Freelance Design Tips

When it comes to Freelance Design, we've been there, done that, now serving 290 tips in 16 categories ranging from Art & Creative Directors to Working with Freelancers.

Know Your Users

Artisan Talent Tip: When you work on Web design jobs, you are working to please not only your client, but the users of your client's site. It's helpful to know as much as you can about that audience as you begin designing a site for them. For example, who is the target market and what kind of demographic information is available about them? (For instance, a site appealing to men in their 50s will have a different look from one appealing to women in their 20s.)

How can I find work as a freelance production artist?

Finding Work As A Freelance Production Artist

If you are looking for work as a freelance production artist, networking will play a crucial role in your search. The more people you can connect with, the better your chances of finding your way into the field. These days it takes more than sending out a resume to get hired.

Since there is a good deal of competition for work in creative jobs, coming in and working your way up is a good way to get started. Production assistants are generally considered "entry-level", so this type of job can serve as a launching spot for a career in advertising or related fields. Finding work can take a while if you are just beginning your search, but connecting with a good talent agency can help you find something more easily.

Be sure to take advantage of social media as well. Sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can be good for letting people know you are looking for work. They can also be a place to post information about your background and experience.


Finding Web Design Jobs

Artisan Talent Tip: If you're serious about a freelance Web design career, you want clients who are serious about their Web sites. Many of the prospective clients out there are people who want the cheapest possible product, and don't have a good understanding of how much a quality designer can help their sites.

What type of freelance jobs can I look for to make some extra money?

Freelance Markets For Artists

If you are an illustrator who is still in school, it can be a challenge to know where to look for clients. Unless you sign on with a talent agency or have established connections in the industry—where do you look for jobs? You can't just walk into a company and get hired for one of the high-paying freelance animation jobs—you'll need some experience.

Here are a few simple things that you may want to consider that can help get you started—especially if you don't have a lot of items in your portfolio:

  • Artwork for CD covers. If you are hoping to do a creative project for your portfolio, why not consider designing a CD cover? Although this won't rank high on the pay scale, it can give you a client to add to your roster and another sample of your work as a freelancer.
  • Illustration for a kid's book. Try reaching out to authors who write books for children and see if any of them are looking for an illustrator to work with for their next project.
  • Create imagery for websites. If you are an illustrator that is computer-savvy, why not team up with a web designer to help create imagery for customers.
While it can be hard to find well-paid work at first as an illustrator, you can work on projects that will help pad your portfolio and give you some experience. Many people find that doing things like this while they attend classes in their field helps to prepare them for their career once they finish school.


Mockups and Prototypes

Artisan Talent Tip: At the mockup stage, it's easy to add features, switch elements, and even redo the whole look of the product. These changes get a lot more difficult when you're working with the real product. A team of Chicago designers might use a standard contract that includes at least one round of alterations at the mockup stage, to emphasize to the client that now is the time to change one's mind.

What should I be doing to represent myself as a freelancer?

Representing Yourself as a Freelancer

If you work for yourself, chances are you already know that freelance design jobs can be challenging to find. Having some tools to help raise your visibility can be very helpful. Business cards are an important thing to have, and if you're a designer, you'll want to make sure that they look sharp. People will be evaluating your skills as they look at the card, so take the time to make them shine.

The same thing applies to your web presence. Whether you have a full website or just a blog, make sure that it's visually pleasing and represents your style and abilities. If you opt for an online portfolio, display only your very best work.

One tool that designers often overlook is their biography. If you aren't a writer, you may want to hire one to make sure that it reads well. Be sure to include a bit about your design philosophy and background. Some people limit the biography to schooling and job history, but that doesn't tell a potential client much about who you are as a designer.


Getting Paid for Graphic Design Work

Artisan Talent Tip: To protect themselves and get proper compensation for their work and skills, many designers recommend a series of milestones and payments. For instance, a partnership of New York designers might bill 30% of the final fee on completion of the prototype, 30% on completion of the first draft, and 40% after two rounds of changes. Only after the invoices are paid are the final files provided to the client.

How can I tell if freelance work is right for me?

Freelance Checklist

Are you interested in becoming a freelance creative professional? Before you make the leap into a freelance lifestyle, make sure this type of career path is a match for your skill set. Ask yourself some hard questions so you can evaluate whether you will enjoy this type of work.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Am I able to work with little to no supervision? If you're going to work from home, you'll need to motivate yourself to do the job. If you tend to get sidetracked, this type of work may be a challenge.
  • Am I comfortable interacting with new people? When you do freelance work, you'll need to be able to work with a variety of people from job to job. If you enjoy meeting new people, this can be a great choice.
  • Am I able to deal with some uncertainty? Working as a freelancer means less stability than working a corporate job. This doesn't necessarily mean you won't do well, but you have to be prepared for the fact that it can be less consistent.
  • Can I get up to speed on projects quickly? If you freelance for a company, you may wind up joining the team in the middle of a project. In this case, being a quick study is important.


Elements of a Freelance Design Contract

Artisan Talent Tip: A good contract protects the freelance graphic artist by setting out the work to be done, the schedule of work to be delivered, and the schedule of payments to be made. A graphic designer should have a standard contract available for clients to sign, and should not do any work without a signed contract. You should also include a clause reserving the right to display a copy of the completed work as part of your portfolio.


Corporate Identity

Artisan Talent Tip: Larger organizations seek graphic designers to develop visual styles that will permeate every aspect of the company's work. Freelance graphic designers seeking New York design jobs, or jobs in other sophisticated markets, may be asked to demonstrate proficiency with corporate identity work.

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