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How to Be an Effective Graphic Design Freelancer

Whether you’re a newly graduated graphic designer or someone with many years of experience, you can  succeed as a design freelancer. By following some basic guidelines you can position yourself as an expert in your field, which will grow your clientele and may ultimately drive your earnings.

Here are a few ideas of where to begin, including what works and what doesn’t. These are proven and tested ways that other graphic designers have applied themselves and succeeded as freelance designers.

Student graphic design portfolio

ALWAYS sign a contract

First and foremost, if you’re a freelancer you need to make sure you get paid for your work. For that reason, always make sure to sign a contract, which is an agreement with your client specifying every little detail you agreed about: required work, delivery date and payment terms, among others.

Additionally, I always write an email to my clients following our meetings or phone conversations to confirm that we are on the same page and to avoid any future misunderstandings.

Create a profile on freelancing sites

You can open a profile with freelancing sites like Odesk or Elance and start applying for vacancies pertinent to graphic design. The upside of freelancing sites is that they guarantee payment, provided you select hourly paid jobs. This isn’t the case of fixed price jobs though. In other words, the client may not pay you or may pay you less than the agreed-on amount if he/she didn’t like your work.  So be very clear what the expectations are and be sure to meet them.

Have an online presence

The internet has become a necessity in our daily life. Being an effective graphic designer requires that you promote your business both offline and online. Strive to have a website or a blog where you expose your portfolio and knowledge, write graphic design articles on ezine sites, and participate effectively in graphic design forums.

Furthermore, with social media, it has become quite easy to promote yourself provided you respect basic guidelines of social media. One important concept, of course, is to not spam your Facebook friends or Twitter followers with business-related offers or unrequested newsletter subscriptions. Use social media to promote yourself subtly, position yourself as an expert in your field and build a strong online presence.

Promote yourself constantly

As a freelancer, you need to promote yourself on a daily basis. Have your business cards in your pocket wherever you go and hand them out to people you meet. Apply to graphic design contests, as winning awards will help in promoting your business and will give you enhanced credentials. Furthermore, send greetings to your customers on holidays and special occasions. Let them know that you value their business so that they keep you in mind for any upcoming graphic design projects they have.

Box of business cards

Keep your customers happy

Fact: it cost you less to sell to a repeat customer than to get a new one. That’s why you should always strive to meet your clients’ expectations. A customer who wanted a business card design might ask you for a website design or bigger project if he or she is satisfied with your business card work. Besides, happy customers will likely recommend you to their friends. There’s no substitute for word-of-mouth marketing: it is the least expensive and most effective way to promote your business!

Stay up to date with new trends

Educate yourself on a regular basis to stay up to date with new graphic design trends and technology. Impress your potential customers with recent developments in graphic design and apply your knowledge to provide better results.

These are some of the tested and proven methods that have helped freelance graphic designers that I know build a successful business. What are yours? Do you know of any other effective ways to promote yourself as a graphic designer? We’d love for you to share them here.

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