Having worked as a self-taught freelance designer out of my house on a home-made, ten-year-old Dell for little more than three years, I am no expert in the field. Thus I am attending George Mason to further my knowledge of graphic design. I have however worked enough jobs to figure out some key things to do, and some not to do.
The biggest problems can be prevented through communication between the designer and the client. The first thing that I try to do with any client is to set up boundaries. Let them know what you do and what you don’t, or can’t do. Many clients think of designers as being able to design, edit or write content, write computer programming, configure servers, and everything in between. While every designer should learn as much about these things as possible, it is not likely that anyone will be an expert in them all. Don’t be afraid to let a client know that you are a designer, not an IT guru.
Another helpful item to use with any freelance job is a work agreement. There are several templates on the internet to get you started. Having a signed document stating, for instance, that payment is due upon delivery of final product or that 24 hours are required to deliver on any request. I have learned the hard way that without a contract or work agreement you can lose a lot of time and money.
I have also found that protecting your designs is good idea. When sending drafts to a client for review I use a watermark with my company name over the jpeg or pdf. This way your design has some protection against being used before payment is delivered.
Budget is an additional element to be very aware of. First, know your rates and budget. No one likes working for free and if you set up a good rate system for various job categories you might avoid a headache later. Second, know your client’s budget. If someone wants a five page website but only has a budget of $300, you will want to know that up front.
Again, I am no expert, but hopefully these few tips will help fellow beginners with graphic design gigs.