How to Go From Freelance Design to Full-Time


Photo by Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash

Many freelance designers are happy being their own boss and taking on assignments they find interesting and fulfilling. At the same time, there are those who would prefer the stability of a salaried position. If you’re in the latter camp, you could very well work your way from freelance design to full-time. But how?

Tip: If you’re ultimately looking for a full-time position, think of working on a project basis as an extended and task-oriented interview process.

Contract-to-hire is a very real thing in the design world. In a recent survey by The Creative Group, advertising and marketing executives said one of the greatest benefits of bringing in professionals on a project basis is the opportunity to evaluate their abilities before extending a full-time job offer. Think of it as an extended and task-oriented interview process.

Other ways freelancing can move you closer to a full-time position

  • Valuable experience. What do executives look for when hiring entry-level creative pros? According to a survey by The Creative Group, 34 percent want previous work experience. Managers expect the designers they hire to start contributing right away. If you’re short on experience, project-based assignments (especially those that require you to be onsite) give you the background necessary to move from freelance to full-time.
  • An income between jobs. The money you earn through contract gigs can help support you financially while you decide your next career step. And think of it this way: If it weren’t for the possibility of freelancing, you might have to take a job outside the industry to make ends meet. By freelancing and doing contract work, you keep your foot in the door.In your first year as a freelancer, you can set up shop with just your computer, a reliable internet connection and a subscription to InDesign or Illustrator. If freelance to full-time is your goal, don’t worry about investing in a lot of other tools. That way, you’ll be able to turn creative projects into profit more quickly.
  • A push toward specialization. Freelancing gives you a taste of what’s out there in the design world. From tiny startup to multinational corporation, almost every type of organization needs the top-notch design work that only a creative professional can provide. Specializing in a certain field may increase your marketability as you aim to go from freelance to full-time.

 Do your clients know you’re interested in going from freelance to full-time? Don’t assume they do.

On a freelance design job, consider more than Pantone, picas and pixels

Your primary focus for each project assignment you pursue should be doing a great job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t simultaneously start thinking toward that full-time position you desire. Here are a few tips for turning a client from a freelance to full-time employer:

  1. Enlarge your network. Every freelance gig is an opportunity to grow your circle of acquaintances. So get to know as many people in the agency or creative department as possible. The more allies you have, the more they may lobby for your hire when a full-time opening arises. Be sure to stay in touch with them as you go from gig to gig.
  1. Fit in. Every agency and creative department has a culture. To improve your odds of going from freelance to full-time, study employees’ communication preferences, work styles, meeting behaviors and so forth. Then adapt to their way of doing things. Demonstrate that you’d be an excellent fit.
  1. Make your goals known. Do your clients know you’re interested in going from freelance to full-time? Don’t assume they do. Since many freelancers love working for themselves, the people who hire you for projects may hesitate to bring up the idea of a more permanent role. It doesn’t hurt to let clients know you’re open to exploring interesting opportunities.

The freedom and diversity of freelance work are key advantages, but so are a steady paycheck and the feeling of being part of a team. If you’re ready to make the leap from freelance to full-time, freshen up your resume and portfolio with all that work experience you’re accumulating today.

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