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How to get clients being a freelance designer

17 June 2007

Articles, Freelancing, SEO

How to get clients being a freelance designer
Choose your language / Elige tu idioma:englishespañol

This might be the most important post i have written until now. Assuming you meet the minimum requirements to be able to work as a freelance designer via internet: you must know english, have a Paypal account, a quality online portfolio… What can we do to get a job?

As i said many times the promotion of your services is the key in this business, don’t think that because you are very good people will come from nowhere to ask you to work for them. IT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE.

This is the idea:

  1. Get the maximum possible people to visit our website.
  2. Have a good relationship with search engines.
  3. Trafic oriented to possible clients.
  4. Reusing clients: newsletter.
  5. Local publicity.
  6. Getting a good representative.
  7. Contacting the companies directly.

1.- Get the maximum possible people to visit our website.

Why? Silly question, isn’t it? It’s obvious that while more people visit our website the bigger the chances to get clients. ERROR!!!!

Let me give a little suspense… an example: SOSFactory a couple of months ago had 4000 visits per month, not long ago i got a link with a lot of traffic and now it has more than 25000, you would say the number of clients has grown?… Well no, it’s still the same. But the consumed bandwidth did grow, maybe soon i’ll have to upgrade my hosting plan, which means investing more money. The idea is that until a certain point, the quality of the traffic is more important than quantity.

The question in your head might be, then why do we want them to visit our website? Simple, if it has more visits it will increase the number of persons talking about you, more people will link to your website (as long as you offer quality content) and this way you will get a better possition in search engines (Google, Yahoo, Msn).

Example: in SOSFactory we do mascots design, imagine i’m a visitor and when i see them i like them. If you have a website, in the links section you would put something like this: "mascot design" (it’s a link to SOSFactory with some keywords: mascots design). If a lot of people do the same, Google will understand my website is about "mascot design", and that is an important website for those search terms, this way Google will put my website in the first results while searching "mascot design". This traffic is very important… depending on the search term there will be more or less competitors to appear in the first results.

How to get links:

  1. Get people to put links of your site offering free, original and funny content (tutorials, articles, games…)
  2. Putting yourself the links to your website (forums, blogs, directories, social networks…). Always with respect, eh? no SPAM.
  3. Ask your clients for links. It’s voluntary, if it accepts, great.
  4. Exchanging them with other webmasters. It’s heavy and barely has an effect.
  5. Buying massive links. As far as i know, it doesn’t work well, it can even be bad for your business.

What you should never do:

  1. Using Flash, if you do, use it just a little… no complete Flash websites.
  2. Forget about welcome pages or pop-ups. 50% of your visitors will leave before 30 seconds… so you have to go directly to the point.
  3. Try that your website is not to heavy in graphics, the more text the better.
  4. Design your website below 1024x768px resolution.
  5. Never design just for one browser. It has to look good at least in Internet Explorer and Firefox.

2.- Have a good relationship with search engines

In english it’s called SEO (search engine optimization), mainly for Google. There are thousands of forums, manuals and blogs dedicated to this so we will explain only the basics.

Appart from making us important thanks to links from other websites, we can also make Google understand better what’s our site about, with this we increase chances of appearing in the first search results.

How can we accomplish this? Well, mainly with HTML code and our website strucure (and also the links we were talking about in the previous point):

Page title: It’s about putting your keywords in the title; if you take a look at the source code of this page (in IExplorer: View > Source Code), you will see at the beggining something like this:

<title>Work for freelance designers – SOSFACTORY</title>

Meta Tags: the same for Meta Tags.

<meta name="keywords" content="mascot design, logo design, illustration, web design, graphic design, freelance designer, comics, character design, logo, web"/>

This tells the search engine what is your site about, so we have to put the keywords you want Google to search for your site. The more important ones are the ones that describe and keywords.

Titles "<h1></h1>": the search engine recognizes with this tags relevant frases in the text of the website. We also have to put our keywords here.

Bold and Italics "<strong></strong>" and "<em></em>”: we have to repeat the keywords in the content of the site putting them in bold and italics.

Density of the keywords in the text: we have to repeat our keywords in the content of our website.

Images: Google prefers text, but we can also optimize images. Mainly putting the keywords in the tag "Alt" and in the name of the file (example: my-keyword.jpg).

Website structure:

  1. From your website, Google will follow links to the rest of the pages inside the site, so it’s good to have a sitemap to make it easier… if Google doesn’t find the page is like if it doesn’t exist.
  2. Name your titles as the keywords (example: http://www.my-website.com/my-keyword.html)
  3. Name the folders of your site as the keywords (example: http://www.my-website.com/my-keyword/my-keyword.html)
  4. Don’t put your pages in a thousand folders, maximum 3 levels.
  5. Use your keywords to link between the pages inyour site.
  6. External links: link from your texts to pages with similar content to yours (not competitors, of course)

3.- Trafic oriented to possible clients

At first, until you have traffic from search engines (which usually take a while) or you are not very well known, this will be your mail resources source. It’s simply about promotion in those sites where there are potencial clients.

Forums:

In forums there are two things to keep in mind: firstly being seen in job offers subforums, usually those are low budget jobs but they can help you build a good portfolio; on the other hand, you also need to be seen in the rest of the boards, where you might meet the best clients, help people and you will get good contacts.

Webhostingtalk: it’s a forum dedicated to the hosting business (and other things), there are people with a lot of money and thousands of domains… which means they need lots of designs.

It’s free and in english.

If you are starting, this is a good place to make a good portfolio, with some time you can get to clients with a higher level in this same forum.

Sitepoint: basically the same as the previous one.

GFY: if you aren’t 18+ you shouldn’t visit this forum. It’s just like the previous one but oriented to adult content.

Jobs can be a bit degrading… the Mc Donalds of design, i mean fast food… use and trash. If you really need this and you don’t have any moral prejudices at the time to design, here you can make a few bucks.

Competition with asian designers is tuff, it’s impossible to compete in prices.

Paid websites for freelance designers:

Getafreelancer: it’s the tipical website where people post projects and you as a designer bid to get the job, everything’s in there, decent jobs and garbage. The website is in english and it’s pretty ugly and it goes for a % of the income.

Scriptlance: It’s more focused to programmers, but there are also jobs for designers.

It works like the previous one, % of the sales, but the website has a much better design, it’s in english.

Elance: design jobs doesn’t have a big budget, but there is a lot of work, if you are quick you can make a lot of money.

They have a complicated system though, it’s in english and very expensive, so it’s more like an investment… if you are starting maybe you wont be able to afford this.

Art Communities:

It’s the most risky way to search for a job, it’s where ‘bad’ people come searching for young ones to use them. Remember to ask for a payment in advance… ALWAYS!!. The best thing is that you can find partners, and also inspiration and have a good time.

Deviantart: it’s the art community with Capital Letters. The jobs board isn’t very serious, but the rest of the site is amazing, it has a lot of great content and a good design… if you want to be seen in the rest of the world, you must register in this website.

GFX artist: there are two kinds of job offers, the low budget clients and "projects" in the bad sense of the word, and job offers for businesses that require recolocation in the country of the offer.

This is a bit more elite community, you need to host images in your server or pay for a suscription. We could say it’s for more expert people.

Digital Webbing: if you are crazy enough to live from comics this is one of the best sites. I would never recommend to dedicate only to comics, as a fond is great, it helps to grow as an artist… it’s not good as a business, unless you are a painter, and a well known one.

4.- Reusing clients: newsletter

Newsletters or subscriptions are a good marketing instrument, although it’s also a double-edged weapon.

We are able to remind an old customer we are still available to do any job he wants… but you have to be careful, or it can be classified as SPAM. I guess there’s no need to say that to be hired again you have to do a good work, as a freelance designer, reputation is very important

I recommend you to read this article about what to do and what not to do with our newsletter .

5.- Local publicity

It’s always useful to invest some money in printed material like posters, flyers, business cards… and leave them in stores related with computers. I don’t think i need to say to put the URL of your portfolio in everything you print.

The inconvinient is that you might have to invest much more time in meetings with your clients.

The advantage is that you don’t have the brutal competition that exists on the internet, specially asian companies.

6.- Getting a good representative

Another option to be seen is hiring a representative, it will do all the promotion work for you in exchange of a % of the sales. Agents that are worth it are very requested, so if you don’t have a good portfolio they wont work with you… maybe even if you have it.

Folioart: they have artists with renown as Gez Fry or Jason Brooks, but others are mediocre.

Central Illustration: hey search for a bit more alternative artists.

Mendolaart: the are artists of all styles, some of them are good, and some others aren’t.

Glass House Graphics: representative mostly for comic artists. There lots of people, so they don’t pay you much attention. I was a season with them, they got me a job as a comic colorist… at the end i decided to quit to launch SOSFactory.

7.- Contacting the companies directly

Job websites:

This websites have job offers to work in a company, sometimes they also ask for freelance designers, but it’s rare. Requirements are demanding, and you will have to go to live to the place the company is located. You will need a Curriculum and a presentation letter.

Coroflot: lots of job offers, specially in United States. They have improved the site lately, now it looks like an artists social network.

Malakye: job offers exclusively for sport trademarks: Billabong, Rip Curl, Adio… Who doesn’t want to work for trademarks like this? They have a very interesting newsletter where they give a lot of advices at the time to prepare your Curriculum.

Gamedev: job offers for the videogames sector.

Yellow pages: for spain, i guess that in the rest of the countries they might have similar services. If you want to see the hell in life, i advice you to work in Spain as a designer, thousands of job offers with ridiculous salaries asking for requirements not even 5 people could have together :)

Big companies job offers:

The most direct road between two points in the straight line. Many companies offer jobs in their own website… it’s just a matter of searching in the corporative sections, and being very good doing what you do.

Disney: i’m sure this ones seem familiar.
Pixar: if you have the lever to get in here, don’t loose more time reading my blog :P
Mattel: if you like toys, working here is the best.
Blizzard: starcraft, world of warcraft, warcraft… who doesn’t know this people?
Marvel: for the comic artists.


This kind of posts are ‘heavy’ and not many people read them… i’m concious it’s been made only for a few people, the ones who really want to live off design and are ready to work hard.

If what you want is a magical formula to sell logos for 10,000 US$, you are in the wrong site… if i knew that i wouldn’t be writing this article :)

This post was written by:

- who has written 58 posts on SOSFactory Blog.

My name’s Sergio Ordoñez I´m illustrator, graphic and web designer. A selection of my work is included at SOSFactory. If you want to support this blog, please be an active member: tweet the posts, participate in the discussions and the exercises :)

Contact the author

  • http://kabutaum.deviantart.com Vanderlei Bastelli Filho

    I liked your post.

    You focused in explain the “hard life” of a freelancer and good tips to get out of it.

    Im working with publicity im not a designer but next year i will try to going into character design life making some lessons and studin a lot.

    thanks for sharing your life with others..

    (here in Brazil they pay a ridiculous salary in this area too).

    Sorry for my bad english

  • Pedro

    Páginas Amarillas, que puedo comentarte de ellos…. Un gran infierno en el que el diseño, la técnica y el aprendizaje brillan por su ausencia. Pero….consigue motivarte y pensar que hay algo más hay fuera. Por ejemplo SOSFACTORY.

  • http://www.point3d.com.ar Maksym

    Hola Sergio hace mucho que nome paso por aca, espero que me recuerdes jaja, estuve trabajando 1 año de diseñador en un estudio por suerte, pero me quede nuevamente sin trabajo por problemas de tiempo, mis estudios.
    vos que tenes mucha mas experiencia como podria salir a flote ahora? digo freelance o algo asi, digo que si conoces alguna pagina buena de trabajo apra diseñadores 3d, te paso mi pagina nueva: http://www.point3d.com.ar
    un saludo y cuidate ;)

  • http://www.sosfactory.com Sergio Ordonez

    Hola Maksym, mándame una lista de precios a sergitosuanez@hotmail.com . Podrí­a estar interesado en hacer algunos renders en 3d.

    Sobre el resto, pues intentarlo como sea y donde sea, aparte de lo del post poco más podrí­a decirte.

  • Isa

    Hola Sergio!!

    He encontrado tu blog de casualidad buscando maneras de facturar como freelance, sabí­a que era un problema común a muchos diseñadores gráficos y supuse que encontrarí­a uno o dos comentarios sobre el tema… Madre mí­a!!! encontré la BIBLIA DEL FREELANCE en tu blog!!

    Sólo querí­a decirte que me parece fantástico todo lo que escribes y que seguramente me ayudará en muchas ocasiones.

    Muchí­simas gracias!! Ya estás en favoritos!!

    Saludos desde La Coruña!!!

  • Mario cardenas

    Hola Sergio! Estoy empezando en esto de ser Freelance, asi que no sabia practicamente como funcionaba esto, gracias a tu pagina estoy comprendiendo aparte soy recien egresado de la carrera de informatica asi que estoy tratando de tener mi primer empleo, principalmente programo y estoy aprendiendo a hacer diseño de pag. web y no se cuanto cobrar? bueno haber que pasa Gracias.

    Saludos desde Guadalajara Jal México

  • http://www.sosfactory.com Sergio Ordonez

    No te preocupes Mario, con la experiencia aprenderás a presupuestar. Como siempre digo, tu trabajo vale tanto como seas capaz de venderlo.

  • Pingback: Radom questions from a newbie illustrator | SOSFactory Blog

  • http://www.yahoo.com saftiawan

    Many thanks for sergio, make inspire me being a freelance designer. FYI, i was work in agency advertising for 9 yrs. Bore! Now, i resigned in my office per octo, 2009. And then now, i try to make small design firm. What ru suggest me now?

  • http://www.yahoo.com saftiawan

    Sergio, Basicly i am graphic designer..but i hv capability to make a comic. So, in my country a lot of design graphic offer their services. How to make uniquely way to winning market competition?

  • http://www.sosfactory.com Sergio Ordonez

    Hello Saftiawan, I´m afraid there is no an easy answer. You must do some research yourself, all depends on the product you want to sell, the quality of the work you provide, the price, the target audience… there is infinite possibilities.

  • Omar Monsalve

    Hey amigo, excelente trabajo!!!! eres una buena fuente de inspiración, me llevo casi todos los tutos!!! jejejejejeje Gracias.

  • Freelancework1989

    Hello, Sergio. I am one of the new fan of your designs. i take inspiration from everything you made as a designer and all the things you say. Many of your articles helped me alot. I use to work in 99design before and reading many of your articles helped me to understand many of the problems that i have. Anyways i wish you all the best with your work. I am from asia and in our country designers aren’t quite given any value. People are interested to hire people who download templates or steal arts rather than original artist. Yet i am willing to make a mark for myself. Anyways this article is really informative and i am planning on joining Davienart. Thank you for the lovely post.

  • http://twitter.com/MauLencinas Mau Lencinas

    Hola Sergio! la verdad estaba buscando tutoriales en tu pagina de DeviantArt para leer antes de dormir (cuento de cuna? ajaj) y me voy sin palabras, creo que me has brindado una gran ayuda con este post, sera que a partir de ahora ya tendre una guia, un camino?, por eso solo queria darte las gracias dejando estas palabras y que tengas buena vibra! porque me lo lei todito, saludos!.

    • http://www.sosfactory.com/blog Sergio Ordonez

      Eres bienvenido :)

  • http://www.lawebera.es/posicionamiento Posicionamiento Web

    Hola Sergio, muy buenas tus recomendaciones, falta
    profundizar mucho en cada recomendación, ya que este tema es muy extenso pero
    hay esta todo en general, ya depende de lo que se quiera lograr si podemos
    hacer todo seria genial. Saludos
    Jhonatan

  • www.proyectowebmalaga.com

    Muy buenos consejos para conseguir más visitas en nuestras páginas web. Es importante promocionar nuestros servicios para que los posibles clientes nos encuentren, y hacer trabajos SEO para conseguir un buen posicionamiento en los buscadores como google, o contratar el posicionamiento SEM.