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 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.

   

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 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.

   

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.

   
If I am going back to work after a break, how can I make that transition?

Career Re-Entry

Going back to work after a break can be a difficult thing. If you have taken time off to do something like raise children or care for a parent, it can be hard to know how to get back into the workforce. This is especially true if it has been a while since you held a full-time job. If you are looking for freelance positions at a corporation, you may want to sign on with a talent agency.

Talent agencies can help match you with a job that you are qualified for, but that isn't all they are good for. If your resume needs a little help or you aren't quite sure what to say during an interview, the people who work at the agency can help you prepare for these things. Ultimately, a career agent can help you feel more ready to get back to work after some time off. It's nice to have someone who is invested in finding you a new job—besides yourself!

   

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.

   
As a creative, what should I know about representing myself on the Web?

The Web: Your Professional Presence

If you are a freelance creative director or art director, you'll want to have a presence on the Web. Whether this is a blog, portfolio or traditional website is up to you, but there are some things to consider before you show this site to the world. Keep the following points in mind as you put things together:

  • Be clear. Make sure that you are communicating what you do with your readers. Specifics are good, and examples are desirable.
  • Be creative. It can be difficult to be clear and creative, but you really need both to shine on the web. Someone looking for a freelancer to do a creative project will expect to see a little bit of what you can do on your site.
  • Be connected. Don't rely only on your website to get the word out. Link your main site up with your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts so that you are funneling as much traffic as possible to your main page. Put a link to your website in the signature block of your e-mails. Have it on your business cards and use it on forums if it is within the guidelines. Give people every opportunity to find you.

   

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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Carma Spence-Pothitt