How to Get Started in Freelance Design
Designer at workGetting started in the world of freelance designing can be a complicated procedure if you don’t know what you’re doing. Today I’m going to tell you exactly what resources you’ll need to be on your way to designing websites and/or graphics for clients.
First of all, I’m assuming that you have a working bank account and some way of getting money into it from online (paypal, merchant services, etc.). I’m also assuming that you have some design skills. For this article, we’re going to jump straight into the business portion. So here are the steps to joining the freelance design career.
Pick Your Professional Specialty
If you’re not great at graphic design, then don’t center your services around that. Same goes for designing banners when you’re really good at designing forums. Center your design services around your highest skill. This way, you’ll ensure that you get the clients you want and make a high profit.
For Deadly Clever Designs, I focused on my Wordpress theme development. Can I design regular sites? Of course. However, Wordpress is my specialty, and is where I’m going to make the most income. This is because I’ve built up the necessary skill and reputation to charge more for my themes. Picking a specialty will allow you to earn more because of your expertise.
There are tons of subcategories for online and offline design. Here are a few of them to get you thinking:
* Application Interface Design.
* HTML/CSS Website Design.
* Logo/Graphic Design.
* Vbulletin Design.
* Print/Magazine Design.
* Newsletter Design.
* Twitter Background Design.
* Wordpress Design.
* Banner/Advertisement Design.
* Mini/Niche Website Design.
Try your hand at creating a few different types of templates, and decide which area you prefer working in. Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you can begin working on your portfolio.
Setup Your Online Portfolio
This is the most important step you’re going to take. Before you can begin working, you’ll need samples compiled in an organized fashion. The Design Cubicle has an awesome post on the anatomy of a successful graphic designer’s website. Your portfolio needs to include a number of elements for prospective clients, including:
* A description of your services.
* A showcase of your latest work.
* A quick list of your qualifications.
* All of your necessary contact information.
* A contact form for easy quote requests.
* Testimonials from previous clients.
* Terms of Service. (Remember to reserve rights for portfolio examples!)
Do not panic if you don’t have all of these elements. They will come with time as you grow and develop your business. The number one thing you should focus on when building your portfolio is obtaining decent examples to show to clients. Make sure to pick portfolio examples that show the full range of your skills and design style.
In addition, you’ll want to center the design of your portfolio around the feeling you want your clients to have when working with you. Consider your personality (professional, fun and loud, original) and create the website to fit that theme. It’s okay if you spend a long time designing your portfolio. Your hardest client to work with is yourself!
How to Collect Examples for Your Portfolio
Before we move on, I want to go into details about how to collect testimonials and examples for your portfolio. There are plenty of ways to start building up your repertoire, and a few of them are:
* Designing websites for your local church or youth groups.
* Designing websites for friends and family.
* Designing personal projects.
Your goal in the beginning should be to collect enough samples (3-4) to build a marketable portfolio. How much you get paid for these is inconsequential, as we’ll talk about price setting once you have your examples compiled. Focus on obtaining examples that are of high quality and show off your personal style.
Begin Marketing Your Services
Once you have your portfolio online, you can begin marketing your services to potential clients. The best place to do this for beginners is on forums. Forums allow you to post descriptions of your services, and apply for potential jobs in marketplaces.
Two great forums to get you started are Webmaster Peers and Webmasters Gossip. Remember that webmasters are always looking for website designs!
You should also begin marketing and networking on social networking sites such as Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. Participating in the online design community will help you to grow profitable friendships and connections.
Remember to be consistent in your promotion! Use the same username, email, and web address for your online accounts to build recognition. Using a personal photograph as an avatar also increases recognition. Logos are acceptable as well. The goal of marketing is to draw in clients, and to be remembered for future jobs!
Treat Your First Client Like a King
Once you finally land that first client, treat him or her as a king. If you choose correctly, your first client could easily lead you into a network of job leads and continuous profits. To ensure that your client is completely satisfied, follow these guidelines:
* Ask questions. Make sure you understand exactly what the client wants.
* Come up with multiple ideas to present to the client. Be creative!
* Communicate promptly. Don’t let days go by between emails or calls.
* Set reasonable deadlines for yourself and work hard to deliver on time.
* Make sure you work out pricing arrangements in advance. Consider costs of materials.
* Ask your client for a final proofing before sending over the files.
Once you’ve completed your first ever job, celebrate. Then, ask your first client for a testimonial to be used on your online and offline portfolios. Be nice and courteous about this, and if they say no, thank them for taking the time to consider your request. Remember that your first client will set the grounds for your reputation as a freelancer.
Once you’ve completed your first job, asked for a testimonial, and celebrated getting through the hardest part, evaluate your overall performance and experience. Ask yourself if your pricing matched your efforts, and if you managed to satisfy the client. Self evaluation is important for developing a growing business. Here are some questions you should ask yourself at the end of every job:
* Did I complete all of my work on time?
* Was the client completely satisfied?
* Is it possible to get a referral from my client?
* Should this work be added to my public portfolio?
* What did I learn from completing this job?
Learning to ask yourself questions at the end of each work session is a skill that will help you grow and mature as a freelancer. When it comes to joining the freelance designing career, the objective is to always keep moving forward.
Do you do freelance design work? How did you get started? My journey began with my mom!
I joined a small company that hired freelance writers for small projects, did quite well there.
But yeah, forums are a great source of work for just about any kind of freelancer if you can live off the rates or find people who will pay what you want.
It doesn't matter that you get paid more than the rates you might see on a forum lol . If you have a quality in your work then you can get many good clients in forums too . I have noticed that many top designers keep tracking you on forums and then personally contact you via emails .
If you are the best then users will find you where ever you go .
Very useful article, Corey.
lol. I think the OP should add that to the end of the post like this:Join a forum and create a thread, thats it dude!
P.S: If you can't read the above long article, then please at least read this:
Join a forum and create a thread, thats it dude!
Hi friend, very useful article. The things you have mentioned above about *portfolio,*marketing and *treat the first client as a king are very very important. The only correction I felt is, "Treat your first CLIENTS" like kings. I think till the day we are getting popularity and trust we must take good care of all the clietnts. Isn't it. It does not mean that after becoming popular we can neglect them.
Follow me on Twitter: @hendricius
One suggestion for find clients are real estate agents. many don't have much of an online presence and many that do could use help.
Also, don't compete on price. Find a unique selling proposition and compete on quality and service. Which is along the lines of what you have said about treating your client like a king.
Further many clients may not want to spend that much at first. But as the learn the value in your service, they become open to upgrades.