It can be really tough to get going as a freelance designer. If you don’t have a background in business, you may not know how to get started. Freelancing has its good and bad sides, but it can be scary to take the leap. Honestly, getting into the business and being successful can be all about who you know. Making connections and networking is a big part of the business.
Freelancing Tip 1 – Put Your Portfolio Online
You have to have a portfolio web site. This is essential, because when you hand out your business card, you have to have somewhere for people to go to see your work easily. There are tons of free sources out there to create a site with. There are also tons of free WordPress themes out there. A lot of them are even responsive, which means your work will look great on an ipad, mobile device, desktop computer, etc.
Freelancing Tip 2 – Business Cards
2. Hand out your business cards to everyone that you know. Friends and family always know people, so hand your cards out to them to help you get started. Be sure that the card is designed well and shows off your great design skills. If your business cards stink, they will think you do too, and will not want your services. Keep your business cards in multiple places, so that you always have some available. This includes keeping some in your coat, your glove box, your laptop bag, and your wallet. To go an extra step above, spring for a business card holder to keep your business cards nice and neat. I know it can be annoying to have one more thing to carry around, but when you whip out a nice business card holder, it just says “professional” and that you pay attention to quality and how you look.
Freelancing Tip 3 – Work On Your Portfolio
3. Build a strong portfolio. At first, you may not have many quality or real life pieces. If you are already a professional from the in-house world, then your portfolio should be solid. If you are just starting outright after school as a freelancer, then you will have all school work. This goes into #4….
Freelancing Tip 4 – Do Some Good
4. If you are new at this, then complete some work for a non-profit organization first. This will get some experience under your belt, and should get you that solid portfolio piece to add to your collection. Most places need cards, a web site, or various promotional pieces. You can create a whole set of promotional pieces for a non profit, greatly boosting your portfolio. This includes work for charities, churches, and any other helpful organization. Design concert posters for local bands, or expo posters for new museum exhibits. These can sometimes be quality pieces that help to fill out a portfolio.
Freelancing Tip 5 – Connect With Designers
5. Join a professional network, such as the AIGA, or the Graphic Artist’s Guild. This sometimes can lead you to work, and the Graphic Artists Guild helps its members to acquire health insurance. Join Networks on LinkedIn. Get involved in discussions and talk with other designers. Sometimes you can get a couple of odd jobs from smaller studios on LinkedIn.
Freelancing Tip 6 – Network With Other Businesses
6. Join a local group for new businesses or entrepreneurs. You will meet a lot of like-minded business owners like you. These will be key connections that may pay off for you in time. You might start out bartering services with them, since you are both starting out, but once their business takes off, they will be needing more of your professional services.
Freelancing Tip 7 – Follow Up!!!
7. Check back with clients that you have serviced before. Sometimes we forget to do this, but if we check back and see if they need anything, sometimes they actually do. I have had clients lose my card when moving offices, or they couldn’t remember where I was from because it had been so long. They liked my work, and were desperate to rehire me for more projects.
Freelancing Tip 8 – Attend Local Events
8. Be sure to check out new business seminars. Sometimes you can set up a booth and offer your services. You might also offer a promotional package deal to get a small business owner started with a few marketing materials. You’d be amazed how just getting out there and in front of the right people will rake in the business.
Freelancing Tip 9 – Stay Up-to-Date Locally
9. Frequently check the listing for new businesses in your area. Most of the time, they do not know where to start with a logo, branding, or basic design services. Offering your services may land you some good work. Be sure to have a decent portfolio, as it will help you to land these newcomers.
Freelancing Tip 10 – Get Listed
10. List your services in as many freelance directories as possible. Many sites have free portfolios, as well as links back to your own web site. Many people surf these sites to find quality designers with just the style that they are looking for.