Career Planning for Freelance Graphic Designers
Freelance graphic designers take advantage of a profession that makes full use of creativity and also offers unparalleled flexibility. The successful freelancer can make very good money as well, but in order to reach that plateau, years of hard work and careful planning are necessary. We will take a look at how a freelance graphic designer can plan a successful career.
Education and Training
There is one element that every graphic designer needs to constantly keep in mind: the career portfolio. Whether it is online or physical (and the freelancer should have both kinds), the portfolio is the number one tool used to sell yourself to potential clients. It has to show you in the best light possible if you're to succeed in today's competitive environment.
The portfolio acts as a resume, so make sure all of your graphics-related education and training is mentioned prominently. Any previous assignment that you deem worthy should be mentioned and displayed. Any type of graphic software training or arts education should be part of the portfolio. Even education outside of the arts realm should be mentioned. For example, business training will show you to be a savvy entrepreneur.
Choose Your Specialty
It's good to have a well-rounded graphics background, but at some point, you'll need to choose what kind of art you'll be specializing in. For example, you might specialize in doing catalog illustrations for industrial clients or perhaps use CAD to design clothing for fashion companies. Once you pick your area, start focusing on clients in that area. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to do exactly the same kind of project over and over again. Even within specialty areas, there are different approaches you can take. As a freelancer, you have a great opportunity to work with a variety of firms, so take advantage of it.
Perhaps the best way to phrase it would be: specialize, but diversify within your specialty.
Climb the Ladder
Once your specialty is chosen, you'll need to target clients. If you're starting out, don't expect to land huge projects by yourself right out of the starting gate. You won't have the proven track record for it yet. Instead, look for a client who's business is in the same position you are: just starting out and trying to establish themselves. Always do your very best, no matter who the client is, but especially during these early years. Satisfied clients can spread word of your good work and soon you may be getting calls from clients you haven't solicited yet.
As one job leads to another, your portfolio will grow and become diverse. When you have enough examples of your work and favorable testimonials, it's time to target the leaders in your specialty. Competition for these juicy freelance contracts is fierce, so you'll need to do your very best at selling yourself. Doing well on one of these major projects can be your ticket to complete success. You'll be in a stronger negotiating position and will be able to pick and choose clients.