9 Steps to Freelance Success

start your freelance graphic design careerAs a freelance professional, there is nothing more motivating than creating positive momentum with our design, illustration or photography businesses. Now that all that pressure to uphold News Year’s resolutions has passed, we can focus on the creative business side of things. It’s a good time to try new ideas while sprucing up our usual ways of working.

Every year that are we are in business for ourselves, it’s good practice to take stock of our progress. Progress happens when we adopt new ways of working, marketing, promoting, creating, learning and connecting. This progress moves along smoothly throughout the year when we feel properly motivated. 

Two very important things happen when we feel motivated: 1. We feel inspired to work on new things. 2. These new things give us something to look forward to. Taking your own initiative by self-directing your business will give you plenty to do for the months to come. 

In order to foster that positive momentum, I’ve outlined 9 steps to jumpstart your freelance business, whether you are seasoned freelancer or are just starting out. It’s not too late to make this year a very productive one. 

1. Balance Your Social Media 

Social media is a huge part of any freelancer’s career. Posting content that is of value is a very delicate balance of pushing and pulling with a lot of give and take. This delicate balance can be achieved by promoting yourself with quality information that can benefit your audience. Push your work but pull onlookers in with intriguing content.

Experts say potential customers need to read about your business up to 12 times before they are ready to do business with you. Your own audience will help you move all this promotion along faster if done right! 

Re-posting great content is a reciprocal online habit between you and your audience. This chain effect will only help your promotions have a longer reach. Don’t forget to thank those who re-post your content — they will in turn thank you back when you do the same. All this give and take creates interest. In other words, to be really interesting — be interested too!


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2. Make Use Of The In-Between Time

Never stop working just because you are waiting for that next client project to come in. This would be an excellent time to tackle that list of things that you have been avoiding. It may appear quiet, but I’m sure you can come up with enough tidbits to keep you busy for a week! These in-between projects could include updating your website, rewriting your bio, updating your portfolio, adding some posts to your blog, and filing paperwork. Before you know it, the next project will roll in and you’ll be all the more organized. 


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3. Exercise Your Own Creative License

There is nothing more motivating than working on something that interests you. Client work does not always give us that creative jolt we are looking for. Self-projects are important to create even if they don’t pay you. Incidentally, the great work you produce can help increase your future revenue!

Lately, more and more freelancers seem to be deviating from the norm and creating work for themselves. This new innovative direction just means we are not willing to wait so stopping is not an option. Illustrators and designers are getting entrepreneurial to keep themselves in business. Typically designers and illustrators are good at many things. Utilize those skills to your advantage.

Increasing your income is a huge motivator. If you are feeling the pinch or the work coming in is not to your liking, try creating work for yourself. We don’t have to wait for a client. Options like selling work online, selling work at galleries, self-publishing, consulting; designing fonts, speaking events, or even teaching can be a great career move.  


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4. Refine Your Online Time

Have you checked your online inventory lately? If you have lost count of how many sites you belong to, then cleaning up the clutter will free up more of your time. If you belong to community sites that you have not touched for over 6 months that may be a clear sign to move on.

Ever go online to do something and end up wasting an hour just surfing without even realizing it? I call this computer hypnoses. We are all guilty of it, am I right? 

Many of us dedicate a lot of time to network weekly to promote what we do. It’s important to network, but sadly we are not getting paid to promote ourselves so there needs to be a balance. If you are using your online time wisely while focusing on the right online sites than your promotion will pay off. Use the sites that you can manage. Spreading yourself too thin may give your audience the impression you are an absent promoter. The more consistent you post the more productive you will feel. 


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5. Make Sketching A Habit

Doodling is a great way to recharge a tired brain or to breathe new life into a challenging project. Adding some much needed escapism to your day may be what your career needs. No tight schedules or big equipment is required — you just need pencils, makers, an eraser and a simple sketchbook. 

By giving yourself time to get back with the traditional side of things can jump start your ideas. Doodling is contagious. One idea leads to many the more you sketch. These doodles can be recycled, reworked or added to current ongoing projects. Sketching can improve client relations by providing clearer roughs while showing your idea process. The better you convey your ideas, the better the working relationship you will have with your clients. 


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6. Take Advantage Of Interviews And Submissions 

Other great ways to get work and to get promoted is to look online for open calls for submissions, book contributions and sites that like to spotlight designers and illustrators. 

Getting interviewed is an excellent way to promote your work. Getting spotlighted gives your audience a glimpse into what you do and how you do it . The best places to look for interviews are reputable sites that have spotlighted other illustrators and designers that you know of. If you are not sure about a site, ask around. 

Open calls for submissions is another great way to get your work out there and be part of up coming books, magazines or reputable industry sites that are looking for talent. Become an expert and offer online sites a chance to write for them. Send a query email to sites that interest you. This is another way make your mark online.


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7. Improve Your Community Connections

Ever wonder if the area you live in can use your services? If you derive the majority of your income from online and not from the area you live in, you could be overlooking opportunities. Never pass up what is right under your nose. Good ways to find out what is going on in your local community is through networking and following local lists on twitter.  

Local theaters, bands, galleries and small businesses are always looking for great work like posters, or cd art. Galleries often sell local work or put on group shows that you can be part of. The more you step outside of the studio, the more creative opportunities will present themselves.


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8. Explore All Learning Opportunities

I say never let an opportunity to learn get away from you. Take advantage of the readily available information online such as industry articles and webinars (check out HOW’s DesignCasts). Depending on where you live, some local art centers offer workshops, classes and have resource libraries. Adding an online class to brush up on the latest software is a great asset to what you do.   

Too busy to read all those great links found online? One option is set them aside for future reading in a file on your computer. Another option is to work while you learn or while waiting for appointment. Many times I have listened to a podcast or an online seminar instead of music. It is amazing how much idea energy these can give you.


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9. Do One Big Thing Before Noon

Quite often, the things that make us procrastinate are the things that make us apprehensive. Those big things on your list such as a follow up call to a client or sending out a new promotion piece can stop us in our tracks. Either way, you cannot avoid them forever. When we make the call or hit the send button, it has a funny way of boosting our creative energy. It means one more thing can be crossed off the list and we can now focus on something else. 

Doing something big before noon can give you a huge energy boost that will carry you throughout afternoon. Individually, it all comes down to your own idea of what being productive means. The more you do the more progress you’ll make. Once it becomes a habit, these big things wont feel so uncomfortable. It’s all win/win! 


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