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 stay current in the field of Web design?

Continuing Ed For Web Designers

If you're working freelance, web design jobs tend to be varied. This means you'll need to have a larger skill set than people who are doing the same tasks every day at a corporate job. Being equipped to handle the needs of your client is part of the package. The question is, how do you stay on top of the latest trends?

There are several ways to keep up with things in the field. Here are a few to try:

  • Webinars. Webinars provide online training in a wide range of subjects. This is an attractive option, since you can do it from the comfort of home.
  • Classes. Traditional coursework is another way to learn more as a designer. This is an especially good choice if the subject matter is complex.
  • Industry groups. Joining industry groups can help you keep abreast of the latest news in your field, which gives you an idea of what you need to brush up on.
  • Self-study. Learning new techniques from books may be an option if you enjoy self-directed study.


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.

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.


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 I get into freelance logo design?

Logos As A Specialty

If you're looking for freelance graphic work, one exciting area that you can focus on is logo creation. This specialized field requires a good ear as well as a good eye. Successful graphic designers know how to listen to a client to find out what they are looking for—and then deliver something amazing that exceeds expectations.

Many designers think that for a logo to be great it has to be complex, but many of the best are very simple. The logo needs to communicate with the viewer, and the graphic designer's job is to marry that concept with the direction the company wants to go with the look. This can be more difficult than people think. Truth is—it takes a lot of practice.

The good news is that the more logos you do, the more information and experience you will have. You may want to create logos for charities as a way of practicing. Once you have a portfolio together of sample logos, it will be far easier to sell your work as a freelance 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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Carma Spence-Pothitt