Becoming a Freelance Designer

It’s often a long road to becoming a Freelance Designer, or being able to make a proper living from your design work. You need a fair number of regular clients to keep you busy, the odd one-off jobs are an added bonus, but often they then become new regular clients… if they are pleased with your work!

And I guess you need to be a bit lucky with the job experience you have before becoming a Freelance Designer – you need a wide range of professional experiences to offer a lot of different services to a high level. I was lucky to have worked in a few creative & technical roles with various companies, where I learned how things are done in the real world.

 

Design Education

Looking back at what I learned at college, studying Graphic Design then Design Technology – it gave me an all-round general knowledge of the different aspects of a design career. But the main things I would say were vital were to be introduced to software like Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, or Quark Express. Learning how to use this software opened up lots of possibilities.

Learning how to build websites using HTML and CSS was also a major eye opener, my first lesson showed me how you can build a website with just a simple text editor, a method that I still use to this day for quick code updates. Read more abut my education & career

 

Work Experience

No matter how well you did at college, your first job can shape the rest of your career. And it is fairly likely that you will start out in a print production role – rather than a creative role – as printing is still one of the biggest industries in the UK. But this can lead to more creative roles.

Newspaper Production

I was lucky to get a great job with my local newspaper, The Evening Post in Swansea. I was a part of the Pre-Press team, where we prepared newspaper pages for printing using a variety of software. The job didn’t have any creative aspects, but it was a good introduction into print production – many of the techniques or tricks we used then are still applicable to a lot of my work today. Read more about my time at The Evening Post

Print Artworking

A Print Artworker prepares graphics for printing, using software to ensure images are CMYK, the resolution is high enough, the text is the correct colour/ fonts are outlined and the page layout is correct – using the correct bleed & margin areas.

I worked for a couple of different printing companies as an Artworker, the first was a label printing company in Cardiff that used a variety of flat-bed & screen printing machines. The latter was at a very busy commercial printing company in Gloucester. They had a range of litho & digital printing equipment, along with any finishing equipment you could possible need. My job was to prepare artwork for print using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop – and mainly InDesign. The turn-over of jobs was manic, so I had to learn how to use InDesign to a high level… quickly!

Web Design & E-Commerce

In my spare time I was building experimental websites – this website was one of them – and always wanted to get into web design. So I was lucky to get a great job with an on-line greeting card company in Bristol which became Funky Pigeon. This job had a mixture of print-production responsibilities, but also some creative input – I was asked to create greeting cards & calendars which would go straight onto the website & into production.

This job also gave me an opportunity to start working on a large e-commerce website. I was given the chance to create the front-end HTML and graphics for the home page & landing pages – but worked alongside the main programmer, which gave me a great insight into building & managing a large website. Read more about my time at Funky Pigeon

 

Going Freelance – the beginning

With the belief that I had a good, all-round knowledge of the technical aspects of design – how the end point production worked in most industries – I felt I could offer a range of valuable services to any company. So I decided to move home & work for myself as a freelance designer. All I needed was a computer, Adobe Creative Suite… and an internet connection.

It wasn’t easy to get a regular income straight away. So I took on a few part-time jobs, one or two days per week I would work with other companies. And again… I was lucky to get part-time jobs with some great companies that gave me all kinds of creative roles & responsibilities.

Illustration work

One of my early part-time jobs was with a glitter tattoo company where I got to draw their stencil designs using Adobe Illustrator, and I also built their e-commerce website which was extremely busy, this gave me a massive amount of real-world / hands-on experience.
 

Wildside Scents Logo Design

This was quite a complex logo design project which involved a number of processes & techniques to achieve what the client visualised. ...

Welsh Padel Centre Logo Design

The Welsh Padel Centre required a logo design that reflected their sport & their Welsh heritage. They asked for us to use their full ...
Icons

Illustrated Icon Designs

Obviously web design & website browsing is going more & more towards responsive web design / mobile friendly websites, so a good ...

Beer Crest Label Designs

After creating the logo, branding & beer bottle labels for Two Drifters Brewery, they then required the label designs converted into ...

More Beer Label Designs

Another couple of new ales from Two Drifters Brewery, both requiring bottle label designs, including Drifters Sunrise & Drifters ...

Series of Cartoon Illustrations

These cartoon style characters were drawn using Adobe Illustrator as vector graphics, to be used as glitter tattoo stencils. The finished ...

 

Large format print work

Another part-time job I had was in a large format printing company. This gave me first-hand experience on creating print graphics for exhibitions, banners & posters – where I could see the results of any design techniques as it was printed & perfect my technical knowledge.

This experience has been extremely important for a lot of my work today, as I am confident that I can supply high quality print artwork without needing to see it being printed – I know it will print correctly.
 

Series of large format banners designed for Indiba, a company in the USA who provide Radiofrequency devices for the sports & physio therapy industrustries. The series ...
A recent exhibition display at a UK event for Cocoon Medical UK. This project was a little different to usual, as it had two slanting side panels. So I had to supply the graphics ...
Large format infographic design, featuring an illustrated World Map with map marker icons to visualise the companies global locations. The map is split into areas of colour to ...
Large format exhibition banner design for Cosmeditech, to promote their latest laser products at Professional Beauty 2018 at ExCel in London. The banner is 6 meters wide & 2 ...
Large format graphics for a Lumenis UK exhibition display. The exhibition was 6m wide by 2m tall, so the design needed to be separated into several panels, which could be ...
Large format exhibition design for Cosmeditech, to be used at the Professional Beauty exhibition 2017. The stand consisted of 2 large panels (2m wide by 3m tall), and a 1m by 2m ...

 

Marketing & advertising work

My last part-time job was with Chromogenex, a company that sold medical & cosmetic Laser technology. This role gave me lots of responsibilities & creative input. I was brought in to update their websites, making them more modern & responsive. But I took on all kinds of marketing jobs, such as email marketing, PPC management, exhibition design, advertising design. I also completely overhauled the SEO on their websites, and gained a great insight into managing a global website.

 

Plexus FPL Logo & Brochure Design

Cosmeditech required a logo design & brochure design to launch their new aesthetic Laser platform, the Plexus FPL. We decided to use a ...

Cocoon Medical UK Brochure Design

To promote their range of aesthetic platforms for 2020, Cocoon Medical UK wanted to update their brand style, making it more minimalistic &; ...

Magazine Advert DPS Design

Double Page Spread (DPS) magazine advert design for Cocoon Medical UK. The design was made up of two recent single page adverts, for the ...

Series of advert designs

Lumenis required a series of adverts to promote certain products, to be printed in popular industry magazines. The adverts took a very similar ...

Xero Lipo Leaflet Design

Folded leaflet design for Xero Lipo, designed as B2C promotional material for clinics to promote Laser Lipo treatments. The inside pages are ...

Laser Industry Advert Designs

A series of magazine advert designs for Lumenis, created to promote their products, also to promote their upcoming events for 2018. The designs ...

 

Design Philosophy

When you are starting out as a freelance designer, you need to take any job you can get & slowly build up a portfolio of work. You may have a certain philosophy or design style, but you need to be very flexible. You will need to take on some smaller projects for any client – and often they will ask you to do something that maybe goes against your design taste… but you need to just design what they ask for.

During my time at Funky Pigeon, the outright best-selling greeting card design they sold was (in our opinion) the most tacky, badly designed card we had. So you need to accept that, sometimes, the cheap & cheerful design style is actually better for the customer.

 

How much should you charge?

It can be difficult to work out a fair cost for some jobs, like a logo design or a website design – where it is unknown how long it will actually take. So when you get a new customer asking for a quote, it can be a bit of a dilemma… and you will often be competing against another design company, so you need to get the price right.

My philosophy has always been to give a very reasonable quote, even if it will be a lot more work than you expect – because if you impress the client & produce a logo or a website, it’s pretty likely that they will return to you for future work. And for regular clients, you can charge an hourly rate – which is often the most cost effective solution for a company. And if you can get enough regular clients on your books, it eventually becomes like a regular, guaranteed income.

 

Getting & Keeping Clients

I’m quite lucky, as I have never needed to advertise my services. Early on, I had a fairly good understanding of building websites & how SEO worked, so a lot of clients found me. But the best way to get clients is always ‘word of mouth’ – when you are recommended to someone, this is the silver bullet.

 

Natural UK Web Design

Natural UK are a well established company with a great brand, but they needed a website modernisation to present their products & services ...

Cosmeditech Web Design

Cosmeditech is a new UK manufacturer of Aesthetic / Cosmetic technology devices. They required a complete branding exercise & CMS web. ...

Simon Tyre Services Web Design

Simon Tyre Services required a modernaisation of their web design due to a change of name, also to make it more dynamic & responsive ...

Gluten Free Bakery Web Design

Updated web design for Welsh Gluten Free Bakery Products. They needed a modernisation of their website… updating the logo & brand ...

Welsh Brew Tea Web Design

We built the Welsh Brew Tea website back in 2015 (you can see what it looked like originally below) and in the summer of 2020 they re-branded ...

Vanité Clinic Web Design

Vanité Clinic provide health care & aesthetic treatments in Solihull, they required a modernisation of their web design, making it more ...

You will see some of my regular clients above, but I now work with a wide range of different businesses with different marketing styles like Welsh Brew Tea who have a great, vibrant style, or Cosmeditech who have a more clean / clinical style.

And even when you get a number of regular clients, you always need to keep learning & improving your range of services. You will need to move into digital marketing areas like SEO and Social Media – PPC advertising & email marketing – website hosting & security – in order to keep your clients happy. So you need to learn everything you can at every opportunity.

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