10 tips for a busy freelance graphic designer

10 Tips for a busy freelance graphic designer

Posted on 14th August 2018 by

You’ve finished your design studies, and in most cases already have five or more years of industry experience behind you. Now is your chance to take ownership of your life and make your way as a freelance graphic designer. We’ve put together a few tips to help you on your way.


Get organised. Stay organised

Being organised can help prevent you from falling behind, so you can progress and thrive in your work.

The best way to get organised is to keep a diary. Set out a monthly/weekly planner for all your future activities including: projects, marketing, social media posts, networking meetings, client meetings, trips to the gym, etc. You can find ready-made planner templates online.

A diary will help you stay focused and keep a perspective on what time you have readily available to you. You may be surprised at how quickly it fills up!

One of the best ways of staying organised is to resist accepting every project you’re offered. It’s a tough decision to make and there’ll be times when you need to take on the extra work to help your cash-flow.

But be warned, taking on every project can lead to more pressure, a lack of focus on the projects you’re already working on, added stress, potential missed deadlines and the possibility of unhappy clients. It can also lead to working long hours which means your days just become ‘bed and work’.

Managing your time effectively is hugely important and stops procrastination becoming a habit. It also minimises your chances of missing important meetings and deadlines.

Structure will help you maintain a separation between work and your personal life. Set aside some personal time, so your job doesn’t become your whole life.

Freelance Feedback

Listen to feedback

As a freelancer you are entitled to your opinion, however it may not always be the right one and the client’s opinion is just as important. You are working for them and therefore they should have the final say.

It is important to take in all the information given to you and to make the most of it. Feedback can make your work stronger and help you to understand your client better.

By listening to, and processing, negative feedback, you can avoid making those same mistakes again in future projects.

When receiving positive feedback, accept it with humility. You should also learn to ask questions at this point a) to ensure you’re still meeting the brief and b) to ensure the client isn’t just wowed by how your designs look.

Einstein once said: “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right”. This is a good thing to remember when receiving feedback. You may not agree with what your client requests, but it may be the right thing for their business strategy.


Remember you are the expert

Following on from receiving feedback, it is okay to respectfully disagree with a client from time to time. This is especially true if you can back up your opinion with examples and facts. The client will usually take your advice as they understand this is your job and that your ideas are most likely to be more effective.

By using positive language in response to feedback and engaging in this level of discussion is also a good way of keeping clients for the long-term. It strengthens your mutual respect for each other and you will avoid confrontation and be able to resolve any issues with a plan that you can both agree with.

It is important to explain to the client why you designed something in a certain way as it might also change their opinion of the topic.


Draft, Draft, Draft

When designing it is important to sketch your ideas first before starting on the computer.

It’s okay to draft an idea several times on paper before even thinking of developing them in Photoshop. This will give you a range of ideas to work from and will most likely improve the quality of your final piece.

During the briefing with your client you are required to gather as much information as you can about what they want.

By completing quick drafts and presenting them to the client, it allows them to decide quickly if they are the sort of ideas they would like to move forward with.


Use social media schedulers to your advantage

Advertising your own business on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can enable you to reach potential new clients on a national and international scale.

However, if you are posting to each platform manually every time you will quickly find you run out of time to complete any project work.

To ensure you post a constant and consistent flow of marketing messages it is a good idea to use a scheduling programme, such as: Hootsuite or Sprout Social. Social media schedulers enable you to post your messages in bulk, on future dates and at set times of the day.

In as little as an hour you can have a couple of months of social media posts scheduled for publication. This will then allow you time to write and create more content, to engage with people who comment on your posts, to react to anything that may feature in the news with a new post, etc.

Providing you have your content curated and created before-hand, this method can save you a lot of time while also making you look like a content king.

According to Blue Fountain Media, 91% of marketers claimed their social marketing efforts greatly increased their exposure, when only investing a small amount of their time each week to it.


Learn to manage your money effectively

When you’re freelancing, managing your money can be very difficult. The temptation to purchase a new gadget or software can override the necessity of paying an invoice, household bill, or putting the money aside for your end of year taxes.

Cash flow is a renowned issue for businesses of all sizes, with feast and famine being common situations freelancers find themselves in.

To ensure you manage your money effectively and not fall behind with your outgoings, it is important to keep up-to-date accounts. There are many Apps available to download that can help you with this, some are more complicated than others, including: QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, Expensify and more.


Think like the user

Always think of the user’s perspective rather than your own when designing any project. Making sure you are fully aware of the client’s target audience and what that target audience needs are vital components in any project.

Ask your client to validate their decision with data for the target audience. This will confirm the Who? and the Why? in their marketing plans.

Losing sight of the target market can result in sending the wrong message and attracting the wrong enquiries, completely missing the target audience in the process. This can be common in marketing and results in wasted spending and wasted time.

Keep asking yourself, “If I am the user will this attract me?” and other similar questions.


Keep it professional

As you work with a client on numerous projects your conversations will likely become friendly and more relaxed.

It is fine to become friendly with a client as it can be useful for gaining a better understanding of who they are, how they think and what they like, but it could start issues when it comes to your invoices being paid on time.

Having a contract in place is historically the best way to ensure that you and your client avoid any issues when it comes to the business side of graphic design.

A good contract should cover the basics, such as: client confidentiality, payment terms (how much and when), right of termination of the contract for both yourself and your client. Make sure you get it signed and dated.

As a freelance design professional, it is a good idea to take a down-payment before you start any work. 50% of the final agreed invoice is not uncommon and your client will be expecting this, so don’t be afraid to ask!


Be unique and passionate

There’s a saying: ‘People Buy People’. If you are unique and passionate in your work, it will shine through and you will stand out above the crowd.

Being passionate about your work can help make the frustrating times a lot easier to deal with and your passion will reassure your clients that you are the right person for their job.

Someone who is passionate can also find attracting new clients easier. Your eagerness will help you appear more amiable and approachable. This can be a big asset when meeting new people such as clients, and referral contacts at networking events.

Be brave when accepting large projects. This will show your clients how passionate you really are and that you are ready for the challenge. Think about how rewarding it will be for you once you complete their project.

Remember, a client is more likely to notice you and hire you if you and your work stands out, because they want their business to stand out too.


Protect your business

According to NerdWallet.com, approximately 20% of freelancers, across all professions, are uninsured. Working without adequate cover can lead to major financial distress in the future should a claim be brought against you by an unhappy client.

Business insurance is not expensive and should be viewed as a business investment. As a freelance graphic designer there are a handful of business insurances that you can benefit from, including:

* Professional Indemnity Insurance

An extremely important insurance for all professionals who offer advice, consultation and design work. PI can cover you if a client brings a claim against you for a mistake you make that results in a financial loss for the client.

For a quote call 0333 321 1403 or click here


* Public Liability Insurance

As we mentioned earlier in this article, you will meet clients. If you host client meetings on your premises you will need public liability insurance. PL will cover you in the event a member of the public (a client, a supplier, or a passer-by) brings a claim against you because they have been injured or their property has been damaged. It can cover legal costs and compensation payments if your business is found responsible.

For a quote call 0333 321 1403 or click here


* Personal Life Insurance

  • Ask yourself how would you cope if you became ill for a lengthy period of time that meant you weren’t able to complete your work?
  • How would you pay the bills and look after your family?
  • How would you complete your current projects and maintain your client relationships during your illness?

A personal life insurance policy is especially relevant if you are a sole trader or the sole employee of your own limited company. There are many different types of personal life insurance available to you – to find the right one for you it is recommended you speak to an expert before purchasing.

We work closely with Relevant Life Expert who can help you with a quotation here.


* Key Person Insurance

The company buys a policy to cover the key people in the business. If you employ people a key person insurance policy could be worth considering. If the key person unexpectedly dies the company would be able to claim against the policy.

The compensation could be used to pay off debts to suppliers, distribute money to investors, pay severance to employees and close the business down in an orderly manner.

We work closely with Pareto Financial Planning who can help you with a quotation here.


For further information about how to insure your business please call our award-winning team on 0333 321 1403



Caunce O’Hara & Co Ltd. are chartered business insurance brokers and do not provide Tax advice nor advice regarding Investments. Any commitments to personal life insurance and key person insurance are taken are solely at the person’s own discretion.

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