Is it Tough Working as a Freelance Graphic Designer? (2021 UPDATED)

Working as a Freelance Graphic Designer

Many Designer’s attempt to go Freelance and fall at the first hurdle, there are many reasons for this including failure to prepare effectively before going freelance, competition, and of course probably one of the biggest factors of all, other designer’s undercutting your price range & value. (ie: Designers creating Logo’s for $5).

This article will aim to evaluate the main contributory factors behind Making Money as a Freelance Designer, and what pitfalls may occur along the way.

I will try to give examples of Freelancer’s who have made it and what we can learn from their endeavours, as well as providing useful resources that every freelancer should have in his/her arsenal, such as cheap drawing tablets, laptops for 4k video editing, or an airbrush kit.

So without further delay, lets get started as see how tough it is working in freelance design.

Preparation

To become successful working as a freelance graphic designer, you need to prepare a variety of things before you even start. These include the following bullet points below which we will address one by one:

  1. Setting up your business and learning to deal with taxes & payments
  2. How to source Freelance Work
  3. How to create multiple streams of income
  4. How you will market yourself & your skills
  5. Dealing with Clients
  6. How to stay motivated and ontop of your craft

This is not as hard as it sounds, coming from the UK (I’m sure things arent too different worldwide), you simply need to go to the HMRC (American equivalent being the IRS) and register your business online, then go to your preferred Bank of Choice and set up a Business banking account to deal with your payments and taxes.

Seeing as you are self employed you will have to fill out a Self Assesment Tax Form throughout the year. Make sure to off set various expenses you have against your tax bill, for example if you work at a wework hotdesk then you can offset the cost of this against your tax bill, aka: paying less of your hard earned money to the taxman.

Invoices

To successfully deal with clients you need to send them invoices for work. If you can’t do this then you will most likely be seen as unprofessional and in perfect honesty most companies will like invoices for their personal records anyway, so tryout some invoicing software such as Freshbooks or Kashflow, some of the best invoicing/accounts software packages out there today.

Once these are done, you will be ready to go, now all you need is some great clients and figure out how to Make Money from your Freelancing Efforts

Sourcing Freelance Work

This is of course one of the most important factors, it has the potential to make or break your success as a Freelancer.

If you can get an array of consistent work every month from reliable clients, you are living in dreamworld and are set to be successful! But without the security of a corporation or design agency behind you, dealing with clients can sometimes be difficult, you may need to chase clients for money or even take legal action in some cases. These are the downfalls of Freelancing, dealing with the meaty work and always sensitive topic of money and who owes what.

That being said, there are many genuine & potential clients out there waiting for you, so where is the best source of Freelance work to grab these clients from? Below is a list of some of the best places to source freelance work. Other notable sources would be places like Upwork.

Create Multiple Income Streams

Making money in the digital world is hard enough as it is, with increasing competition and the trade of Graphic Design being cheapened by websites such as Fiverr and competition websites forcing designers to create work for ever decreasing price ranges.

This being said, you simply need to diversify your income to truly be a successful freelancer.

For example: Creativemarket.com is a popular resource for designers and professional design studios across the world. Every day there are tens of thousands of graphics, fonts, actions, textures and much more downloaded for use on creative projects. If you can creative something similar and sell it online, you will have set yourself up with a separate side income which can supplement your Freelance efforts.

For example, if you have a wacom cintiq drawing tablet, you can use this to create unique designs and sell them on places like Etsy & Creativemarket to create a form of passive income.

working as a freelance graphic designer

Case Study – Pete Harrison

Pete Harrison

If you have ever stepped foot into the world of digital art or visited deviantart.com, you will no doubt have heard of digital artist Pete Harrison. He started as the rest of us did, creating digital art in his sparetime, and has now gone on to be one of the most successful digital designers in the world. Pete Harrison is proof of how working as a freelance graphic designer can be profitable.

The reason for this? Well apart from his amazing skillset, he has diversified his income, but what do I mean by this? Well not only does Pete do Freelance Commissions on projects, but he also set up Funkrush Clothing Company & Desktopography, companies that make him money on the side. This means that when his freelance commissions are looking a bit thing, he has these projects to fall back on and make him some money in the long run!

There are many different ways to make money as a Freelance Designer, once again please refer to our previous article here to see for yourself. You can make money via selling t shirts, selling stock photography and graphics and much more! Diversifying your income is the key to making sure that if your freelance commissions take a dip, then you will be secure enough to survive, because as we have already found out, freelancing is dam tough!

Market Yourself & Your Skills

This is kind of an obvious one, but you must market and conduct yourself as a professional designer. This means creating a modern looking portfolio to display your recent work and also keeping active in the design community, whether its simply tweeting about design related news, or posting in design forums about the work you do. Make sure people know who you are so you can potentially get some business from the back of it.

An important point to note is please do not market yourself as something you are not. If you can dabble in a bit of HTML and CSS thats a nice bonus to your design skills, but do not market yourself as a Web Developer, otherwise the day will come when you are asked to code a PHP application or something more difficult and you will be, for lack of a better word, screwed!

Dealing with Clients

Dealing with clients doesn’t need to be that difficult, but sometimes it can well, be a pain in the ass! Whether its in the form of a client wanting a design to be “more jazzy”, “have more pizazz” or to be the next eBay, you will sometimes run into problems. The biggest problem of course is dealing with payments.

The easiest way to do this is to set a contract before you start the work and ask for a 25% deposit upfront, this way the client has already invested in your time and you know they are serious.

A professional contract will save you hassle in the long run if you really need to resort to legal action, but its a safeguard against getting screwed over, and when you’re on your own, thats not a good thing!

Staying Motivated

Staying motivated in the world of Freelance Designing can be tough, at least for me it was. Seeing other designers offering to do logos and artwork for as little as $5 means that a lot of potential clients are soaked up already. If you are already established as a seasoned professional then Its probably different because people are aware of you and word of mouth is one of the best sources of business! However if this is not the case, you will need to work hard on your craft, market yourself as best you can and just know that there will be some work eventually, even if you have a dry spell.

Tips for staying motivated:

  • Get up early and work your butt off
  • Google other successful designers and realise their humble beginnings
  • Surround yourself with images of what you want to achieve
  • Listen to motivational speeches on Youtube
  • Learn something new such as a Coding Course or Graphic Design Course

For more information check out our guide on how to stay creative

Conclusion

Were you questions answered on how working as a freelance graphic designer is tough? I hope you learned a thing or two about how to Freelance Successfully, and whilst it is a tough world out there for designers, it can be done if you put in the effort and want to succeed, so good luck to you all and lets crush it this year! Edd 🙂

FAQ

How much do fonts sell for?

Fonts can sell for as much as $1000 depending on the license they use. For example if you are selling a font with an extended commercial license, this will sell for much more than if you are simply selling it under a personal license.

Ornate Script Fonts and Handwritten Fonts such as the ones produced by the likes of Callie Hegstrom are super popular and tend to be downloaded more than serif and basic sans serif fonts.

Can I sell my handwriting as a font?

Yes, you can sell your handwriting as a .ttf or .otf font file for sale on websites such as Creativemarket and Envato Elements. Typically you will need to package these fonts up into a .zip file, and once accepted on these platforms upload them alongside creative display images which showcase their use.

There are other websites that allow you to convert your handwriting into a Font, but these often produce very poor quality results. What you want to do is use a tool such as Fontlab or Fontself to construct your font with proper kerning, spacing and legibility, then package this up for sale on a website like Creativemarket.

How much does a font designer earn?

A Font Designer can earn anywhere from $2000-200,000 per year depending on where they sell and distribute their Fonts. For example, if you were making a custom Font for the likes of LucasArts or a blockbuster film, they would have to sign an exclusivity deal as this Typeface would be exclusive to their brand; meaning huge commissions.

If you’re selling Fonts online, or to smaller clients, then a Font Designer can still earn a respectable wage, ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and depending on what licenses you sell your fonts for.

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