Starting as a creative freelancer

Tips for starting freelancers

As a starting creative freelancer, you have a lot of questions. Here are a couple of learnings after working for more than 15 years as a freelance designer and talking to a lot of freelancers over the years running our portfolio platform Creative Network. I shared these learnings a couple of weeks back with the students of Devine, you can use them as a guide or a refresher if you will. 

Creative

Being creative is something most of us don’t have trouble with when starting as a designer after school. However, things get harder when you start to work, you’ll probably get swamped with work and your start as a young designer can be a bit overwhelming. And thus creating a lack of creativity. However, keep in mind that the best thing to keep evolving is going that extra mile. Keep designing in your spare time (self-initiated projects) to keep evolving I think it’s one of the most important lessons I had, without dedicating all that extra time I wouldn’t be where I am today as a designer.

Portfolio

Creating your portfolio is a lot of work. Make sure that all that work isn’t for nothing. Build up your story, don’t take things for granted. Explain what the clients business is and then build your case step by step explaining what and why you made certain choices. Keep things simple and clear. If you show a logo then also show it in use, a website design looks better when you simulate a browser or laptop. Use mock-ups when possible, there are good recourses to help you with that. Livesurface is one, GraphicBurger is another and there are plenty more. It’s the little details that make a portfolio great.

And last but not least, give credits when credits are due it shows that you respect your colleagues and shows that you are a team player.

Network

Any place is good to network, and some places are better than others. If you are a freelancer you should look into the scene where your clients are. If you want to work for agencies or other design studios events like Let’s Talk Design are a good place to start. Design conferences attract a variety of creatives including design directors, creative directors and other creatives that might help your career grow. You’ll start looking for clients in your own network and expand from there, the happier your clients are the easier they will refer new clients to you.

And here is another tip to keep in mind when meeting new potential clients. Networking is like meeting your friends at a bar, nobody likes someone who talks about his work all the time. Keep the conversation light, tell what you do, ask what they do and maybe you’ll find some common ground.

Price & Contracts

Asking the right price is something you learn along the way. If you have no idea where to start, in Belgium an organisation like Flanders DC can help you with that, in the Netherlands BNO.

Below are the 3 most common professions of our yearly inquiry on day rates within our community from 2017. These rates give a good impression of average prices. Keep in mind that rates can be much higher for specialised freelancers. 

Digital Designer

Years of experience Average hour rate
0 — 2

47

2 — 6

61

6 — 10

70

+10

73

Illustrator

Years of experience Average hour rate
0 — 2

n/a

2 — 6

47

6 — 10

63

+10

65

Graphic Designer

Years of experience Average hour rate
0 — 2

40

2 — 6

55

6 — 10

62

+10

70

Price quotes and invoicing

Make sure that in your quote you mention what you will deliver in detail. Think about correction rounds and the number of proposals you want to deliver, timing, deliverables, etc. Also describe clearly how extra corrections will be reimbursed. Clear communication and expectation management is fundamental to client and freelancer.

Also be clear about things like IP when communication with clients. We published an article about IP a while back with some extra information on the subject.

And here are seven best practices to collaborate successfully with creative entrepreneurs that we summed up together with Flanders DC. #CreativeFairPlay

Feel free to contact us if you have a question or contact one of the organisations mentioned in the article. For advice on IP and authorship, you should ask a specialised lawyer for advice. 

Published by

Timothy Helmer

Designer, curator of Let's Talk Design and founder of Creative Network.