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 clients if I am going to do freelance Web design work?

Finding Web Design Clients

If you're looking for a career in freelance web design, you'll need to create a plan for finding clients. Unlike working for a company where you're given projects to work on, freelancing will require you to go out and find your own clients.

You can do this in several different ways:

  • Cold call. Calling or emailing to seek out business is one way to look for clients. This is time-consuming, but it can pay off.
  • Network. Joining a local chamber of commerce or getting involved in industry groups can help raise your visibility as a freelance designer. The more people you meet, the bigger the net you cast.
  • Referrals. Ask current (or former) clients to keep you in mind for referrals. You can even offer them a discount if they land you any new business.
  • Join a talent agency. A good talent agency will help find you work--and usually at a nice rate. It doesn't hurt to align yourself with people who are out there looking to get you jobs.
  • Advertise. Advertising has been around for a long time, and it can help you connect with clients. Try to place any ads in well-thought-out spots, such as the local paper or the church bulletin if you're on a tight budget.


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.

Can a freelance artist find work in a corporation?

From Freelance Artist To Production Artist

If you are a freelance artist looking for a more stable work environment, why not look for a position as a production assistant at a company? Since the job requirements are so varied for this type of position, artists with related skills and technical ability can often find a spot within a corporation in this type of entry-level design position.

How can you know if you are qualified to do this type of work? There are several ways to evaluate whether your skills are a good match for the corporate environment.

  • Read job descriptions. Check out online job boards and postings to see what the job descriptions are calling for under "production assistant" headings.
  • Check out a talent agency. Talent agencies can help you understand the requirements for the current job market and see if you have enough experience to get hired.
  • Consider schooling. If you think a career in this type of field would be interesting, why not investigate come college courses and degrees to see if they can help round out your current knowledge base? Talk with a career counselor at a school that has related programs, such as graphic design or advertising.
  • Use your network. Ask around and see if anyone you know is in touch with someone in this type of field. See if they'd be willing to talk with you for a few minutes about what their work entails.


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.

How can freelance illustrators find work?

Illustrators And The Online Portfolio

If you think that there is no such thing as freelance work for artists—think again. Illustrators are still in high demand in the publishing and advertising fields. The problem is that most artists do not have a way to get their work in front of potential clients. Having an online portfolio is one way to accomplish this and showcase your best work.

What do you need to know in order to create an online portfolio? Here are some things to keep in mind if you are thinking about how to position your presence on the web:

  • Always be professional. Remember that this is a work site. Leave out anything that could be construed as "cute" or casual.
  • Provide contact information. Make it convenient for people to contact you. You may also want to add your social media links.
  • Use only your best work. If you aren't sure what your best work is—get a professional opinion from a talent agency or someone in the field.
  • View in several browsers. The way Web browsers display things is not always the same. Make sure your portfolio looks good in all of them.
  • Have a variety. Showcase your range if possible rather than adding a lot of similar material. It will make you more marketable.


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.

Is being a freelance copy editor harder than doing it for a company?

Copy Editing as a Freelancer

If you're thinking about becoming a freelance copy editor, be prepared for what clients will expect from you. Many corporate copy editor jobs have fairly clear roles, but as a freelancer, these lines tend to blur a bit. Copy editors can be called on to do a wide variety of things, and if you're working for yourself, it can be a bit challenging.

The typical duties of a copy editor involve things such as reviewing text for any errors in grammar, sentence structure, and tone. In some cases, the copy editor also serves as a "fact checker," verifying information or checking source material. As a freelancer, you may also be asked to format copy and do some layout work, which are responsibilities that you may not have had working at a corporation.

You can solve this dilemma in two ways. The first is to work with another person who has these skills. The other way is to take a class or find online training materials. That way, if you have a client with high expectations, you'll be able to take on the project with confidence.


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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