7 Steps to Becoming a Successful Freelance Graphic Designer

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the graphic design sector will add over 7,000 new jobs by 2030.

Research data from freelancing platforms and other sources estimate that designers of graphics make between $15 to $35/hr. The low end is $15/hr in most cases. However, the high end reaches $150/hr in some situations.

Plus, designers can charge per project.

Several elements must come together when an individual decides to become a freelancer in any field.

We outline seven steps to becoming a successful freelance graphic designer.

1. Pick a Niche

To become successful, more than one road gets you to the promised land. A graphic designer can make themselves available to an array of clients or they can pick a niche from the beginning.

Design sub-categories include:

  • Photo editing
  • Apparel
  • Multimedia
  • Advertising
  • Packaging

Then, pick from online or offline work and narrow it down by specialty and industry.

You might decide that projects from different industries make you happy and keep you creative. However, some lucrative contracts do require specialized skills.

Therefore, maintain a niche and have the skills to branch out when necessary.

2. Define Your Client

Graphic Designer

When you obtain your first client, you must remain flexible. Your first completed project can set the tone for your freelancing career. Plus, it’s the first stepping stone toward more project offers.

The most important characteristic in any client is honesty – they follow through on payment according to the terms set, on time.

If you already have experience in the industry, you have already been around the block. Thus, a deeper understanding of your preferred client.

Ideally, you’ll connect with them on a professional level. More importantly, they exhibit integrity, professionalism, and offer productive feedback.

3. Build a Portfolio

Professionals who hire graphic designers must have confidence in their hires. A great way to instill confidence is by presenting a portfolio. It sounds cliche, but the design is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Clients hire graphic designers based on their style; they want a style match. Or they want to hire a professional who offers a style revamp.

Therefore, your portfolio doubles as your visual resume.

4. Join a Freelancing Platform

In freelancing, the freelancer is the product. You sell your skills and yourself. If you’re starting this road from scratch and have no prospective clients, join a freelancing platform.

Consider joining:

  • Fiverr
  • Upwork
  • ManyPixels
  • 99Designs

These platforms help freelancers wet their feet.

Plus, new freelancer-focused resources continue popping. For example, you can visit Giggly online and find legal, financial, and healthcare resources.

5. Invest in Equipment

Graphic Designer

Hardware and software for graphic designers are an investment. Professional software prices start at $100 and climb to $5,000.

Therefore, you must hack your way toward success, figuratively.

If investing in equipment isn’t possible from the beginning, acquire the most important ones one at a time. For example, it’s possible to find refurbished laptops and desktop computers that get the job done at competitive prices.

Every time you complete a project, set aside a portion you can spend on hardware, software, and accessories.

6. Define Success

The definition of success is personal for some freelancers. In 2019, a survey found that 41 million Americans participated in freelance work. An estimated 15 million freelanced part-time and 12 million freelanced full-time.

Employed graphic designers earn a median salary of $53,000 annually. In 2020, 254,000 jobs existed in this field. Plus, the field experiences 23,000 job openings annually.

Success for some is working side gigs that help pay for big-ticket purchases. Others aim to parlay their one-person shop into a multi-employee operation.

Setting benchmarks for yourself means you can achieve success through milestones you pick. Achieving small wins helps you remain motivated.

7. Expand Your Skills

Freelancers must keep up with the trends of their respective fields. For example, as SEO picked up steam in the late-2010s, content writers had to learn the ins and outs of the strategy.

It’s no different for graphic designers. Some design trends for 2022 include:

  • 2D and 3D mashups
  • Unique fonts
  • 90s nostalgia
  • Candy colors

Therefore, freelancers should have a good comfort level working with them.

Online courses, networking with other freelancers, and finding a mentor are three ways to expand graphic design skills.


Becoming a successful freelance designer requires a portfolio, investment in equipment, and gaining the trust of clients. Once you establish yourself, you’ll find that filling your calendar with projects becomes easier.

While building your business, keep up with the trends and expand your skills to create more demand for your work.

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Arnab Dey

Arnab Dey is a passionate blogger who loves to write on different niches like technologies, dating, finance, fashion, travel, and much more.

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Arnab Dey

Arnab Dey

Arnab Dey is a passionate blogger who loves to write on different niches like technologies, dating, finance, fashion, travel, and much more.

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