How to Get Started as a Self-Taught Freelance Designer
If you’re looking into becoming a designer, but don’t know where to start, I hope that I can give you a little guidance. I’ve been a freelance designer since 2012. Even before I got started I was very interested in design and designing quite a bit for my own blog. When I started out I was 100% self taught. I don’t have a fancy degree and I learned all that I know by searching for help and trial and error.
Learn & Keep Learning
As I mentioned above, I’m a self taught designer. You don’t need a college degree to be a designer, though some people of course do have one. When I started I did just that: started. I played around in photoshop, with HTML, etc. and did all sorts of designing for my blog and businesses. Once I got a little more experienced and wanted to learn more I joined online learning websites like Lynda and Treehouse. Even though I now have several years experience as a designer, I make sure to keep learning and developing my skill.
Design for fun
If you don’t design for fun, I don’t know if this is the right move for you. I love playing with colors, shapes, styles, typography and anything design related. I probably have changed my blogs design over a dozen times in the last few years. I love what I do and one of my favorite ways to practice is to just do it for myself, for fun. You will further your skill, add hours of experience and have fun doing it.
Choose a Specialty
The term “designer” is so generic and there are so many different branches. Do you want to design websites, print, graphics? If you want to design websites do you want to focus on blogs? Small businesses? Large corporations? If you choose print do you want to work with businesses? Or maybe you want to design beautiful wedding suites? Figure out what gets you the most excited and go from there!
Build a portfolio
Start building a portfolio based on what you want to do. If you want to do web design, make a few websites to add to your portfolio. If you prefer to do print design, design a few business cards or wedding invitations, depending on what you want your specialty to be. Take a few weeks/months to get some really good portfolio pieces together so that when a prospective client asks for it, you have something wonderful to show off. Add the work you are the most proud of, your portfolio doesn’t have to be every single project you’ve worked on.
Find your first clients
Everyone does this differently, but I actually started on Etsy! If we’re being honest, I started off offering custom blog designs for $50 which is way under what they’re valued at. I wanted to build a portfolio and get my first clients. I only offered that price for the first few clients and within a month I had more than quadrupled that price as I gained confidence and experience.
From there keep our clients happy (word of mouth is how I get a lot of my projects), keep on learning and remember to design for fun when you feel like you’re in a creative rut. Being a freelance designer is an amazing job, but it’s also a lot of work so it takes a lot of passion and dedication to get started.