How to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer

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There are a lot of ways to make money as a graphic designer if you have a bit of creativity.

In this post, you’ll learn how to become a freelance graphic designer!

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Disclaimer: I’m not a professional career advisor. All content provided is for informational purposes only. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. Please read my full disclaimer here for more info.

What Graphic Designers Do?

First of all, graphic design is visual communication.

Graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate effectively using computer software or by hand.

Here are typical jobs as graphic designers (1):

  • Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create graphics
  • Create visual elements such as logos and illustrations to help deliver a message
  • Design layouts, including a selection of colors, images, and typefaces
  • Present design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Incorporate changes recommended by clients or art directors into final designs
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

Graphic designers tend to collaborate with writers a lot and responsible for transforming data into visual graphics and/or diagrams to make complex ideas easier to understand.

Graphic Design Industry Statistics

The graphic design industry is a $15 billion market in the U.S. alone.

According to IBISWorld (2), there are 400,258 businesses working with graphic designers. Industries like education, manufacturing, publishing, advertising, mobile app design are hiring graphic designers very often.

Visual content in the digital marketing field is growing fast too.

In addition, freelance graphic designers are expected to earn from $20 to $150 per hour. (as of 2020)

Ways to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer

Mainly, there are two ways you can become a graphic designer:

  • Get a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design
  • Teaching yourself

If you’re not interested in going to school, here are steps to teach yourself graphic design:

#1. Learn how to draw

It’s really important to sketch, write, and layout ideas on paper first.

Your sketch doesn’t have to be amazing. The point is to output your ideas on paper. You Can Draw in 30 Days was a good book to learn drawing.

#2. Learn graphic design theory

Basic is king.

You need to know basic principles of design like these:

You can also learn these basic principles in Creativelive online classes. (as low as $15)

#3 Learn software

Learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.

Credit: 99designs

Photoshop is good for photo editing, retouching any type of raster image, web-ready digital images, website or app mockup, sketch, and even paint digitally.

Illustrator is good for vector-image, logos, icons, posters, business cards, flyers, and note cards. (print-media)

InDesign is good for layout newspapers, magazines, books, posters, and flyers that are text-heavy pieces.

Adobe products are super expensive. If you want to practice design as well as create easy graphics, use Canva.

Canva is a freemium graphics and photo editor that is offered as a cloud-based. So, you don’t need to install anything. If you have the internet, you can use it. Very beginner-friendly graphic editing tool. I think most content creators and bloggers use it.

#4 Find your niche

Do you like logo design? Web design? Layout? Infographics? Mobile apps? Explore all these and pick one. Narrow down your interest.

Why? You can’t learn everything at once. Learn one by one.

#5 Create some artworks

Before creating a solid portfolio, you need an artwork to showcase. Here are a few ideas:

  • Design silly t-shirts, stickers, mugs
  • Apply for 99designs contest
  • Design web elements and icons
  • Design fonts
  • Design Instagram highlights covers
  • Design printable wall arts
  • Design printable party decorations
  • Design resume templates
  • Design printable planners
  • Do 80 creative challenges on the Creative Workshop book
  • Join Fiverr or Upwork to work with real clients
  • Find poorly designed websites and redesign them (great practice for UX design too)

Helpful resources to create artworks:

#5 Build Portfolio

Once you have enough artworks to showcase, now is the time for creating an online portfolio.

Choose your best work. You’re going for quality, not quantity.

Creating a website is not expensive and difficult if you use a platform like Pixpa. It’s an easy, drag-and-drop portfolio builder for photographers and creators. Fully customizable, stunning website themes to showcase your work is mobile-ready.

If you want to sell your services and/or create packages deals on your website, explore WordPress. You don’t need coding knowledge to use WordPress, but you need little practice to get used to it. Here is everything you need to know about WordPress.

#6 Get job as a graphic designer

Sell yourself. Promote yourself. Use some freelancer platforms to find clients. Once you’ve got the job, keep learning because the graphic design industry keeps changing.

Wrapping Up

You don’t need a college degree to be a graphic designer. You just need some motivation and self-study (:

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Resources:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Graphic Designers, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm (visited December 12, 2020).
  2. IBISWorld (2020, January 13). Global Graphic Designers Industry. Retrieved from https://www.ibisworld.com/global/market-research-reports/global-graphic-designers-industry/

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