Women looking for flexibility in their work schedule sometimes turn to freelancing, which offers the ability to pick and choose their jobs. Freelance graphic designers take direction from clients and turn their ideas into design concepts for use on websites, print and sometimes video. If your dream design job is working on something different all the time, the career of freelance graphic designer might just be for you.
Working freelance is different than working a steady job. Freelance designers are always on call and work only when one of their clients has a big job. This can be good when there's a lot of designing to do, but bad when times are slow. One of the things that catches many first-time freelancers is that they have to pay their own taxes. For most full- or part-time employees in a company, taxes are automatically taken out of wages and paid to the government. Freelancers, on the other hand, are given a lump sum, from which they must pay a percentage in taxes.
The most important weapon in the freelance designer's arsenal is her design portfolio. This is a collection of her previous assignments, which can be collected together in an art binder for showing prospects or their portfolio is posted online. Freelance web designers, in particular, can create elaborate websites that not only show off some of their earlier work, but also the latest web technologies they've learned.
Because freelance designers rely so heavily upon their portfolio, a formal degree is not required to become a freelancer. Before hiring a designer, a client will look over the designer's portfolio and make a decision based on their previous work and not whether they have a college degree. That being said, studying art and design in a formal setting is an excellent way to learn the basics of their craft.
Because the majority of design work is done using computers, a freelance graphic designer needs to be comfortable using computer-based drawing tools and software. In addition, freelance designers are sometimes called in to work at the last minute, so they should be familiar with a wide range of drawing and design tools, and know how to work them on both Mac and PC platforms. If nothing else, a budding freelance graphic designer should have a thorough knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and, if video and motion graphics are required, Adobe Premiere and Photoshop.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the median pay for a graphic designer was $43,500 per year or approximately $20 per hour. This represents the statistics for a full-time employed graphic designer. A freelancer employed for perhaps six months of the year could expect to earn around $20,000. Of course, this is also dependent on the skill of the designer and the budget of any projects on which the designer is working.
2016 Salary Information for Graphic Designers
Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $47,640 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, graphic designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,560, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $63,340, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 266,300 people were employed in the U.S. as graphic designers.
Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.