3 Tips to Improve Your Performance as a Freelance Graphic Designer

In my 12 years freelancing as a graphic designer (can’t believe it’s been that long), I’ve walked away with some very invaluable lessons.

I started this blog a little over three years ago to help share what I’d learned with others in hopes that my knowledge and experience could help make your journey a little easier. I continue to divulge what I’ve acquired from every design project I’ve been hired for and even those that crashed and burned mid-project when bad clients became indecisive. The most important lessons have been avoiding getting burned by clients and how not to work for “cheap”.

It’s a competitive world and we can all use any advantage we can get to stay on par with or ahead of the industry competition. Here are my three (3) tips (including a bonus tip) for all you freelance graphic designers out there.

Price your work correctly

Understanding the value of your own work is the difference between working by the hour and working for what you’re worth. Personally, the best approach that facilitates a win-win scenario for both you and your clients is examining “value-based” pricing. There are different approaches to arriving at the value of your next design project, but consider this method. If your client(s) share the projected revenue they hope to earn from your work, you can charge 10% of projected revenue.

I didn't have a photo of myself working so I used this random person instead
I didn’t have a photo of myself working so I used this random person instead

Finish a design right on schedule

Time is money. There’s never been a quote more accurate than that one. In just three words, that one quote communicates the importance of meeting your client’s deadlines. In order to build a steady reputation as the talented professional freelancer, you want to ensure that you achieve all your deliverables as outlined in your client interviews. If you’re not accustomed to having client interviews, take it from me, you should have them and as many of them as possible. Also, keep a personal time log (“Microsoft Excel” works fine), making sure to record minutes, hours, and days spent per design project. It’s a great way to know the projects you can take on or decline at any given moment based on the prospective client’s anticipated turnaround time.

There's no one template design for a time log, just create one that works for you
There’s no one template design for a time log, just create one that works for you

Get paid

I cannot stress this enough, not only to freelance graphic designers, but to anyone else who works for themselves whether you consider yourself an entrepreneur or not. It’s imperative that you get compensated for all your hard work over the last eight or 10 hours or the last eight or 10 days. Your client would expect the same if the situation was reversed. So here’s my best recommendation, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the client. Always ask for a “retainer fee” and the amount is left up to your own discretion, not your client’s. I personally would suggest no less than fifty percent (50%) of the total quotation that way, you and your client are invested in the outcome of the design project.

If you watched
If you watched “Breaking Bad”, you’ll get the importance of being paid

Get paid on time

Once your client has been presented with the designs (add your watermark) and all revisions are completed, at the end of the process have them pay you the remaining fifty percent (50%) based on your invoice. So in case you missed that, always send them a quotation for the work ahead and an invoice after the work is finished. Before I forget, outline in your invoice (towards the top) when they should settle with you. I use either seven (7) business days or 14 business days depending on the cost of the design.

I hope you found the above tips helpful and I wish you only the best in your own journey as a graphic designer. Feel free to stop by my blog anytime. I’ll have more tips to share going forward.

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