Build Solid Web Presence
It might sound obvious, but if you decide to go freelance and you want to let potential clients know that you’re for hire, the first and perhaps the most essential step is to build a strong web presence. The easiest way to start doing this is through an awesome website– having a profile on Behance or Dribbble is not enough. Your website is your greatest tool in showcasing your portfolio and design style.
Use a platform like WordPress or Squarespace to host your online portfolio. WordPress is a more flexible solution with thousands of add-on features to customize your website to your liking, while Squarespace is much simpler to set up quickly, but at the cost of less flexibility.
Make sure your website highlights important information, like the fact that you are available for work and the specific services you offer. In solidifying your web presence it’s also vital to include these things on your social media pages, along with your past work. The most important thing to highlight on your website is your portfolio, ideally consisting of past work representing each of the services you offer. If you don’t have many projects to showcase yet, it’s fine to include self-initiated work to show off your graphic design capabilities.
Find a Reliable Source for Projects
Long term success of any business is dependent on a core customer base, and it’s essential to identify yours as early as possible. Freelance sites like Upwork are some great places to start. These sites are online marketplaces made to connect freelancers with potential clients. Make a profile, upload your portfolio and start bidding on contracts.
With the variety of project types available, you’re sure to find some on a regular basis that fit your interests and desired rate. You can also apply for jobs you might not feel totally qualified for as there’s nothing to lose, and it’s great to seize any opportunity you’re presented with.
One thing to keep in mind about freelance marketplaces is you’re bound to come across lots of bids from other designers that are far below market rates, usually from designers outside of the US in countries with a lower cost of living. To combat this low-balling competition, establish yourself as a high-quality designer, using your portfolio and profile, and aim to bid mostly on US based projects.
Get Listed In A Directory of Experts
In addition to freelance marketplaces, directories like Sortfolio or Dribbble are great sources of visibility that can increase the likelihood of qualified leads. These sites are already doing the marketing for you. Potential clients search the web for graphic designers or particular services and land on these sites looking for a match. Simply making yourself available and accessible on several directory websites will help you gain consistent clients.
It also helps to go for a niche, and find specific companies to partner with. For example, ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, have huge customer bases of vendors potentially in need of web designers. Shopify highlights designers who can help their customers, as it’s a win-win for them. Some printing companies also maintain directories of print designers for the same reason. Become an expert in a particular niche and it’s easy to have your marketing handled by companies within that niche.
Go Local Within Social Circle & Community
The oldest way to get consistent work as a graphic designer is going local within your social circle or community. No matter where you live chances are there are hundreds of businesses and organizations within a 5 mile radius that are in need of design work. This has been the foundation of design agencies for decades.
Friends and family are great clients too, with the potential trade-off of offering discounted rates for word-of-mouth marketing. In any business, connections and deals are often made through relationships, so keeping a small client base of close friends and family is an integral part of attracting more design clients overall.