Complex concept – Looking at being a freelancer.

Looking at complex concepts.

I am trying to explore more complex concepts so I’ve decided to look into something that could be incredibly useful for during my time and after university – the complex concept being “a freelance graphic designer”. Being a freelancer is something I would quite like to do in the future and as I am being a freelance graphic designer through this project, I feel researching into how to go about being one and if there are any good tricks of the trade would be very beneficial.

First of all, the dictionary definition of a freelance worker according to Collin’s Dictionary is Someone who does freelance work or who is, for example, a freelance journalist or photographer is not employed by one organization, but is paid for each piece of work they do by the organization they do it for(, 2017)

Why am I interested in being a freelance graphic designer?

The reasons why I would quite like to be a freelance graphic designer are very simple. I like the idea of being able to choose when I work and who I work for, I would have more creative freedom than if I had a creative director who made all the final decisions before the client and I would have the ability to work at home when I start a family. In terms of downsides, being a freelancer means you wouldn’t have the fun, working atmosphere you would have at a design agency and you might not have the ability to get professional feedback from other workers which is what I really like having.

Class talk on being a freelancer.

Due to popular demand, my lecturer Steve recently did a talk on being a freelancer and gave us some very useful information, which I will talk about now.

The first thing Steve talked about, was what he classed as the three main rules of being a graphic designer in general, but it’s just as much relevant in being a freelance graphic designer. The three rules were:

  1. Know your customer/target market of the work your creating.
  2. Know your skill set.
  3. Know your deadlines.

The first point is very important as before you start designing anything for a client you must think about who it’s aimed at and who’s going to see it. If you don’t do this, you may have a really nice piece that has everything the client wanted on it, but may not appeal to the right demographic so won’t work! An example of this would be, if you designed a poster aimed at farmers, promoting a new tractor but used colours that are unappealing to them, used words that they may not use and put the posters up in the middle of a big city. If you had researched the target market, you would know which colours appeal to them, what words they may use and where they would most likely see it.The the

The second point is very straight forward – you should know your skill set. By this, we mean what you are good at and what you’re not good at. It is no good taking on a project that you can’t produce to an excellent standard because you don’t have the skills required to produce it. For example, you wouldn’t want to take on a job to create a new website for a village shop, if you didn’t know how to code a website!

The third and final point is again very straightforward – to know your deadlines! I client won’t be very happy if the work they are paying you to produce isn’t finished by the time you said it would be – this won’t get you a good name! As a freelancer, you might have 2-3 or clients on the go at once so you will have to very carefully plan our time wisely not make clients work late due to having too many projects on the go at once.

If you follow all of these rules are you part way through learning to be a well-rounded freelancer. A big part of being a freelancer is making sure you are able to live, and as you don’t have a set salary like you would have if working for a design agency, you need to make sure you charge enough money for your time.

When working for a client, you will need to know their budget as you don’t want use materials that are too expensive for their budget and so on. Also if you charge an hourly rate that is too much for their budget, then maybe you aren’t the freelancer for them and instead of saying you will get it done in a less time that is within their budget, maybe you should pass on the job. If you have already started the project and then the client says that they’ve changed their mind and your price is too expensive for them, you will want to have at the start arranged a kill fee, which is what you charge the client for them killing the project before you finish. Your kill fee is entirely up to you but most people would charge for the percentage of the project completed but some may push for the full payment.

As I said before as a freelancer need to make sure you can live and as a graphic designer you should be making good money as it’s an important job. The living wage in the UK is £8.45 per hour and in London, it’s £9.75 so you would at least be charging this but should be charging a lot more. Steve told us at our age of around 18-19 we should be charging between £12 and £16 per hour for our time – this figure includes the cover of other expenditures which I will talk about now. You will also need to make sure that your other costs are covered such as paper, printer inks, software subscriptions etc. all come into the amount you charge the client. Another big thing Steve said was that we should always work in approximates. You should never give a client an exact amount you will charge as it may change over the period of time we are working for the client and you don’t want to end up getting paid less than you should.


After speaking about rules and money we then talked about pro-activity. we were given the task of writing a list of what pro-activity means to us. Here was mine and my partner’s list:

  • Being knowledgeable and aware of the news.
  • Constantly seeking inspiration.
  • Making notes when any idea comes to mind.
  • As a freelancer, actively looking for work.
  • Keeping a good time plan.
  • Keep an up to date online portfolio of best work.

Lots of people had some of the same items we had. Steve then gave us a list of things he said we should be doing to be a pro-active freelance graphic design. His list included:

  • Self-marketing and promotion.
  • Being active online.
  • Networking.
  • Pitching for jobs.
  • Developing new skills
  • Keeping up to date and understanding current trends and styles.

A few of the things on his list I didn’t even think of, such as developing new skills and keeping up to date with current trends and styles,


Writing up a contract

When young people hear the word contact they think of the law and other intimidating stuff, but with a graphic design contract, it’s just there to make sure you and the client know what is being done, how much it’s being done for and when it’s being done by. Once both signatures are on the contract it would be able to be used in a court of law if the client or yourself came to a disagreement.

Here is an example of what a contract looks like:

Freelance Graphic Design Contract.

Client: Name & Email

Project: Project Name & Type

Date: 22/2/2022

Designer: Your Name,  Email and other contact details

This agreement is made on “Date” by and between the “Client” and the “Designer.” In consideration of the mutual agreement made herein, both parties agree as follows:


The Designer agrees to produce project materials (the work you produce) at the request of the client for fees agreed upon in advance and delivery of the Work by an agreed-upon interim and final deadlines.

The designer agrees that they will be the sole author of the Work, which will be original work and free of plagiarism. Designer will cooperate with Client in editing and otherwise reviewing the work prior to completion, handover and launch.


Designer acknowledges that (she/he) may receive or have access to information which relates to the Client’s past, present, or future products, vendor lists, creative works, marketing strategies, pending projects/proposals, and other proprietary information.

Designer agrees to protect the confidentiality of the Client’s proprietary information and all physical forms thereof, whether disclosed to Designer before this Agreement is signed or afterward.

Unless strict confidentiality is requested by Client in advance of the establishment of this contract, Designer can display materials and final work created for Client on the Designer’s website (http://%5Byourwebsite%5D).


Client agrees to pay Designer 30% of the total project cost before any services are provided, and the remaining 70% is to be paid before any workable files are delivered.

If the parameters of the Work change, or if it involves more time than estimated, the designer will inform the client and they can renegotiate the work’s cost.

Designer is responsible for the payment of all local taxes, printing costs if negotiated in costing, transport costs with respect to the services (she/he) performs for the client as an independent contractor.

The Client will not treat Designer as an employee for any purpose.

Client Approval:

Upon acceptance of the Work, Client accepts responsibility for any further processes in which this work is used (e.g. film outpost,  additional printing, etc.)

Designer is not responsible for errors occurring in this work or projects related to this work after acceptance of the Work by the Client.


Both parties understand that Client or Designer may terminate the service at any time if, for any reason, the relationship is deemed unsatisfactory by either party.

Upon written or verbal cancellation, Client is responsible for payment of all expenses incurred and any work done towards the completion of the project based on the percentage of the project completed that is determined by Designer.

Should Client cancel the project following its completion, Client is responsible for full payment as per the agreed upon estimate plus all expenses incurred. In the event of cancellation, Designer retains ownership of all copyrights and original work created.

Acceptance of Terms: Client promises to pay for the services rendered by Designer for the Work as agreed upon. By signing below, Client agrees they have read, understood, and are considered legally bonded to these terms.

Client signature & date:




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