Great Business Tips for New Designers

Great Business Tips for New Designers

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New Graduate

This is a guest article written by Nicole White*. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Stepping out of college and into the world of design can be a big change for many with little real-world experience in the field. Learning how to deal with clients, manage projects, and find work can be challenge for the rookie designer, especially with freelance work. These basic business tips can help prevent major disasters and set the stage for future success in the field.

1. Always get a contract.

It isn’t uncommon to get hooked up with a friend of a family member and in these cases you may not feel it’s necessary to ask for or get a contract, after all, you know the person. This is where trouble can start. Always lay out what the expectations for the client are and your fees ahead of time so there can be no question later as to what the agreement was.

2. Ask for a down payment.

Inevitably you will have clients who are reluctant to shell out for the work that you’ve done for them, offering a myriad of excuses. Getting half the money up front will ensure you’re not left penniless while trying to get what you’re owed and that the client won’t leave you hanging partway through. 25-50% is a fair amount.

3. Limit revisions.

As with any creative project, there are a limitless amount of revisions that can be made. Some clients will be very picky and involved in the process and want to see numerous revisions of an idea. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with wanting the best, make sure you’re getting compensated for it by placing a limit on the number of revisions or charging if they go over a certain number.

4. Get organized.

It will be incredibly difficult to manage one project, let alone multiples, and your life to boot if you don’t get organized now. Set up places to file important paper, organize your email inbox and make sure you’ve got plenty of room to store all your client work.

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5. Work your network.

Finding work can sometimes be the hardest part of working freelance. When you’re first starting out, try using your personal connections to find yourself some work. Ask family, friends, classmates and associates if they know anyone who could benefit from your services. Most of the time, this will turn up at least one lead and get you started working.

There is no guarantee of entrepreneurial success in any venture, but taking steps to plan for the future and better manage work today certainly won’t hurt even the most experienced designers and can be a great way to start a career for newbies. Start to market yourself.

Have you got any other great business tips to share?

*Nicole White can be found on her website Web Design Schools Guide where she writes about online web design degrees.

25 thoughts on “Great Business Tips for New Designers”

  1. Excellent post! Unfortunately, I had to learn these tips the hard way. When it came to contracts, I did exactly what you talk about in your post when it comes to family and friends and didn’t use them at first, but never again. Explicitly detailing EVERYTHING you are offering for the price you and your client settle on will help you become a more successful and will protect you in the long run.

    Suggestion: Along with client contracts, you should attach a “Terms & Conditions” document for them to sign as well. A good template for one can be found here:

  2. very informative article!
    point 5 needs a close look-up, from my point of view is probably the most important, especially when you start a freelance career. till the point your work will be your ambassador, you will have to get yourself dirty in the world of marketing. I’ve seen to many friends doing the same mistakes over and over again till they got “the hint!” Stop trying to be successful and just do it!(no, I’m note a Nike fan)

    keep on the good work JC!

  3. This is excellent – thanks so much. Your blog is the most useful one out of all of them, Jacob – Others show some interesting and inspiring stuff, tutorials, trends, etc – but you post real world solutions and processes, along with the tools. Amazing, thanks a million times over.

  4. Excellent tips… all are super important points, especially for freelancers just starting out.

    #3 is the trickiest one, IMO. I’ve run into issues with clients having a never-ending list of revisions requests. I always put have a limit in my contract, but when it comes down to it, that limit often gets blurred.

    It’s a problem I’m working to fix. Would love to get other’s feedback on that one.

  5. Mali, Marko,
    A second my thanks to Nicole.

    I suppose for many, it is just part of the journey – I also learned the hard way regarding the contract part and down payments.

    Thank you for the link to the terms and conditions, I actually use a modified version of this document.

    Marketing is essential for all starting out, otherwise how do people know you exist? Just do it!

    Be sure to check out the links provided then!

    Thank you Steven… you may like to check out these other high quality blogs too, you may change your opinion.

    Sometimes you just have to put it nicely and outline what you originally proposed and then outline what you have done. If you compare one to the other, this usually works for me.

  6. there’s only way to be 100 % sure it all works
    is to be dangerously organised and triple proof read everything once a habit things flow more easily –

  7. This is great stuff Jacob.
    I just finished up my first two free lance design projects and wish i had this two weeks ago! Oh well, at least i will have it for my upcoming projects. But i guess it is all part of the learning experience…sometimnes you don’t do things right until you do them wrong a couple times.
    It is so great that you post stuff like this man, it is so very helpful for us who are new to the freelance business.
    Thanks again and keep it coming!

  8. Great article Jacob.
    I learnt the downpayment one very quickly when i began. My 3rd client, was certainly in no hurry to do anything, but I found that after you get a downpayment, they will get back to you with feedback, text etc much quicker.
    Also the contract is a certain essential, especially in these economic times, when businesses are failing. If you’re half way through a design and a buseiness goes under, you need some way to recover money also.

  9. Every single aspect of what aspiring (and even struggling) graphic designers need are all here. Anyone who is looking for tips on how to be successful in the field of graphic design should read this. Great article!

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