How to become a Freelance Graphic Designer in 2020

Do you need to make money on the side and you have some sort of creative flair which you believe you can HARNESS into a graphic design career? With millions of people across the globe losing their primary source of income due to covid-19, many seem to be scrambling to find solutions to make money online. (Obviously I cannot guarantee overnight success, but I do believe that many people have a great eye for design, and some of the best designers I know, are self-taught). Of course having formal training puts you right on track, but sometimes it’s not possible to go to design school. If you have some raw talent, the willingness to learn, the determination to work through your bad creations and the dedication to practice and improve enough to build a great career, then it’s definitely possible to spend enough time learning on your own, how to be a graphic designer. If this is something you’re interested in, then this article is for you!  Let’s begin…

Create a portfolio

If you have some work that you have created and would be happy to share online or with prospective clients, try to get it in some sort of a ‘portfolio’ format. It should be a link you could share whenever people ask to see your work, like a Behance / dribbble page, for example. There’re many ways to do this. Research and decide what suits you and your budget best. Behance and Dribbble are free, and building a portfolio website could cost you some money (hosting and buying a domain name etc), or you could create a free Instagram / Facebook account. There are so many options here. The goal is to create an easy-to-share portfolio link, so that when someone asks you about your work, you can just share a link. 

Decide on what software you’re going to use

Obviously professional software costs money. So to get you started (for free) you could start with an app like Canva. Personally I don’t use this as for the longest time I’ve just worked in Adobe Creative Cloud apps… but of course it’s not advisable to pay money for apps if you do not know for sure if this is something you are going to take seriously or not… If you’re starting out, you could experiment with a 30-day free trial (Adobe offers this) or use a free app like Canva, and if you know alternative apps, please feel free to comment below! If you’ve tried out a couple of apps and you are at the stage where you are willing to invest money into your software, I’d recommend Adobe’s Creative Cloud, as they literally have all the apps you need to create pretty much any creative project. You get access to all of their apps (including their mobile apps) with a single monthly subscription. So if you want to offer additional services such as web design or video editing, it’s already paid for in your monthly subscription! Not bad… If you are just starting out, you can stick to the free apps until you know you are 100% sure you are going to invest in this monthly payment for your software because you know you are going to be making this money back if you’re working and selling your designs and services.


As my piano teacher used to say, “practice makes perfect” and it’s totally true! Decide what you want to learn, and spend your free time watching Youtube tutorials. Maybe you’re interested in watching digital painting tutorials (been there) or maybe you love the character development process for Anime illustrations? Well then get someone to model for you, photograph them, sketch them and try to create your own Anime characters. If you like graphic design it’s all about practicing to perfect your craft. I’m sitting on 14 years of experience and I STILL watch tutorials and constantly learn more techniques to better my skills as this industry is changing daily! So you need to be able to keep up with the times and rapidly evolving industry that you’re wanting to get in, means non-stop learning. If that sounds like too much work, and you’re already thinking Oh no… Then let’s talk about money. The more you practice, the better your skills develop, the more people want to work with you, and the more money you will earn 🙂 It’s simple logic. A no-brainer for me.

Be accessible

Make it easy for people to find you and even easier if they need to request work! Those private accounts are fine for your personal life, but in business, you want to have a brand that’s accessible and easy to find when someone remembers you from their friend who spoke so highly of you last spring break, well they need to be able to find you online fast. 

Learn to accept client feedback

The most skilled and talented designers will still have to edit and make modifications to a design, it’s actually just part of the design process. When you’re young and starting out, it’s easy to take some client’s request to change this / change that, as “they hate me or they hate me work” ah… no… just get over that, like now… It’s nothing against you or your work. It’s just part of the process… When we create and present initial design ideas, there is always and most certainly room for improvement. So the client is simply giving you their view on how they want their work to be done and it’s your job to listen, like REALLY listen and adjust your initial work, to include their comments and suggestions into making a better piece of work! It’s quite the art to perfect, this part of the job is not easy and takes years to grow a thick skin, as it were… I’ve seen interns cry and colleagues break down because they could not take the client’s feedback. If you change your perspective and learn not to take things personally, then you are already one step ahead of the rest.

Start selling

The moment you believe you are ready to start selling, even if it’s just to a friend who wants a small design or illustration, do it! The biggest problem with graphic design jobs is finding people who are willing to pay you for your work at a good rate. If you’re just starting out, it’s a great time to do those cheap budgeted projects, because if the client has a small budget, they are probably only expecting entry level experience….. So start selling your work early and build up that experience, so that you can start charging more money for your work, as the more experience you have, the more you can charge for your time! To kickstart you in the right direction, you can start selling via PeoplePerHour, it’s the website I started using recently after leaving my 9-5 job and many years working in creative advertising agencies, now that I’m freelancing full time, I’m using PPH and it has helped me generate some pretty good leads and has helped me find some nice clients. Since I started talking about PPH online, people started asking me how to get started. So I wrote a blog post for my mommy blog friends, explaining to a non-techy person, how to create your online profile on PPH, you can check it out here

Follow and STUDY your mentors

Follow artists who make you think ‘Wow’ when you land on their page. Study their profiles… ask yourself, what editing software are they using…? Have you tried it? What type of hashtags are they using… ? Have you added this element to promoting your work in order for people to discover you online? If not, why not?


It’s not easy changing your career when you don’t expect it. I’m just the type of person who likes to see the glass-half-full perspective and in this time of lockdowns and being forced to stay home, it just makes sense to me to use this time to learn new skills and grow your careers. 

What have you been learning these days? Comment below! Did you enjoy this post? SUBSCRIBE via the homepage for more content like this, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or Facebook for more design inspiration!