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If you’re wondering how to become a freelance graphic designer here’s our step-by-step guide – from the qualifications you need to actually starting your own business.
Have you always had a creative side? A graphic design career is your chance to use those muscles. And as a freelancer you’ll have the opportunity to work with a varied bunch of clients, meaning no two days will be the same.
Graphic designers develop visual ideas and concepts. You could work on large projects, like an advertising campaign or rebrand for a large organisation, right down to product packaging, brochures and magazines.
When working on projects, graphic designers use imagery, illustration and typography (among other things) and arrange these elements using computer programs like Adobe PhotoShop, InDesign and Illustrator.
You’ll find graphic designers working in-house at organisations. Or they might work at a creative agency, which organisations often hire to do much of their marketing and advertising.
But lots of graphic designers work as freelancers. Being a freelancer means you get to be your own boss, choosing the clients you work for and setting your own daily rates.
There are different routes into graphic design – you could choose to go to university, college, or work as an apprentice before going self-employed.
Each of these routes requires good GCSEs, and in the case of university and college, A levels.
Many clients will look for experience, too, so during (and after) studying you should build up a portfolio that shows your design skills. You could even build your own website, to host all your work.
You may be able to find work experience, internships or a junior design position before you go self-employed – letting you build your skills (and a list of contacts).
As with any job, a graphic designer salary varies based on experience, location and the type of role or contract.
The National Careers Service give a range from £16,000 a year for someone who’s starting out to £50,000 a year for someone who’s experienced. But being self-employed, you’ll set your own rates.
Prospects.ac.uk say that freelancers can earn between £200 and £400 a day with experience, but add that with a good track record and recommendations, you could command more.
When setting your rates, you could do some competitor research to find out how much graphic designers are charging in your area.
So you’ve developed your skills and want to go freelance. You might even want to set up your own creative agency. Why not read our step-by-step guide to help you on your way?
Specialising is especially useful in a heavily populated industry like design. Any differentiation and expertise you can offer will help you attract work and allow you to excel at the projects you take on.
You might've naturally discovered your specialism during the experience you’ve already gained. But if you haven’t, is there an aspect of design you’ve particularly enjoyed? Here are some niches you could focus on:
There are many more projects graphic designers might work on, so have a look at what’s out there and choose your focus. And when you know your specialism be sure to use it to stand out from the crowd.
Lots of freelance graphic designers work alone. But many want to start their own design agency too. Whatever direction you choose you need to treat what you’re doing as a business, setting goals and having a plan for how you’re going to get there.
While you may be experienced in the practical elements of design, running a business calls on different skills. Think about the following:
It’s a good idea to think about designers' insurance when you’re starting out.
As a designer, knowing how to market your client’s services and products might come more naturally than knowing how to market yourself.
While lots of tips mentioned above, like being consistent, reliable and transparent, will help you deliver projects successfully, you should also shout about those successes.
So be sure to maintain your business website, update it with the latest projects you’ve delivered and think about writing a blog to show your expertise.
And don’t underestimate the importance of effective PR. Are there industry awards you can enter to help get your name out there? Could you push for speaking invitations to events and conferences?
Growing your business needs passion, drive and an entrepreneurial spirit – good luck!
Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.
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