Who needs graphic designers?
Most design agencies at some time or another will need to hire freelancers or contract out certain pieces of work. Sometimes agencies will hire in freelancers to free-up the in-house design team so they can concentrate on a certain client, campaign or project.
This inevitably means that you'll probably be working on projects that aren't particularly interesting at first, but don't worry about that as it is invaluable experience - you'll see how an agency works. Use the time to learn from the inside: what the different roles entail, how different departments work together as a project travels from account management to the creatives to production etc. If you do a good job, chances are they'll get you back in again. If they get you back in three or four times, you're in.
Businesses who have graphic design requirements may also be looking to hire freelance graphic designers directly. Those that don’t have their own in-house designers, or require more hands for a particular project, and choose not to work with an agency but a trusted individual. These can be really exciting projects to work on as you have the freedom to build your own relationship with the clients and decide your own terms of business, as opposed to having to work in the way a design agency may dictate to you.
Who to approach and how?
Building a varied portfolio can help support you in your approach to clients, seeing previous work is insightful to clients as they can see whether they want to work with you in current or future jobs. Establishing a connection with your customer can be great, but what do they know about you? With your portfolio, you can show your personality and present case studies as to why previous clients have chosen you including testimonials especially if they were particularly happy with your work. When building a portfolio, remember to show your best work, not all of it. You can showcase your portfolio as a freelance graphic designer on the Freelance Directory.
Building a portfolio will also require you to approach companies direct. Corporate ID work, annual reports, company brochures - not every company has the sort of budget agencies eat into. Your contact with these prospects needs to be ongoing - you obviously need to ensure you are talking to a decision maker in the first instance, but that person may not have a project ready at your first time of call. Use the contact to establish likely future projects - what design projects do they handle in house? When would be a good time to call back to see if those projects are about to come into fruition? So long as you differentiate between staying in touch and stalking, hopefully some of these clients will eventually invite you in so you can demonstrate your credentials when they do have a project ready for you. Better still, try to get to know a couple of small things about that person - if they are about to go on holiday when you call, make a note so that next time you can ask if they had a good time. It will help build a rapport which companies need to feel they have with an outside supplier.
Research and specialise in a sector
Researching which sectors have a higher demand for graphic designers is extremely beneficial and can help you to answer the question of who needs freelance graphic designers. Specialising in a certain sector, particularly one with a high demand for freelancer graphic designers, can bring rewards. It will allow you to dedicate your time and motivation into one or two areas of expertise and make your skillset more proficient and focused. It will also give you a target market so when clients are searching for a particular area of expertise, you will seem like an especially good fit rather than someone who has a large range and therefore less experience in the sector than you. In the future, you may decide to expand your speciality into more than one or two areas - there are many skills and sectors to consider specialising in so make sure to do your research and choose the right ones for you and your business.
Collaborate with other freelancers
Collaborating with other freelancers can be a great way to expand your network and can open doors to future alliances. Freelancers may be looking for a freelance graphic designer to help with the creative side of their job - it helps improve their quality of the project and can bring different skills together. Working alone as a freelancer can often feel isolating, but by collaborating with other freelancers, clients or employees, you can bounce ideas off of each other and draw inspiration from their concepts. Graphic design freelancers will work individually but also communicate with other freelancers to make sure that they are on the right page with the project. You will be able to bring the client’s idea to life and have the ability to ask questions as well as bring different skills together.
Graphic designer freelancers can collaborate with a variety of people. For example, as part of the film industry, a freelancer may need a freelance graphic designer to help create content to promote a film or clip. Freelance content writers may want to collaborate with you to help create illustrations, websites or help rebrand their image. A freelance events manager might want to collaborate for you to design banners, leaflets, or posters for any future events that they will have. Creating trust and reliability when working together can be great for your collaborators to spread your business through word of mouth or through social media.
More on graphic designing as a freelancer.