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 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.


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 learn more about Photoshop?

Photoshop Help

If you are looking to become one of the freelance designers that work with digital images, you will need to know Photoshop inside and out. There are many different ways to dig into all of the features. Here are a few suggestions for learning more about all this great program has to offer:

  • Practice/play. When you have a chance, try playing around with various features and see what they do. Much can be learned from just practicing.
  • Take a class. To learn more advanced features you will need to take more than a basic class at your local community college. Check out local colleges and universities and see what they offer at a higher level.
  • Get tutored. If you have a colleague or friend that is good with the program, see if they would be willing to tutor you. If you can tutor them on another program, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Check out a book on Photoshop. There are many Photoshop books on the market, and they exist for those at all different levels. See if you can find one that will stretch your knowledge.
  • Try out a Webinar or tutorial. There are Webinars and online tutorials for all kinds of different Photoshop techniques. Here is a good place to get started:
Honing your Photoshop skills can help you get graphic design jobs and make you more marketable as a freelancer. Try to advance your training and it will pay off in the long run.


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 be sure a talent agency is a good match for me and my skills?

Make It A Good Match

If you want to use a talent agency to get freelance work instead of looking for design positions on the web, it can be a great way to find work. One of the key things to consider is whether the agency is a good match for you. Trying to sign on with a design agency that doesn't meet your needs is a waste of time, both for you and for the company. How can you know when it is a good match? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Find out who they represent. Designers may want to pass on agencies that work primarily with other fields. If you can't tell from the website, you can ask if they have relationships with any design agencies when you speak with a representative.
  • Make sure you are qualified to work in positions that you would get through the agency. If you are just starting out and the agency works primarily with high-level freelancers, it may not be the right place to find work.
  • Be sure you are comfortable. Talent agencies run a service. You should feel comfortable with your representative and be able to communicate your needs easily.


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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