Freelance DesignerBeing a freelance designer isn’t always easy. This article outlines the skills you need, and explains how you can acquire them.

The idea of becoming a freelance designer is undoubtedly appealing, but before you embark on your career, you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

What is it about freelancing, and designing, that appeals to you? And how can you be certain you’ve got what it takes to make it?

Confidence and social skills

If you think freelancing means you won’t have to deal with people on a regular basis, think again. True, you won’t have to face your boss first thing on a Monday morning, or deal with chatty co-workers while you’re trying to complete a project. But when you do have to interact with people, you have to be good at it. Clients need to feel confident they can trust you, and you have to learn to listen, and be approachable. Networking will also become an important part of your life, so being able to interact with strangers is crucial.

Fortunately, these skills are not too difficult to develop. You’re bound to pick them up as you go along, but if the thought terrifies you, consider joining a club or sports team first. Social hobbies can improve your confidence and people skills no end.

Drive and motivation

Nobody likes being bossed around and told what to do, but not everyone can get things done without that pressure, either. Self-motivation, especially under stress, is very important as a freelancer. There will be times when your confidence is shot and you’re exhausted, but there’s no calling in sick — you have to push yourself through it.

One way to make this easier is to develop a routine. You still need to be getting up at the same time every day, and taking breaks for lunch. Sometimes, working into the evening is unavoidable, but don’t make a habit of it — try to keep home and work life separate. This isn’t always easy if your office is in your house.

Patience and perseverance

Until you’ve established yourself, getting work will be difficult. You need an impressive portfolio before clients will pay attention, and even then, you must be prepared for dry spells. As a freelancer, you’ll probably find yourself alternating between being extremely busy and relatively quiet.

If you already have a job, or are finishing up your education, now is the perfect time to start building your portfolio. You’ll have to work for free at first — there are plenty of non-profit organisations and local clubs or venues that would be thrilled to have you design for them.

Dealing with the unpredictable nature of freelance work is a little more difficult, but it’s something you’ll get used to with time. Be realistic about how much work you can take on at once — you’ll need to put money aside in case you don’t have much work the following month. Use quiet time to update your portfolio and recover from busy periods. The more your reputation grows, the shorter you’ll have to wait between jobs, and you’ll be able to start turning down smaller projects, or charging more for your skills.

Above all, you need to stay positive — if you’re talented and motivated, you’ll get there in the end. It just takes a little patience!

Sam WrightBy Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a writer working for Brand Republic. He has been freelancing for over six years, and promises that it does get easier with time.