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how to get freelance graphic design work

How To Get Freelance Graphic Design Work: Step-By-Step

Been wanting to know how to get freelance graphic design work?

Freelance work has been an option for many people.

Either it is their main business as they build up their experience or it’s a side gig to boost their income for many years. 

However, this year has made freelance work an even greater commodity.

In some cases, a necessity, to help people maintain people’s livelihoods.

Geographic freedom, financial stability, and increased creative choice regarding who you want to work with are all freelancing benefits.

Graphic design is positioned perfectly for freelance work, particularly after the impact of 2020 on many businesses.

Many small and big businesses need to pivot and create more promotional content as they move to new systems of how they offer services, sell products, and/or educate.

Therefore, the demand for the work of graphic designers has increased.

Furthermore, the sporadic, project-based nature of graphic design work makes it a perfect candidate for freelance work.

Because of the nature of the work, a company may not need to train and hire an in-house designer.

They may be more willing to create relationships with designers in the community who they work with on a freelance nature when needed.

Curious about the steps on how to get freelance graphic design work? 

Below we offer steps to help you start this process.

Know Yourself Well: What You Want And What You Are Willing And Able To Handle  

Self-Motivation and Discipline

To start this journey on the right foot, it is important, to be honest with yourself and what you can and willing to do. 

Working for yourself means being self-motivated and disciplined with your schedule, planning your time, and meeting deadlines.

It can be easy to waste time, procrastinate on projects, and shy away from tasks that you do not enjoy doing.

One thing necessary is for you to schedule your days well, follow through on tasks that need to get done, and have effective communication with your clients.

It is important, to be honest with yourself about your level of self-motivation and discipline.

Perhaps, also mitigate some weaknesses by setting up accountability systems for yourself.

Running your own business can offer a lot of flexibility, freedom, and creativity.

However, it is also extremely demanding.


Furthermore, you will need to decide for yourself, based on your financial situation, whether you will start working in your freelance business part-time.

At the same time, you maintain other work until you build up your client list or whether you will dive into doing this full time.

Assessing whether you have the financial foundation to get you through potential slow days, weeks, or months will ensure that this will be sustainable for you in the long run.

However, as you begin to get more work, it will become important to set money aside for the slow periods. 

When cash flows in, use the time to plan for how you can “pay yourself” when things are slow.

Planning like this is a key way to help ensure you can last in the long run.

And to make your life less stressful, think of the future you and plan how to support the future you financially.


Your mindset will also be critical as you will need to be able to stay motivated and active during slow periods.

You also need to be able to follow through on your systems for obtaining clients.

Sometimes a busy schedule is much easier to manage than a slow one. 

Be diligent and consistent with following through on systems during busy periods and slow periods.

Think Through The Details Of Your Business

Now that you have decided that this is the step you want to take in your business. you can get into some of your business details.

The planning phase of any good business is one of the most important steps you can take.

It is smart to think through your business’s details before you launch and start seeking clients.

This will ensure a more seamless transition with clients.


It is beneficial for starters to have your contract well thought out and written, so it is ready to send once you have a client secured. 

It is good to look through some examples of contracts online to ensure that you have incorporated all important components.

For example, adding into your contract how many optional designs you will be offering the client and how many revisions will be offered.

This will help to ensure that both you and the client know clearly what to expect.

Accurate expectations, on both sides, will result in a better experience and greater satisfaction for you and your client.


To offer your clients clear messaging, you will need to think about your prices ahead of time.

On this note, it is also important to get comfortable communicating your prices to clients confidently.

This can be something people are uncomfortable discussing once they start working as their boss.

It is a good skill to work on getting over early on in your business.

Think about charging your worth and making your time worthwhile.

You need this business to sustain you and your family and not undervalue yourself.


Another detail to sort out is how you will send invoices to clients, how you will be paid, and the payment schedule.

Have you thought about whether you will be offering payment plans?

When you have thought through these details before sitting in front of your first client, you will appear more confident when presenting them with your answers.

For this component of your business, it is beneficial to do market research to give you a sense of what other graphic designers typically charge for their services.

Research about what certain project types cost, what payment structures other designers use, etc.

Tax Structures

A not so fun detail, but one that will save you a headache later on, is figuring out your particular country/region’s tax structure.

Meeting with a tax consultant early on to ensure you charge appropriate taxes from clients will make tax season go much simpler for you.

Having these details figured out by the time you start signing on your first client will ease the process for you and your client and ensure that you appear much more organized and professional.

Use the newest programs available in graphic design

You need to do your research and know what the best and most up-to-date programs are being used in the graphic design world.

And of course, you need to ensure that you are familiar with utilizing these programs to their maximum capability.

This will keep you competitive within the graphic design world and ensure that you can offer your clients top-notch service.

Initially, this may mean needing to pay money upfront to get the right equipment and programs.

It also may mean you need to invest time in learning how to use new programs or equipment.

This may initially feel like a hassle to take on, but taking the time to do this in the beginning, will pay off. 

Put Together A Portfolio 

It helps potential clients decide whether they want to work with you when they can see what you have done in the past.

This may mean at times you may have to weigh out the pro and con list of doing some low-cost work or even free work.

Through your portfolio, clients can see your quality, skill level, your style, and unique flair that you bring to a project.

This is important at all points in your business, but especially important when you are first starting.

It is likely that your name has not been out in the community long enough to be getting clients through the reputation of word of mouth.

As you get more work and complete more projects, update your portfolio with the best work you have done and the work that best shows your skill, style, and the niche you want to focus on. 

A targeted portfolio for a  specific type of work will come with time as you gain more experience and figure out the work that you are best suited for.

Go Online

These days, having your personality, life, and work showcased online is in and of itself a living portfolio for you.

Therefore, it is important to have a website and social media pages representing you and your brand. 

In many ways, we are the product, and therefore, we are selling people with our lives and personalities.

The clothes we wear, the colors we showcase, the places we visit, the type of photographs we take.

All of this sets up a vibe that attracts potential clients to us who are a good fit.

Attracting the right clients who match your interests and skills goes a long way in ensuring that you produce high-quality work that you are proud of.

Having an online presence also ensures that potential clients know exactly the service you offer and how they can contact you to discuss potentially working together.

Have fun with it!

You Are Ready To Tell Your Community What You Do

When you first start in your business, do not underestimate the power of your community.

There are possible clients or referrals to clients living right in the network you are already connected with!

Start with announcing to your social network that you are offering freelance graphic design services.

Next time you run into a friend or acquaintance at a coffee shop, do not forget to mention the work you are doing!

Being comfortable talking about yourself and your work is a skill that will benefit you throughout the rest of your career.

One great tool to use is the elevator pitch.

If you spend the time to create a good pitch for yourself at the beginning stages of your business, you will ease these conversations for yourself moving forward.

Have you created an elevator pitch for yourself? 

This is a short 30 to 60-second pitch you have prepared that succinctly describes who you are, your story,  your brand, and what services you offer people.

Moreover, speaking to your community may also mean visiting local businesses around you either in person or virtually to introduce yourself and your services.

Bring your portfolio when you do this, as this is a great time to show your community what you can do!

People are more likely to seek services from or refer clients to someone who is a real person to them, not just an advertisement online or a web page.

This is something that some of your competitors may not do, and therefore you are setting yourself apart from your competitors.

Join A Freelance Graphic Design Community

A great way to start working as a  freelance graphic designer is to join an online graphic design job community. 

It will serve your business early on and throughout your career.

This is a great space where you can either apply for jobs that you feel are a good match to your skills and style or where potential clients can find you based on the profile you showcase.

You can look at two possible online freelance graphic design websites: 99designs and Dribbble.

Familiarize yourself with these pages and other freelancer pages, and decide on one or two that you want to start with.

Talk To Clients

One of the most important things you will need to do as a freelance graphic designer is communicating with your clients.

This skill is one that you should learn about, read about, practice, and master.

From the initial interaction and throughout the process until the end of the project, you will need to exhibit clear, detailed communication with your client.

Good communication ensures that both parties have accurate expectations of the working relationship.

It also ensures that you understand the client’s vision and needs.

This is the most important part of your business – your relationship with your clients.

Also, this is going to be a great referral source for you as you continue to grow your business.

Work-Life Balance

A final note is on something that speaks to your greater quality of life as a freelancer and your boss.

Similarly, being your boss can put you at risk for greater slack and procrastinatio.

It can also put you at risk for having little boundaries between your work life and personal life.

Work hard in your business and know when to turn the phone off or put it away altogether.

It will benefit you to have a space that is your “office,” meant solely for work that you have either rented in an office somewhere or have created for yourself in your home. 

Even if it is just a particular spot at your kitchen table, that is your “work station.”

Keep that as your work station and leave your personal life in the rest of the house.

Get dressed for the workday even if you know you have a day of work behind the computer.

When the workday ends, you can then get into your pajamas.

These small acts may sound silly, but they help create boundaries between “work” and “home” life.

Maintaining good boundaries and giving yourself a chance to fill your cup back up and ensure that you are well will continuously allow you to bring your best self forward to your clients continuously.

Final Thoughts

The field of freelance graphic design is exploding right now.

It can be tempting to jump in immediately without necessarily planning.

However, it will work out in your favor if you take some time to plan for your success.

The steps listed above will help you on your path on how to get freelance graphic design work

They will help you create a successful business for yourself that will be sustainable and hopefully meet your short and long-term needs.

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