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.)

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.


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 are some things to consider before signing on with a talent agency?

Signing With A Talent Agency

If you are looking for freelance opportunities, you may want to consider signing with a career agency. These organizations will help you connect with work in the field—but there are a few things you should know before you hand over your job search, for example:

  • Does the agency require exclusivity? Some talent agencies don't want you signing up with anyone else. This shouldn't be a deal-breaker, but if the agency has this policy you should feel sure they will be able to help you find work.
  • Are there any hidden fees? Although career agencies will make a percentage of your wage if they find you a job, you shouldn't have to pay a bunch of fees to sign with them—or stay with them. Ask ahead of time.
  • Do they have connections in other cities? If you are looking for adventure and don't mind moving to take on work, you may want to see if the talent agency has branches in other cities.
  • What are the policies you need to follow if you have difficulty with a particular job or client? Ideally this situation will never arise, but if it does, you'll want to know what is expected of you.


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.

What are some tips for leading a team as a creative director?

Creative Directors: Leading A Team

Creative director work is extremely stressful—you are responsible for bringing projects together as well as setting the direction and tone for them. In order to do this well, you'll be relying on a team of people underneath you to perform to the best of their ability. How can you do your best to motivate these people? Here are some good tips for keeping your creative team on track:

  • Provide specific feedback. People need feedback in order to improve. Try to be specific and non-judgmental when you speak with art directors or copywriters about things they could be doing better.
  • Accentuate the positive. Be sure that you aren't only communicating the things that your team can do better. People perform well when you notice the good work that they do and comment on it.
  • Listen. If you truly listen to those working for you, it can be beneficial to everyone involved. Sometimes the best ideas come from people who are brand new, so keep an open mind.
  • Be clear. The better you communicate your expectations to the people you work with; the more likely they will be able to execute your projects.


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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William Pirraglia