Freelance Graphic Designers: Setting Career Goals

Setting career goals for freelance graphic designers can be like asking a bird how far it wants to fly. There’s no clear answer to the question until the bird starts flying, and everything looks different when in the air. This is one of the professions which creates its own parameters, often as it goes, and the range of options is truly gigantic.


Freelance graphic designers naturally develop a range of qualifications unlike few others except in the fine arts and web design.

The basic range of qualifications are:

  • Graphic design degree or certificate
  • Graphic design software certificate of competency
  • Fine arts degree, with higher or lower qualifications
  • Multimedia training at various levels including degrees
  • Media qualifications up to Masters degrees

Many freelance graphic design jobs come with a virtual shopping list of qualifications requirements, but by the same token, some extremely talented freelance graphic designers concentrate on particular areas of graphic design, and don’t really require some of the broad range qualifications in other areas.


Most freelance graphic designers work as interns or “assembly line” workers on graphic design, doing color, layouts, and progressing to higher levels of content. This work sometimes grates on the nerves of the very creative graphic designers but it’s extremely practical experience. It looks good on resumes as a freelancer and provides a lot of nuts-and-bolts experience across a wide range of media. Working with websites, magazines, advertising and other very demanding forms of graphic art is good practice for starting out as a freelancer. 

Freelancers Starting Out- Early Career Goals

Personal Career Aspirations

Freelance graphic designers are basically artists highly motivated people by definition. Their personal aspirations are the natural drivers as freelancers. Like artists, these goals can be elusive, moving targets, hard to define and harder to hit, but when identified they become the major focus of preferred options for work.

A cautionary note: Goals need to be made practical in terms of earning a living as a freelancer. Like all freelancers, freelance graphic designers need a working bottom line and viable business to pursue personal goals.

The usual progression to early career goals for freelance graphic designers is:

  • Basic contract work, building a portfolio
  • Progressive development of commercial skills in the preferred area
  • Preliminary work leading up to the goal
  • Successful completion of work related to the goal

Mid-Career Dynamics for Freelance Graphic Designers

The early goals and the business experience which goes with them create the working methods for the career progression. Freelance graphic designers have many options for how they achieve career goals.

As freelance graphic designers develop their skills, they also increase their capacity to work in their strongest skill areas. This type of development is excellent for the highly creative freelance graphic designers, because it allows their creativity to really expand and develop.

The results of this skill development can be startling. A freelance graphic designer may start off doing greeting cards and progress to doing full graphic suites for major media in a few years, based purely on skills.