Nowadays, the Internet is everywhere for everybody. This fact has opened new opportunities that nobody imagined could be possible a few years back.

The Internet also has opened ways of work. Freelancing is not the new way of working but the normal one.

In that regard, deciding to become a freelance designer is the best decision since conditions are better now than ever. It can be freeing too.

By being a freelancer you decide on what kind of projects you would like to work on. Also, you have the freedom to decide your own schedule and the best routine to get things done. As more cliché as it sounds –  you become your own boss.

Yet, that is the good and easy part of being a freelance. The hard part is that it will require you discipline, focus, planning, and commitment. Being your own boss, you need to learn how to be good at management, decision making, and productivity.

Being a freelancer and becoming a successful one are two things different. Becoming a successful freelance designer will force you to think in the long term so there you find the value on it. It’s a completely worthwhile journey.

Over this journey, you will realize that is not only about your technical skills but also your soft ones. You have to know how to land projects and keep jobs over the long haul.

Are you ready to become a successful freelance designer? The following is everything you need to know on the journey to do it.

Find Clarity and Keep the Focus

If you do not know where you are going so you are lost. It is really critical to know exactly the direction you want to go in your career.

Once you have found clarity about your career and or business’s direction, it is also important to remind yourself to keep on that path.

What is the point of working without any goal just for the sake of it? It doesn’t make sense.

What you need is developing a business plan. It is the perfect ally to help you keep the focus you need. The more actionable the better focus.

The first impression really matters

The first impression really matters and that goes through your portfolio. Your cover letter is your portfolio. 

Whether you have created one or not in both cases your portfolio should look unique and professional that stands out of the crowd.

The more impressive the more presence you will have online. A strong portfolio allows you to reach a wider audience.

Spend enough time to create or refine it to look professional and strong. It’s where you can show off what you are made of as a designer.

Master one Thing and Find the Niche for

From the beginning bet on finding the right niches where you can faster become the leader.

It’s proven that the more focused you are on specific areas the more chances to be successful you have.

Trying to master different areas might be a bad idea. That’s the reason why most of the bloggers don’t succeed.

Yet, if you decide to spend your time by digging into the most area you enjoy no doubt you will create outstanding things.

On top of that, the good things by defining a niche are that you can get clarity on what you do best and deliver a better service to your clients.

Consult and pitch

Once your portfolio impressed the client, it will come up the time either to sit down with him for a virtual or in-person talk. Don’t make this a habit, though. You will end up having too many meetings really fast. And that’s counterproductive.

No matter if you have landed yourself a project or not. This is a crucial step you need to take care of.

One of the most common mistakes freelancers make is that they allow clients full control over the process. This will turn out into problems between you and your client.

While is the truth you need to hear clients’ needs it is also true you are the expert so you can give them your suggestions.

Thus, keep your focus on meeting the client’s expectations. This means involving them in the creative process to get from them as many inputs as possible to create the right outputs.

Brand yourself and name your business

At the very beginning, you don’t need to worry about brand yourself and look for your business name.

Yet, once you have delivered a few works and you probably have a few clients in the queue it is timing to think about brand awareness.

At this point, you need to think about the other components of how to become a successful freelance designer.

The first thing is to think about how to build your personal brand and name your business. It’s time to think about what are the characteristics that describe yourself better.

Start a website or blog

Having your own website is a must-have as a designer. It’s the best way to showcase your work.

Also having one will make you look more professional and committed with yourself.

A blog is a direct connection between yourself and potential clients. Through it, you can create strong relationships. 

Remember that there are many people out there looking for designers who make their designs.

The only thing you need to be sure of is to keep your blog updated regularly. By doing this you can show the prospect that you are an active designer since you publish your work on your blog too.

The idea behind this is to prevent them from taking their work elsewhere

Create an eye-catching logo

Once you have a few happy clients you need to think about your own brand and business awareness.

One of those things is to create an eye-catching logo. A logo that describes yourself and the services you offer.

Making your logo professional and catchy is not an easy task. It will require you to do hard work on it.

Branding yourself requires commitment and courage. So if you want to look professional and get more clients you will need to make the extra mile.

If you are able to create an eye-catching logo you will achieve two things. The first one is that you look professional and the second one is that this can give the extra inch to catch the attention of a new client.

Planning is everything

Planning is everything. Everybody who wants to become successful needs to be good at planning and execution.

Plan your days ahead. This means book an hour or so at the beginning of each week or if you prefer you can use the last hour of the previous week.

By doing this plan you are being completely clear how you will spend every hour. This will warranty to reach your deadlines.

The more incoming projects you have as a designer, the more important is to make good planning.

Be prepared

Planning is so important but preparation is much more important.

Despite that, preparation is different from one person to another there is a common relation between them.

If they don’t take enough time to prepare and instead you decide to skip it there’s no doubt you will hit on your face.

Preparation means ensuring that you have all resources, software, tools you will need to get things done. Make sure all equipment you will use works properly.

Keep in mind that some jobs will require a prototype. This means you should prepare ahead to create sketches, storyboards, and do research.

On the other hand, ensure you have everything organized ahead. Your tasks should be prioritized, meetings arranged and studio time booked.

Find and adapt your workplace

Feeling comfortable while you work is one of the bigger players to achieve a better outcome. So a good and comfortable working space is vital on this journey.

If you want to keep the same consistent productivity despite all distractions at home, you need the right working space.

Remember you will spend several hours during the day as a freelancer at home. Therefore, if you meet the workplace requirement, there is no doubt how it will help you.

Yet, if you can’t find the ideal working space at home you can think of a solution for.

This could be renting an office or co-working space.  Co-working spaces are really helpful since they offer all advantages of working in an office.

Build your network through social media

Social networks are a necessity if you want to show off your work. Over them, you have the chance to build relationships with your fans, prospect, and clients.

Today, no matter where you are from, which region or country you live in. You can connect with people around the world through social media. Your clients, potential clients, and partners are there.

You should have a Twitter account, join forums and Facebook groups related to design. DeviantArt and YouTube are other social platforms to interact and get more exposure.

Be service-minded

Once you get a new client, treat him like he is the first and the last one. This will force you to always give a great service.The more service-minded you are the happier your client will be.

This is a simple rule that most designers forget. If your client feels important that leads to becoming him a recurring client.

Be more a listener than a speaker. Use a positive language that conveys trust and calmness.

It’s good if you promise to get out of your way and make your best.

And the last one, don’t forget to request feedback. This will help to improve next time with him or anyone else.

Learn to say NO!

There is a common mistake among freelancers. Sometimes it is hard to say NO.

The reasons vary from person to person. But the end is the same when we haven’t learned to say NO.

The rule is simple. If you don’t have time for an incoming client you don’t need to hesitate to say him NO. Believe it, this will save you time, headaches, and a bad reputation.

You will have a serious problem if you say YES. You will not give the same quality and best service to any of them.

Formulate an agreement

Clients will see you as a professional designer if you use a standard contract –  an agreement where both parties can agree specific and clear points about the work to complete.

An agreement is to use it and stick to it. Many established businesses have it but not use it.

Here is where you can be one step ahead of the rest.

Clients will hire a professional designer who has clear and established ways of work.

Yet, don’t worry about whether the agreement should be legally notarized.  There’s no need at all.

Make a realistic delivery

The success of your deliverables depends on how good planning you did and the consultation process you followed.

If your process was good, so your deliverables will be realistic. Now both clients and you can mutually agree on the deadline.

Do not forget to detail how you will achieve every point on the agreement. Also, make sure to follow a time management matrix to help you.

Manage Your Money

Learning how to manage money is an essential skill you will need. As you dive into the freelancer journey you will realize that not every month you will have a paycheck.

It’s critical to have an open eye to your finances. Track and record every finance move will help you to find where the money comes and goes.

At this point, it is a good idea to set up and separate your personal incomes and the freelancing business. It is also a good idea not to spend money on premium apps when you can use open source ones.

For example, instead of buying a booking software subscription for handling meetings with your clients, you can choose an open source scheduling software. And if you’re a web designer creating websites with Elementor, use free Elementor addons. Don’t jump into buying the premium ones unless there’s no alternative.

Be a kind person

Being nice is the simplest advice but the most powerful. Being a kind person will make a huge impact on your clients. No matter if you got or not the job.

This is the soft skill most of the freelancers underrated. The more honest, kind, and transparent with your client you are the stronger and long-term relationships you will build.

But also, take ownership when you make a mistake. No matter what kind of them. While you give visibility and you assume your fault most clients will understand and even support you.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.