Guide to Finding Freelance Work
So you've started to dabble as a graphic designer, you've learned color theory and design concepts and you're learning the software. What next? Where do you find a job? What job are you even looking for?
The great thing about being a graphic designer is that you have so many options when it comes to jobs! There's logos, branding, packaging, ads, web design, app design, the list goes on. You'll eventually learn what your preference is, but at first you'll do a bit of everything. My freelance file is filled with so many random clients and projects, but that keeps the job fun! I personally love logos and branding, but doing a website or a package design here and there keeps things exciting and pushes me to stay on top of my skills.
I want to give you some resources for anyone who's ready to take the leap and try their hand at some freelance jobs. I did freelance work all through college and it's a great way to make money while you're still learning and to push your skills. You may not feel like you're "qualified" or "good enough," but trust me, you are! You can start with simple things like layouts before you move on to bigger things like designing someone's brand identity. That doesn't mean to lie about your skill level or take a job that's way over your head, but be confident in the skills you've learned so far and go after jobs that fit into that range.
Get the word out
One of the best ways to get freelance clients is to let people know you're a graphic designer. Put it on your Facebook profile, post some work on your Instagram, update your LinkedIn. Word of mouth can be a great way to get clients, but people have to know what you do first! I've gotten a lot of clients from the alumni page on my college's website and from random people remembering I was a designer when they needed one. Get the word out!
Speaking of social media, you'll hear both sides when it comes to freelancing. Some people swear by it and that's where 90% of their clients and income come from, while others have built an empire completely without social media. It's totally up to you how much you want to use it, if any. If you already have a large following, it may be beneficial. I would encourage you to post about your work every once in awhile, just to let people know/remind them what you do. Finish a logo? Post it! Design some sweet packaging? Tell people about it! Some clients/brands will even send you the physical product if you ask so you can get pics of it and post about it.
The other crucial part of being a designer is having a website (your portfolio). This is where you'll showcase all your work and what you'll send to people when applying for jobs. It gives you the opportunity to show your personal design style through your website while showcasing all the different types of things you can do. You can even just start with a blog where you post things as you finish them so you have something to show when someone asks for your portfolio. I started off with a tumblr back when I was in school.
There are a lot of great websites you can use to get your website up: SquareSpace (what I use), WordPress, Wix, to name a few. You don't have to know how to code to use these and they even have pre-made templates if you want it to be super easy! Once you get started you'll feel like your site will never be done and ready, but be confident in your work and launch it! I still tweak my website all the time and randomly give it facelifts whenever I get bored with it.
Where to find jobs
Once you've got a website up, it's time to start applying for jobs. There are so many websites you can join to get freelance gigs. Here are just a few that I've used:
Another great place to find work that might surprise you is Facebook. There are a lot of Facebook groups out there for designers that are great to join to meet people and find out about job opportunities. I’m part of a few groups and I’ve actually gotten multiple jobs from them.
The next couple of ways I’m going to talk about are probably the most intimidating, but can also be the most exciting. Reach out to local, small, and online businesses offering your services and to agencies.
Maybe it’s a coffee shop you frequent that has a logo but no other branding, or an online store that sells really cute clothes but needs a little facelift. You have to be careful how you word it so it doesn’t sound like you think their brand is ugly, but you can approach them in a way that’s flattering and also shows them how you can help them. The idea here is to offer them a solution to a problem they probably didn’t realize they had. You can mention things like “I noticed you didn’t have any business cards,” or, “I noticed a bit of inconsistency in the branding on your website,” and then offer them a solution to that problem. Introduce yourself and tell them that you would love to work with them to design business cards or a style guide or whatever it is that they need.
You can do a similar thing with agencies. A lot of agencies keep a list of freelancers on hand for the times when they’re really tight on time, or if they’re just short staffed. You’ll have to have more experience for these types of jobs. You basically send them your portfolio and introduce yourself and let them know you’re available for freelance work if they ever need it.
With all of these options, you’ll get a mix of responses. Some people will come back asking for prices and ready to move forward, some places will let you know that they’ve already found someone but will keep you in mind, and sometimes you’ll get absolutely no response. Don’t get discouraged by rejection though! I have applied for hundreds of jobs, freelance and full time, that I’ve gotten turned down on or didn’t hear anything back at all. But stick with it, keep building your portfolio, and you’ll start to see the jobs trickle in.