Steps to becoming a successful freelance designer

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It’s a cliched saying that grass is always greener on the other side. Watching my friends and colleagues working the freelance lifestyle has always made me eye them with a kind of secret envy, that maybe there is something truly cool about being the boss of your own work hours, taking as many leaves you want and working from literally anywhere in the world! Damn, such envy. On the other hand, having worked as a freelancer, you do miss out on things we take for granted in the office life, like having other people to talk to, assured earnings and many more. So before you take the plunge and delve into the otherwise greener looking side, the article below by Preston D Lee gives you ten things you need to do to ensure you have a successful time as a freelance designer.

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Let’s face it. There are a lot of us out there: creatives trying to become a successful freelance designer. Freelance designing is wonderful but the market is so saturated that we often lack what we need to become successful. Below you will find ten tips on becoming a successful freelance designer.

1.    Brand yourself. 

Nearly any company or organization falls apart without an established style. Without an impressive personalized logo, you will simply fade into the background where literally thousands of freelance designers wander. Becoming a successful freelance designer means becoming a successful, memorable, quality brand.

2.    Create an effective online portfolio.

It is nearly impossible to become a successful freelance designer without having an impressive online presence.  Any potential clients or employers will want to see your work and most of them will prefer to type in a URL and click on what they want to see. Take some time to create an effective online portfolio or you can kiss your chances of becoming a successful freelance designer goodbye.

3.    Create an equally effective print portfolio, business cards, resume, etc.

This is somewhat a combination of the previous two steps.  Be sure to create an impressive tangible portfolio that you can give to those who want to see your work “in person”. If you’re a print designer, that is. Also use your branding and identity to create business cards, stationery, etc.  Any time you can slap your personal logo on something, do it.

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4.    Be brave, bold, and professional.

Don’t be afraid to call people, offer services, email businesses and more. Recently, I was printing a job for a client and at the printing shop, a man complimented me on the design of the piece. After engaging in friendly conversation, he asked me for some tips on the piece he was printing for his own business.  Although I was short on time, I was happy to help him and when I got ready to leave, I offered my future services and handed him a card. Becoming a successful freelance designer means having confidence that people will appreciate your skills.

5.    Go the extra mile for your customers. 

Word of mouth is the most important tool you have. Nothing can help you or hurt you more than rumors and compliments spread by those for whom you have done work before. About 90% of the freelance work I do comes from word-of-mouth advertising. Over time, with lots of word-of-mouth referrals, you’ll find yourself becoming a successful freelance designer.

6.    Take the small jobs first. 

Doing well at a small job for someone can help open doors for your client to do bigger, better things. I entered a logo contest for a particular organization and out of the four logos I entered, two tied for first place pick. They were so impressed, I offered to design their website as well.  Similar offers can be made for an organization’s stationery, business cards, etc. Becoming a successful freelance designer means finding a niche and then taking courage and offering more.

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7.    Don’t underestimate yourself. 

This goes along with Number 4.  Be sure to believe in yourself. You can become a successful freelance designer. But no one will ever hire a designer that thinks he may not do as good a job as the next guy.  Be sure to reflect your confidence in your pricing.  If your work is good, charge good money for it.

8.    Network.

Design is always rapidly changing.  Every day new techniques and styles are developed and the designer found sleeping on the job is left in the dust. Sign up for social networks like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Digg, and more.  Start a blog and frequently add meaningful comments on others’ blogs. Creating a name for yourself in the design world and becoming a successful freelance designer takes some time but can be done using social media.

9.    Practice, practice, practice. 

Nothing will help you increase in confidence and ability more than practice. If work is a little slow, nail down some of those personal projects you’ve been meaning to finish.  Join a group at school or in the community where you can freshen your skills.  Participate in design forums, contests, and workshops.  Nothing can take the place of real-life application and experience.

10.    Pay attention.

I like to carry a small notebook around with me.  Whenever I see an advertisement, photograph, building, person, etc. that influences my creative thinking, I try to write it down.  When you go places, pay attention to new trends.  Collect successful design pieces that you find at restaurants, at the mall, or anywhere you go just to relax.  Always be on the lookout for creative inspiration.

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The original write up by Preston D Lee published on Millo can be found here.

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