It's that time of year when you start to make New Year's Resolutions and promise yourself this year you'll keep this one. One of the resolutions you should take seriously is what I'm going to help you with today, and that's kick-starting your freelance design career and what you'll need to start the best decision of your life!
Which Direction to Go In?
Some of us don't know where they want to be in the next couple of years, let alone in a decade's time. I didn't manage to get into the career area I wanted until my late 20s, and that's OK. But what you might want to consider is what area you're wanting to specialise in.
There may be multiple areas you want to specialise in. Consider the journeys your peers and those you admire have followed, what skills they acquired, and what clients they worked with. Not everyone has the same journey, but it is important. See it as a rough guideline if you're stuck with where you wish to go.
I'd recommend checking out our series of articles on Careers in Design & Illustration, where Mary Winkler has interviewed a variety of designers in the industry. This may help provide you some useful insight into the area you want to venture into.
Shout to the World: "Hire Me!"
Pick the Work That Represents You
I'm assuming that since you're reading this article, you've already got some work in your arsenal. It may not be from clients—perhaps it's personal projects you've created—but take a look at what you've already created.
Now be harsh, and only pick the very best of the work you've done and the styles and areas you want to work on with future clients. You don't want to pick work which is sub-par, and you don't want to pick work you've no interest in creating for others, as this doesn't represent the true you.
If you don't have sufficient work to represent you, then add to your to-do list to create work to help show off your skills. If there's an area you want to progress in, remember Envato Tuts+ has you covered with free design tutorials and premium video courses.
Show Off What You Have to the World
Now let's get to work and show the world what you've created. The first thing you'll need to do is get yourself a portfolio together.
When you're designing a site, remember that your designs are what you're showing off, so you don't need a sparkling website. You just need something people can glance at, find out what you do, and see how to get in contact with you.
Our Web Design section has plenty of tutorials and courses to guide you in creating a website from scratch. I'd highly recommend:
- Designing a Responsive Portfolio Site
- Build Your Own Behance-Powered Portfolio
- Building an Instagram Based Portfolio With Bootstrap
- Build a Dribbble Portfolio Grid With Flexboxgrid and Jribbble
You don't even need to be handy with creating websites. You could always purchase a simple WordPress theme, and there are even services out there you can use to get assistance in installing your website. This is especially good if you've got a small budget and need to spend your time focusing on design work rather than creating the site.
Network and Be Sociable
Now your site is online, it's time to get social. There are a multitude of social networks and community-based sites out there. They're great for getting your name out into the design community, interacting with others and showing off what you can do.
Check out our article on 10 Easy Social Media Tips for the Struggling Artist as a great starting point.
Once you've set up your profiles, remember to link those in to your portfolio site and link your social media accounts to your website.
It's All About the Money
Know What You've Got and Sell It
Now that you're all ready to go, it's going to be a long time until you've got clients knocking. So what you're going to need to do is recognise what you've got, identify your prospective clients, and sell yourself and your work to them.
We've got you covered on this as well. Check out:
- How to Find Out Exactly What Your Target Clients Want—Then Sell It to Them
- How to Identify Profitable Clients: A Step-by-Step Guide
Prepare for the Good and Bad of Freelancing
The fun side of freelance design is getting to work on awesome projects and doing something that you truly love. However, you must not ignore the financial side of the lifestyle. You must go into the freelance life financially organised for the good and bad.
Our Business section has some great guides and articles with solid advice from those who have been there, done that and have the t-shirt in several colours and designs:
- Our Freelance Financial Bootcamp learning guide
- Our Pricing category which includes articles such as Freelance Rates: Guides to Hourly Versus Project Pricing and What to Charge? A Freelancer's Guide to Giving an Estimate
Bills Can't Wait, They Need to Be Paid Now!
Success and those dream clients won't come knocking at the door overnight. So you're going to have to be realistic. You're either going to have to keep your day job and work part time as a freelancer until you can get more reliable clients coming in, or you could supplement your income in other ways.
What helped for me personally is writing tutorials here on Envato Tuts+. I know this might sound like a blatant plug, but it's genuinely what I did. You can read why I think it pays to write tutorials. TL;DR: money, exposure, and it's fun.
But there are many other ways you can add to your income, especially if you're a fan of the Envato ecosystem. You can sell your vectors and more on Envato Market or become a service provider on Envato Studio. Both will help you expand your portfolio and give you more experience in working with clients and seeing what sells in the industry.
So What Are You Waiting For?
There are a few other articles on Envato Tuts+ to help you with starting out in freelancing. We even have a Business section dedicated to this. Why not check out our Comprehensive Guide to Freelancing.
Have you made the jump to freelancing? What tips do you have? It would be great to hear about your past experiences in the comments.