Business Advice for Freelance Graphic Designers

Starting out as a freelancer feels like journeying into uncharted territory. Whether you’re doing it as a side hustle or as a full-time career, these tips will get you off to a flying start.

  1. Never work for free
    This means don’t work for for ‘exposure’ or other unmeasurable promises. This includes family or friends who you may want to help.
  1. Charge your worth
    A difficult one to get right, but you should find other freelancers who understand your situation and location to guide your day rate.
  1. **Always work with a contract.**
    While agreements made in emails can be upheld as legally binding, it’s always best to use a fit-for-purpose document. Customisable templates are available to purchase online, if you don’t have the budget available for a custom-written one from a solicitor.
  1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
    When scheduling a design project, add in a few extra days to deal with life’s curveballs. Deliver your work when you say you will.
  1. Keep your website and social media up to date
    When a prospective client is looking at your online presence, they want to be reassured that you’re active. You can do this by adding new work to your portfolio or Instagram profile.
  1. There’s no excuse for bad design
    So do your best work. Great work takes time. If a potential customer doesn’t have the budget to get the best from you, don’t take the job.
  1. Use software to manage your finances
    There are several great book-keeping tools out there. I’ve found that FreeAgent really works for me. Here is a link for 10% discount.
  1. Try new things
    You’ll only ever up your game if you’re willing to try new things. This could be new skills such as photography or techniques in Illustrator. It’s crowded at the bottom, so if you want to stand out among your competitors, keep improving.
  1. Take breaks
    When working alone, it’s easy to miss breaks during the day. There isn’t any incentive to take a holiday, as the self-employed don’t receive paid annual leave in the UK. However, breaks are important for your own wellbeing. Your mind is at its most imaginative when it’s well-rested.
  1. **Be careful about your expenses.**
    There are so many businesses which cater to struggling startups. Discern what you could gain value from and can be put off until later. There’s a multitude of things you can do to bolster your business, such as reading books and SEO optimisation. The coaching sector is booming now. While coaching can be useful, it is unregulated and there aren’t any particular qualifications a coach needs. So be weary of this trend. Avoid a coach who hasn’t run a successful business before.

I hope you've found those tips useful. I'm on a mission to give away everything I know, for free via this blog. So please keep reading if you'd like to learn more.

Grace Abell is a graphic designer with a decade of experience. Look at her portfolio, and email to get in touch.

Abell Design is a brand and digital design studio in York. Creating beautiful brands for ambitious organisations. Say hello at