What Is a Freelance Digital Designer?

Molly Howard

Freelance digital designer working from home office

A freelance designer works independently rather than with an agency or for a company. Freelancers can be found in many industries including tutors, photographers, lawyers, writers and designers. Freelance designers may work for clients in a variety of media including digital design, logos, brochures, books or websites. Freelancing offers the advantage of flexibility, as a freelancer can determine what clients or projects to take on and how many jobs to work on at a time.

How to Become a Freelance Designer

Since freelancers are self-employed, there are no uniform requirements for being a freelance designer, but a degree in digital design certainly helps with learning design fundamentals, industry software, networking and other essential professional skills. To attract the right clients, new freelance designers must be experienced and prepared to take on projects without supervision or direction.

A design education, such as a degree in advertising and graphic design or a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Web Design, can give freelancers experience and knowledge that can help to elevate their work and increase clients’ confidence in the quality of service and products provided. Building up experience and a portfolio that showcases one’s skills is essential. An impressive portfolio can lead to more impressive clients.

Being a freelance designer involves more than just designing. To be successful, freelancers must take the time to connect with clients themselves, market their skills and handle financial tasks such as budgeting, billing, keeping tax records and making estimated tax payments. A critical part of becoming a freelancer is acquiring well-rounded skills, knowledge and experience.

Pros of Freelancing

Freelancing has many advantages, especially for those desiring freedom and more control over one's career trajectory. Since freelance designers work for themselves, they have flexibility in their lives. More projects allow for more income; fewer projects allow for more time. Freelancers can also choose to take on jobs that correlate with their interests and values, and they can choose which clients to collaborate with.

Cons of Freelancing

Freelancing has drawbacks, too. Establishing a steady income stream is often a stressful aspect, especially in the early stages of building up a client base and a network. Business may slump at times, resulting in periods of low to no income. Freelance designers are also responsible for sending invoices to their clients and making sure they get paid appropriately. Unlike a typical full-time design job, freelance jobs do not come with benefits, so a freelancer will have to purchase their own insurance and open their own retirement accounts (like an IRA). It’s up to the individual to decide whether the cons of freelancing outweigh the pros or whether being a freelance designer is a good career fit.

Is Freelancing the Right Lifestyle for You?

Freelancing is a bold lifestyle choice. One of the best ways to see if you enjoy freelancing as a designer is to start working at an agency and take note of all the behind-the-scenes skills it takes to attract, manage and retain clients. Find a good mentor who can share their tricks of the trade before you strike out on your own. If your job allows, try freelancing on the side to see if you enjoy juggling all aspects of the process, from client acquisition to billing. If you enjoy switching it up and donning a new hat every few hours, then freelancing might be perfect for you!

Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production offers design degrees to help you launch your career as a designer. To learn more about our Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Graphic Design or our Bachelor of Arts in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Web Design, click the Request Info button above. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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