Back in the days in 2018 after my graduation I had a full time job in a factory as assistant worker for one month. I needed money and at this point I wanted to study design in the following year so I needed money real quick. I planned to work in the factory for two months but it was unbearable for me so it ended up with one month. I talked to my dad and he meant that I have to find something else asap like a mini job or so. Mainly because of the money. But I wanted to find something design related so I could do something I’m having more fun at – something I’m good at. I never thought that I could land professional design jobs without any traditional education in media design theory, but in the end the skills and your portfolio count. Especially when you’re working with start ups and small companies. They never asked for my grades in school, only for my portfolio. That’s a good thing, because my testimony is not the best.
…after school and from scratch. This article is for everyone who finished school (or will finish school soon) and want to freelance as a desiger right after that. Normally you have no business contacts yet and every designer I know says that this is the most important thing while working freelance (It isn’t the most important thing, but it’s the most useful). In the following article I will show you 5 steps I followed to become a freelance graphic designer and land professional freelance design jobs. I refer to my career and my beginnings, because I’m the best living proof.
Good news for everyone who is passionate about their work as designer! You have to be good. Otherwise there is no chance in getting hired as a freelancer. It’s obvious but there are many people out there who get hired, because they have good relations and contacts in the industry. A degree in media design can also be useful, but luckily it depends on your practical skills in the end. Back then I moved to a whole new town and all I had was three friends and one of them was my computer with internet connection. It’s obvious but there is no special trick I can tell you. You have to work hard and by hard I mean much more than full time, so you should think again if you want to be a freelancer. For me it was worth it.
In one way it’s good news for everyone who knows that they are good enough to make professional design, but in the other way a warning sign for everyone who want to go freelance without any existing personal work. Back in the days, I knew that I can offer a professional corporate design, the only thing I needed was the orpportunity to show it. Then, after months of hard work, a opportunity appeared and I killed it. Hard work always pays off! Sometimes life is fair too.
Create a website, a portfolio and social media. Present yourself as a professional freelancer and create lots of design related content. Nothing is more important for a freelancer than personal branding. Show your possible clients that you’re an expert in what you’re doing and show them what you can offer. A Resume and a portfolio with school projects is not enough. You have to work on yourself and your business with doing projects on your own. Like I said before: there is no special trick, but hard work always pays off.
No contacts? No problem. If you have no contacts yet, you can make them. Many people think the industry is a community you can’t get in without any contacts, but you can make them easily by applying for jobs. There are plenty of job boards you can thrive through in the internet. Start with small jobs for design students in your area and go bigger with every following client. Maybe you land some Remote Jobs too. The only requirement therefore is an internet connection and a good portfolio.
Gain experience and get more work for your portfolio. After a few months it will get easier to get new jobs with a growing portfolio of client work. In the beginning I started with more than 50 applications. Something around three of them replied, but with one of them I’m still working with. After that I went with 10 applications a week, but I payed my rent with it. At some point, this process becomes autonomous.
Unfortunately I cant do this for you. You have a personal brand and clients. After registering yourself as a freelance designer the only thing to do now is doing research about tax rights. Inform yourself about the tax and work right situation in your country. It’s complex but there are many good articles in the internet which can help you like they helped me. Get an accounting program and keep track of your finances. I personally use Sevdesk* for my accounting. (*The link is an affiliate link. If you want to support me, you can use it.)
The life of a freelancer can be stressful like every independent business. There are Ups and Downs and annoying clients. I don’t need to educate you about the positive aspects of working as a freelancer. You hear almost nothing else than the positive sides from other people like sleeping until noon, working remotely blah blah blah… There are enough pros of working freelance. Of course, there are many benefits, but these five steps are not possible to realize over one weekend. It’s a long process that you can’t speed up with the knowledge you’ve just learned, but now you know where you have to start and that it is possible to go freelance right after school. I didn’t know it back then when I started freelancing. Be aware that you are always exposed to risks and take care of yourselves and your finances. Follow these adivices and you will be fine.
If you have any questions, you can contact me via the contact form below or write a comment. I look forward to your feedback.