The route to becoming a freelance graphic designer has always been about first getting your design qualifications at college or university and then getting yourself a job (if you’re lucky) at a design agency where you would hope to be employed for a number of years before eventually breaking out on your own and forming your own design agency, perhaps taking some of your clients with you.
These days however, it is possible to take a different route to becoming a freelance graphic designer. The internet has opened up the field over the last few years. Budding graphic designers hoping to support themselves while they study design and designers who have recently qualified and are yet to find work used to find that freelance graphic design gigs that paid were few and far between. Now however there are multiple websites offering design jobs from all over the world and it has become possible for newbie freelance graphic designers to pick up the odd bit of freelance work to both get a career started as well as keep one going.
Obviously no new designer is going to win freelance contracts to work on the latest Nike campaign or put together a layout for GQ magazine. In all likelihood the route to such contracts is still through a degree then working at a design agency. But you will be able to find contracts to get your freelance career going and to start building your own design agency. The internet, and internet job boards, give new designers a chance to build themselves a small portfolio as well as build a small income stream. This in turn will allow them to get a foot in the door for some of those bigger contracts.
Online work boards such as Odesk or Elance are the best place to look for these kinds of jobs. There will be categories for design and web design and these categories will have hundreds of design jobs (updated every few minutes) for designers to bid on. As an example Elance offers two relevant categories, “Web & Programming” and “Design & Multimedia” which will be of interest to design workers. Contracts on offer might vary from a full design brief for an up and coming company including branding, letterheads, stationery and advertising campaign all the way down to the most basic of designs, say for a business card alone. There is also room for specialisation. If you want to concentrate on internet based graphic design, from web sites to apps to software, then there will be a category for this. Similarly you might find you just want to concentrate on company logos. Again, they will have their own category.
Once you know what you want to work on you simply need to upload a couple of examples of your best work for a portfolio, write a profile and then start bidding on jobs. Because you are starting at the bottom and you will have no feedback or reviews from users of the job board you will probably find you need to bid very low at first to compete with more experienced users. Although you have no feedback clients sometimes think it is worth a punt to bid on a new designer if the price is right. Do a brilliant job and you will get the feedback. Get the feedback and you will start getting more clients. Once you have a number of clients, pat yourself on the back – you are a freelance graphic designer!!