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.

   
If I'm thinking about a career change, what are some steps to take?

Switching Careers

If you have decided that it is time for a change in your professional life, you may want to speak with a career counselor to discuss your options. Career counselors can help you find a direction that will be a good match for what you want—and what your skills are. You may wind up going into business for yourself, or even going back to school to study something you have always loved. Once you decide on what you want to do, it will be time to think about where you can find employment.

Some career counselors can help you with this next step as well. Another option is to register with a talent agency so that they can do the job search for you. These places form relationships with companies that are looking to hire a freelancer, and this can be a great way to work yourself into a permanent position. Even if the job doesn't wind up being a long-term position, you will gain experience that you can use to move yourself up in the field.

   

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 skills should social media managers have?

Managing Social Media

Are you curious about what it takes to become a social media manager? This type of position is up-and-coming, and marketing professionals everywhere are brushing up on their knowledge of tools such as Twitter and Facebook. Although social media jobs vary, many of them require some or all of the following skills:

  • The ability to set up and populate social media accounts on sites such as Ning, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Knowledge of the etiquette involved in social media interactions.
  • Day-to-day basics, such as tweeting, maintaining fan pages, and keeping status updates current.
  • Connecting and interacting with people through social media accounts.
  • The ability to develop a long-term social media strategy that integrates with any current marketing platform.
  • The ability to work with other marketing professionals and explain social media strategies and how they fit into a traditional marketing campaign.

   

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.

   
Do you have to be creative or practical in order to be an art director?

Art Director: Creative Or Practical?

People think of art directors as the creatives who bring concepts to life through imagery. While this is true, they must also be able to do things that are not as "right-brain" oriented. For art directors, jobs change depending on the task at hand. They often have to manage people such as layout artists, designers and copywriters, which requires attention to detail. It also means that art directors must have good communication skills. Generally speaking, the higher the art director's position, the more people she will be in charge of managing.

Many art directors will also handle meeting with clients and creating presentations for them to review as a project moves toward completion. Again, this requires organizational and people skills. A good art director can easily switch between being creative and practical, depending on what is required at any given time. Although this position isn't for everyone, those who thrive on a fast-paced environment with new challenges will do well.

   

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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Patricia Walters-Fischer