3 Crucial Steps to Getting Your Foot in the Freelance Door

So you want to be a freelance designer. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on one of the most thrilling, creative career paths you can take. 

By now you’ve put in the work, and you’re ready to get some serious clients. We’re with you, but before you upgrade PhotoShop or add another cool tool to your arsenal, let’s take a closer look at how to get your foot in the door. 

Watch Matthew Encina in another episode of Futur Freelance Fridays, where he answers your questions about freelancing. In this episode, Matthew shares how you can get your first freelance job.

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1. Get Clear on Where You Want to Freelance

Knowing is always half the battle, especially when it comes to identifying the right freelance design job. It sounds easy enough, but you’d be surprised by how many aspiring freelance designers miss this crucial step. 

After you’ve identified where you want to work, you’ll need to study and reverse-engineer the information you gather to land the job. Here’s what you want to find out:

  • What kind of work does the company portfolio feature?
  • Are you willing and able to commute to their offices?
  • Is their company culture a good fit for your personality?
  • Who are the main points of contact you need to know?
  • Do they have any open job listings available on their website?

There are tons of different avenues for scouting out companies, but make sure you start with their website and social media so you can dig up useful information. Knowledge is power when it comes to giving them what they want.

The Futur - The Designer's Bundle

The Designer's Bundle

Discover the rules of typography, lettering, logo design from pros who charge $10k+, and how to make more money doing what you love with fewer client revisions. Click here to learn more →

2. Build an Eye-Catching Design Portfolio

Ah, the portfolio. The word alone is enough to make most new freelance designers freeze in fear. Don’t worry, though. Once you know how to go about it, you’re golden. Here’s a tried-and-true way to create an eye-popping portfolio to attract the company you’ve got your sights set on:

  • A Curated Selection of Three to Five Design Samples:  First things first. Don’t throw in everything but the kitchen sink. When it comes to your portfolio, the ‘less is more’ rule reigns supreme. Not only are a few samples enough to gauge someone’s aesthetic talent, but it also proves you can self-edit. And the ability to emotionally detach is a highly sought-after commodity in the design world. 
  • Make it Clear What You Do: Design work is a vast jungle of possibilities, so never assume that someone else understands where your expertise lies. Be explicit about what you have to offer. You’re selling YOU.
  • Shine the Spotlight on Your “T” Skill: Make sure to emphasize your “T” Skill - the one thing you do better than anything else. (Having T-shaped talent also means you’re excited to collaborate across other disciplines. Agencies love that!) Highlighting your core competency compels employers to focus on what you do best. And that’s exactly what you want. 
  • Have a Prominent Contact Page: Above all, no matter how talented you are, you can’t expect anyone to make the effort to chase you down the internet rabbit hole. Make it easy for them to contact you once they’re lured in by your work with a precise way to reach easily reach you! 

Most importantly, you always want to follow this golden rule: your portfolio must look like the portfolio of the client you are courting. The smaller the gap between aesthetics, the more of a fit you’ll appear. If you want to brush up on your design skills before putting the finishing touches on your portfolio, click here to enroll risk-free into The Designer's Bundle.

And don’t be afraid to pepper your portfolio with some personality! For instance, include a list of your hobbies, accolades, or even your blog. These aren’t must-haves, but it goes a long way in showing there’s a real human behind that account.

Take your design skills to new heights.

3. Knock on the Right Doors

We’re all about the hustle here. But you need to know how to do it right. After all, you want this to be a long-term relationship, right? No potential employer takes kindly to strangers demanding their money through an Instagram DM. 

Instead, lay a solid foundation for the future by expressing a genuine interest in the person you’re contacting. Remember - there’s a real human being behind that handle! And if you present yourself as genuinely curious, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that most people are willing to share. The key work is establishing a real relationship — not a quick route to a paycheck. 

The bottom line is this: the more you can connect on a personal level within a digital framework, the better the chance they’ll actually want to build a relationship with. And, if you so dare, get old-fashioned. Use snail mail! Employers respond well to candidates with enough chutzpah to deliver a printed out resume to their front desk.

Brush Up on Your Design Skills Before You Begin 

As you can tell, there’s a lot to consider when landing your first freelance design job. To sum up, narrow down your search, polish that portfolio, and establish a real human connection. With a little bit of grit and determination, you can land a solid first gig and step confidently into unchartered territory as a bonafide designer in a position you love. 

Want a deeper dive before you send out that portfolio? Click here to explore The Designer's Bundle. This bundle was created by the team behind The Futur and includes lessons on sought-after typography, logo design, lettering, plus how to make more money doing what you love with fewer client revisions.

The Futur - The Designer's Bundle

The Designer's Bundle

Discover the rules of typography, lettering, logo design from pros who charge $10k+, and how to make more money doing what you love with fewer client revisions. Click here to learn more →