Freelance Graphic Designer || 7 Steps to Boost Your Work Process

colored-pencils for a graphic designer

Every freelancer has their own daily routine and rituals that help them feel productive and creative. It could be a morning cup of tea or a half-hour of sketching outside or anything nice. Our spotlight would be on what it feels like to be a professional freelance graphic designer.

If a client contacts you with a job in mind, try to extract much information from them as you can. So, It is important to assess exactly what the client wants so it helps you to communicate what they can expect from you within the agreed timeframe.

Here are steps to guide you as a freelance graphics designer:

Step 1: Client Meeting and Brief Analysis

As a freelance graphic designer, you can send the client a contract and quote and request a written brief. This will help set a professional tone from the beginning of the project and a reference point in the event of any dispute. A written contract must be produced to ensure that the client is willing to pay for extra hours if the brief is altered cause it’s not unheard of for clients to change their minds about what they want later down the line.

Provide clients with a design brief, include sections on the details of the project, deadline and their own ideas for the style or direction they would like for the design. If they are able to provide information about their business ethos and competitors can be very helpful. Access to brand guidelines, brand elements is essential for brand-centric projects and can be a fantastic starting point for developing your ideas.

Steps 2: Market Research

Market research is key in doing your job as a freelance graphic designer. Once you have a clear brief in place, you might be tempted to dive straight into designing. But hold up! This stage is often neglected by freelancers, but it is really worth your time.

Research into your client’s industry and their competitors. Try to spot common traits between brands in a particular sector. Do they employ certain colours more frequently than others? You’ll find that some industries will share design traits in common — tech companies love clean sans serif typography, for example, while building and machinery companies love the punchy colour pairing of black and yellow. You don’t need to mimic these designs, but you should be aware of the mood employed by your client’s competitors.

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Step 3: Mood Boarding

Designers have their own preferred ways of sourcing and compiling inspiration. A mood board is a good inspiration reference to have on hand as a freelance graphic designer. Some prefer to create a physical board using clippings, print-outs, sketches, and colour samples. Mix with fonts and colour swatches to create a handy reference that is ready for applying to digital work.

Step 4: Sketching

Perhaps your mood boarding exercise has given you a spark of inspiration for your project, or maybe you’re still unsure of the direction to go in. Either way, this is when it’s time to step away from the computer, pick up a pencil and paper, and start sketching. There’s something intrinsically creative about sketching by hand; when you’re away from the screen you have no other distractions; and your brain can really have the freedom to wander and explore the ideas that pop into your head.

Give yourself a defined slot of time to simply sketch and resist temptations to go online or check emails. Don’t worry about refining your sketches or making them look good; at this stage, your focus should simply be on generating lots of rough ideas. If you have thoughts about mood, branding, or colours, write them down as annotations on the page. Aim to fill up a few pages of your pad with lots of diverse ideas. 

Step 5: Refine Concept

When your time’s up, step away from your sketchpad and take a break. You’ll come back to your sketches feeling refreshed and ready to assess them impartially. If you’re working collaboratively, grab one of your teammates to review your sketches alongside you. It’s worth asking for outside opinion; you might be attached to a particular idea, but they might find something special in a different sketch.

Take a pen and circle the three ideas that you feel have the most potential for development. Even if you’re not completely sure about one or even two of these ideas, you should always refine at least three concepts. This gives the client plenty to think about and helps create a better, more thoughtful design by the end of the process.

It is time to refine your designs, but don’t move back to the computer just yet. Take a fresh sheet of paper for each of your three sketches, and redraw out the designs by hand. You might want to bring in coloured pens or paints, and spend a little longer cultivating the details of the designs. When you have a trio of refined sketches, you can digitize them.

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Step 6: Presentation

When you’ve got your trio of refined designs, it’s time to touch base with the client. Although, designers are often hesitant to reveal their ideas to clients before they have been perfected, but checking in with the client at this stage will actually save you a lot of heartache and time down the line.

It is important you present your ideas to the client to get a good outcome for the project. It’s very unlikely the client won’t warm to any of your ideas, and if you’re open to suggestions, there’s always an opportunity for a lukewarm idea to develop into something fantastic. With the client’s backing, you can make headway on refining the approved design.

As a freelance graphic designer, you might struggle to hear criticism about your designs, even if it is constructive. Keep in mind that the client knows their business inside and out, and while they may not know what is best in terms of design for their brand, they will have a sense of what has worked for them in the past. When you’ve produced a near-perfect draft of your design, it’s once again time to touch base with the client.

Step 7: Technical Production

This stage often requires skills and equipment that only others can provide.

No man is an island, and often it will be more economical, practical, and time-efficient for you to outsource production rather than learning certain skills yourself from scratch.

For print design, this might involve creating a mock-up to discuss with your chosen printer. Therefore, adding multiple post-print effects to your design, such as foiling, embossing or die-cutting, explaining exactly what you want to the printer in person is also a wise move. You can create a rough mock-up quickly from a home or office printer – it doesn’t need to be to size.

Conclusion

The freelance graphic designer’s work process comes full-circle if revisions are called for, this shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Therefore, stick to a failsafe work-process, to minimize the possibility of revisions on your designs and create something you’re truly proud of.

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