It’s not time to cash in on those skills just yet.
Your next step isn’t producing graphic design work. Your next step is finding clients who will pay you to produce graphic design work. The search for those first few clients has marked the beginning and end of many fledgling freelance careers.
But that won’t be the case for you. Let’s start making some money.
Cold calling sucks, but it’s a necessary evil. If you don’t know yet, “cold calling” means reaching out to potential clients who don’t know you and have not inquired or expressed interest in working with you.
Cold calling is a numbers game, but it can land you a good deal of business, if you’re good at it. It all comes down to focus.
Do you have prior experience or expertise in a particular industry, perhaps from a previous career? Seek out clients in that industry, especially ones in your area. People are more likely to work with someone who speaks the language of their business, and they may trust someone local.
What do you do best? It’s better to pick a few select skills to market yourself on than painting yourself with a broad brush. That makes it easier for clients to understand what you do, and you can search for clients by their need for your particular talents.
When you have a potential client in your sights, investigate the business and how it works. Who are its customers? What value is it providing?
Most importantly, where is that business lacking? Is the brand outdated and uninteresting? Is its collateral (letterhead, menus, posters, physical materials) goofy and amateurish? How, exactly, do you stand to offer value to this potential client? What can you fix or add that will improve the business?
Demonstrate your knowledge and ideas when you make initial contact, and you’ll have your potential client’s attention.
Cold calling and sussing out a lead is an art all its own—one they don’t teach you when you learn graphic design in school. In fact, Content Workshop’s own Susan Ishmael goes in-depth about her sales process on her episode of the Giggin’ Podcast.
Susan Ishmael is a pro at finding new clients. In this episode of the Giggin’ Podcast, she imparts a few golden rules about lead generation.
When you think of “networking,” you may imagine a room of stuffy professionals in blazers or whatever, sipping boxed wine from plastic cups and talking about stocks or some other indecipherable corp-speak. In this imaginary room, you do not fit in, and you have no idea how to start a conversation.
Snap out of it.
Firstly, people in more buttoned-up professions are still humans. Conversely, you are also a professional. There’s no reason they wouldn’t want to meet you or wouldn’t be interested in your services. Every company has a story, and every company needs help communicating with its customers. When you learn graphic design, you’ll have the tools to help.
Secondly, networking simply means taking part in a community. If you live near a big city like Atlanta or Kansas City, take part in local creative meetups. There, you’ll rub shoulders with all kinds of people across several disciplines, each with their own network of connections. Once you find out where creatives hang out, it’s insanely easy to join the referral cycle that will help your freelance career take off.
If you don’t live in or near a metro area, take heart. You’ll do most of your networking online. Create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one already, and research how to optimize it to appear attractive to potential clients.
After that, start following people you know—friends, former coworkers, old college acquaintances, your mom’s friends. Scope out these connections to narrow down potential clients.
That includes connections who work in your field or in marketing. Companies (even agencies) outsource graphic design work all the time. Making your connection aware of your skills may get your foot in the door to ongoing work or even a full-time position.
Once you get a few clients under your belt, they can act as a referral source for you, too. Then you’ll really be in business.
Freelancer marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr put you in direct contact with clients looking for graphic design work. You can browse job postings and bid on jobs you’re fit to complete.
However, because these outlets are rife with newbies, the clients who stand to hire you are likely looking to pay as little as possible. Not to mention, the host site takes a chunk of whatever you earn.
At the very least, we recommend sticking to marketplaces specific to graphic design, like Dribbble or Behance.
Grinding it out on these sites isn’t usually sustainable long-term, but it can serve as a place to build your portfolio and credibility.
We’ll show you the way
When you learn graphic design, most teachers and schools neglect to teach you how to start and grow your business.
Building that initial momentum can feel impossible, but we’re here to help. Our Graphic Design Course Bundle will give your freelancing career the boost it needs.
We created our course bundles and EDU learning platform in partnership with leaders in the field of education to ensure you come away with the knowledge that sets you apart.
You’ll become part of our creative community along with us and other students seeking to grow and thrive in their freelancing pursuits.
When you graduate, you’ll hold a certificate that proves your merit to prospective employers.
After you learn graphic design, growing your business is the next skill you’ll master. Let us help you get started.
This is an exciting time, one you’ll look back on with fondness once your business has taken off. You’ve got the dream, you’ve got the passion, now all you need is the know-how to put your skills to work. We’ll show you the way.