5 Non-Design Skills You Need to Become a Freelance Graphic Designer
By Callie Malvik on 05/02/2014
You’ve mastered the art of successfully juggling your family, professional and personal responsibilities simultaneously. That’s an impressive feat but do you have what it takes to work in the fast-paced world of graphic design?
It’s true. Graphic design can be a challenging and time-consuming industry but it doesn’t have to be. Becoming a freelance graphic designer means not having to sacrifice time with your family for your career. This option is especially appealing for aspiring designers with children.
Freelance graphic designers have the ability to work from home and set their own hours, allowing them to drop their kids off at school, make it to an after school soccer game and even get a homemade dinner on the table. But before committing to this alternative it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
The truth is that the responsibilities of a freelance graphic designer go above and beyond simply creating compelling designs. We enlisted a handful of seasoned freelance designers to identify some of the most important—and often most overlooked—skills needed to succeed on your own in this industry.
5 skills every freelance graphic designer needs to survive
There’s a lot more to being a freelance graphic designer than mastering the top design skills and software, according to our panel of established freelancers.
“Creativity and design skills are only half the battle,” says Lance Padgett, designer at Formstack. Padgett does freelance design and development in his spare time and believes in order to do so successfully, it’s essential to have some basic business skills.
Here are five skills that will set you up for success when paired with your design talents
Basic accounting knowledge will make life easier for any freelance graphic designer, according to Colleen Eakins, owner of Colleen Eakins Design. “Tax time can be a nightmare if you haven’t been keeping accurate records,” she warns.
Many creative individuals cringe at the thought of this task, but it’s important to find a system that works for you because your business depends on it. David Werth, owner of IDEAS Design, Inc. recommends using Quickbooks online or similar software to help track invoices and payments.
2. Client relations
“Projects end but client relationships don’t have to,” she says. If you’re pleasant to interact with and deliver quality work, clients are more likely to return and even refer you to others.
Graphic designers working in an agency setting often have an account coordinator to serve as a liaison between the client and the designer. As a freelancer you’ll be responsible for all client interaction.
It’s important to have a good understanding of your client’s brand and their overall goals. The best way to do this is to ask a lot of questions up front and keep an open line of communication, says Jessika Sobanski freelance designer and cofounder of LoudGiraffe.
Taking advantage of innovative ideas early on will set you apart from your competition. “It’s always easier to ride the wave than to chase it,” Werth says.
This is why having an entrepreneurial mindset is valuable for any freelance graphic designer, according to Werth. He advises you to always be a student of your field so you can identify and capitalize on promising opportunities.
Marketing skills are absolutely vital for any freelancer, according to our experts. “You could be the best designer in town but if nobody can find you then you might be getting a second job,” Padgett says.
Social media marketing has become a gold mine for freelance graphic designers. Popular platforms such as Pinterest and Twitter have incredible potential for professionals in this industry. This is a great place to start building a brand presence.
5. Project management
As a freelance graphic designer you will likely be handling multiple projects all at different stages with different clients. Employing pristine project management skills makes this juggling act much more manageable, says Ashley Schwartau, freelance graphic designer at Managed Mischief.
The more successful you are, the busier you are, which is why it’s necessary to be overly organized. Schwartau’s advice is to establish a workflow that allows you to prioritize projects and keep track of hours. With no boss telling you what to do when, it's up to you to stay on top of everything.
Don’t be intimidated …
Learning about the wide array of skills you’ll need to become a freelance graphic designer can be daunting, but don’t be discouraged. As a parent you play the part of doctor, teacher, cook, maid, chauffeur and countless other roles every day, proving you’ve got what it takes to be a jack of all trades.
If you’re up for the challenge of becoming a freelance designer, learn about how a graphic design degree can help you establish the basic skillsets needed to launch a successful career.