Any advice for a new freelancer?


Hi guys,

I graduated from Uni in July last year. Since then I've managed to get four work experience placements but I've found getting a job to be impossible. I've been working in a life insurance company for the past 5 months while applying for any design jobs that I could find but have not had any luck, so I've changed to a part time contract (only 3 days a week now) and am trying to go freelance. I've read a lot of the topics on this forum and I've found them to be very helpful but was wondering what advice any of you may have for someone like me?
You made the right step but for God sake don't start pitching for small design jobs for sh****t money.

Instead of taking mega cheap work to build a portfolio, design for imaginary clients and display your work online... if the quality is good, you will make it - no question!

Good luck ;)

Good call Salv

Hi Sweetums

That is good advice from Salv, particularly if you plan to stay freelancing.

However, as an employer giving advice to anyone starting out and looking for employment, my advice would be;

Work hard to learn as much as you can about something and be an expert in it - give me a specialist rather than a generalist any day of the week.

I would be far more interested in taking on someone who can walk in, improve my team and give me something that I can charge out to a client than someone who does nothing well.

That's what I say to any of the students who call looking for employment as a trainee or apprentice - the strange thing is that none have ever called back.

Good advice or bad - you decide.

Best of luck, Craig.

PS. A short success story to provide hope: IS-James started out with us working 1 day a week in 2004 rather than taking a full-time job offer with someone else. With commitment, foresight and a remit to develop his talents within a tightly defined remit we were able to bill his time within weeks and up his hours to full-time within a very short time-frame. James is a very valuable member of our team and his development continues.
First thing would be to get a website, somewhere you can showcase your work. If you have no experience in website design and have no budget which is often the case, then I would look to a wordpress website as this is a cheap but professional looking way to get online, it also has loads of plugins and is easily skinned.

Look how other more experienced designers on here showcase their work, it will give you some ideas for your own website. Then start by showcasing some of your work from Uni, to start with anyway.

Once you have the above in place, you then have somewhere to direct potential clients, next is... networking, networking, networking, both online and locally. There are loads of forums like this as well as business orientated forums where you can pick up work, there will also be loads of business networking groups local to you, chamber of commerce etc, go and say hello, get friendly with people and let them know what you do.

Those are just the basics, I could go on all night :icon_biggrin:
Those are just the basics, I could go on all night :icon_biggrin:

Heheh, there is the passion ;) Just don't get us started on something we are passionate about heheh ;)

Some good pointers from Captain Craigman too, although I would add that you should be aware of other aspects so that you can gain an understanding of how they fit into how you want/know to work for you.

Also read, read and read some more on all matters (not just design) as you can draw influences/inspirations from just about anything you can see, hear, smell, think, dream. You also should try and develop your own style, this can also help you going forward.
Tnx for the advice guys but I think I'm a bit further than most of these comments.
I already had a full online portfolio with samples of my uni work and I've also managed to get quite
a few samples from my many work experience placement so I'm def not planning on working for S*%T money.

However my portfolio was made completely in flash so I've started again from scratch making it in dreamweaver.
At the moment I have just made a single page website which in located here: contact us until I finish my new site.

What I am unsure about is how do I get my 1st few clients (and build from there)?
When/If I do, how do I decide on a pricing structure for what they want?

I was aiming at my local market rather than trying to gain a large web based presence at the start so was thinking about an advert in a newspaper (good or bad idea?)

I was also thinking about targeting all my local printing firms and letting them know about what I can offer as I figured that they might have people come to them asking for design work as well as just printing (yet again, good or bad idea?)

Hi there, I'm in a very similar situation myself, except I've had 2 jobs within the last month.

My first job was for a local business that I knew, although people may say this was pretty much given to me on a plate, it was an excellent confidence booster when 1) They liked the designs 2) The printed version was more than they expected 3) A long standing relationship seems to have come about 4) Both clients have recommended me to friends/associates.

Then just days later another client contacted me, this time through the web, very similar situation and I am now working with that individual on a weekly basis to really get his business within the public domain.

This post is more of a comment than advice, but as soon as you get that first bit of work it can lead to recommendations and a snowball effect can start if you are providing quality designs.

Hope this helps.

Contacting local printers is a good idea although I suspect 90% will already have in-house designers, definitely worth a try though.

I know this is a bit of a shameless plug, but it is another idea for you to take into consideration.

Why not offer your potential clients print as well, substantially undercutting your local printers. Use your competitive pricing on print to draw clients to you.

For example, sign up to our print reseller scheme or another printers which will give you trade prices on print, select 2 or 3 popular products such as business cards, letterheads and flyers, price up what you would pay locally for these and compare with what your chosen printer charges.

You will now have an idea as to a fair mark-up on these products (keep it low), advertise the products in you local paper or do a flyer drop (or similar). You will get many businesses with print ready artwork that don't require design, however, you will make a small profit on the print. On the flip side you will get many businesses with no artwork or their artwork will be in the form of a word document etc :icon_biggrin:, these businesses will still want to take advantage of the print offer so you can then offer your design services at a competitive fee.

When the customer is ready for a re-print they will be in touch where you will again make your print profit, if they need any future design work the chances are they will contact you again if you provide a good service first time around, the key is to build up a large client base, once you have that you will always have work on.

I know this works for a lot of our resellers, although I think it depends where you live in terms of what other printers local to you are offering.

Just another idea into the mix.
Ok tnx for all the help guys.

@Boss: Yeh I was thinking that most printers would have there own designers but I will check out what their prices are at the smae time so even if I have no luck from a design perspective, I will have still gained some useful knowledge.

I like the idea of offering a print services but had never reallt though about doing it online. I've checked out that link and I like the look of it so if I manage to get off the ground with a client of two, then I think I shall be signing up :p