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Starting Your Journey as a Freelance Graphic Designer: Tips for Newbies

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Whether you're a recent graduate, or making a career change, embarking on a career as a freelance graphic designer can be incredibly rewarding - what better than doing a job every day that lets you fulfil your lust for creativity? Of course, like any career, there will be ups and downs along the way. When I decided to retrain as a graphic designer, my college course allowed me to master the fundamentals of design: balance, contrast, layout, typography and colour theory, to name just a few. However, in the real world, there are so many more skills that you need to learn to succeed. Here are my top tips for newly qualified graphic designers wanting to get ahead of the business game.

  • Develop a strong portfolio that appeals to your target audience:

Your portfolio is your calling card in the world of graphic design. It showcases your skills, creativity, and style to potential clients and employers. I started by creating a diverse range of projects, including logos, posters, websites, and branding materials, but have now refined this to branding related projects to reflect my niche. Don't hesitate to work on personal projects or pro bono work to build up your portfolio and make it all available on one easy-to-find page on your website.

  • Map your business processes:

A huge time-saver for me has been to map my business processes out and produce a suite of templates that you can tweak for each individual client. Learning on-the-job is fine, but it will save you time in the long-run if you have all the paperwork (forms, questionnaires, contracts etc.) ready to go and will impress your clients with your professionalism.

  • Network, network, network:

Networking is a powerful tool for any graphic designer. Local and online networking groups have been a fantastic way for me to meet fellow designers and potential clients (as well as helping to keep my sanity after so many hours working on my own!). Posting regularly and reaching out on social media is also essential for building connections. Who are your dream client? Target them on the platforms they are most likely to use as it’s hard to cover all bases!

  • Be mindful of your own branding:

Your personal brand is just as important as the brands you design for. Create a professional online presence through a personal website and social media profiles - these should reflect your skills, personality, and unique style as a designer.

  • Communication skills:

Being a graphic designer isn't just about creating visuals; it's also about effectively communicating with clients and team members. I’ve found that a strategic approach and strong communication skills have been key to understanding my client needs, conveying my ideas, and collaborating effectively.

  • Consider working with a mentor:

There’s a huge amount to take on board when you become a freelance graphic designer. Having someone who knows the ropes (technically in terms of design skills and as an established business owner) to turn to can help elevate your business to the next level. Make sure you do your research to find someone that is a good fit for you.

  • Stay inspired & persevere:

Creativity can sometimes run dry. It you are feeling uninspired, shift your creative block by seeking inspiration from various sources—art, nature, music, architecture, or even a simple trip into town. My camera roll is full of everyday designs that I can look back on for inspiration. If you are having days of self-doubt (which we all do!), I urge you to push through these emotions. Every experience is a building block to you growing in your design superpower!


I hope these tips were useful to those just starting embarking on their career as a freelance graphic designer. Embrace the learning process, stay curious, and never stop honing your skills. With dedication, hard work, and a passion for creativity, you'll find your place in this dynamic and rewarding industry, just as I have! I’d love to hear about your experience and if you have any tips of your own?

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