How to Improve as a Freelance Designer

A freelancer path is thorny and hard. About 50 million Americans are employed in the freelance market. However, to be in demand and earn a lot, you have to promote yourself in the most effective way, at the same time proposing high-quality services.

Before I joined the DesignContest team, I had been a freelance designer for a couple of years. This period was quite controversial from a commercial point of view, but it was totally romantic. Having worked for myself (in fact, freelance is about working on your reputation), I followed certain rules, which eventually lead me to the point where I’m now.

So, I’m going to share some advice based on my freelance background.

#1 Tell everyone what you’re doing

Freelancing means a constant search for new customers, at least, at the early stages. No matter how many emails you’ve sent, a personal recommendation and a word of mouth remain the most effective marketing tools.

The key point is to state clearly that your activity is your job, not a hobby, so you expect to get money for it. A couple of orders made “for the sake of friendship” can kill your earning potential, not to mention the fact that it is unfair to the other fellow freelancers.

#2 Don’t take the job unless you’re sure of details and payment

Imagine a situation you find a wonderful order, which promises you a lot of money and fascinating work. The client looks adequate and promises to pay on time. You do your job, send it to the client…and suddenly, he disappears or says “it’s not that we need.”

  • To protect yourself against such situations, you can:
    Use websites with protected payments. As a rule, websites for freelancers are intermediaries between the performer and the client. This is almost one hundred percent the way to protect the payment. For example, Upwork Payment Protection guarantees the payment from the designer for both working on an hourly and fixed rate.
  • Require prepayment. Although the amount of prepayment is agreed on an individual basis, it somehow depends on the power of your personal brand. If you are confident in yourself, safely ask for a prepayment. Perhaps, the optimal and fair option is a prepayment of 50%.

Before starting the job, be sure to clarify all the details: the requirements, expectations, specifications, and understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the client-side platform. Ask the client if he has a technical background. In the case of negative answer, try to describe in detail the capabilities of the platform and all the restrictions since the customer can expect a very different result.




#3 You are a brand

Social networks are the strongest instrument to build your brand. Profiles in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even thematic and narrowly-focused social networks you can find by clicking on the url can tell a lot about the potential performer.

A well-designed page in social networks that shows you’re thoroughly engaged in your work is a great advantage.

A brand of yourself is the feedback about your work. Do not hesitate to ask the customer to leave a more detailed review if you feel the work is done well.



#4 Search for regular customers

Most likely, your one-time clients occasionally will move into the category of permanent. Regular customers are the best way to work for several reasons:

  • You will spend less time searching for a client.
  • You will be able to forecast earnings.
  • As a rule, regular customers pay more.
  • Regular customers can promote you to bigger customers.

#5 Plan your budget and performance indicators

When you leave the office job, there is a huge temptation to relax and live without thinking about money. And that’s a very dangerous trap that can catastrophically hit on your productivity. One of the most difficult aspects of freelance work is the lack of leaders. Performance Indicators and budget planning will encourage you to be in a constant state of search.

#6 Keep an eye on competitors

Despite all your uniqueness, a customer can always refuse your services and take advantage of the services of other freelancers. Therefore, you have to be aware of the current market conditions, that is, the prices and skills that are in demand.

Freelance websites often allow you to view other freelancers’ profiles and even offers for the same order. If you are interested in a broader assessment of the situation, it makes sense to communicate with familiar customers in a personal meeting.

Never miss the opportunity to work with other freelancers in a team – this way you can evaluate your skills, get new ones, and analyze the rates the rate and experience of competitors.

#7 Don’t stop at the top

Work is at the heart of everything. Monthly vacation can cost you a career. However, nobody can take away the opportunity to combine work and rest.

Freelance is far from being a universal option. A lot of people are not adapted to such a rhythm of work. But if you decide to boots you freelance career, then try sticking to my basic advice and it will greatly increase your chances of personal success.

Brian Jens is a former freelancer who now works at DesignContest – one of the titans among design contest holders. Brian is a blogger and a designer, so all his research is in-depth and of a high quality. Feel free to share your ideas for research with Brian and get top-notch articles as a reward.

Brian is a former freelancer who now works at DesignContest – one of the titans among design contest holders. Brian is a blogger and a designer, so all his research is in-depth and of a high qualit