Do You Have What it Takes to be a Successful Freelance Designer?

Have you ever felt that you are working at the wrong job? Creatives are leaving advertising agencies at an exponential rate to pursue careers as freelance designers. Is this huge transition from working at a creative agency to working as a freelance designer worth the stress?

If you want to succeed as a creative you must ensure that you are in an environment that helps foster your success. In this article we at Filestage are going to cover the pros and cons of creative freelancing. What would it be like to leave the familiar 9 to 5 career, and start as a freelance designer.

Creative Freelancing is Huge

So you’re tired of the creative agency scene huh? Well you’re in good company! In the U.S there are 53 million people currently working as freelancers. That’s 34% of the American workforce! Europe shares this trend by being home to 8.9 million freelancers.

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The Risks of being a Freelance Designer

Setting your own hours, being your own boss, and working with your favorite clients may sound amazing. Yet, the initial transition from a safe job to creative freelancing is a risk. It’s not for everybody.

Starting your Business from Scratch

Starting out as a freelance designer means starting your own business from scratch. Every small business owner will tell you, the first year is going to be tough.

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Thinking Alone

First, if you are the type of person who relies on human collaboration, creative design freelancing may not be right for you. As a freelance designer you don’t have the luxury of bouncing ideas off of coworkers. This means if you get stumped at work, you’re all alone.

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Annoying Paperwork

Remember all that paperwork that you ignored back at the agency? Well as a freelance designer no one is there to push your papers for you. As a creative, it’s understandable that you want to focus all your time on your creative projects. As a creative freelance designer you don’t have the luxury of having an accounting department. If you want to start freelance graphic designing you need to be ready to push your own papers.

As a freelance designer no one is there to push your papers for you. Click To Tweet

Marketing Yourself

You are a one man show. It is on you to market yourself and ensure a constant stream of clients. Your success depends on the effort you put into marketing yourself.


No Steady Pay

There’s no better feeling than getting your paycheck at the end of the month right? Well one of the things you give up when leaving a creative agency is the comfort of guaranteed pay. Experts recommend keeping at least 6 months worth of pay set aside to help you along while you try to get your business going.

I’m not saying that you’re not going to get paid while freelance designer, quite the contrary. Freelance designers have the liberty to set their own hourly wage. But is not always easy to get the price you demand. You always compete with other freelancers.

Andreas Preis, a great illustrator and artist, confirms, “The most stressful part of freelancing is the fact that you have no security at all. So you have to get used to that and trust that you’ll continue to get enough jobs.”

The most stressful part of freelancing is the fact that you have no security at all. @andreaspreis Click To Tweet

Feeling a little discouraged? Now that I have gone over some potential risks, let’s talk about some potential advantages.

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The Advantages of being a Freelance Designer

Along with its many risks, working as a freelance designer, illustrator or creative artist has many advantages as well. The corporate job is not for everybody. Some people thrive within the confines of the 9 – 5 lifestyle, whereas others are suffocated within the corporate cage. If you decide to leave the creative agency lifestyle for a career in creative freelancing, here are some things to look forward to.

74% of freelancers have stronger relationships with friends and family. Click To Tweet

Work for Yourself

As a freelance designer you are your own boss. You are the CEO, CCO and CFO in one person. You choose when you start, how much work you have to do, and how much you get paid.

Do the Work You Love

Creatives normally have a certain type of project that they love to work on. As a freelance graphic designer you have the advantage of working only on projects that you love. No more getting thrown into boring projects with clients that you can’t stand.

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Love Where You Work

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work from the sandy beaches of Thailand? Creative freelancers have the freedom to work from wherever they want. There are plenty of creatives who conduct their freelance business while traveling the world. Your experiences abroad can serve as great creative inspiration for your work.

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Structure Your Day

Have you ever wondered what a typical day as a freelance designer looks like?

Freelancers have the liberty to structure their days in any way they see fit. In other words, there is no typical day for a freelance designer, illustrator, video editor or creative artist. If you are a night owl, there is nothing stopping you from working during the night hours and sleeping throughout the day.

Spend More Time at Home

Since you create your own schedule, you have the freedom to choose family over work whenever you see fit.

According to the UK Public Contractors Group, 74% of freelancers have stronger relationships with friends and family.

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What Does It Take to be a Successful Creative Freelancer?

A freelance designer early in his career is in the same position as an entrepreneur trying to create buzz on a cool new product. You have these amazing creative talents that you can’t wait to share with the world. The only problem is you’re the only one who knows it.

After talking to many creative freelancers and marketers there are a few patterns that stood out:

Market Yourself

Successful freelance designers need to know how to market themselves. There are various resources online to show you how to break into the market. The Creative Bloq has a great 7 step process to help you market yourself.

Fil Dunsky, a very talented freelance illustrator, told us, “I never spam asking people to look at my works. I post my works at Behance network where professionals from all over the world can see it.”

Successful freelancers need to know how to market themselves Click To Tweet

Be Friendly

Clients would rather hire the creative that they get along with then the snobby design genius. A smart freelance designer never burns bridges with anyone (no matter how much you hate their guts).

Be Fearless

As a freelance designer, you should not be afraid of the unknown. Let’s face it. There is no guarantee that you’re going to be able to locate clients to keep yourself busy for the rest of your career. You are going to go through some slow phases. A good creative freelancer knows how to handle these slow phases and keep optimistic and productive.

Be a Self-Educator

As a freelancer nobody is there to help you. You have to figure it out by yourself. So you need to be eager to learn new things and you need to be able to learn quickly.

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Be Proactive

As a freelance designer you need to stay proactive in finding new projects to work on. When things are slow, experts recommend finding creative projects through online communities. Finding new projects through your own personal network is always easier than finding projects online. But websites and communities can serve as a great additional client acquisition channel.
Some examples of these online communities are:,,,

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Making the transition from a 9-5 job to a career in creative freelancing can be a great decision. To work as a freelance designer is a great way to enjoy life without the cage of a 9-5 career. You have the freedom to do what you want with your time. But with this freedom comes a lack of financial security. When it comes down to it, each person is different. So, is creative freelancing right for you?

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Key Takeaways

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  1. Get ready to work hard
    •  Freelancers are CEOs of their own personal business.
  2. Research
    • Analyze all the risks and advantages before making your decision
  3. Market yourself
    • Be able to successfully market yourself. It is one of the most important skills as a freelancer.
  4. Be Friendly
    • Clients are more likely going to hire the freelance designer that they like.
  5. Be Fearless
    • Regardless of what tomorrow brings, you must stay optimistic.
  6. Be Proactive
    • Stay proactive by using new creative outlets to find clients. Always ask for referrals.

And by the way: Are you working in advertising, design or in the film industry? Than you should check out Filestage. It’s a great software that makes design and video reviews with clients and co-workers easy.

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