Help me build up my freelance graphic design clients!

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by Never, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. Never

    Never UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    Hey all,

    I currently dabble in freelance graphic design alongside my full time 'mortgage paying' job.

    I love the work I do as a freelancer (to the point where it doesn't feel like work), unfortunately it doesn't come in regularly enough for me to make a living off on its own.

    Annoyingly, my hourly rate as a freelancer is nearly triple my hourly rate at my day job - the only difference is the day job is full time.

    I dream of going full time freelance, but don't have the level of incoming work I would need to justify it and I have a responsibility to look after my family so I'm reluctant to gamble too much.

    How can I build up my freelance income and number of clients?

    My current plan is to relaunch my site, along with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages that will carry regular updates and new portfolio additions. I want to launch these in one go, paired with some paid Facebook advertising to drum up work.

    Has anyone got any ideas on how I can bring in more work (and sustain that level of work).

    I'm all ears (I'd absolutely love to hand my notice in and go full time freelance).

    Thanks in advance,

    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Never Member since: Sep 11, 2019
  2. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

    31,204 9,160
    Join freelancer sites. Advertise on gumtree. Use local services like nextdoor, pay for mailshots to local businesses, partner with printing services.

    There are loads of ways to get new business, thay just take a bit of time and effort.

    Have you use FB adverting before? If so did it work?
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
  3. Never

    Never UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    I've used Facebook advertising in the past to advertise a T-shirt themed around Christmas, it did really well and sold on novelty (people saw it and tagged friends in, which provided a lead on someone to sell to). It's not necessarily indicative of how well those adverts fare generally though

    Nextdoor is something I've never looked into before, looks interesting as a means of getting local interest.

    The local printer idea is potentially a really good suggestion too. Thanks.

    Freelancer sites are a bit of a no-no within design. They devalue the profession heavily.

    While I disagree with snobby designers who "would rather starve than design a logo for less than £X", I do draw the line somewhere:

    Freelancing sites such as Fiverr and Freelancer tend to rely on designers living in countries with low costs of living (translating to low hourly rates) who are rarely held legally accountable for ripping designs from google.

    This has two effects, it drives the competitive going rate for graphic design downwards (globally), and in doing so cheapens the end result. It also poses significant copyright infringement risk to lots of start up business using the service.

    Keep those suggestions coming!
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Never Member since: Sep 11, 2019
  4. Socio South West

    Socio South West UKBF Enthusiast Free Member

    883 220
    You concentrate on the negatives of freelancer sites too much. There are always adverts specifying native English speakers resident in the UK from those who have probably learned the hard way what you get if you pay peanuts. I won't deny you have to work through a lot of dross to get what you want.
    If you do a good enough job the chances are that person will come directly to you next time - I know when I have found freelancers that is what I have done, and I have also gained several long term clients off the back of a small job through these sites.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Socio South West Member since: Mar 24, 2013
  5. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

    31,204 9,160
    I found a fantastic designer on a Freelancer site.

    I wouldn't be looking on any social media site for the same.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
  6. stender

    stender UKBF Regular Free Member

    462 56
    Do you have a website with a decent sized portfolio? If so there are lots of places to market it. Also there are some good graphic design groups on facebook which you should join. I belong to designers league on there for one example. Whilst you grow your client base have you considered putting some designs up on things like amazon merch, red bubble, etsy/printful etc. Another stream of income if coming up with designs isnt an issue. You could always do that under another brand if you feel it would dilute your worth for client work.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: stender Member since: Jul 9, 2008
  7. ethical PR

    ethical PR UKBF Legend Free Member

    7,120 1,551
    Why don't you apply for a job as a graphic designer in-house or at an agency, much easier than trying to compete in a massively over-crowded market with lots of people charging peanuts.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: ethical PR Member since: Apr 19, 2009
  8. tony84

    tony84 UKBF Big Shot Free Member

    5,609 1,001
    You will probably find that although you earn 3x what you do in your current job on an hourly basis, in the early years especially you have to put in 3x as much work(if not more) to get customers. So actually once you spend time and money on marketing/advertising/accounts etc etc - in the early years you are on less per hour. Also dont forget you presumably get a company pension, sick pay, holiday pay etc.

    Unless you are very good and have a good reputation, business is not going to land on your desk you need to go out and win it/fight for it. So time to get on twitter/facebook/PPH etc and get quoting for jobs.

    Make sure your site is tip top with a decent portfolio because that is what potential new customers will be grading you on.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: tony84 Member since: Apr 14, 2008
  9. Never

    Never UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    Yeah, it's this that puts me off. The time spent sifting eats into your bottom line, and repeat custom from word of mouth/exposure just isn't guaranteed enough to warrant me spending that kind of time. Many of them limit the amount of jobs you can bid on per month too, so you can wind up paying for the chance to pitch to be paid if you're not careful.

    I already do work as a full time in house designer and I'm afraid what you said simply isn't the case.

    It isn't in any way easier and the bulk of the money goes to the directors. Like I said in my original post, my per-hour income as a freelancer is virtually triple that of my daily income.

    Plus, I can freelance to clients around the globe - I can only apply for jobs in a 30 mile radius.

    Precisely the reason for my post, I'm chasing down the means of doing so.

    (Worthwhile) Graphic Designers tend to take this as a given, but as you said: I need ways of driving people to the site.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Never Member since: Sep 11, 2019
  10. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

    31,204 9,160
    Going freelance means spending more are more time dealing with marketing, clients, invoicing, paperwork, tax and everything else.

    A mate of mine who does posters reckons it he only get 4 hours per day actually doing graphic design. The rest is all the admin needed to run a business.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
  11. Socio South West

    Socio South West UKBF Enthusiast Free Member

    883 220
    I'm afraid that these are the words of an employed man, not a self employed man seeking to build a business.
    The ones that succeed put the time in, and start out taking any and every job they can get just to get cash flow rolling, and then narrow the field of work as the business and referrals by word of mouth grow.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Socio South West Member since: Mar 24, 2013
  12. Never

    Never UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    I already freelance and have done so for years, so I’m familiar with (and enjoy) the extra administrative graft. I’m simply trying to push for more regular work.

    As I said, I’m both employed AND self employed. I don’t simply dismiss crowdsourcing websites on a whim, I have used them for a while and they really don’t seem to pay back what you put in.

    I don’t mind working for cheap, but the networking opportunities are negligible when weighed against the time and effort you invest.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: Never Member since: Sep 11, 2019
  13. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

    31,204 9,160

    So advertise. Spend money on marketing.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
  14. intheTRADE

    intheTRADE UKBF Regular Free Member

    175 46
    Where does the company you work for get its clients from? I am not saying steal theae clients but maybe looking at their marketing activities and how they generate new business may give you some ideas and inspiration
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: intheTRADE Member since: Apr 14, 2019
  15. Never

    Never UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    Yeah, this is where my head is at at the moment. I want to use paid advertising to at least try and drive a bit of word-of-mouth momentum.

    Most of our clients are existing customers from the business' previous owners. The newer clients that we do have tend to be related to the older existing customers in some capacity, coupled with the odd walk-in we get at the studio.

    They do a little bit of physical door nocking, but what they do is just lip service in all honesty.
    Posted: Sep 12, 2019 By: Never Member since: Sep 11, 2019
  16. estwig

    estwig UKBF Legend Free Member

    12,351 4,330
    I've been using PPH to find freelancers for years, always specify UK and English as first language, can't be doing with communication problems. Some of these guys are still with me 10 years on, so not everyone is looking for cheap overseas dross.

    Like others have said, marketing and admin take time, time that has to be spent.
    Posted: Sep 12, 2019 By: estwig Member since: Sep 29, 2006
  17. Strontium Dog

    Strontium Dog UKBF Regular Free Member

    401 78
    Do you work for specific industries or is there some other demograhic linking your freelance customers.

    You might find it easier to focus your marketing on those specifics.
    Posted: Sep 12, 2019 By: Strontium Dog Member since: Dec 2, 2008
  18. Annoying Donkey

    Annoying Donkey UKBF Ace Free Member

    2,799 955
    Find someone who already services a list of your ideal clients and get them to endorse you to their list.
    e.g. an Accountant whose customers are small businesses.
    Profit share, valuable giveaway including a special offer "for customers of...".
    Look for such people in your own existing customer list.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2019 By: Annoying Donkey Member since: Sep 13, 2009
  19. Benjamin B

    Benjamin B UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    16 2
    My first question would be - what's your niche?

    Advertising as a "freelance grapic designer" is going to put you in the same category as millions of other people in a business model where a lot of it is competing on price.

    I've not been a graphic designer myself, but if it were me, I'd pick a particular sector that I know my designs can produce good results for - or maybe one that you know about yourself.

    I'd then create some pieces that are relevant to that sector and mail them out to businesses letting them know that you are a "specialist graphic designer" in that sector (now you're different!) and mention some of the ways you can help them achieve their goals.

    Remember, generally, people aren't looking for a "graphic designer" per se, they're looking for a solution to a problem - be it a leaflet that generates more enquiries, a website that generates more leads etc. - how can you help with that?

    And my final suggestion - I interview lots of local business owners through my podcast and the vast majority started in their own time doing things for free to build up testimonials and hone your craft.

    It's a hard pill to swallow but it is an almost guaranteed way of building up a reputation in your own time without having to leave your job.

    Maybe offer the businesses in your chosen sector their first piece of artwork for free - then they see how good you are and you become their go to.

    So in short:

    - Specialise in a particular industy, and stick to it!
    - Send examples to businesses in that industry
    - Offer to do a free piece of graphic design for them (and if you can get a great testimonial out fo them that is worth more than £££'s when you're starting out)

    All of which you should be able to do whilst you're in paid employment.

    Hope this helps and good luck!
    Posted: Sep 13, 2019 By: Benjamin B Member since: Sep 12, 2019
  20. DavidWH

    DavidWH UKBF Enthusiast Free Member

    1,478 273
    Your hourly rate may be 3 times your current employed salary.

    But if you go it alone, and you're totally reliant on that income, you may find you're earning far below what you're getting now.

    You won't get paid 8 hours a day, paid holidays, sick days... when something breaks, or needs updating, when a client doesn't pay you, or goes bust. They paying to licences, advertising, marketing, networking, website, email, phone, travel, it soon eats into your hourly rate.

    Before you start looking for client, sit down and work out your hourly rate. What you really need to charge to make a decent living - Then find the clients who'll pay it.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2019 By: DavidWH Member since: Feb 15, 2011