Freelance Graphic Design Profession Guide

A recent study by recruitment specialist, Major Players, revealed freelancers comprise 40% of the media workforce*, and the UK’s creative industries grew by 8.9% in 2016 – nearly double the growth of the overall UK economy**, according to government statistics.
There’s a greater demand for freelance professionals than ever before, and seemingly a stronger desire to become a freelancer due to its perception of being more flexible and better (although not as consistently) paid.

But what exactly is a freelance graphic designer?
As discussed here, a graphic designer’s job is to visually communicate a particular message to a given audience - often for marketing purposes, but not necessarily. A freelance graphic designer is someone who does this as a self-employed entity, rather than being permanently employed by a company or agency. They will be contracted (usually on a project basis) by a brand or agency for their design services.

Who hires freelance graphic designers?
Any business or individual requiring creative deliverables could or would hire a freelance graphic designer. Agencies or companies often seek them out during times of excessive work - for instance, when working on a new pitch or having secured new business, or to cover staff sickness, holiday or parental leave.
In Major Players 2017 Freelance Report most employers noted that they hire freelancers “primarily to fill a resource gap, secondly to benefit from their specialist skills, and thirdly to deliver a quick turnaround on projects.”

How to become a freelance graphic designer?
There are numerous routes to becoming a freelance graphic designer. Some designers may freelance immediately after graduating - or even during their studies as a supplementary income. Many others will aim to work for someone else first so they can build the skills, experience and network in order to potentially freelance at some stage in the future. These are all vital ingredients to make a freelance career viable as you need enough commercial prowess to operate all aspects of your own design business, plus enough contacts and recognition/awareness to create, maintain and grow a client base.

How to get freelance graphic design work / clients?
As well as being a skilled designer, to be a successful freelancer you also have to become fairly au fait with self-publicity, as no-one is going to hire you if they don’t know that you’re available for hire. Therefore you’ll probably need to publicly declare - both online and offline - that you are open for business, so to speak!
Word of mouth is a hugely powerful promotional tool - particularly in design as it’s an area where people like to seek their contacts’ trusted recommendations. As well as good old fashioned face to face meetings or even soft sales calls, online networking is very effective a spreading your message far and wide. We strongly suggest using The Dots (of course!), plus Facebook and Instagram channels to reach a creative audience / potential client base.
Another way of gaining work is teaming up with someone who has complementary skills to your own - for instance a business coach or copywriter - who will already have clients with design needs you can fulfill. To incentivise this you could set up a two-way financial arrangement where you each receive a commission for business you refer to one another.

Freelance graphic design tips and advice
Freelance recuitment consultant, Sam Striven, shares his helpful perspective on what makes a great freelancer, here.
And one of our favourite Australian-based independent brand agencies, Smack Bang Designs, have penned their list of ten tips to make sure your freelance life is resembles a dream, not a nightmare.

Freelance graphic design resources

What insurances graphic design freelancers need?
Freelance portal/platform list the following types of insurance as coverages worth considering:
  • Professional Indemnity
“Provides financial protection for your company and is designed to meet the cost of defending claims made against you, including damages that may become payable. Claims can occur where a client suffers a financial loss as a result of alleged mistakes or omissions on your part. You may even be sued by a client who is merely dissatisfied, but has no valid claim, leading to substantial legal costs and time away from contracts. Of course, such claims are rare.”
  • Public Liability
“This type of policy will protect you against your legal liability where you accidentally cause property damage or bodily injury to a client or member of the public. As a freelancer this could be something as simple as damaging an expensive piece of equipment belonging to a client, such as spilling a drink on their laptop. Public liability insurance covers the cost of defending claims made against you, including compensation payable.""
  • Content Insurance
"Contents insurance is another popular type of cover for freelancers." Your tools are a cornerstone of your business so if they were damaged or stolen you’ll need the capital to replace them.

How to get noticed as a freelance graphic designer?
  • Research the brand/market/industry thoroughly
  • Hit the ground running
  • Make the effort to go above and beyond the limits of the remit assigned to you
  • Reliable
  • Presentable
  • Punctual
  • Stellar client service
  • Proactive ideas
  • Unique insights

Team Credits

Handan Brennah McGoldDay

  • Message
  • Copy Chief

Project Tags

  • freelancing
  • self-employment
  • solopreneur
  • small business
  • creative industry