There are many factors to consider when thinking whether “to Freelance, or not to Freelance”  full-time or part-time. Here’s a checklist to get you started.

When thinking of what it’s like for a Generation Z designer to enter the employment market in 2021, I shudder to think of the obstacles a lot of newbies are facing. High unemployment rates, a recession, isolation, and a high dependence on virtual interaction rather than a physical one are factors redefining how businesses are looking for talent and how we approach jobs nowadays. On the bright side, a lot of Gen Z designers are adept at handling many of the changes especially since they are entering or have entered the employment market at a time where it’s quickly changing and being constantly reshaped by technology and newer trends.

If you’re part of Gen Z’s designers and are just entering the employment market, know that you’re not alone in considering freelancing.  50% of America’s Gen Z is opting for freelancing as a way to deal with the lack of jobs, to supplement their meek salaries, or to acquire more learning opportunities within their fields. There are other factors to consider when thinking about whether “to Freelance, or not to Freelance”, but if you’ve already set your mind to giving it a try, here are a few pointers to get you started.

1. Set a Goal

Know what you want, and I don’t mean that in the sense that you have to have your entire career mapped out, but in the sense of what do you want to achieve from freelancing. Is it getting as much money in as little time as possible? Or is it getting more work to fill up your portfolio and build your experience in the hopes of getting closer to your dream job? Different goals mean that you will approach freelancing gigs in a slightly different way, so it’s important to understand what you want in both the long and short terms. For example, if you want to get more experience as a logo designer, you could start by taking low paying gigs that force you to learn more about the process of designing for clients without the pressure of being paid a large amount and not being able to provide a suitable level of service.

2. What Are You Selling?

What is the service you want to provide for your clients? Take a moment to consider this question. If you’re just starting out in the labor market or have limited to no professional experience, this can be slightly difficult. This is because, most designers graduate with knowledge of different mediums that do not necessarily reflect on the employment market. Consequently, I would advise you to start broad with what you label yourself and then progress into a specialty with time. For example, when setting up your online Flan profile, identify as a graphic designer with varied skills in logo design, then as you gain experience over time add other sub-indicators that reflect your specialties such as video editor. This will make you appear in more search results, and will provide you with more opportunities to explore your degree and interests to determine a specialty later on.

3. Build an Online Presence

Because of the growing reliance on online platforms and social media, it’s important to advertise your skills, capabilities, and acceptance of freelance commissions online. This means setting up a professional email address and your Flan profile, or profile on other freelance platforms, to showcase your best work and portray a variety of skills. You should create or edit your LinkedIn profile as well and post samples of your work on social media. Such outlets should circle back to your Flan profile, or professional online profile, and act as an extra advertisement for your skills.

Person building their online profile on Flan

4. Create a Comprehensive Resume

A resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) provides a quick synopsis of who you are and what you do, do not underestimate its power. Make sure your CV is no longer than one page outlining employers, key roles, and skills, and have it saved on your cloud for quick access. Since most designers use more than one computer program or design medium, it’s important to mention them as part of your skillset and include any workshops you’ve undertaken.

5. Create a Portfolio

For a designer, a portfolio or work sample is as important as a CV if not more. Focus on creating a small brochure showcasing projects that highlight creativity, technique, and quality. Don’t send out a 10MB portfolio, the shorter the better; a good portfolio should not be more than 5MB.

Person reviewing a portfolio on Flan

6. Connect With Your Industry Peers

Starting out as a designer after school is an intimidating task, especially with the many directions your career could take. For that reason, it’s always helpful to connect with teachers or colleagues from school, or professionals whose experiences you admire and are inspired by. Don’t be afraid to reach out and build bridges so that you can always find someone within the industry whom you can confer with or exchange experiences with. An acquaintance can share a way of managing their time that you might find useful or shed light on details to include in contracts that you haven’t considered. It’s also a good way to start your professional network and advertise your ‘freelance nature’, since many professionals refer freelancers whom they know.

7. Determine a Pricing Scale

Now that you’ve set up your infrastructure, you need to have an idea of how much you are going to price your services. If you’re just starting out, and have no idea how to price then you should consider the following:

  • Your experience. Have you ever video-edited before? Did you ever create any branded merchandise?
  • How much time will the task take? You can categorize the time according to the services you want to sell, this is a skill you will develop with time.
  • What is the market’s benchmark price for such a service? You will have to research this and identify where you’re at in relation to the established market scale.
  • The phases of the project or service, if there are any, and how many chances of feedback and alterations are you willing to provide for the client.
  • What are the costs involved in the assignment? Consider this point carefully and write down any costs involved in transportation, materials, infrastructure, or machinery involved in your assignment and how will you cover these costs. Taking this into consideration will allow you to determine if the project is financially feasible in the first place or not.

The first step is always the hardest to make, but make it you will! That’s why it’s important to be open to ideas and possibilities as a starting designer, and seek opportunities in ways that will give you an advantage over many during these competitive times such as freelancing. Maximize your opportunities by setting your goals, establishing your online presence, and preparing for what is to come; then jump right into it.

Let me know what you’ve done to tackle your freelancer goals by commenting below or emailing me at You can also connect with many freelancer in our FLAN community on our discord channel and stay updated for more about FLAN on any of its social media platforms LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram.

Source: Freelance Forward 2020, A Study Commissioned by Upwork (September 2020)