As a graphic designer, you have the flexibility to work for a company or for yourself. If you want to work on a variety of projects for different clients and you feel entrepreneurialism calling you, then the latter might be the better choice for you.
Before you polish your online portfolio, read on to learn how to start your own graphic design business.
What Do Graphic Designers Do?
Graphic designers shape a company's story through visuals. As a job that requires creativity, designers communicate visual messages and ideas through websites, social media graphics, marketing materials, logos and more. Knowledge of layout design, color theory, typography and digital tools help graphic designers create striking and eye-catching artwork.
This role can work in-house for a company, or they can work independently with one or several different clients. This is a highly collaborative job that crosses paths with marketing teams, clients and art directors.
Skills Needed to Succeed as a Graphic Designer
On top of needing art skills and knowledge of layout design, there are several abilities that will help you succeed as a graphic designer, especially if you hope to impress potential clients as a solopreneur:
Attention to Detail
Graphic design professionals have sharp eyes. They can tell if a promotional material is off even by a pixel. This is absolutely necessary, so you can deliver sharp images and error-free designs.
Ability to See the Big Picture
Whether you're working on marketing campaigns or a print design, you will likely receive just an idea when you work with a client. Your job is to take moods, words, color schemes and vague ideas and transform it into a final, polished product. Being able to understand the target audience, interpret client briefs and see the big picture can therefore take you far.
Graphic design is a job in the creative field, and it requires constantly tapping into your imagination. If you are a wealth of ideas and have good methods to cope with creative blocks, then you will be in a good position.
As a business owner, you may juggle several clients at once. As such, you will need to have strong time-management skills so you can handle different deadlines, especially considering that some companies will provide firm limits to match launch dates.
You can work with many different people in several departments, such as the manager of social media platforms, marketing professionals and branding agencies. Learning how to work with people with different collaboration styles will help make working with clients a smoother process.
Not every project will be an automatic home run. You might have to tweak and retweak or start over from scratch. Regardless, remaining adaptable when working on client projects will prove beneficial as you perfect your custom designs.
How to Start a Graphic Design Business in 8 Steps
1. Create Your Visuals and Name Your Business
As your first step, put your graphic design skills to use. Create your visuals — like a logo that you will use across your website and social media channels — and name your business. Before you settle on a name, however, make sure that it is not already in use to save you from doing extra work.
2. Pick Your Business Structure
There are several types of legal structures you can pick from as a business owner. You might choose a sole proprietorship — as a freelance design business, this gives you full control of your company but provides fewer legal protections. Or you might want to set up a limited liability company (LLC), which requires business registration through your state but affords you more protections as it is a separate entity from you. For some business ventures. you will also need to create an employee identification number (EIN).
Research your options and decide what business type makes the most sense for you.
3. Set up a Business Bank Account
One of the most important components of starting a business is creating a business bank account. This allows you to keep your personal and business finances separate and to track ongoing expenses. This will help you once tax season comes around, as you won't have to disentangle business expenses from personal ones.
Some business bank accounts also offer financing via a business credit card.
4. Select Your Area of Focus
While you may have the skills to focus on several different aspects of graphic design, narrowing it down to just a few can help you create a stronger brand. Decide whether you want to design logos, redesign websites, create brochures or something else. Having a firm idea of what you provide means you can better market yourself.
5. Set Your Pricing
Set a revenue goal for the year and decide how much business you'd need to reach that number. Decide whether you can better get to this number through an hourly rate or a project rate. Also, research how much graphic designers in your area, as well as where your prospective clients conduct business, charge so that you are not underselling yourself.
6. Write a Business Plan
Create a business plan to help guide your business. Write an executive summary, whether you plan to seek funding, a marketing plan, financial projections, the business structure and more. Learn how to write one here.
7. Create a Graphic Design Portfolio
Show possible clients what your graphic design company can do for them with an online portfolio. Pick your best works, show off different styles and include samples that prove that you can take on projects of different scales. All of this gives your customers a good idea of your abilities.
8. Find Your Clients
Now that you have your business plan and online portfolio ready, you can find clients. This part can take some time, but through perseverance, you can land your ideal client.
How to Find Your Clients
Marketing yourself is necessary if you want to run your own business. Here are a few ideas for how to find clients:
Have a Good Pitch
Clients might not easily land in your lap, so it's possible you will have to reach out to them. If you cold-email companies offering your design services, you want to have a good pitch — or a selling point that will make them want to hire you. For example, you might say that you have never encountered a graphic design challenge you couldn't figure because you enjoy working on what might seem complicated. Or you can talk about how you have delightfully surprised all your past clients with your speed.
Tap Your Network
Reach out to friends, connections or past coworkers and let them know that you are available for graphic design projects. They may not have any leads for you when you contact them, but it can be a different story in the future. Connecting with people you know can open the door to unexpected opportunities.
Join Online Marketplaces
Platforms like Fiverr and TopTal can help you find clients, especially if you are at the beginning of your career.
Use Social Media
Since this is such a visual field, you can use platforms like Instagram and TikTok to build an audience. Or you can use LinkedIn to talk about your experiences as an entrepreneur. Both of these give you the chance to show off your skills and build new connections.
How to Set Your Graphic Design Business up for Success
Here are a few things to keep in mind to get your business off on the right foot:
Manage Your Clients
Juggling different clients can lead to confusion, so create a system that will allow you to manage your clients efficiently. With Noodle's dashboard, you can have all your client's information at your fingertips, including service details and transactions.
Sign a Contract Upfront
Lay out the parameters of your work before you even think about opening Adobe Photoshop. This should include the scope of work, deadlines and payment.
Make the Experience Easy for Clients
Your clients shouldn't have to jump through hoops to hire or pay you. Noodle makes this a simple process. Clients can book and schedule you through your profile, and they can also easily pay you in a variety of ways. This can make for a positive experience, as clients have less hurdles in their way.
Graphic Design Business FAQs
What is a graphic design business?
A graphic design business offers a variety of services, including logo design, website redesign, and the creation of marketing materials. Clients task them with carrying out their vision in a visual format. Companies can either hire a firm made up of different graphic designers or a solopreneur who works with clients independently on projects of different sizes.
How profitable is a graphic design business?
The mean average salary for graphic designers is $64,500. The field can be lucrative, and as a solopreneur, you can set your own prices.
How do I start a graphic design business?
There are a few steps you need to follow to start a graphic design business, including:
- Creating your visuals and naming your business
- Picking your business structure
- Setting up a business bank account
- Selecting your area of focus
- Setting your pricing
- Writing a business plan
- Creating an online portfolio
- Finding your clients
As a graphic designer who spends time perfecting your visuals, you deserve a platform that not only performs well but looks good, too. Sign up for Noodle, a sleek all-in-one platform that helps you schedule and book clients easily.