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.)

What type of freelance jobs can I look for to make some extra money?

Freelance Markets For Artists

If you are an illustrator who is still in school, it can be a challenge to know where to look for clients. Unless you sign on with a talent agency or have established connections in the industry—where do you look for jobs? You can't just walk into a company and get hired for one of the high-paying freelance animation jobs—you'll need some experience.

Here are a few simple things that you may want to consider that can help get you started—especially if you don't have a lot of items in your portfolio:

  • Artwork for CD covers. If you are hoping to do a creative project for your portfolio, why not consider designing a CD cover? Although this won't rank high on the pay scale, it can give you a client to add to your roster and another sample of your work as a freelancer.
  • Illustration for a kid's book. Try reaching out to authors who write books for children and see if any of them are looking for an illustrator to work with for their next project.
  • Create imagery for websites. If you are an illustrator that is computer-savvy, why not team up with a web designer to help create imagery for customers.
While it can be hard to find well-paid work at first as an illustrator, you can work on projects that will help pad your portfolio and give you some experience. Many people find that doing things like this while they attend classes in their field helps to prepare them for their career once they finish school.


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 is one of the most difficult parts of being a freelance copy editor?

The Editorial Eye

Freelance copy editors need to be able to understand the tone and voice that a company uses in order to fine-tune copy. Developing an editorial eye for this can take time. As a freelancer, you'll need to be able to switch this skill over from one client to another and make sure that you can stay on track with multiple projects. If you have more than one thing going, keep a set of notes for each client to remind yourself of any important points.

As a freelancer, you may find yourself working for a company as a contractor from time to time. In this case, you won't have to multitask in the same way, but you'll need to learn the style and voice of the company so that you can edit copy to their specifications. Learning and sticking to a company's particular style and voice is usually the hardest part of the job.


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.

Is being a freelance copy editor harder than doing it for a company?

Copy Editing as a Freelancer

If you're thinking about becoming a freelance copy editor, be prepared for what clients will expect from you. Many corporate copy editor jobs have fairly clear roles, but as a freelancer, these lines tend to blur a bit. Copy editors can be called on to do a wide variety of things, and if you're working for yourself, it can be a bit challenging.

The typical duties of a copy editor involve things such as reviewing text for any errors in grammar, sentence structure, and tone. In some cases, the copy editor also serves as a "fact checker," verifying information or checking source material. As a freelancer, you may also be asked to format copy and do some layout work, which are responsibilities that you may not have had working at a corporation.

You can solve this dilemma in two ways. The first is to work with another person who has these skills. The other way is to take a class or find online training materials. That way, if you have a client with high expectations, you'll be able to take on the project with confidence.


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 get ahead in as a freelance marketer?

Marketing: Specialize and Conquer

If you're in the marketing field, you already know how competitive it is. But do you know what to concentrate on so that you can get ahead? If you're thinking about doing any freelance marketing, you need to find something that will help you edge out the competition. One way to do this is to specialize in a field that's in demand. Things such as product development, research, and digital strategy are all areas that give the savvy marketing professional a chance to get ahead. Here are a few ideas:

  • Product development is closely tied to brand management, an arena that marketers can focus on almost exclusively. If you decide to go this route, you may wind up consulting with various companies as they develop and launch new products.
  • Research is another area where marketers can get a foothold. If you have a knack for numbers, this may be a good spot to concentrate on.
  • Digital strategy is all about how to position things on the web. Marketing professionals with good Internet skills might find this a good match.


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.

Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Freelance Design Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Jolyn Wells-Moran