8 Top Skills on How To Become a Successful Freelance Designer

The days when it was mandatory to come to the office to work are over. A new era has begun, that of freelancers. Here you can find the top skills to become a successful freelance designer.
become a successful freelance designer

Freelancer employment is already a big reality and the numbers show it: there are over 57 million freelancers in the US and 31% of freelancers earn $75,000+ per year. 


With the growth of several e-learning platforms and the huge amount of content offered by blogs and YouTube, anyone can now access hundreds of thousands of online courses and learn all the skills they want.


This means that you can create your dream job simply with a laptop and a bit of learning power. Below you can find a list of 8 top skills to become a successful freelance designer, from the comfort of your own home, studying and applying yourself in one or more areas.

Let's get started!

Table of Contents

1. Graphic Design

If you are a novice in the world of design, probably a good first step is to study what is Graphic Design, a truly vast subject that contains many small niches:


  • Logo Design
  • Poster Design
  • Packaging Design
  • Type Design
  • And more…


Graphic design is the craft of creating visual content to communicate messages. This discipline deals with communicating a precise message through the study of visual hierarchies to meet the specific needs of users. 


Don’t forget to read our article What is Graphic Design? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to get a better look into it. This is a powerful article with tons of relevant content.


You can learn more about this topic also in one of the Interaction Design Foundation‘s pillar courses. 

How to become a Freelance Designer in Graphic Design

To become a successful Graphic Designer you need to be able to master all aspects of creating visual content to convey messages. 


One of the main features of the Graphic Designer is to be able to give a coordinated visual aspect to this message (which can be for example a slogan of an advertising campaign). 


It is the task of the Graphic Designer to find a solution to a problem through visual communication. If this subject fascinates you, know that the growth of this profession in the freelance world is estimated at around 13% in 2020, so we can say that it is a real opportunity.


As a Graphic Designer you can work on projects that vary from logo design for a company to packaging design for a new product. We will explore these Graphic Design niches in more detail later in this article.

Become a successful freelance designer in graphic design
Music and Art Festival, Identity Concept on Behance

If you are a newbie in this landscape, you will surely have a lot to learn, but here we can help you with some useful advice. First of all: apply


Graphic Design, like many other branches of Design, is a discipline in which there is a theoretical phase to learn but, above all, a practical part to implement. The more time you dedicate to practice, the greater the chances of success.


To learn you can take online courses, for example Skillshare courses, then you will have to dedicate your time to create new designs and practice every day.


Another tip: You can start getting inspired by the best Graphic Designers right away by watching their fantastic work on Dribbble and Behance.


Now let’s move on to the next point, where we talk about a narrower niche in Graphic Design, how to become a successful freelance designer in Type Design, the material that works with typography in the first place.

2. Typeface Design

Typography (we can also call it Typeface Design) can be defined as the theory and at the same time the practice of design in correlation with texts and letters


One of the most popular works in the field of typography in these times is that of the Typeface designer, that is, the designer who creates new typefaces. Very successful are the designers who use Procreate for iPad to design new fonts and new fonts also handwritten.


Among the various job opportunities that you can find as a Type Designer, there are several that are worth mentioning nowadays:


  • typeface design
  • draw graphics with typefaces
  • paint walls 
  • design posters
  • graphics for clothing lines


If you are interested in this style of design, a very good page that is very successful especially on Instagram, called Type Gang, can help you.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer​ in Typeface Design

As said, being a typeface designer means being able to work with typography and graphics at the same time. The web helps us here too: there are many courses where you can learn design techniques for this discipline. 


A tip is to try to follow a course and see if you are actually good at drawing letters and graphics that contain mainly text


As in all design arts, here too you have to be good at working correctly with flow, composition and balance. If you are going to carry on this fantastic section of design, a tip is to learn how to work with markers and pens before you start working with graphic software.

How to become a successful Freelance Typeface Designer
1089 Display by Fatih Hardal on Behance

You can also get passionate about creating typefaces. This aspect is more technical, it requires more study of the main subject: typography. 


If designing fonts can become quite a passion, think about how many websites and online platforms offer fonts for sale.


Drawing fonts can also become a real full-time job, and thanks to digital evolution you can now sell your fonts on many platforms, from the comfort of your own home.


Drawing fonts is not an easy thing, but if you’re good at typography and apply yourself in the practice, you’re sure to get great results. Ultimately, it has to be said that now fonts must also comply with usability and readability parameters that allow them to be suitable for the web as well.


Web fonts are now a great reality too: you can see which fonts are the best and most used on the web by visiting important pages like Adobe Fonts and Google Fonts


Now we are ready to enter another niche, very popular, of graphic design: here we talk about how to become a successful freelance designer in logo design.

3. Logo Design

The logo design, as the word says, is the graphic realization of the company logos. Designing a logo can seem simple and many times you approach Graphic Design starting from this particular niche, which over the years has become more and more popular and followed.


Actually, designing a logo is far from simple, if we assume that a logo must have a deep study before being realized. In detail, in this list you can see some of the fundamental pillars of the process of creating a successful logo design:


  • Design Brief
  • Market Research
  • Brainstorming
  • Sketching
  • Design Execution
  • Presentation
  • Revisions
  • Final Design and Delivery


It starts with a series of detailed questions to get to know the customer, the business, the details of the needs. We then move on to a study of the reference market, the history of that sector and the competitors of the client in question. 


If the study is very thorough and well done, you will immediately have good ideas to start your brainstorming, which will lead to detailed decisions on the way to be ready for the first step of the design process: sketching.


In the sketching phase the sketches are made and the concepts are given shape, until you get to a final draft of the logo that is proposed to the client, which we define in the Design Execution phase.


The client will give us feedbacks, we then continue with the realization of the final concept of the logo, and then create a global presentation, consisting of the final logo and its various applications, including mockups on various formats.


Ultimately, when the process is completed and the final logo has been realized, we move on to the realization of all the final formats and the final delivery.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer​ in Logo Design

This is the discipline that the majority of newbies designers come closest to. Many times you see work done badly, because there is not the correct study and strategy behind the work, unfortunately.


If you want to become a logo design expert and develop your career as a successful freelance logo designer, my suggestion is to thoroughly study the branding strategies behind the final logo. 


There are some specialized courses you can take, but the best course I can suggest that explains the logo design process in super detail is Logo Core


You can learn the whole process of logo design in all its details (explained very well) and in addition you can study Logo Design Pricing and also logo animation, really an incredible course.

how to become a successful freelance logo designer
Logo Design by Joe Hansen for Gardner Design on Dribbble

To become a successful freelance logo designer you have to start from the basics: start with the brief. A tip: with a bit of imagination you can invent a brief yourself to train with.


By creating a series of briefs and, consequently, a series of logos that reflect the created briefs, you’ll soon be able to build yourself a portfolio of work, so you have a business card for your potential clients. The game is up!


Don’t wait until you get your first client to build your portfolio. Train yourself to create logos with invented briefs, explode your creativity to create better and better designs.


Another tip: you can visit a site like 99designs to get in for free and participate in a series of contests: the competition is high, but you can expand your portfolio and if you’re good, you can even win!


Now that we’ve seen this spectacular logo design niche, we’re ready to get into the great world of how to become a successful freelance designer in web design.

4. Web Design

This is by far the most developed design sector in these times. Web design is an ambitious path, in which various disciplines intersect and new working figures are created. 


Surely it’s a spectacular path, I’ve been personally dedicated to the world of web design for 10 years now and I’m constantly updating in this sector. Being a web designer means being able to create a usable and intuitive design in web interfaces.


The aim of the web designer is to meet the needs of users in the web through the visual aspect (user interface design) and the aspect of usability and experience within a website, an e-commerce or a product (user experience design). 


There are many different designer figures that have gradually developed as subcategories of web design. Among the most popular and well-known we find:


  • User Interface Designer
  • User Experience Designer
  • Interaction Designer 
  • Information Architecture Designer
  • And more…


Studying this discipline of design can bring you enormous advantages because it is an increasingly popular figure.


These designers project applications, websites, e-commerce, platforms and much more, and there are many designers who practice this work as freelancers.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer​ in Web Design

If you want to experiment with web design, you’re sure to have a lot to study and apply to properly design a web platform or app.


You don’t necessarily need to be familiar with HTML, CSS and other programming languages (although this can help you learn more about the world of web design).


Here, too, you’ll find tons of free and paid courses online, including full dedicated channels on YouTube. My advice is to start from the basics, following once again the Interaction Design Foundation mentioned at the beginning of this article.


There are several courses, focused on UI (user interface design) and UX (user experience design) where you can try your hand and learn all the basics of these subjects.


Over the years, many platforms for website and product design have developed, among which it is important to mention InVision, WebFlow and WordPress (I love the Elementor page builder).

Interface elements by Golo on Dribbble

In some cases you need a basic knowledge of programming languages, but not always: if you want to become a web designer you can also study only one field, such as User Experience, and specialize in that.


It will be the programmers’ task to create the website starting from your sketches.


As a newbie, you can also study simpler platforms (called Drag-and-Drop) that facilitate the design and graphic realization of the website by offering the possibility to access a backend platform designed specifically to create websites more easily. Noteworthy are Wix and Squarespace.


Becoming a professional and successful freelance designer in the field of web design takes a lot of time and dedication (much more than other areas of design, such as poster design or logo design), but it is a really fascinating subject and the payments for these figures are very high. 


If you want to become an expert in web design, follow these tips and start studying and applying yourself using design softwares (we strongly recommend using Adobe XD, Figma or Sketch to design web interfaces).


Now that web design is also a bit clearer to your eyes, we can move on to how to become a successful freelance designer in the illustration category.

5. Illustration

Here we enter a new world, completely different from web design, less technical: illustration. Probably if you’re a newbie you’ll be amazed at the illustration masterpieces on Dribbble and Behance. And you’re not the only one!


Being an illustrator nowadays has become a bit easier, because there are applications (like Procreate mentioned above) and online courses that help you develop your talent as an illustrator. “Being an illustrator means being an artist”.


Let’s see how many job opportunities there are for those who take this path:


  • book illustrator 
  • illustrator for web design
  • graphic illustrator
  • illustrator for art galleries
  • And more…


Of course, to be an illustrator you need to know the basics of drawing by hand. It is no longer necessary to attend academic years in a design school to become a professional illustrator, but it takes (let’s face it) a certain hand.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer in Illustration

If you want to be an illustration expert, you have to learn from the best. You can also search for the best profiles on Instagram, which is the social platform most used by illustrators to show their work.


Instagram can also be useful to interact with the best illustrators and ask for advice, exchange feedbacks and have a mentor to follow every day.


This is not an easy path either, but you will find it easier if you have innate qualities as an illustrator. If your passion is hand drawing subjects, portraits, landscapes, then this is probably the best design field for you. 


Know that illustrators are also highly sought after in the freelance industry and contribute to the freelance economy, because more and more SaaS companies are turning to illustrators to create their own product and company branding.

how to become a successful freelance illustration designer
Cat Lover by Sam Ji on Dribbble

The digital software par excellence for illustration is Adobe Illustrator.


Now you can access this software and many others (such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom for photo editing, Adobe Indesign for layout, Adobe After Effect for motion graphics creation) with the subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.


The main feature of the illustrator is the ability to draw subjects and landscapes, but also the ability (increasingly in demand) to make drawings that can explain certain actions (widely used for web design, to explain to users an action or a new service/product) also on a visual level.


Are you loaded? We are ready for a further step: let’s now get to know how to become a successful freelance designer in Content Design.

6. Content Design

This is a mostly modern subject, with the advent of blogs, vlogs, social media and other media channels, the content designer is a much sought after role because he is responsible for creating the content that a brand proposes and spreads on the web.


Below is a list of some of the workings that are the task of the content designer:


  • visual content for social networks
  • multimedia content for vlog
  • infographics
  • images and photographs for blogs, websites
  • And more…


The content designer is the one who designs the graphic layout for Instagram and Facebook posts, or the infographics to share in the blog or on Pinterest.


Not only: a content designer can also be applied in the creation of the graphic layout for an ebook and other digital formats for online downloadable digital products.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer in Content Design

A practical tip to approach this new work is to create an Instagram page and publish some informative content with an attractive design (which is now very fashionable on this social platform).


By doing this, you will learn how to create content born for social media, which will allow you to practice and, at the same time, grow your audience.


Yes, it’s a great springboard. Sharing your posts on Instagram gives you the chance to grow your audience, which will be interested in your informative posts. 


This will allow you to start offering yourself as a Content Designer, and you will surely have new requests and you can start your career as a Freelance Designer starting from this point.


You’ll immediately notice that to create content for (for example) social media, various other skills come into play, such as digital marketing, copy, web design.


You can then begin to cultivate other skills and become an increasingly experienced designer.

how to become a successful freelance content designer
Instagram stories design by Janna Hagan on Dribbble

In our experience here at Desircle we have seen the demand for content designers grow exponentially, given the importance for every company to have a strong impact and presence on social media and Google these days.


We’ve seen the importance of having a content marketing strategy grow, which has also become a cornerstone of our communication. That’s why we have evolved and we have, in turn, worked closely with content designers to create our content for publication.


It’s no secret, then, that nowadays being a content designer can bring big profits, including a good slice of the profits from successful freelance designers. A step every designer can take, a wave to ride!


Pro Tip: here at Desircle we use a lot of softwares to create impressive content, but I can recommend you, first of all, to use Adobe XD to create graphic content aimed at the web audience, because it has many features already optimized for this type of design process.


Are you ready for a career as a successful freelance designer devoted to content design? Then these tips will really come in handy! Let’s move on how to become a successful freelance designer in Motion Design.

7. Motion Design

Motion design is another part of design that has expanded widely in recent years, thanks to its wide use in various sectors, including television and advertising.


The motion designer has the task of creating moving graphics, i.e. bringing static graphics to life with the use of visual effects, animations and cinematic techniques, in order to create an engaging and sometimes even interactive design.


The motion designer has the opportunity to work in various sectors, creating many graphics in different contexts, such as for example:


  • movie credits
  • music videos
  • commercials
  • TV graphics 
  • videogames
  • and more…


Until a few years ago, the world of graphic design was a world made of flat and static elements, until the advent of motion design which brought graphics on a multimedia level.


This interesting sector can also be recognized by the name of “animation” (which in its broadest sense also includes animated films produced, for example, by Pixar and DreamWorks).

How to become a successful Freelance Designer in Motion Design

As said for all the other points, here too the rule that freelance economy is more and more a reality in dispatching and this means that even the motion designer can be a freelance figure who develops his work autonomously, sometimes even remotely, interfacing with the client.


As for web design and illustration, the figure of the motion designer is also highly sought after, especially for video graphics. More and more companies (and also influencers) are looking for the motion designer to have multimedia graphics that involve their audience. 


Since motion graphics are much more interactive and engaging, more and more clients are looking for them and more and more freelancers are specializing and offering to create this kind of service.

If you’re interested in this kind of career, I can tell you that you’re choosing the right path here, too. The demand is certainly high, but the quality of your work will make the difference.


If you want to succeed in this field and become a motion design professional, you have to study the right software that allows you to create multimedia graphics.


Among the most famous and used motion graphics softwares are Cinema4D and Adobe After Effect. It is also valid here the speech of the in-depth study that we did in web design, because this also requires a lot of time and application to learn the softwares.


Do you want to become a professional freelance designer in the field of motion graphics? You can take one of the many courses that Skillshare offers you (since you are a Desircle reader, you are entitled to 2 months access to all courses for free). 


So we’ve reached the last point of this guide on the 8 top skills you can learn to become a successful freelance designer: digital marketing.

8. Digital Marketing

Even if a designer is not strictly a marketer, by now the subject of marketing has incorporated many other areas of work, including another important point: branding


Branding is one of the most commonly used terms in both marketing and design and perfectly connects these two subjects.


It is no coincidence that the term “Brand Designer” is increasingly used in the design sector, a figure who takes care of the branding part of companies and who must have accurate skills in both design and marketing.


Digital marketing is another big ocean, where there are many facets and which offers great business and monetization possibilities, let’s see some of them:


  • branding (brand design and marketing)
  • social media management
  • funnel marketing
  • blog and affiliate marketing
  • and more…


In this article I don’t want to dwell on all the opportunities for success that can be had in the career of digital marketing, but I want to tell you one thing: if you want to know how to become a successful freelance designer you must know digital marketing.

How to become a successful Freelance Designer in Digital Marketing

Many times marketers know almost nothing about design, this makes them need to rely on a freelance designer or a design studio to start or run their own business.


If you learn about design and connect it to other transversal knowledge about digital marketing, you’ve hit the jackpot! A designer who also knows digital marketing strategies has one more step than just a designer or a marketer. 


Furthermore, knowing digital marketing and its strategies allows you to apply these strategies to yourself to grow your brand (called “personal branding“) or that of your business.


Make yourself known online and, consequently, increase your authority in the industry and your earning possibilities.

A path that you can start right now to better understand this subject of digital marketing and at the same time get great results is to follow established industry brands such as HubSpot, or great marketers such as Neil Patel (if you are interested in growing your website at SEO level).


Here, too, it’s up to you to understand the mechanics of digital marketing and, at the same time, experiment and use your creativity to get results and achieve your goals. 


There are a lot of strategies, such as selling an ebook, or offering it for free so that you can have an email contact in exchange, so that you can grow your mailing list


Or, you can learn how to do SEO, grow your blog and make yourself known through Google, or learn strategies to grow your page on Instagram and show more people your online portfolio.


And here we are! We’ve reached the end of this exciting article on the 8 tips on how to become a successful freelance designer. Now it’s your turn!


Try your hand at one of these categories: test your skills, learn from the best freelance designers, interact with them in social media and write us on our Instagram page if you want to get more insights!


You want to write an article for us? Visit our page dedicated to authors and get in touch with our staff!

I hope this article helped you! If you want to get in touch with our staff, write us a DM and follow us on Instagram.

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Alessio Marchetti

Alessio Marchetti

Founder of Desircle Co. I'm a passionate marketer and CrossFit addict. I founded this brand in 2016 to get out of the 9-5 job trap and started sharing what I learn on the way in this blog and through social media.

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