the finished project to your clients only for them to realise that this is not what they’ve asked you to do.
So, make sure to deliver a draft and even send them updated versions.
If this is really important to them, you can send them the design render by render to ensure that you’re, indeed, on the right track.
Some designers are afraid that they would annoy the client too much with this, but the truth is that it’s far more essential to avoid wasting both of your times.
4 – Proper use of technology
It’s imperative to find ways to use technology to your benefit.
Naturally, as a designer, you need adequate software and hardware for your work, but this is just the beginning.
Other than this, you also need to pick the platform through which you’ll find work (something that we’ve already discussed), as well as a payment gateway that you will earn money through.
Sure, PayPal is the most obvious choice, but there are other gateways worth considering, as well.
For instance, Payoneer has the option of sending a file in a payment request, which is a simple method to make sure you won’t be tricked out of your hard-earned money.
Other than this, you may also want to look for some productivity tools that you can and should use.
For instance, we’re talking about time-management apps and similar apps.
Keep in mind that even creatives can benefit from interval-working methods like the Pomodoro technique.
5 – Start a side-income strategy
The next thing you need to understand is the fact that, as with any other freelance business, you’ll find yourself in a situation where your income is quite unreliable.
Sure, you may score a big client this month and then go utterly jobless for weeks to come.
This is why you need to devise a contingency plan in the form of a side-income.
One thing that you could do is start selling items like posters of t-shirts with designs that you’ve made yourself.
This is a steady and straightforward work that is bound to bring some income over time.
Keep in mind, nonetheless, that this side-income strategy doesn’t necessarily have to be related to the field of design.
It might be for the best if it wasn’t. One option that you have is to invest in a bitcoin mining rig.
This works great because it works passively, without you having to invest any actual work in it. It also gives you some income even when the season is slow, which can help you immensely.
6 – Keep learning
Another thing you need to understand is the fact that your skills aren’t perfect and that there’s still so much room for self-improvement.
Of course, you can learn through experience, but finding a mentor or enrolling in an online course may turn out to be just as effective methods of learning.
Also, bear in mind that you, as a web designer, have to master the tool that you’re using.
This may sound simple but open even the simplest of design tools and try to give an honest answer to a question – do I use all of these tools or at least know what all of them are?
Remember that graphic design isn’t the only field in which you have to self-improve.
Becoming better at time-management, communication skills, online marketing and promotion of your work may be just as relevant.
Therefore, what you need to understand is that you’re not just a designer.
You’re also an entrepreneur running a one-person startup.
Consequently, it would help if you learned how to develop your entrepreneurial skills, as well as improve as a designer to have any future in this industry.
7 – Don’t take it too personally
One of the biggest mistakes that the majority of freelance designers make is to take these things too personally.
Sure, the majority of designers see themselves as artists and, in a way, they are artists.
The problem, nonetheless, lies in the fact that when you’re working on a commission, you’re not working with your own idea.
Since you don’t always have the full freedom to express your creativity, you can’t observe these commissions as the ultimate expression of your art.
Even if you did see them this way, the truth is that some people genuinely disliked Van Gogh and Michelangelo.
Bear in mind that this is not something that you do to change the world or leave your mark on it.
You’re doing so to get paid. Therefore, there’s no professional art critic to evaluate your work, there’s only the paying client, and it’s their judgment that matters the most.
Even if they do not like it, you shouldn’t take these things personally.
Make the adjustments where they want and try to leave your ego behind.
Sure, this is one of those things that are easier said than done, but it’s the only way for you to make it as a freelance designer.
The very last thing you need to understand is the fact that growing as a freelancer isn’t that hard, as long as you’re willing to accept responsibility for your career and show some self-initiative.
Unlike working in a regular enterprise, there’s no one to give you a raise or move you to a better spot.
All of this falls to you. So, make sure that you play your cards right.