How to start a freelance graphic design business today
So you’ve always dreamed of becoming a graphic designer. Good news: you can do it, right now. How? It’s easier than you might think. Assuming you’ve got a little experience under your belt and a halfway decent computer to use (which we assume you do if you’re reading this on the internet), you can start a freelance graphic design career for the low low cost of almost zero dollars and it’ll probably only take you an afternoon to get up and running. Let’s get right to it then, shall we?
What kind of graphic design services should I offer?
The critical first step to starting a graphic design business is figuring out what kinds of services you can reasonably offer. There are two considerations here:
- What are you capable of doing?
- What would you like to do?
These are not necessarily the same thing. So look at your skill set and see where it overlaps with your aspirations. That spot contains your core service offering.
You should also think about different graphic design niches that you might be able to fill so that your marketing efforts (later) can be a little more focused and clients will eventually know to come to you for specific services.
There are an almost endless number of niches in the graphic design industry, but here is a short list of some of the most popular ones:
- Alcohol manufacturing
- Food and beverage
- SAAS (software as a service)
- Video games
- Film and TV
- Health and wellness
The choice of niche is up to you: choose one or a few of these examples, or combine them to create a targeted offering that works for you. For example, websites for charities or advertising for health and wellness companies. Just make sure it’s something you’re interested in and have the skills for.
Let’s talk dollars and cents
Unlike many small service businesses, you don’t need a lot of equipment to launch your graphic design business so your startup costs are close to nil. As long as you have a decent computer, you should be able to get rolling for less than $100. That’s the easy part. The bigger question is: how much should you charge?
Your hourly rate will depend on your level of experience, the niche that you’re servicing, and the city where you work. A typical freelance graphic designer salary per hour is as low as $15 for someone just starting out in a small market, to $300 for an established designer working in a big city for high-profile clients. The most important thing is to avoid underpricing your services—as your business grows, you’ll be happy you started out with reasonable rates that earn you a good living, rather than having to constantly explain to clients why you’re raising your prices.
There’s also the option to price your services based on the project, not on the time it takes. This is an especially attractive choice for junior designers who plan on learning as they go; flat free pricing gives you the freedom to work through your designs and consume educational materials without worrying about the clock. It’s also a great way to assuage the fears of budget-conscious clients, since they know from the start what their bill will look like.
How you price your projects is up to you. You might price them based on the amount of time you expect it to take, the attractiveness of the subject, the ease of working with a particular client, etc. Take the time to think carefully about what the project is worth to both you and your client before giving a number.
Last thing: look at what competitors in your niche and city are charging for similar work as a way to guide your pricing.