If you want to make a living as an artist, there are basically three ways to do it:
- Be employed by a company as a designer (this option is slowly declining as more and more companies approach design as a project to be hired out vs. a full-time role).
- Be employed by an agency as a designer
- Be a freelancer
So, let’s talk about the freelance life for artists and designers. Working for yourself has some big advantages. You can (mostly) make your own schedule, choose your projects and have flexibility in terms of when and where you work.
The downside is, of course, that you have to go out and find clients. Fortunately, right now there’s plenty of work to go around.
The design industry covers a variety of disciplines, including graphic designers, web developers, instructional designers, and more. One of the keys to being successful as a freelancer is finding a niche where your skills and interests align with the needs of your clients.
Today, companies are more visually oriented than ever. From branding and logos to explainer videos to animations, the world of digital design is exploding. It’s one of the fastest growing segments of the marketing industry.
Nearly every client I have worked with in the last year asks me if I know any great designers who are available to take on projects, because everyone they use is booked out.
You can absolutely make money doing this as a freelancer, but there are a few things you need to know and do:
Create a Portfolio
Your clients need to see your work before they will sign a contract and write a check. The best way to show that you have the design chops is to have a beautiful showcase page. You can create one easily on Wix, SquareSpace, WordPress, or any other website design tool you like. It’s also great to have a variety of work that you can share on social media.
Instagram is Your Friend
While social media shouldn’t be your number one strategy for attracting clients initially, if you are a creative, Instagram is a great place to showcase your work. Since it’s all about pictures, if your work is visually appealing, you can get some great exposure. Still not sure? Check out these 50 designers who are rocking Instagram.
Build Your Network
This is not just about having more lunches with friends. In order to create a great pipeline of work, you’re going to need to be strategic about how you meet the people who can hire you. That means finding out who your prospects are and then going where they go.
Maybe, that’s a conference or a seminar. It might mean some evenings at very awkward networking events wearing a name tag. If all of that makes you cringe, find a friend to ride along with you, but you’re going to have to get out there and meet some new people to make this work.
There are still some companies that are hiring designers, but for the most part, this is one of the professions that is being most impacted by the gig economy. Design work is typically project-based, so it’s normal for companies to go out and look for help when they have a need rather than bringing someone on full-time.