Although there are many obstacles to overcome when starting a freelance career in graphic design, there is one issue that concerns me more than the rest. A lot of designers run into the problem of not having new projects to work on. This causes them headaches and leads them to abandon freelancing for employment with design firms and other companies, or simply to pursue other avenues of business.
Wasting time, effort and money is the last thing anyone wants to do. If one perseveres, in other words, uses the avenues available (like networking or having an online presence), does quality work (attaining testimonials) and follows the predetermined conditions set between themselves and their clients (paying attention to contracts and proposals), there should be no problem in finding work. The most difficult piece of this equation, for people to know, is how to use what avenues are available to them, and then follow through.
The Responsibility is Yours
First, when one decides to freelance, they are the only one responsible for getting work. The work does not come to them because they need it, especially when one starts out as a new freelance artist. Actually, getting enough work can become a stressful issue when one needs an income. Most freelancers get more than half of their annual income from repeat business.
This pressure can be the root of several other problems as well. Sometimes, because of the need for work that pays, designers will compromise what kind of work they take on, whom they will work for or how much they are paid. They find themselves in ethical dilemmas and gamble the reputations of themselves, and their business, because they do not know what to do. They are, essentially, not marketing themselves properly and not following through on using what is out there to its fullest potential.
Show Your Stuff
One of the oldest marketing strategies out there is networking, and the newest form of networking, social media, is a great way to advertise one’s business. Sometimes, designers have to refer work when they have an overload of projects, too. These networks can be a great way for people to find designers, but it is important to remember that these sites are not always a good fit for the intended purpose. In other words, certain social media sites may not present one’s business according to the designer’s business standards, so the designer must decide carefully.
On the other hand, this source offers a way for designers to give away advice or knowledge about their field. Clients will see the quality, professionalism and expertise the designer has to offer, which will help differentiate them from the rest of the client’s potential hires. This goes the same for blogging on a designer’s business website. It can be a great tool for displaying those attributes and establishing yourself in the industry.
Blogging is not as easy as it seams, though. It is not enough to just drop your link on other people's blogs. You have to do your homework. Content is crucial. People appreciate quality comments, and will respond likewise by engaging with you on your site.
Keep Up the Quality
The next avenue I mentioned before, doing quality work, is an essential piece of the equation. Often, clients see high quality in the samples they are given before the finished piece is delivered. Then, when the project is completed, the work looks like less-than-quality work. This can happen for many reasons, such as poor communication or poor time management. The trick is to stay motivated, and deliver the quality that you have been promoting. To be successful, a designer should seek to perform at the highest level of quality and professionalism, in order to earn a strong reputation. Most likely, if clients are unhappy with a designer's work, they will not be a source of testimonials or new contracts, things that are key in the expansion of the designer's business.
Your Word is Your Bond
The last strategy for successful expansion when freelancing is to stick to the contracts. Many decisions have to be made and agreed upon, concerning the conditions for hire, execution and delivery of final work, and any other detail that might come up. Needless hassles can easily be avoided by giving extra attention to what is in the contracts being used. Every aspect needs to be understood by both parties, for a successful and enriching partnership to be attained. Most of all, being honest with your clients is key. If there is a problem, let them know. Good communication will prevent problems in the future. This will earn you a reputation as a designer worth hiring, and will lead to referrals that could not have come otherwise.
Make the Steps Toward Success
Even though there is a tremendous need for design, getting work may appear difficult. It can be emotionally and financially stressful, but there are many things one can do to create leads for themselves. Using web sites and social media to market one’s business is becoming evermore popular. Almost all good design business websites have a section reserved for blogging, to show professionalism, character and expertise. Creating quality and building good relationships with clients is important to expansion, as well as for obtaining testimonials. This means, one cannot forget the details, which should be spelled out and agreed to by the designer and client before work begins. If all else fails, there is always the tried and true method of hitting the streets, and contacting businesses, or whatever is the target audience, and simply asking for work.