Anyone considering making the move from permanent employment to freelance work usually does so gradually. If you’re a designer looking to branch out on your own it could be a good idea to build up clients progressively while maintaining a regular job. Not only does this make the process less scary in terms of working independently, it can also take the financial pressure off you as you get into the swing of things.
However, people aren’t always given the option to wean themselves into freelance work gradually, especially in this turbulent economic climate. So, should you suddenly find yourself needing to build up a network of paying clients as a designer we hope this article will be useful. Below you’ll find a few ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to take heed of when scouting about for design work, which should help to take the sting out of going freelance…
DO: Use contacts
The chances are that your career history will involve a handful of full-time, permanent roles working as a designer. As such you should have at least a few contacts around various organisations. Pop them an email – or better yet a good old-fashioned phone call – to let them know about your change of circumstances. It could be that they’re not looking for designers themselves but they know someone who is, so swallow your pride and remember that it never hurts to ask.
DON’T: Harass people
According to the saying, it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. This can be the case when looking for design work, however you might find your contacts network drying up if you inundate them with requests and favours. Make sure you limit the amount you get in touch with old contacts and ensure that any correspondence is short and to the point – and always make sure you include a portfolio or a link to one…
DO: Work hard on an online portfolio
It might seem arduous but even those who hate to blow their own trumpets will need to showcase what they can do – and they’ll need to do that in a way that is accessible to potential clients. An online portfolio can be as basic or advanced as you like but as a bare minimum you should showcase five different design projects you’ve been integral to. If you can annotate your work with the thinking behind it this will demonstrate that you’re switched on and not simply a design workhorse. You might also choose to incorporate testimonials from previous employers to demonstrate that you’re personable as well as talented.
DON’T: Allow a portfolio to pigeonhole you
Unless you specialise in a very niche branch of design you’ll want to demonstrate a broad range of ability and experience. If this experience allows try to mix up online with print, technical with creative and formality with flair. Not only will this make you eligible for more work but it should help you to enjoy some variety in your career.
DO: Remember to direct people to your portfolio
Including a link to your online portfolio in your email footer is a real no-brainer. This will encourage more people to access your site and turn each email into a mini business card. You might also choose to place ads on relevant sites linking to your portfolio to accrue new business. Remember to include a way for potential clients to contact you via your online portfolio. An online form that gets forwarded to your email address can be a sensible spam-resistant solution.
DON’T: Assume you have to spend a fortune
Finances can often be tight for freelance designers who are just starting out. As such it can be a good idea to use one of the free websites that exist to help you create an online portfolio. Sites like Weebly.com could be a good place to start and a pocket-friendly alternative to hiring a developer.
DO: Get connected
LinkedIn has pretty much revolutionised the nature of networking – allowing freelance designers to find clients in a way that is quick and efficient. By setting up a profile and populating it with your career history and experience you have an instant online professional persona to tout about. LinkedIn is also home to numerous special professional interest groups, such as freelance designers. Joining these groups will allow you to get to know other people in the same professional situation as you – and even go along to events they organise for members.
DON’T: Hesitate to network with ‘the competition’
It may seem counter-intuitive to fraternise with those who may be competing with you for freelance design work. However, sharing experiences can be invaluable, as people in a similar position to you could have some great ideas about places to find work. Also – you never know – it could be that when these professional peers are too busy to take on new work they might recommend you as an alternative.
Last modified: April 5, 2017