What does it take to establish yourself as a freelance designer? A lot, actually. A ton of work goes into getting your name out there, and making a name for yourself. And it ain’t always easy.

I asked a few artistic minded people, who all have moonlighted as freelance designers in the past, for some advice on making your way as a freelance designer. They had some real wisdom to share, most of which is below.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Patrick Sean Gibson is a San Francisco based illustrator and full-time freelancer. He advises that you shouldn’t be afraid of asking what you want, because the client needs you, not the other way around. Well. “Actually, you probably do need them,” he writes. “...but they don’t need to know that.” He also advises that you shouldn’t accept any project without a contract, that you should specify every little thing in your contract; and that you should include a penalty fee in your contract. “[You’ll] get more loot if you don’t get paid on time. It happens a lot,” he writes.


Optimism is key.

Kelly Salih— based in New York— has been freelancing for about nine months, mostly in-house roles at creative agencies. She advises having passion projects outside of your freelancing, whether you’re chomping at the proverbial bit part-time, or full-time. “Sometimes long hours and constraints can be frustrating for creative brains,” she writes in an email. “But reflect on each opportunity and take [a sense of] positivity with you to your next [gig].”

Don’t underestimate the influence of word-of-mouth.

“The way freelancing has worked for me was mostly word-of-mouth and having a current portfolio of work online,” writes Hannah Assebe, a Brooklyn based graphic designer and artist. That’s how she got a gig doing an emoji illustration project. “Let people know you are a designer and ask your friends if they know of any freelance possibilities.”

Understand the necessity of swag.

“If you’re working from home, make sure your room is totally fucking balling, and you have mad snacks, legit speakers for your jams, etc.” You’re going to be home a lot. And if you’re not at home, well. “Work at different places— coffee shops, libraries, parks, etc. Just so you don’t get bored and really, why wouldn’t you do this? It’s the shit to be so free.” The shit indeed.


Get an agent.

For those of you that can afford it, that is. Salih admits that having an agent has helped her a ton when it comes to finding freelance gigs. “Once they have set up that interview, it’s up to you to sell yourself,” she says. It’s really all about building up your worth, and then proving that worth with hard work— and actual skill doesn’t hurt, either.

Check out Rachael Clemmons on Talenthouse, Twitter & Instagram