Whether you’re a rock star creative in a top-ten agency or a freelancer running a business from home on a shoestring, graphic design is an absorbing, all-encompassing practice.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore disagreements occur and criticism can be hard to take. But it’s a great job because you spend time creating beauty.
But there are plenty of other facets to freelance graphic designing other than creating beauty.
This is a real biggie. Every graphic design company needs it’s clients. My favorite way to get freelance design work to is concentrate on my own site first, backed up with SEO and social media and not to bother with job or bidding sites.
Marketing never stops. You need to keep working on your own website, your own brand and your chosen methods of marketing almost every day. This is extremely time consuming and it’s time you don’t get paid for. But experience gained from marketing yourself can be used to provide a better service for your clients.
- Think of a unique selling point that your customers will “get” immediately.
- Provide a reason why customers should do business with you.
- Don’t spend any money on marketing if it is something you can learn to do yourself.
- Always have a follow-up offer after a project is completed. The best client is one who just gave you money.
- Occasionally go back to your existing clients with exceptional offers.
- Develop your business, brand and company’s personality. People buy from people.
In business, especially the design business, your best next client is your current client. That’s why it’s essential to develop a great working relationship with them.
Clients want value. They want the job done to as high a standard as possible without any complications. That’s why communication is vital. Make sure you understand the client and the purpose of the project. Why do they want to spend this money? If you make the client more money than they spend on you then you’ll be well on your way.
- Spend as little time as possible talking with the client but when the discussion period is over send a short email to the client detailing the project and the cost.
- If you do have questions about the brief after this point, do not go back to ask the client. Use your own initiative to solve the problem. This is what you are being paid for.
- If a client emails you a secondary request, never start work on it immediately. There may well be a follow up email in a few minutes time.
- When giving a deadline, always add a day onto it. (Under promise; Over deliver)
- Always take on board the client’s suggestions. OK, maybe they haven’t spent the last 20 years designing but it’s their business and an outside point of view is always useful.
- If you are ever angry or annoyed by a client, don’t pick up the phone or write an email. You are wrong to be angry or annoyed. Get over it. Calm down. Do something else. Contact the client when your mood improves.
- Like the client. Enjoy working with them. Have fun!
Yes, you’re going to have to do some design if you want to be a freelance graphic designer.
- Follow the work of designers you like and endlessly be on the look out for great design.
- If you haven’t got anything to do then do a design for yourself – you only get good at design by designing.
- Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before starting.
- With any project, always start with the hardest element or the part that you’re most worried about first.
- Never spend too long on any one element of a project, especially at the beginning.
- If you are having problems with a design, move away from it and come back to it later, if possible. Look at it through squinted or blurred vision. Look at it upside down.
Continually keep in contact with other designers, illustrators, developers, etc., and don’t be afraid to ask anyone for advice. Whether you do it through social media or in person doesn’t matter, connection with related professionals is essential. Even their bad advice will teach you something.
- Upload visuals and ask for other people’s comments.
- Help people who ask for advice.
- Always answer every non-spam email.
Some people have elaborate formulae for calculating their rate. One thing’s for sure it should be more than you think. Whatever you were getting paid as a designer in someone else’s company it should be at least double that. Why? Because, with all the other things you’ll have to do you’ll never spend all your days designing. Try to price jobs rather than to getting paid by the hour.
Unfortunately you have to remember to keep records of everything – and have those records easily accessible. You will have to work out ways of simplifying the process.
Not only do you have to keep account of the company’s revenue and spending but also you need to record exactly how much time you’ve spent on each job and everything that was agreed between you and the client.
I have written about the software I use to run a design business, the only applications you need to purchase are Adobe’s Creative Suite and a decent font manager. You may wish to get cutting mats, spray booths, boards and a good lazer printer, but, even so, equipment purchase or capital outlay is extremely small compared to other businesses
I really have had enough of reading; “if you really want to do graphic design, you’re going to have to work really hard and be really committed”. Because most people work hard and are committed. It’s really difficult to work hard at a boring job but people do. I’d love to see some graphic designers working in a shop or a factory. Working hard at and being committed to graphic design isn’t a huge imposition.
Another piece of advice:
Constantly focus on the critically few activities that produce exponential results. Don’t get caught up in minutia.
This and some of the other ideas above came from 33 rules for maverick entrepreneurs which was written after a brainstorming session with Richard Branson. And here are some other great random lessons from a freelancer from John O’Nolan.
Plus, don’t forget you can download my e-book on running a graphic design business and survey about how independent graphic designers make their money.
And, as always, I’m more interested in other great pieces of advice anyone else can add.