How to become a freelance graphic designer

August 02, 2022 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
Is the freelance graphic designer life the right career for you? Learn about what it takes to go freelance and the online graphic design degree that can help.

If you have a passion for art and design, an entrepreneurial mindset and the desire to set your own schedule and work from anywhere, the role of freelance graphic designer may be your ideal career.

Here we'll discuss how to become a freelance graphic designer, as well as the differences between working as a freelancer and as a full-time employee, to help you determine whether a career as a freelance designer may be the right fit.


The freelance graphic designer's role

Graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate ideas that inspire, inform and captivate consumers. Designers are responsible for what products look like, including practically every webpage you visit, every movie poster you see and every product you buy. As a field, graphic design has expanded rapidly with the rise of the internet and digital media.

Many graphic designers are employed full time by a single company, typically working a specific schedule and earning a set salary or hourly rate. Freelance graphic designers work differently. They are self-employed and accept projects from clients on a case-by-case basis. They generally set their own hours, can work from wherever they like, and are paid per project or per contract.

While a graphic designer who works for a single organization typically must complete projects as they're assigned, a freelance designer can decide which projects they work on. The number and types of projects that a freelance designer works on at any given time on depend on their availability and the size of their client base.


The freelance graphic designer's skill set

A freelance graphic designer needs the same skills as a graphic designer working for a single employer: an artistic eye, a technical understanding of design software and the ability to meet deadlines. Strong graphic design skills, such as those you learn in an undergraduate graphic design program, are essential to creating visual designs that please your clients and complement your portfolio.

As a freelance designer, you also need a certain set of business skills, which includes scouting for clients, managing project deadlines, preparing invoices and maintaining detailed financial records. You'll also need the interpersonal skills to grow your professional network as well as the organization and self-discipline to complete design projects on time.


How to become a freelance graphic designer

While prior experience is always helpful, you can build a successful career as a freelance graphic designer without ever having worked in graphic design.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that entry-level graphic designers are expected to hold at least a bachelor's degree. However, earning a degree in graphic design is about more than fulfilling an education requirement for job applications. During your undergraduate graphic design studies, you'll complete projects in a variety of mediums. You can use these projects to start building a professional portfolio before you even begin applying for graphic design work.

Your time as a graphic design student will also offer you opportunities to connect and network with others in the same field. These might be connections you form with your classmates and professors, or relationships you establish through internships you complete while in school. These connections might ultimately become professional contacts who can advise and mentor you, recommend you to potential clients or even become your clients themselves.

Taking classes in graphic design is important to building your portfolio. You can choose your best work from class assignments and develop a portfolio to share with prospective clients, even if you haven't been hired professionally yet. Your academic network of instructors and peers can help you decide which assets to include. Once you've built your design portfolio, you can apply what you've learned from your undergraduate studies to help market yourself and attract freelance opportunities.


Earn your graphic design degree online

Arizona State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Design in graphic design that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. By earning your BSD from ASU Online, you'll not only have the opportunity to start developing your graphic design skills and establishing your professional network, but you'll also gain valuable experience managing your time and prioritizing your work.

The first-year checklist for online college students

Heading into your first year of online courses? Take a look at our checklist for first-year online college students for top tips on how to prepare.


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