How to Start a Successful Freelance Graphic Design Business

4 mins read

For those with a passion for design, an eye for color and a flair for graphics, graphic design may pose as an exciting and riveting career path. And while a big bunch of graphic designers works in marketing agencies and design firms, starting a freelance business is also a viable option. Especially for those who like to savor a little more independence than formal employment can offer.

The truth is freelance businesses have become quite lucrative over the past few years. A breath of fresh air if you like. You work on your own terms, you are free to be as creative as you can be and the flexible hours are something all of us could use. According to statistics, of the 53 million people who do freelancing, the majority are writers and developers but the chunk of them are graphic designers. In fact, about 20% of the people in the world of graphic design are self-employed.

Want to take a plunge into the freelance business world?

Well, you’re in for a treat!

I’m going to show you exactly how to start a successful freelance graphic design business.

(Step by step)

You could have all the graphic designing resources in the book, but you need much more than that to start a successful freelance business. So, here is a compilation of surefire ways to help you land on your feet.

Step #1: Have a savings cushion.
Step #2: Understand the customer.
Step #3: Come up with a marketing plan.
Step #4: Network network network
Step #5: Specialize in just one thing
Step #1: Have a savings cushion.

Having a savings cushion is the first step in starting any successful freelance business. Specifically, you want to ensure that you get into your business with enough pennies to cover expenses for up to six months if it boils down to it. The great thing about having enough pennies when starting a business is that you’ll have the peace of mind you need to focus your attention on other pressing business matters.

Step #2: Understand the customer.

Now that you have enough savings, it’s time to take some time to understand the customer.

Who is your target market and how do ensure that they keep coming back?

Keep reading….

Learn what they need and what challenges or problems your art can solve for them.

Back in the day, it might have been enough to just self-promote yourself and get the client base you want. However, things have changed quite a bit. Customers have become more choosy and more aware of what it is they want. They have whims and desires that they want satisfied and anything short of expectation just simply won’t do. Instead, you can nail down specifics about what you do. Find out what the customers want and prove yourself useful by solving their problems. You’ll eventually get to self-promoting, but it will be far more effective once you’ve proven yourself worthy to the customer.

Step #3: Come up with a marketing plan.

Now that you’ve studied the customer and are pretty sure that you can solve their problem, it’s time for the next phase- marketing yourself.

As you probably already know, freelance work can be somewhat sporadic.

Here today. Gone tomorrow.

So, you need to constantly market yourself if you want to survive. But let’s be honest here. It’s a heck of a task and you’d probably want to skip all the hassle and go to the fun part instead. However, there’s no better way to protect yourself from “famine”.

Study the ins and outs of self-promoting yourself so as to get ahead. And while you’re at it, studying marketing resources such as the Marketing Mentor’s Marketing Plan + Calendar is something you definitely want to do. Mostly because it tells you exactly what to do when to do it and how to do it so that it doesn’t take up much of your time.

Sure, like everything else it will take a little getting used to and sometime before you finally relish its fruits. But it will be worth your while once it’s humming along.

Step #4: Network network network

With freelance businesses, you have to go the extra mile. You need to put in all the work yourself and this includes building a partner network. After all, the old adage does clearly state that no man is an island. Make connections with other freelancers whose skills complement yours. This way, you can team up on jobs and refer each other to clients. Not to mention share ideologies and hold each other accountable for business tasks and more.

Step #5: Specialize in just one thing

No graphic design freelance business preparation would be complete without specialization.

That’s because specializing in just one thing not only makes it easier for prospective customers to understand what you do, but it also makes it easier for you to justify your pricing.

Now here, using the graphic designing resources at your disposal, you can either define a specialization vertically or horizontally. Vertically by industry such as finance or healthcare and horizontally by categories of work such as websites, packaging and annual reports.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. However, you could start by identifying the type of work you’re experienced in or what you get most gratification from and then declare a specialization in that niche. Specializing won’t necessarily limit your scope of work, but it does help set you apart from the rest.


Even the best graphic designer in the world without the right graphic design resources and information on how to start a successful business can get a little overwhelmed. With these surefire steps, it might take some time to get up to speed, but you’ll have a successful business once all your efforts start humming along.

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