Welcome to the Reinvent Yourself series! In each of these posts, we will handle a different freelance career: An activity typically performed by professionals who want to work on their own terms, who don’t want a boss but high-quality customers, and who want to choose when and where they work. This post is all about visual designers. Let’s get started!
What does a freelance visual designer do?
Imagine the skills of a graphic designer combined with the vision of a web designer – that’s a visual designer. Please note that I said “vision” of a web designer, as you don’t need to know how to code to be a visual designer. However, understanding the steps that follow your design, will make your work as a visual designer much more valuable for potential customers.
What kind of tasks does a freelance visual designer perform?
As a visual designer, you’re responsible for “visualizing” your customer’s online presence. That means that you’ll have to come up with brand colors, fonts, graphics, logos, and everything you want users to see and feel when dealing with a brand. You’re creating the brand identity design and voice.
Some examples of freelance visual designers’ work:
- User Interface (UI) design: You’ll be designing the architecture of the website. What will it look like? How many pages will the website have? Which elements will appear on every page? What happens when I click on a button? What is the sitemap like?
- Identity design: You’ll have to create a set of logo, colors, fonts, images, icons, and graphics that represent the brand.
- Social media: Creation of social media profiles and templates following the branding guidelines – which you’ll probably have created yourself.
- Print design: You may have to deal with business cards and stationery for the different communication channels of your customer.
- Online products: Design of ebooks, workbooks, worksheets.
- Research some of the most popular companies. Think of Facebook, Google, or McDonald’s – You’d recognize them everywhere thanks to their strong and consistent branding across all channels. And that’s what you should be aiming for 😉
How to become a freelance visual designer
- You should be getting best friends with Adobe: Using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are almost a must for any visual designer.
- Although you can sketch a website on a piece of paper (true word!), there are other tools that will let your work look much more professional, like Sketch for Mac, UX Pin, or Axure.
- I’d suggest you join a visual design course. Check out SkillCrush, for instance. Classes begin every month, and they typically last 3 months, although you can take them at your own pace. The Visual Designer Blueprint includes visual design fundamentals and tools, branding and identity design. On top of that, there’s a last module that introduces you to the visual design professional environment.
As a freelance visual designer, you’ll typically have 3 types of customers:
>> Bigger companies who need a rebranding. You will probably have to work on existing branding guidelines and redo them.
>> Startups & small companies with no brand identity yet. You will probably have to create an identity design from scratch! Just make sure you get enough information to know the company’s audience to design an online presence that matches that audience perfectly.
>> Bloggers & freelancers. This kind of customer is kind of tricky: Generally, they won’t have any written branding guidelines, but they’ll most surely have an idea of what they want. Or what they don’t. The thing is, they may struggle to make it clear. You may not really get them. And a blog is something so personal that they will want to let you make changes until they get what they want.
On the other hand, if they like your work, they’re never gonna let you go!! Bloggers have enough things to do. If they search for visual design help, that means that they are already more than overwhelmed.
You could try and ease things for both of you:
- asking as many questions as you can to figure out what she wants/doesn’t want.
- showing her examples of other sites. Make sure she tells you what it is that she does and doesn’t like.
- working with mood boards and trying to understand the feel she’s looking for.
- setting a fixed number of reviews beforehand. And have a bit of patience 😉
Some additional notes about freelance visual designers’ work
- Create your own design workflow – write down the steps you want to complete for your design work, and make sure you stick to it on each project.
- Try to network with designers who have other specializations – like a graphic designer and a web designer. You’ll be able to offer much more comprehensive online services for potential customers.
- As with many other freelance professions, you should be able to work independently, without asking questions constantly. Instead, make sure that you set things clear beforehand.
- Create a profile as a visual designer on Behance. Specializing in creative professions, Behance is one of the most highly-regarded platforms for designers.
If you’re going to offer online services, you’d rather be online yourself! So check out the Guide to Crafting Your Online Presence in 3 Steps, and make sure you go online ASAP!
How can I work as a freelance visual designer if I have no experience?
- You may not have work experience, but that doesn’t mean that you have no experience at all. Let me explain: Customers won’t be checking if you’ve had more or less paid projects. What they want to see is what your work looks like.
- So make sure that you upload enough designs on platforms such as Behance to create a portfolio. Provide your potential customers with the link to the portfolio, and they’ll be able to check for themselves if they like your style.
- Other awesome online platforms for visual designers looking for their first job are Upwork or Fiverr.
Show the world your beautiful designs, and nobody will notice that you’re a newbie!
Equipment I need as a freelance visual designer
- Adobe designer tools: Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop
- Wireframing tools: UX Pin, Axure, or Sketch – if you have a Mac
- A good PC and high-speed Internet connection
- Professional website and email address
Let me know your thoughts about freelancing as a freelancer visual designer. Do you have any questions you’d like me to address? Go for it!