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Design Independence: 7 Steps to Freelancing

Is it time to step out on your own?  If so, freelancing may your best option right now, but where to begin and what comes after that?  The rewards are generous.  A freelancer is the master of his own time, with no dictating boss determining the ups and downs of the day.  A freelancer is able to make decisions on his own terms and to fulfill dreams based on his own timeline.

If successful, that is. There are many pitfalls and trials along the road to freelancing nirvana.  It’s helpful to have a good guide handy to know ahead of time what to expect.  In this post, we’ll cover the basic steps to achieving the freelancer lifestyle, but we’ll leave all the decisions completely up to you.

1. Knowledge is Power

Before any huge endeavor, it’s always best to do your homework.  Freelancing is no exception.  Self-employment is a significant life-changing experience involving new challenges and characteristics that should be understood well beforehand.  The good news is that many freelancers have already braved this new territory and successfully, too. Accessing the vast amount of information already out there can bring many rewards, but what are the main points to consider?  Here are just a few:

• How much will it cost?
• How long will it take, i.e. how much time per week, based on the number of clients you’ll need to meet your costs?
• What are the tax issues?
• What kind of insurance is needed?

These are just a few main decisions to consider, but there are others.  A decent amount of time spent doing the research can go a long way in finding the answers you need.

2. Determine Your Image

What is your design style like?  What image would you like to present to your clients?  These are straightforward questions vital to the start of freelance designing.  Choosing a main style can guide further decisions about logos, colors, fav-icons and all the other aspects chosen to represent who you are to your clients.  These decisions, in turn, will be important in determining the look and feel of freelance marketing tools like, for example, the portfolio.

3. Best Website Forward

This step is where the concrete action takes the place of planning and contemplation.  It requires creating a portfolio website.  The portfolio is a visual calling card, marketing style, professional background and business mission to the public.  Many times, it’s nothing short of the essential mode of initial communication with clients, so its importance cannot be overstated.  Take a look at a few examples here:

Alexandru Cohaniuc

4. Know the Law

Certain documents will be necessary to run your freelance business.  These include the obvious service contract, but also consider the need for copyright agreements and terms and conditions or disclaimers under certain situations.  If any of these is needed, it’s best to create them or have them created ahead of time.

5. Budget, Budget, Budget

Here’s where the money comes in.  A designer must know a) how much to charge for services and b) how the income received will compare to the expenses paid.  This requires creating a reasonable budget taking into account all the monetary factors involved in starting and running a new business.  Here are a few good tools for this:


6. Get Business

When just starting out, it may be difficult to land the most lucrative projects out there, but there is some logic to forgoing those at the outset.  The key is to attract clients who will allow you to pack your portfolio with quality work.  Nothing is more impressive to a possible new client than a job well done.  Compare this to a huge project done poorly, and the message becomes clear.  In the beginning, stick with the jobs that, you can easily handle and that will do your portfolio justice.

7. Manage the Money

Last but not least, after all the planning and decision-making, it’s time to get paid.  If the journey along the way was crafted with skill and wise discretion, this is the easy part.  Here are a few tools to keep everything in sync:



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