FINDING WORK AND
So you’ve decided to become a freelance graphic designer?! Woohoo! But wait, where are all those emails you were expecting from people begging you to work on their projects? In such a competitive and often saturated market, whether you’re freelancing full time, part time or even just for fun, there’s a few basics you need to cover before you can expect your career to take off…
One of the most important parts of being a freelance designer, aside from actually producing work for your clients, is making sure you’re taking proactive steps to get yourself noticed and find new clients. And although this may seem like a daunting prospect straight off the block, the reality is that it can take many shapes and forms. These can include (but are not limited to):
To catch the attention of potential clients or business partners, you’re going to need a strong online presence that showcases your best work. Self-build website services such as Wix, Behance and Squarespace can help you set up something simple and professional, without needing to know complex coding right away. It’s also important to keep your website up to date as your client base evolves; nobody wants to think that the best work you created was years ago if they’re looking to hire you today!
TOP TIP: Don’t make the mistake of flooding your portfolio with every project you’ve ever worked on. Be selective, take great photos or create mockups of your designs and tailor your portfolio to attract the type of clients you want to work with. Don’t forget to add your contact details, should anyone want to get in touch!
To further aid your portfolio and assist in people finding it, consider creating an online presence for your business in the form of social media pages. Business pages can be used to promote your services, showcase your portfolio updates and direct people to relevant pages on your website. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are a few of my favourites and allow you to connect with people even outside your main circle of friends. Perfect!
TOP TIP: Invite your friends and family to like your pages to build up your audience. If you need to develop your portfolio, people you know may be your most willing customers – so ask around! You never know, one of them may also be able to refer you to another potential client in the future!
Printed promotional materials
Consider how you could promote yourself in a more traditional, ink on paper way. Business cards are an incredibly handy item to have. Whether you bump into a potential client in the street or attend a networking event, a business card is a physical and visual reminder of you and your business, so make sure it’s well designed! Leaflets, posters and printed portfolios are also another alternative promotional method. Just remember to keep your branding consistent, your content well written and your intentions or proposals clear.
TOP TIP: Consider sending some promotional items in the mail or delivering it in person to get yourself noticed. With so many cold calls and generic emails flying around, delivering a relevant and tangible item to a potential client may just set you apart from the rest of your competition.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool, so don’t be afraid to speak up! Talk with your current clients, talk to friends and family, approach older clients or former employers and find out if you can be of any help to them. Politely ask for recommendations from clients or for people to share your contact details with relevant parties, attend networking, design-based or social events, travel locally and nationally and get chatting to as many people as possible! You may also be able to help someone with a referral, which may come back to benefit you later on. Collaboration is key and most people will always remember those that helped them!
TOP TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you’d be surprised at who will be willing to give it. And if you know someone, who knows someone you want to work with – don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction! Work your contacts and let them know you’re available for work.
Keep your eyes open
Opportunities are everywhere if you just pay attention! Join some industry relevant groups online and talk to others in the industry, visit freelance jobs boards (maybe even apply for those that interest you), talk with other design agencies to see if they require an extra set of hands and really listen when people talk to you. Sometimes, it can even be a matter of luck – I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up new clients and collaborate with other design agencies just through being in the right place at the right time.
TOP TIP: Opportunities that seem too good to be true usually are. Beware of working for free or competing / delivering proposals without payment. Although the majority of clients will not cause you any problems, you always need to protect yourself, your designs and your ideas in the event of something going wrong.
Some extra ideas you can look into and explore:
- Email marketing campaigns
- Competitions and promotions (just be careful not to sell yourself short)
- Design “packages” for different types of clients / industries
- Attending design events / conferences
- Sharing client reviews and testimonials
So with some of the necessary tips and tricks under your belt, you’re ready to show ‘em what you’re made of! A freelance design career is always an exciting one with, often, some unexpected twists and turns – so just embrace them as they come. You may even find your own unique way of self-promotion and finding new clients!