Ask the Designer: Tips for the Business of Freelancing

Editor’s Note: These questions came from our community for designers who are interested in freelancing for web and graphic design. If you'd like to have your questions answered by Wes at The Deep End Design in the future, please submit them using the form at the bottom of this post. You can reach out through the comments in this post, through DT social media or submit them at the bottom of this post.

Felipe asks:  Hello! I started out freelancing not long ago having done a couple of works, but all of them kinda “informally” (no contracts, only a talk deal) and I feel insecure about that, especially when it comes to pricing my works. Adds to that I have no college or university diploma, however, I’ve invested money and time on several short/medium term courses for 2D/3D softwares and also spend time studying and practicing on my own to be able to give the best quality work as possible. Having said that, this week I got a very simple work from my cousin’s friend which consisted of making a few changes on a logo ( I made an entirely new symbol and only a subtle change on the logotype with some color options) that took me like 45 mins – 1 hour to do. So, should I leave this one for free or give it a price, even if it would be very low? Thank you!

Hi Felipe,

I understand where you’re coming from, but this kind of thinking only perpetuates that what we as designers do shouldn’t be considered “real work.” It is. So yes, you should absolutely charge for your time, whether its 1 hour or 100. If you were to not charge this client, it would only solidify in their mind that graphic design is an easy, “throw away” skill, and they will be less likely to want to pay for it in the future. As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see!”

Patrick asks:

I recently completed a project for a company that wanted me to create holiday E-Cards for them. My question to you is how do you go about setting up a price range and is there some kind of contract or paper I should print out to make things official when it comes to payment?

Hi Patrick,

Yes, you should absolutely have a contract! To work without one is only asking for trouble. As far as setting a price goes, you first need to establish your hourly rate. From there, you can either charge your client by-the-hour (which most won’t agree to,) or you can then try your best to estimate how many hours the project is likely to take, keeping the revision process in mind. Then just multiply your hourly rate by the estimated number of hours, and you’ve got your number.

*For more on graphic design contract basics, you can listen to this episode of my podcast: DesignCast 13 : Get it in Writing! Our Guide to Graphic Design Contracts


Aman asks:

Its always hard for me to choose a path because I love to do everything, so it’s difficult to get a job. Is it okay to be more of a generalist or is it better to specialize?

Hi Aman,

This is a tough one to answer, since we all have different things that make us tick! They each have pros and cons: Being general is good, because you open yourself up to more potential clients. But it’s bad because you may be labeled a “jack of all trades, but a master of none.”

Finding a niche is good because if you can corner a smaller chunk of the market doing one thing really well, you can really own that niche and be the go-to guy for it. But if you aren’t really, really good at that niche, you may get no business at all.

So you can see, its a lot of grey area. My advice is to stay general until a niche starts to work its way to the surface in your work. That’s usually the way it works anyway. In other words, let your niche (if you ever fall into one) find you, rather than the other way around, unless you are really passionate about something specific.

Pat asks:

Hello, I’m from Montreal, Canada, and my question is this: How do you sell and get client to get your services when it’s all new to them? Because I’m in 3D design and no ones knows what is it.

So when I see potential customers I prepare a photo-montage to show them what we can do for them, but after that they hesitate cause it’s new and no one has that kind of project now.

Hi Pat,

3D design is an up-and-coming niche, but not everyone has a need for it. (Thats what makes it a niche!) So rather than trying to talk people with no need for it into your services, target the industries that do need it. When you approach them, show them examples of others in their industry that are using them, and why its important to them.

Also, start re-working your website to be found for those kinds of keywords. I guarantee people are looking for 3D designers, so make yourself findable.

Have a question of your own? Add it to the comments below or submit it here for a future Ask the Designer.