Tips for Freelance Designers on Location

As an experienced freelance graphic designer, I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here’s my advice for anyone starting their freelancing career. These are especially tailored to freelancers who are working in the offices of other companies.

  1. Don’t check your phone too often

Especially if you’re working on location, you’ll want to make a positive impression. Hide your phone, and turn your out of office auto reply on. The employed designer sat next to you will have the security of a permanent job, however you’ll be likely taking home a higher day rate. If you create any opportunity for a new colleague to find an issue however trivial you could be not invited back.

  1. Make progress

Freelancing for short stints in house usually means you’ll be given simpler tasks. Just get on with them without complaining and prove you’re not wasting time.

  1. Back up your work.

I recommend saving all your work to the Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox or another cloud-based storage system, so it’s accessible in multiple locations. The technology you’re using is always at risk of malfunctioning.

  1. Confidentiality

Your client might make you sign a non-disclosure agreement for the work you do for them. This means that you won’t be able to talk about the work you created, not publish it in your portfolio. And if you’re in doubt, just ask.

  1. Remain level-headed

You’ll be required to adapt quickly to working with a new brand. Remain focused on the job and don’t get involved in office politics. Like any first day at a new job, there’s a lot you don’t know, so be eager to learn. Absorb everything without being naïve.

  1. Offer your expertise

When I started freelancing, was scared of saying the wrong thing to designers more senior than myself. In most circumstances, an outsiders’ point of view will be welcome. A freelancer brings a wider experience to a creative team, so don’t be scared to speak up.

  1. Do your best work

You may only have a few hours to complete your task. Look at it analytically and plan your time so you can create your most effective design work in that space. You probably won’t be handed the sexiest tasks, but this is a learning opportunity to see how other brands and businesses function. Let your inner puppy-dog loose by finding the aspect of the day you can get excited about.

  1. Dress appropriately

If you want an in-house freelance job to continue, you’ll need to prove that you fit in with the team. While you are your own boss, in this case you’re not your own manager. Ask if there’s an office dress code before starting. If in doubt, dress more conservatively. I usually wear a white blouse, black trousers and black shoes. I take a jumper in my bag in case the office temperature isn’t comfortable.

  1. Ask questions

There isn’t a question too stupid, especially when you’re trying to get to know the company. If the answer helps you do your job better, then it's always worth it.

  1. Play by the rules

When freelancing onsite, you’ll have to adapt quickly to their conventions. This may include signing-in at reception, wearing a lanyard. You’ll be told some easily-forgettable security codes and passwords, write them down.

  1. Keep your receipts.

When working at a location which isn’t your usual place of work, you can record your travel and lunch costs as an expense, which can be set against your profits. I usually ensure to snap photos of my receipts and log them in my accounting software at lunch time.

  1. Learn fast

You’ll be having to adapt to working on new brands at a fast-pace. Read any documentation you’re provided, such as brand guidelines, and stick with them. Unless you’re hired as a freelance creative director, it’s unlikely they’ll be looking to you to introduce new elements to an existing brand.

  1. Don't complain

If you take anything from this, it's to not be too chatty. While you may love having colleagues to work with, socialising is viewed as not getting work done. If you provide your client with a hint of doubt over your work ethic, there will be another freelancer waiting to take your seat before it's cold.

That’s all my advice! I hope you find it useful. Freelancing for a new company is a really daunting task, so I hope this article has guided your expectations and might make your first day a bit easier. The beauty of freelancing onsite is that when you leave the door at 5pm, you can leave your work behind.

If you’re looking to hire a freelance designer, either remotely or on-location. I love to travel. Get in touch with me:

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