No matter how much time you spent studying how to become a graphic designer, there are just some things lecturers don't teach you at school. I know. Shock horror, right? Aside from learning the ins-and-outs of design, you’re pretty much left in the dark when it comes to running your own design business.
I came fresh out of University with ideal dreams and ideas of what it would be like to be a freelance designer; to be my own boss and watch my business grow. I knew how to design, of course! But what I didn’t know was how to run a successful design business.
In reality, I was a complete novice. Even though I had the practical skills needed to design, I knew nothing about the business world. I came to realise that there are just some things they don’t teach you in school, and being a successful freelancer is one of them.
#1 | HOW TO MANAGE YOUR TIME
To be a successful freelancer, knowing how to manage your time is incredibly important. And for a creative designer who is prone to a messy inbox, even more so! (Totally speaking from experience here).
But guess what? They don’t teach that at design school. You then spend your time slaving away, working all hours and becoming a social hermit because you didn’t realise the importance of managing your time until it was too late.
In order to be in control of your design business, you need to read up on how to manage your time and start feeling human again. A great way to do this is to set up systems that will keep your business organised. That way, you can stay ultra-productive and maintain the work-life balance you’ve always wanted.
The irony, though, is that it takes time to manage your time. (I know, don’t even). But trust me - once you’ve sorted out your business and created systems that will help you get your life back, you will not be complaining. And you’re not alone! There are tons of resources and project management tools out there that will help you sort your life out. So use and abuse them.
#2 | HOW TO MANAGE YOUR FINANCES
You went to school to learn how to be a graphic designer, not an accountant. But if you work for yourself, you basically become everything; the designer, manager, HR - you’re all of those things. Only they kinda don’t talk about that in design class.
Managing your finances might be the most boring part of being your own boss. But it’s probably the most important. Learning how to manage your money and track your spending will not only enhance your business, but it will also help your personal finances, too.
Quick tip: Create a killer business plan for your design business and set yourself some financial goals and targets. Then keep track of your income, spendings and business transactions so you always know where you are each month.
#3 | WHERE TO FIND THE RIGHT CLIENTS
The biggest struggle as a freelance designer is not just finding clients - it’s landing the right clients. And oh my goodness, I have had some strange ones in the past. I can guarantee you, we all have. When I first started freelancing, I didn’t know it was going to be hard to find the right kind of clients.
Knowing where to market your services and who to reach out to plays a BIG part in attracting the right type of client. And you’re left to your own devices with this one after design school!
But there is something you can do, even if you have no idea where to start.
You know the type of clients you want to work with, right? So put yourselves in their shoes and ask yourself what you would look for in a graphic designer. Where would you “hang out” online and who would you collaborate with? It’s all about reaching out and going where they are - understanding them and then acting accordingly.
Make sure you don’t under-price your services. Underpricing may draw in new clients - just not the right ones. The right clients will want to pay good money as they expect to receive quality designs. The wrong clients will look for a cheap fix and then ghost on you when it comes to payment.
#4 | HOW TO MARKET YOUR DESIGN BUSINESS
They definitely don’t teach you how to do this in design school. Yet it seems to be what most freelance designers come un-stuck with. Knowing how, what and where to market your brand can be one of the most mind-boggling things, but it’s a complete must if you wish to expand your business.
There are many ways to market your business, and you don’t even have to fork out the cash to do so. My top tip? Use social media.
Getting your brand on social media promotes your story to potential clients and, as mentioned above, enables you to find the right type of clients. It’s like a stage you can use to get your design business in the minds of those who are searching for your talent. You just gotta do it right, that’s all!
And to top it all off, social media is the best place to learn how to…
Market your brand
Find AWESOME clients
Organize your biz
Do the things they didn’t teach you in class