How to... Become a Freelance Designer


by Creativepool.


Most design agencies at some time or another will need to hire freelancers or contract out certain pieces of work. Sometimes [fairly often in fact] agencies will hire in freelancers to free-up the in-house design team so they can concentrate on a certain client, campaign or project. Often they will need freelancers to take up the slack on some projects, sometimes they will hire in freelancers with specific skills for a particular project and need people with a high level of skill.

In a nutshell, freelancers are self-employed and sub-contract their skills out to other companies. However, in practice this is only a part of the story. You'll find out pretty quickly that the freedom that you get from being your own boss and the extra flexibility can be eaten away quickly as you find yourself invoicing, chasing unpaid invoices, meeting clients and marketing yourself in general.

1. Those that sub contract through recruitment agencies.
2. Those that are "true" freelancers and have direct access to the end client.


1. Freelancing through a recruitment agent

Freelancing through a recruitment company is often the easiest step for most freelancers. It lets you dip your toe into the water with minimal risk and minimal work on your part. Recruiters will take your skills and match them to their clients needs, if a client is in need of a freelancer they'll be in touch and send you off to work for the client - often this will involve working from the clients premises.

The normal course of events looks pretty simple on paper:

Apply to a job posting calling for freelancers or contact a recruitment company directly

  • Make sure that your CV is completely up to date and that your portfolio showcases the best and most applicable pieces of your work

Arrange an interview to see the recruiter

  • If they like the look of your CV and/or portfolio and feel they can help you then they will be in touch and arrange an interview.
  • This is your opportunity to shine - so make sure that your offline portfolio you take to the interview is well presented and again, relevant to the type of work that you would like to do.
  • Don't oversell yourself and don't try and say you can do everything. Pick what you are good at and be confident but not bullish about your skills.
  • In freelancing. if you have oversold yourself you have a matter of hours before you get found out once placed. If you can't do what you say you can then companies can take a great deal of pleasure in showing a freelancer the door. And if that happens the chances of you ever being placed again by the recruiter hit something hovering just above zero.

If all goes well the recrutier will add you to their books and start to get you placed


Advantages of freelancing through a recruiter

The advantages of this route are numerous... here are just a few.

  • The recruiter will sort out all of the negotiations with the company as far as rate etc goes
  • The recruiter will try and get you work - it is in their interests - if they don't get you any work - they don't get paid
  • The recruiter will chase up the company for payment and will pay you off your timesheets, irrespective of when they receive the money
  • You can just sit back and wait for the phone to ring! As time goes by and you have built up a reputation with a recruitment company, it is not unheard of that a 2-3 day placement can turn into weeks, months or years (it happens a lot).
  • Tax etc can be handled easier through a single company
  • Flexibility - if you don't like the place you are working for you can easily get in contact with your recruitment agent and see if they have anything else for you
  • You can get to work for some great blue chip companies. Quite often, recruiters have built up relationships with some of the best companies in the business and they rely on the quick and professional service that a recruiter can provide
  • Overseas contacts - often recrutiers have other arms of their businesses in other parts of the world and can help you with

2. Freelancing for yourself

Freelancing for yourself can be the first steps into starting your own design company or can just give people the flexibility and control over their working lives. In general, freelancers taking this route tend to be more entrepreneurial, they realise that this is not going to be easy.

You'll work long hours (some of them unpaid), you'll be "pounding the pavements" almost as much as you will be working and your business skills especially in the marketing and finance departments will take up a fair bit of your time. Also, the steady paycheck will vanish! You'll have to deal with tax issues and figure out how much you can charge your clients.

However, on the plus side, you get freedom to choose the work you'd like to do (to some extent) and the potential to earn more money is also there.

This is only really a short list of the basics of what you'll need to do and think about.

For guidelines on the practicalities of what needs to be done next,  HMRC Self Employed is a good place to start.




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