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Graphic Design

How To Earn As a Freelance Designer While A Student

By August 30, 2017February 4th, 2022No Comments10 min read

Most of the questions people ask me are about Freelancing. Getting some extra income with credibility while being a student is such a wonderful experience in the marketing world.

Freelancing tactics have drowned out an extremely important part of the building and leveraging such networks. It can seem absurd, even to be earning at the current diverse market and succeed as a student.

If you freelance while you study its much possible to build a working module and gain an extra income.

I wouldn’t say it is easy, but it is also flexible, rewarding, and a great way to get your work out there.

That’s was exactly what I did. As a third-year student at The Technical University of Kenya, I freelanced mostly during my Nairobi evening while studying for a degree in design.

Finding a part-time or even casual job in the design industry was quite frustrating especially when starting as a freelancer while still a student.

Doing it right can provide huge opportunities.

So take a tip from the professionals.

Freelance work, in contrast to the other casual job, allows you to work at your preferred time, anywhere you want, and in any area where you can create value for someone else.

Especially if you want to work in a new industry or having a change in the university curricula that leaves you with extra free time, freelancing may be the alternative way of learning a new skill.

Here is a guideline to get started.

Decide on your niche.

Before you get down to any paid freelancing job, you need to have a deep and thorough understanding of your niche as a freelancer.

But as you get deeper into your freelancing career, you’ll need to start being more strategic about the types of work you do and the clients you take on.

Clarify what you want to sell, remembering that a) you can?t be an expert in all things and b) smaller is bigger.

Your niche may not necessarily be the same as the field in which you work. To illustrate this, a design apparel business is not a niche but a field. A more specific niche may be ‘custom t-shirt design for couples.’

Identifying and choosing the right niche and narrowing to specialize and putting some effort into branding yourself as an expert freelancer within your niche can really pay off for years to come.

Becoming a Successful Freelancer, this is one of my favourite takeaways.

Don’t forget that not only does established freelance niche give you an advantage in getting discovered on search platforms, it can also help you build a reputation as an expert resource in key networks.

I?ll be honest with you defining a unique selling point for your services, enables you to tap into a community of clients with similar goals and challenges, positioning yourself as the perfect resolution to their exact pain points.

Be clear about your design service.

You can’t fail to make a decision on the design service in your freelance career on what you do and what you don’t do.

The design service definition is fundamental to your management and running a successful freelance business.

Clearly defined services enable clients to understand module of the service offered, including what each service does and does not include, eligibility, service limitations, cost, how to request services, and how to get help.

A well-defined service also identifies internal processes necessary to provide and support the service.

As a matter of fact, every customer-facing service should have a high-level service definition:

  • What is the service, and how do I get it done? (Service Description)
  • How do I get help? How do I use the service? (Help and Self-Service)
  • How will it Cost? (Service Cost and Pricing)
  • How do freelancers support their service? (Service Support)
  • How do freelancers deliver their service? (Service Delivery)

The more specific you can be on the service you offer, the easier for the job getting done.

To add on this, clearly defined service enables you to brand yourself and allow you to control how potential clients perceive you and give you the opportunity to continue building on your portfolio in the direction you want to move in.

Make sure to define your ideal clients.

Before you can go out and start looking for clients, you’ll need to develop a clear picture of who you’re going to work best with.

Do you want to develop a brand identity for small business owners, pitch in on new feature development for high growth technology startups, or take on longer-term contracts with enterprise-sized companies?

Making these clear distinctions between who and what type of business you’re targeting will be essential to effectively pitch your services.

To define exactly who your ideal freelance clients (and how to start finding them) precisely consider these questions:

  • What type of business has the problem I’m solving with my services?
  • Can the business I want to work for affording to hire me?
  • What demographic trends can I identify the decision-makers in the types of businesses I’m targeting age, gender, geographic location, websites they frequent, and their personal interests.

Because I know that I?ll be more engaged and work most effectively with a team who are working on projects I can personally relate to, I?ve proactively chosen to expand my scope of potential clients.

Create a quality and reputable portfolio.

Most of the job opportunity for freelancer demand for a portfolio if not Curriculum Vitae or Resume.

Becoming a designer is not something spontaneous, but it all starts somewhere and is the case for all designers.

Get More Inspiration on Awesome Portfolios

If you want to be taken seriously as a new freelancer, you need to have a reputable portfolio site:

  • Clearly and concisely communicating about your services.
  • Example of relevant past quality work.
  • Simple and visible work.
  • Includes your contact information.

If you’re looking to create a top-notch portfolio able to convince potential clients that they’ll want to choose you or refer you for technical needs, it is worth investing time into deciding what to feature on your portfolio.

In addition to having a high-quality portfolio website and building on your personal brand, it?s a good idea to have a few steady freelance clients on your roster before axing your sole source of income.

How to Build High-Quality Portfolio in a Scalable Way

Level Up Your Skills.

This actually brings up a good question. If you are a freelancer, how exactly is the best way to justify higher rates?

If you’re looking to grow your freelance business, make sure you have impressive skills that are in high demand.

And how do you build on your freelance skills?

Easy. Be active and staying informed on graphic design events, forums, ask questions, read on design and freelancing blogs and getting out there adds to the basic freelance design skills.

Think of it this way: Don’t focus too much on how to achieve trendy visual elements in your designs. Any good design doesn’t start in Photoshop, it starts in your head and on the paper. Understand the fundamentals of design theory first and add a visual skin later. Do your homework.

Secondly, you could offer your design service on a voluntary basis, ?providing you with experience and a better hand in the freelance work.

How Giving Away A Free Brand Identity Benefited The Whole Community

Consider this fact, most of the skills on design is acquired through tutorials, books, design forums, ?and consistent practice. Reading adversely and meeting with similar freelancers equip a designer with knowledge of design practices.

Take it from me based on the years of experience I have worked on a voluntary basis as a freelance designer. Volunteering has provided design pro bono opportunities that enabled me to learn more about clients and meeting the deadline on the deliverable.

Here are a number of opportunities to build you up on your freelance skills:

Tutorial websites

Top 10 Best and Commonly Used Graphic Design Software.

Determine Your Pricing.

In deciding how much to charge for your freelance services, determine your perceived value that is worth the returns from the client.

Here is a note to take, pricing largely depends on how skilled and the value you are bringing forth to the clients.

Your charging process is actually a gradual process when starting you may be promoted to charge flat-rates unfortunately.

But a matter of fact, most clients won’t hesitate to pay higher rates for a freelancer that gives them an incredible first impression and sells them with the ability to deliver high-quality results.

Before marking your prices at a bare minimum you need to charge in order to hit your financial needs. Consider the actual value you’d be creating for your potential clients and make sure you’re not overcharging or undercharging.

You can always increase your rates with increased value to your client in the future and hope they stay input.

Leverage Your Network.

I strongly suggest that the most effective way to land higher quality design project and earn better pay as a freelance is by leveraging your existing networks.

This is the trick, whenever you discover a freelance opportunity you want to pursue, first give yourself 10-15 minutes to research the company, find ideal point of contact, do your homework before reaching out with an email.

Jonathan G. the head of marketing at the Founder Institute favourite rules of marketing that I have been applying: Always provide value before asking for it in return.

The case is also true for networking, a small gesture to a strategic contact can pay large dividends.

Perhaps the big question?is what’s the potential value of your network in terms of leverage, on your behalf? What sort of people do you know? What do they have, to help you get where you want to go?

The point is, long-term strategic development and use of your network will help you to achieve long-term goals, so it’s well worth investing some thought and time into your networking strategy.

Perfect Your Pitching New Clients.

A successful client pitch doesn’t just revolve around a well-practised presentation and a well-crafted freelance proposal.

Most freelancers forget that it’s not enough to just deliver a seemingly good pitch on the surface, but rather to read between the lines and peer into your audience’s thoughts. This is an important part of running a profitable freelance business

At every client pitch, you should show that your freelance business is committed to making the new relationship successful.

Of course, not all days turn out that way, and I have had a number of client pitches that could have gone better. What matters most is being able to learn from mistakes, and perfecting pitch techniques as you go along.

Your success will be guaranteed by how you position your value propositions, and how much research you do ahead of time.

I’ve won new gigs simply because I clearly put in more time and effort into researching the company, determining their needs, and providing immense upfront value in the form of insightful recommendations before I even discuss payment.

In the world of freelancing, much of your success will depend upon the strength of your client relationships, and how well you’re able to forge meaningful partnerships.

Setup your first pitch and start immediately!

Narrow to Build Your Credibility.

The best graphic design freelancers have one thing in common, credibility.

Winning on a client trusts is usually accompanied by undoubted opportunity to build a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

There are many ways to build your credibility within your industry.

Aside from creating a high-quality portfolio and collaborating with notable freelancers in your industry, get informed and line up speaking engagements to start increasing your visibility within your niche.

Understanding your clients – who they are, what they do, and how your proposed value can help them. This is a tremendous way to build credibility during the freelancing.

On the other hand, a lack of understanding can be detrimental to you as a freelancer. Take this example, studies show that hearing our own name has several psychological benefits. So by calling your client or their business the wrong name, your credibility plummets.

Common Graphic Designers Mistakes to Avoid at All Cost

Another way you can use knowledge to build credibility is to become intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of the basics of graphic design.

Illustrating this, the various techniques that designers employ, like using specific colour palettes to elicit predictable emotional responses.

This step in building your credibility you could ass to the list of accomplishments that you could highlight on your portfolio and demonstrate your knowledge for more potential clients.

So, the wider the scope your message reach, the more influence you’ll build within your niche.

Get Out There!

There is no other way to find a job or clients than getting out there.

After being equipped with knowledge and skills in design and the industry, go out and start freelancing. Utilize the network at hand to gain influence in the market as you work on building your credibility.

Get acquainted with clients from the lowest project you are handed as you level up in this creative industry.

Be a Design Entrepreneur: How to Start a Graphic Design Business

Best of luck as you set your foot in earning as a freelance designer.

Paul S

Founder and Team Lead of Simpaul Design, a brand strategy and design agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Here at Simpaul Design, we work with brands across various categories with a focus on connecting with consumers and building brands that people want to be a part of. We specialize in brand identity and strategy, UX/UI, and brand transformation.