Finding Freelance Design Work Made Simple
You may be a master or graphic or web design, but if you can’t find work, you’ll never be able to transform your creativity into an income stream. Finding freelance design work isn’t always easy, of course. Especially if you’d much rather be creating than marketing.
So, for the creative designer who needs a straightforward guide to start landing clients, this is the post for you. There are millions of people out there in need of your skills. But if you don’t have a process to get in front of them, they are going to find someone else. Here is a simple system for anyone looking to bring in more design work.
#1 – Adopt a Successful Mindset
The first step actually has very little to do with finding freelance design work specifically. But it is still probably the most important step of all.
You are a freelancer. You are your own boss. But you’re also bucking societal norms. It can be easy to give in to pressure from friends and family who tell you to “get a real job”. Don’t let the negative external talk turn into negative self-talk though.
Be proud of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. Tell yourself every day that you will find success. And don’t be shy about sharing your goals, victories, and setbacks with the world. Lao Tzu said “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”. So don’t let anyone’s preconceived notion of what’s right for you get in the way of becoming the freelance graphic designer you were meant to be.
#2 – Get Into the Head of Your Ideal Client
In another post, we touched on the different types of people who hire freelance graphic designers. While you might do well to target all of them eventually, it can be helpful when you are getting started to create an image of the ideal client persona that you want do work for. Here’s an example to give you an idea…
My ideal client is a startup business owner. They are masters of their service or product, but don’t have the demand or budget for a full-time in house designer to create a logo, business cards, marketing materials, or a website. But, they do have an immediate need for these things during their launch, and will likely need additional design services every now and then down the road.
A good persona will generally answer these questions about your ideal client:
- Who are they?
- What are their pain points?
- What do they need from me?
Once you’ve identified the audience you are trying to attract, you can start to tailor the next steps we will discuss specifically to them.
#3 – Create a Targeted Portfolio
Your clients are going to want to see your previous work. Period. It’s just the nature of working in the creative industry.
So put together an online portfolio that shows off your skills, but make it as targeted as possible to your ideal client. As a potential customer browses the portfolio, they should feel as if it was designed specifically for them.
Let’s look back at the startup business owner persona we created before. An ideal portfolio for them would show off multiple examples of all the things that a brand new business needs: logos, letterhead, business cards, brochures, mailers, trade show displays, and websites–to name a few. You can even get bonus points by offering samples of what your client may not have even realized they could use, like graphic tees and vehicle wraps.
As your target client base grows, consider expanding your portfolio to appeal to different buyer personas as well. For example, the graphic design needs of a local plumber are very different from the needs of a national soft drink brand.
#4 – Blog About Your Work
To supplement your portfolio, you can launch a blog that will further demonstrate your expertise in the industry. Create content that solves your target audience’s problems but also positions you as the go-to resource if they are looking for a pro to do the hard work for them. You can also feature design projects you are currently working on (with the client’s permission of course).
Use your blog as a way to showcase not just your work, but your personality, ethic, and style. Clients who are looking to hire a freelancer want to know that you’re a real person. If they wanted a less personalized experience, they would go with an agency. Your blog is your chance to show them that you will be fun, passionate, and easy to work with.
#5 – Meet and Greet
You’ve already shared your new business venture with friends and family on social media, right? If the jitters are still holding you back, think of it as a practice in the first step we mentioned: mindset. But letting the people closest to you know what you’re doing can also be a great means of finding freelance design work.
Sharing a post online is easy, though. To really get out there and network for clients you can go to local meetups where your ideal customer is already hanging out. For example, maybe there is a local organization devoted to small business owners in your city. Or perhaps a chapter of 1 Million Cups meets every week nearby. These are the perfect opportunities to make connections that will land you more design work.
Of course, you have to maintain proper etiquette. Don’t crash a meeting that you don’t belong at just to market yourself. The best way to approach these scenarios is to go as an active member looking to make long term friends and partners. You are networking, not marketing. But the bigger your network, and the more involved you are in it, the more likely you are naturally attract business from the people you know.
#6 – Promote Yourself On Freelance Marketplaces
In-person networking is a great way to make long lasting connections in the industry and earn your first few clients. But, if you are looking to expand your potential client pool even further, you can join any number of online freelance marketplaces. This is a great way to get in front of customers exactly where they are looking for you.
One advantage of an online marketplace is that you don’t have to worry about clients who are slow to pay. On Legiit, for example, buyers pay upfront and the money is held securely until the order is complete. This offers freelancers and clients alike a trustworthy, hassle free experience. As long as you deliver what you promised, you get paid.
Marketplaces like Legiit are also perfect for finding freelance design work because they are generally populated by an assortment of small business owners, internet entrepreneurs, and SEOs. They might be browsing the site for a virtual assistant or a copywriter, but they are also the type of client who is likely to need design services somewhere down the line.
Whatever your approach to finding freelance design work looks like, the important thing is to never give up. You always want to be doing something to market yourself and land new clients. It might be slow going at first, but the people who succeed are the ones who don’t let failure get them down.