The plunge into freelance design is something of a leap of faith, but planning will certainly help
smooth your path to success. Here are a few helpful pointers to pave the way.
Have a savings cushion in place
A savings cushion will be a great help when you launch out on your own into what, for you, will be
largely unknown territory. Having enough funds in the bank to see you through the first six months or
so will give you the peace of mind and confidence to concentrate on the tasks in hand.
Know who your customers are
Before you even consider setting up shop for yourself you should know precisely who your customers
are. This means knowing their needs and how you can help them achieve their specific goals. There’s
always the temptation to let everyone know that you can tackle all types of design work, and that may
be the case at first, but nailing down your specialties will make self-promotion far more effective and
Concentrate on marketing
Freelance working can, by its very nature, be sporadic. Self-promotion is an important part of
maintaining your workflow and avoiding the cycle of either being inundated with jobs or having nothing
at all to do. Self-promotion should be carried out when the work is actually coming in and should
secure more jobs for six or seven months down the line. You could have your website tweaked or
overhauled, or start a newsletter campaign.
Networking with other freelancers who have similar interests has a number of benefits, including
client referral and job sharing. Also consider umbrella company services, where mundane tasks such
as invoicing and tax returns can be carried out for you, leaving you free to concentrate on business
Specializing is important in that potential customers will be able to grasp what it is you do, and in your
specialty field you will be able to charge more because of your specialist talents. Specialization can
be defined vertically in terms of industry (finance, healthcare, NPO) or horizontally as categories of
work (websites, annual reports, packaging).
A good place to start specializing is in the sort of work in which you are most experienced. This
should, ideally, also be the work you find most satisfying. Alternatively, you could start with a niche in
which you have potential clients already in place.
Remember that specialization in no way sets limits to the type of work you’ll be able to accept, and
this will be especially true in the early days when you need regular cash flow to get off the ground.
You’ll also be able to add or drop specializations as your freelance business changes and grows over
Pay yourself fairly
The rates you charge will cover all business expenses, from taxes and equipment to insurance. The
temptation to charge rock-bottom prices should be avoided and the clients you want are the ones who
understand that they get the quality they pay for. So, above all, have faith in your own abilities and
enjoy the ride!