Design Career: Are You Ready to Be a Freelancer?

Although freelance designers have always played a prominent role in the creative industry, their prevalence and perceived value is on the rise. A new survey by The Creative Group illustrates this point: 74 percent of the more than 500 advertising and marketing executives polled said the caliber of freelance designers has increased over the last five years.

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infographics courtesy of The Creative Group

Companies are increasingly tapping independent creative professionals—graphic designers, web designers, developers, writers and others—for a variety of reasons, including providing support during peak work periods, bringing in reinforcements for special projects and gaining immediate access to skills that don’t exist internally.

Thinking about going solo? There are many benefits to running your own show, but it’s not a decision you should make impulsively.

Thinking about becoming a freelance designer? Join hundreds of fellow freelance creatives and get expert advice on starting and running a freelance design business at the Creative Freelancer Conference, June 22–24 in San Francisco. Creative Freelancer Conference

Ask yourself the following questions to determine if becoming a free agent is the right career path for you:

Am I ready to be a CEO?
This first question is critical because freelance designers can’t afford to think of themselves as anything less than the chief executive of their own business. Possessing outstanding design skills is only part of the equation.

To be successful, you’ll also need business savvy and self-discipline. After all, it will be up to you to manage your own time, finances, resources and professional development. With freedom comes responsibility – a lot of responsibility.

Am I adaptable?
Because you’ll likely work with a wide range of managers, colleagues and clients, you must be able to adapt quickly to new people and environments. Excellent interpersonal skills and a strong customer service orientation also are essential. The best candidates for freelancing enjoy working in a variety of situations and can adjust their work styles accordingly.

Do I enjoy working in high-pressure situations?
Agencies and in-house departments typically bring freelancers in during extremely busy times to help put out proverbial fires. While this work can be exciting, it requires some distinct traits and abilities.

Many projects will have tight turnaround times, so solid organizational skills and the capacity to get up to speed quickly are essential. Remaining calm under pressure and delivering standout work under deadline stress is vital.

Am I comfortable tooting my own horn?
Many people assume that if their work is of a high quality, clients will automatically follow. While being really good at what you do is obviously helpful, you’ll still need to carve out time for marketing your capabilities.

That includes not only keeping your print and online portfolios current but also pitching yourself to prospective clients and other contacts. If the concept of self-promotion makes you queasy, running your own show could be a challenge.

Can I handle uncertainty?
Self-employment can be very rewarding, but it’s not for the meek. Freelancing is a pursuit that requires determination, resilience and resourcefulness. Even the most talented and prudent designers can experience workload lulls. Dealing with a degree of uncertainty is par for the course.

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If you’re interested in freelancing but are looking for support along the way, consider registering with a staffing firm. A well-connected creative recruiter can help you fill holes in your work schedule, alert you to unadvertised opportunities, and provide resume and interview advice. An experienced staffing professional also can help with marketing and administrative functions, which leaves you with more time to focus on what you love: designing.

More Resources for Freelance Designers