Tips for Landing your first Freelance Design Job

By on Freelance

The field of web design has grown in huge proportions over the years. Kids in high school or even younger are starting to master basic HTML and CSS techniques to build their own websites. This is in no small part accountable because of how easy it is to master and develop these skills, and this is especially the case with so much information freely available through the Internet.

What many designers don’t consider is launching their own freelance shop. Working for yourself can be an extremely rewarding experience full of life lessons and a lot of power. It can be difficult to get your name out there but with these tips you’ll be landing your first freelance gig in no time at all!

Keep your Skillset Copacetic

The problem I see these days is having freelancers looking at their problems backwards. Most people will get into web design & development just to earn some extra money on the side or network into bigger opportunities. This is twisted a bit since the true value in freelancing is being able to work on your own schedule doing work that you enjoy.

The first thing you have to ensure is that you actually know what you’re doing. It’s hard to believe but many “professional” design agencies and freelancers will outsource or just copy code from others to get their work done. It’s a shameful business when you’re working just for the money.

Take the experience from an entirely new level. Use your freelance projects to further develop skills you already have or practice new skills you wish to learn. This can be especially rewarding once you’re doing paid work since you’re mastering new skills while on the clock. As an example, you may wish to learn a bit more about Ajax interfaces through PHP but haven’t had the time. Assuming you could land a freelance gig to develop a new social networking application or something similar that would be the perfect time to practice this new craft.

Hold Confidence in your Work

Many times when designers first attempt applying for freelance gigs they’ll sell themselves short. This stems from a mental state of assuming your work isn’t as up-to-par with the professionals, thus you don’t deserve as much compensation. If you truly enjoy development work then you should never put your projects below what they’re worth.

You will also run into clients who wish to get a lot of work done for cheap. These are clients worth working with initially to build up a portfolio but in the long run will try to manipulate their freelance contacts.

Lock out the Fakes

Truthfully it’s not very difficult to learn how to create a website. Anybody with basic knowledge of Adobe Dreamweaver can create a mockup in just a few hours. The difficult part in web design is understanding how code and rendering engines work. Understanding design trends, CSS and HTML5 models, and even development languages such as JavaScript or PHP will put you light-years in front of these other freelancers.

As you practice and gain more understanding you’ll build up a deep, enthusiastic level of confidence for your work.

And when facing your potential clients you should never doubt yourself. The average person looking to buy a website can tell what’s real talent and what isn’t. Know yourself and take pride in your work and you’re sure to go far.

Market Yourself Like Crazy

Running yourself as a freelance web designer is no different than starting a business. The key difference is you are the only employee and you are doing all of the networking to gain clients. Marketing is essential for the success of any business and it’s no different as a designer.

The best advice here is to look for gigs you think you could handle and e-mail people like crazy. I suggesting creating a personal Gmail account for work related purposes and building a small Contacts list of clients over time. The worst case scenario here is you send out 100+ e-mails with no real business leads and you’re in pretty much the same position that you started. Be persistent here, eventually somebody will want to work with you and the magic will start to flow.

There are a few places worth checking out to land some of your first gigs. Freshwebjobs is one of the few design boards which frequently has some interesting job postings. Many freelancers will scour Craigslist computer gigs for the latest in design and development jobs. For example if you lived near Boston you could go to for the latest postings.

Develop a Powerful Online Portfolio

This is possibly the most important piece of advice when starting your search to land your first freelance project. The first thing any respectable client will ask you for is previous work you’ve done, whether it’s for clients or on your own. There are a few communities online such as Dribbble and Carbonmade which let you set up an online portfolio page free of charge.

The most professional way is to launch your own website showcasing your past works. Granted you can’t really do this until you actually have work to showcase, but it never hurts to buy your domain and launch early.

You may also consider creating accounts on some of the most popular social networks. Twitter and Facebook are big right now and will allow your clients a deeper look into who you are aside from just your design works. Many will find this a little too invasive into their personal life and it’s really not necessary. The statement “to each his own” rings very true here.

Hopefully these tips have given you some good ideas to getting started in freelance design. There are a lot of open markets looking for freelancers and now is the best time to get started in the game. Try examining other popular freelance designers to see how they portray themselves online and what type of work they’ve done. Mimic these skills and you’ll quickly find yourself living the freelance life of luxury.