Freelancing Tips for Designers in Australia
14th September, 2020
So, you’ve done all the nitty-gritty stuff and now it’s time to get noticed in hopes of landing your first client. Here are a few tips to help you get started. Again, I’ll preface that these are tips based on my own experience and I’ve outlined methods that have helped me, which may not be relevant to you.
You’ll need a brand identity so that you can market yourself. Being a designer, this is the fun part. Developing a unique logo that represents yourself is important. The same rules apply to yourself as it would with a client. Create your essential branding kit:
But before you start hitting the artboard, ask yourself these questions:
Write your answers down so you can remind yourself. It also becomes handy when you’re writing your bio on your website. On that note… you need a website!
It’s essential for designers to have a website, how else are people going to see the amazing work that we do? Building your own website can be time-consuming and expensive as you’ll need to hire a developer too. If you’re on a tight budget, luckily there are a lot of online platforms available to help designers and small businesses create great websites. For a small monthly fee, I’d recommend Squarespace. They have pre-designed templates suited for designers, and it is simple and easy to use. So there is no excuse for not having a website. It is a designer’s shopfront.
What to include on your website;
Make sure your portfolio of work showcases your best work and attracts the kind of clientele you want to work with. Most designers and design agencies will feature their best work on their homepage. Each project should be well presented and curated. It should also include a detailed description of your thought process behind the project. Check out projects on Behance to get inspired.
The about page is one of the most visited pages on a website. That’s because potential clients want to know about you. Here are some suggestions as to what you should include:
I’m an opportunist so on every page, I’ll make sure my contact info is easily accessible because I want to reduce the number of clicks/steps a client needs to take to reach me.
I’m not an expert on SEO, but it is important to mention it because we do want our website to be discoverable. So I’ve provided a link to the Top 10 SEO tips. These tips are simple to follow and actionable. Side note; for larger-scale projects for clients then I recommend reaching out to an SEO expert.
Five years ago when I launched Faber & Lo with Mary*, we had a website, Instagram and Facebook page. In fact, our Facebook page garnered 3000 likes in three days (we did not pay for the likes either) and we thought, “This is it! We’re going to be rich!” But the complete opposite happened. We didn’t get any new clients via Facebook and none of our followers turned into potential clients. In fact, my first job under Faber & Lo was a logo design for $200. How did I get the job? Through a friend of a friend.
In fact, throughout the years, it’s been friends that have helped me find new client work. Through their connections, I’ve gained clients. So start letting your mates know what you do and that you’re looking for design opportunities because chances are they might know someone that’s looking for a designer.
Social media is a great tool to show people what you do and get noticed. I’ve listed my top 3 platforms that I’ve found useful.
Instagram is a good platform to post images of the work you do. It’s also a healthy reminder to your network of people that you’re a designer.
Behance isn’t a social media platform but it’s a platform where creatives showcase their best work. It’s also a place where a lot of potential clients search for designers. I’ve worked with some really great clients from Behance.
LinkedIn is a powerful platform. It’s the official professional networking platform and a great place to market yourself. Mitch King, a Talent Acquisition Manager at Linktree & Boster has written a great series titled “Make yourself easier to find on LinkedIn” which gives you tips on how to elevate your profile so that you can get noticed!
As your business grows there are other platforms and marketing tools that can help enhance your chances of getting noticed. However, I recommend engaging with a Marketing specialist when you cross that bridge.
My design degree never taught me about customer service. We seem to think it’s only relevant to the retail industry. Well, it’s not. As freelance designers, unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of an account manager or a project manager, so we have to manage our own clients.
A very long time ago I lost a client. They told me it was because I was bad at communicating and slow at delivering my deliverables. Wow, that was a big wake-up call.
It takes years to build credibility. Apart from my poor experience earlier, I’m fortunate to have good relationships with past colleagues, employers and clients and those relationships have helped me progress in my career. So being nice is super important.
Guess what? It’s actually really hard work running your own business. I’ve called freelancing a business multiple times in this article, because that’s what freelancing is, it’s a business offering services. So, I think it’s important to get into that mindset and commit to it. Here’s something people don’t often tell you—get a business mentor if you’re stuck. I worked with Carole Issa several years ago, and some of the key learnings from those sessions still stick with me till this day. Because we don’t have all the answers!
It’s all on you now. We no longer have an agency to hide behind. So it’s important to be accountable. What does being accountable mean?
It means committing to:
So once again, there is a lot to consider in this post. But if you’re unsure of anything please feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help.
🙏🏻 I wish you luck on your freelancing journey.
*Faber & Lo is my sole trader business name. It is a business name that I share with my good friend Mary Faber. She runs Faber & Lo in New Zealand. We both operate as sole traders. We use Faber & Lo as a platform to collaborate on projects and showcase our work as a collective.
Special thanks to Maggie Lo for helping me check the copy for this article. Banner illustration originally from Free Pik has been alternated by me.