Surveys on Business Practices of Freelance Graphic Designers

A series of informal surveys conducted at the end of articles on suggest that freelance graphic designers might benefit by adopting better business practices. For example, recent surveys asked freelancers about their invoicing and contract policies invoices and whether they charged more for working beyond standard business hours.

  • Unpaid Invoices: 96% of respondents said they had been victims of unpaid invoices for completed freelance work. Only 4% of readers had been paid in full each time.
  • Contracts:  When questioned about whether they use a contract before starting work for new clients, only 60% of respondents said yes, while 40% indicated that they did not use contracts.
  • After-Hours Work:  When they are asked to work outside of normal business hours, 63% of respondents said they do not charge more; they stick to their regular rates. About one-quarter of the respondents said it depends on the situation. Only 11% said they do charge more for after-hours work if the situation could have been avoided with better planning. suggests a correlation between the number of graphic designers who don’t use contracts and the higher number of freelancers who aren’t paid. Having an agreement that clearly defines the payment terms can lower a freelancer’s chances of being stiffed. Asking for a partial prepayment might also help freelancers detect companies that might not be quick to settle their invoices.

The willingness to work past normal business hours probably reflects a desire to maintain relationships with clients and secure additional work. But experienced freelancers also know that their availability to work flexible hours can be one of their selling points—particularly in a world in which freelance work can easily be outsourced to freelancers in time zones throughout the globe. is a source of news and information devoted entirely to the graphic-design industry. Each week the site features an article with several multiple-choice questions and encourages readers to respond to each one.


Calling All Freelancers: Are You Part of the Unpaid Wages Epidemic?

Home Office, Not Home Work


What Do You Think About Crowdsourced Design?


Online Design College Offers Business Skills for Freelancers

Freelancing is very prominent within the design industry. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of graphic designers are self-employed, along with up to 59% of individuals working in digital arts, multimedia, and animation. Unfortunately, many design programs do little to prepare students to run their own businesses.

Recognizing that entrepreneurial training is an essential part of preparing design professionals, Sessions College has introduced a new concentration to their certificate program curricula: Design Business.

“The Design Business concentration helps students prepare for careers and freelance work through identity building, portfolio design, online marketing, and self-promotion,” states Sessions College Chief Academic Officer Tara MacKay. “Pairing this concentration with a certificate program gives students a great foundation for entrepreneurship in a creative environment.”

Cover of Sessions College Brochure

This new concentration, along with 13 other design concentrations, can be added to any of the 7 available certificate programs at the Professional or Advanced levels. Using this range of options, students can build a strong foundation in visual design while gaining skills in a variety of design subjects; preparing them to fill a niche of their choosing within the design industry and increasing their potential for success.

Sessions College® for Professional Design is a fully online college of design. Sessions College offers accredited visual arts degree and certificate programs in fields such as graphic design, web design, multimedia arts, and game arts. The college also offers a wide selection of  individual courses, including layout design, logo design, digital photography, digital video production, digital video editing, figure drawing, Photoshop for game artists, and photo retouching.

To prepare art and design professionals for successful careers, Sessions College provides a thorough training in the technical, creative, and critical-thinking skills required for a fast-changing industry.


Sessions College for Professional Design

Courses in the Design Business concentration

Accredited Visual Arts Degree and Certificate Programs

Brochure (PDF): Sessions College of Design


Writing Coach Helps Freelancers Be Prolific and Confident

WRITERS. Writing coach Angela Booth has released a new creativity training program entitled: “Turn Your Creativity into Cash: Writers’ Creativity Secrets.”  The program combines a 63-page PDF e-book and a collection of motivational MP3 audio files that encourage you to “Affirm! Take Charge of Your Writing and Your Life.”

Based on insights gained while coaching individual writers, Booth developed the “Turn  Your Creativity Into Cash” program to help two kinds of writers: those who are stuck in a low-paid writing ghetto, and writers who lack confidence.

“There are endless opportunities for writers today. Professionals are fully booked for months ahead,” says Booth. She believes writers need two things to succeed: “They need to be creative, and prolific, both in writing, and in promoting their work.”

If you spend a lot of time writing a lot of low-paid jobs, the strategies presented in “Turn Your Creativity into Cash: Writers’ Creativity Secrets” might help you get better-paying gigs.

If you lack the confidence to promote yourself, Booth says you might be missing some great opportunities or failing to make the most of opportunities you’re given.  The motivational audios help eliminate negative beliefs, and build confidence and imagination. The goal is to encourage you to be more proactive in your marketing efforts, and less tentative in going about it.

Angela uses the MP3 audio files herself, and says: “Many of us carry negative beliefs. They’re deeply embedded in our unconscious mind, so we’re unaware of them. We only recognize them because they limit our writing. The MP3s help writers to clear negativities which constrain their creativity.”

Angela Booth is a copywriter, and writing teacher who has been writing successfully since the 1970s. She offers guides, courses, and classes on different types of writing.


Turn Your Creativity into Cash: Writers’ Creativity Secrets

Angela Booth’s Writing Blogs

About Angela Booth


Online Employment Report Shows Growing Demand for Creative Skills

In its “Global Online Employment Report – Q1 2012,” Elance notes a significant rise in the demand for online workers with creative skills in design, multimedia, and writing.

According to report, “The rise in creative jobs has been driven by consumer demand for video, audio and visuals and by marketers incorporating this content into marketing and social media strategies. Graphic design jobs are now the second most demanded skill on Elance, and other skills in this category increased substantially in Q1, including: video production (+68%), video editing (+56%), audio editing (+52%) and voiceover (+48%).”

In Q1 2012, 42% of the jobs posted on Elance were in the “Creative” category. Source: Elance Global Online Employment Report

Compared to last quarter, the demand for creative skills was up 32%. Within this category, the skills most in demand were web design (+101%), Photoshop (+71%), graphic design (+70%), video production (+68%), and content writing (+56%).

The online employment report notes that “The Online Employment Industry shows no signs of slowing. During the recession, companies turned to freelance labor to control costs and manage uncertainty. Now, as the economy rebounds, demand has continued, driven by small business hiring, and talent opting to work online.” The analysts also see a fundamental shift in how enterprises are using online workers in their workforce strategy.


Press Release: New Global Employment Report Highlights Online Work Trends

Elance Global Online Employment Report – Q1 2012

About Elance

Two Books Describe Pricing Strategies for Freelancers

WRITERS. As a solopreneur, there are certain times you think about pricing: (1) when preparing your tax return (and seeing how much—or how little—you actually earned for the year);  and (2) when a client asks you to provide a price as quickly as possible.  Long-time freelance writer and editor Laurie Lewis has written two books that can help in both situations.

“What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants” is a 185-page book that was initially published in 2000 and updated in February 2011. Self-published through Outskirts Press, the new version is available in both print and e-book formats.

“Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW” is a 5,000-word e-book. Lewis wrote the e-book after receiving an email from a panicked freelancer who needed to come up with an appropriate fee for a job, but didn’t have time to read the long-form book, “What to Charge.”

What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants

Because fees vary so widely and can rise and fall with the economy, this book doesn’t include a list of average rates for specific services.  Instead, Lewis provides practical strategies that have been proven to work over a period of years—even through the 2008 recession and in today’s globally competitive economy.

Lewis emphasizes that success in freelance pricing goes beyond naming an appropriate fee for a specific job. She explains how to protect yourself before accepting a job, keep detailed records of how you spend your time, and analyze your pricing after the job is completed.

Lewis shows how pricing strategies can support the different goals you set for your freelance business at different stages of your life and career.

“What to Charge” explains the different methods of pricing (hourly, per diem, retainer, project, unit, etc.) and why you probably will not use just one single method.  You will also learn:

  • How to identify the going rate for your region, industry, and type of client
  • How to gather information about a job before accepting it
  • Why it’s important to keep task-based logs
  • How to set flat-fee project rates
  • How to prepare to negotiate fees with confidence
  • What to include in contracts and letters of agreement
  • What to do when you don’t get the project
  • How to use information from your end-of-job and year-end analyses
  • How to increase your fees and give yourself a raise

The book contains instructive, real-world experiences of a variety of freelancers. These examples illustrate some consequences of setting your prices too low or overlooking key items during the information-gathering and contract-writing stages of the process.

“What to Charge” emphasizes the value of keeping a detailed log of all of the non-writing tasks that may be required to complete a freelance project (e.g. arranging and preparing for interviews, creating tables and captions, etc.).

In a section covering frequently asked questions, Lewis addresses thorny issues such as:

  • Can you charge for travel time?
  • May you charge for overtime or rush work?
  • What’s a good payment schedule for a long-term project?
  • What should you do about a slow-paying client?
  • Can you change your fee after a job has begun?
  • Can you charge a client who hounds you for advice?

At the end of the book, Lewis reminds us that pricing is both a science and an art: “It’s the art of pricing that turns a good business into an outstanding one.” She emphasizes that “No job has only a single correct fee” and urges freelancers to “Rely on your creative instincts at every step of the pricing process. Don’t be afraid to try something different.”

“Be especially creative during the negotiating process,” Lewis advises. “Only you know what you want from a job, in terms of both money and non-financial rewards. You can achieve whatever goals you set for your business if you simply follow the logical steps in the science of fee-setting, and add your own artistic flourishes.”


What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants by Laurie Lewis

Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW

Some clients don’t call a freelancer until the pressure is on. They suddenly realize that they won’t have the time or staff resources to complete a certain project themselves.  So when you get a call from these types of clients, how will you respond? Can you quickly come up with a client-approved price that won’t leave you feeling frustrated, overworked, and underpaid?  The guidance provided in this e-book can help.

Whereas “What to Charge” provides advice that can help you grow your freelance income over time, “Freelance Fee Setting” provides guidance and lists of questions that can help you quickly and accurately determine a fee for a particular assignment. She outlines a three-step process:

  •  Ask questions that can help you better understand the job
  • Weigh the pros and cons of different methods of pricing
  • Plan your negotiating strategy.

In the section on preparing to negotiate, Lewis suggests considering these elements:

  • The fee you actually want to earn
  • Your opening bid
  • The lowest acceptable fee for the job
  • The concessions you want from the client if you have to lower your price
  • The steps you will take as you lower your price—both the dollar figure and the concessions for accepting less money

“I cannot stress enough that you should be prepared to walk away from the job if the client refuses to pay, at a minimum, the fee (with concessions) that you think is the lowest acceptable price.” writes Lewis. “You’ll kick yourself later if you agree to a fee that is too low for the job.”

In addition to writing books on pricing strategies, Laruie Lewis gives presentations for organizations with freelance members.


Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW

Laurie Lewis

Meet Other Solopreneurs at 2012 Creative Freelancer Conference

The Creative Freelancer Conference is a business-focused event for solopreneurs in design, writing, photography, and illustration. In addition to face-to-face networking with creative pros from complementary disciplines, you can learn some fresh approaches to marketing, client relations, productivity, and money management.

The 2012 Creative Freelancer Conference takes place Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22 as part of the HOW Design Live Conference June 21 to June 25 in Boston.  The Creative Freelancer Conference is held in partnership with the Marketing Mentor creative-business consulting firm.

Here are some sessions being planned:

Planning for Your First Year of Freelancing
Shane Pearlman will recommend ways to avoid common rookie mistakes and be more successful during your first year on your own. Among other things, he will explain the importance of creating contracts, getting deposits from clients, and tracking finances.

Options for Growth
Luke Mysse will discuss traditional and non-traditional ways to grow your business, and talk about how to decide which of three business models is right for you: solo, solo plus a virtual team, or full staff.

Why a Bigger Business Isn’t Always Better
For many owners of creative businesses, success is more about satisfaction than size. Adelaide Lancaster will present examples of many different ways entrepreneurs think about business growth. While gaining clarity on growth options, you will learn how to determine the right direction for your business and recognize your ability to create work based on your needs and goals.

Building Your Prospect List: Quality vs. Quantity
Success in any business start-up requires knowing how to identify your addressable market and build a marketing funnel to convert prospects into customers. Allen Murabayashi will offer practical advice on identifying your prospects, building a prospect list, and converting the prospects on your list into paying clients.

Skillful Communications with Clients
Understanding what your clients really want and giving it to them doesn’t mean you have to function simply as an order taker. Many clients expect you to take a leadership role and prove that your expertise can truly help their businesses. Marcia Hoeck explains how to start client relationships out right, by setting the tone for conversations and becoming a valued resource without being a doormat. Learn how to discuss tough issues like a pro, and put yourself in a position of strength.

Is Your Website Generating Business?
To ensure that your website is generating quality leads for your business, Mark O’Brien will take you through Newfangled’s 9-Step Website Planning Process. Learn how to use SEO to attract the right prospects, craft a content strategy that will convince prospects of your expertise, and generate quality leads through clear calls to action.

The Nuts and Bolts of Pricing and Negotiating
Creating a pricing structure for your business can be tricky. Do you base your pricing on the value of your services? Or is there another (better) metric? Sarah Durham will show you how her time-tracking structure works, and offer advice for implementing it. Learn how to realistically create estimates and methodically manage pricing to ensure you end up profitable. Get tips on talking money with potential clients and using figures from the past to inform future projects.

How to Create and Execute Your Marketing Plan
An inconsistent, haphazard approach to marketing can lock you into the dreaded feast-or-famine cycle of freelance work. And, it may force you to take on undesirable clients and projects and accept sub-par fees. Ed Gandia will share a practical framework for developing a marketing plan aligned with your goals and personality. Discover strategies that can help you enjoy the process of marketing your services.

Live Audit
Marketing Mentor founder Ilise Braun and David C. Baker will provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at a fellow creative freelancer’s business. They will examine in-depth the freelancer’s finances, day-to-day business practices, and work style. During the audit, Braun and Baker will identify the freelancer’s successes and mistakes and suggest the type of results they can attain and the opportunities they should seize.


2012 Creative Freelancer Conference

HOW Design Live

Marketing Mentor

Freelancers Should Consider Themselves Entrepreneurs

WRITERS. DESIGNERS. It doesn’t really matter whether you became a freelancer by choice or “accidentally” (through downsizing). To make the most of this career phase, treat your freelance business like a real business. That means having strategies for attracting clients, managing productivity, pricing your services, hiring and orienting employees, maintaining cash flow, marketing your services, closing the sale, serving your customers, and planning for growth.

As a freelancer myself, I hadn’t really given these issues much thought until I attended the free conference celebrating International Freelancers Day on September 23.

Like other women, I have freelanced at different stages of my career—first, as a young mother balancing work and family and now as a “maturing” single woman/displaced magazine editor striving to finish my writing career more like I had originally envisioned. My freelance business plans have been complicated by how radically the world, publishing and communications technology, and the economy have changed since my first go-round with freelancing. (Back then, the “World Wide Web” had just been introduced and the Apple IIci computer was state-of-the-art in ad agencies).

So, I was happy to attend the International Freelancers Day Conference organized by Ed Gandia and his partners at The International Freelancers Academy. The content was so relevant and inspiring that I gladly spent $29 to buy the post-conference package of session transcripts, audio recordings, and video replays.

After reviewing the sessions, I was struck by how well-balanced the content was. The 20-minute online videos were presented by a stellar mix of book authors, entrepreneurs, design-firm owners, bloggers, motivational speakers, and financial experts. They highlighted the many different ways freelancers could attain greater financial success by being more entrepreneurial in their thinking. Below are just a few themes that caught my attention.

Make Marketing Less of a Chore

Let’s face it. Freelancers often let marketing lapse when we get busy. This is partly because we tend to feel uncomfortable hyping ourselves or closing the sale. Or, we fear getting flooded with more work than one person can reasonably handle. Many conference speakers emphasized that marketing doesn’t have to be painful, if you do it in a way that feels authentic.

Do work you are passionate about. “Passion is the fuel to creativity,” says Peleg Top, author of the soon-to-be-released book “Designing Abundance: A Creative Guide to High Growth.” Doing work you are passionate about will motivate you to do more work: “It will motivate you to grow your business and do the things that you need to do to grow your business.” When you can express your passion through your marketing, “you start attracting and winning the kind of clients” who will respect your passion.

Carve out a niche. “When you’re really good at what you do, or you have a niche that few others can claim, the marketing that you do will be more productive because repeat business and referrals will come naturally,” explained Peter Bowerman, author of “The Well-Fed Writer.” That means you will have to do less marketing on an ongoing basis. This is particularly true if you can carve out a niche where few others are operating. As Bowerman puts it, “The narrower niche, the less necessary it is to be the best writer in the business.”

Another advantage of having a niche, says Rebecca Matter of American Writers & Artists, Inc., is that you can work smarter and faster because you won’t face a brand-new learning curve with every project you undertake. Plus, you can build on the work and research that you’ve done for one project, and turn it into another project for another client.

Dedicate time every day to marketing yourself or building your business. It can be as simple as following up with a potential client, adding a new sample to your website, or writing a blog post, says Matter. “It can take you ten minutes, but try to get in the habit of doing one thing every day that will help build your business.”

Establish Financial Security

Several sessions provided tips for pricing your work and raising your rates as demand for your services grow. Others addressed the issue of financial security in more general terms.

Build on your strengths. “Competence is at the heart of freelance security,” stated Peter Bowerman. He pointed out that a well-established freelance practitioner who has a “diversified portfolio” of clients and multiple revenue streams can feel far more secure than a salaried employee these days.

Set up three online bank accounts for (1) tax money, (2) retirement savings, and (3) emergencies. Keep these three accounts separate from the standard bank account you maintain for everyday spending, said Denise Kiernan, co-author of “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed.” She recommended having an ATM card only for your everyday spending account: “Try to throw up as many obstacles as possible between you and the money you’ve put away in savings.”

Join Forces with Other Freelancers

The conference highlighted online resources through which we can connect with other freelancers who can help us build “virtual teams” for different project assignments or workloads. As Sean Hedge of FreelanceSwitch puts it, “It may feel like freelancing is a solo mission, but there is a whole ecosystem we can tap into to grow our businesses, and there are clear advantages to doing so,”

Do not hire someone just like you. Hire someone with complementary skills, advises Mike McDerment, the entrepreneur who founded FreshBooks online invoicing service for solopreneurs. “Bring in people who are going to enable you to do more of what you are good at and comes easily to you.”

Streamline employee training. In his presentation on “How to Profitably Grow Beyond a Business of One,” Hedge suggested documenting guidelines and procedures so each new hire and project partner can get up to speed quickly. Then, you don’t have to spend a lot of time verbally repeating the same instructions to each new person you work with.

Take Risks

If your niche begins to feel boring and repetitive, don’t be afraid to take some risks.

Go after projects you think you’re unqualified for. “The most important projects you’ll ever do are the ones who get you noticed and make you feel fulfilled,” says Tyler Tervooren in his presentation “Smart Risk-Taking for Savvy Freelancers.” Although it’s natural to want to feel comfortable with the work you’re doing, Tervooren noted that “Comfort doesn’t propel a career, and it doesn’t prepare you for bigger and better things.” If you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll probably be highly motivated to get the job done right.

Say no to projects that won’t get you closer to your goals. “It’s hard to say no to guaranteed money, but it is absolutely essential to do so if you ever want to focus your business on something meaningful to you and get known for the type of work you actually want to do,” says Tervooren.

If you missed the 2011 International Freelancer’s Day Conference, you can visit the Facebook page for updates on next year’s event. Or, check out some of the same kinds of training videos that will be presented year-round through The International Freelance Academy.

Onlne Resources

International Creative Freelancers Day
(Sign up for e-mail new about the 2012 event)

The International Freelancers Academy

American Artists & Writers

Advanced Riskology: Better Living Through Uncertainty


The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

The Wealthy Freelancer by Ed Gandia, Steve Slaunwhite, and Pete Savage

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed by Joseph D’Angneses and Denise Kiernan


Conference Celebrates International Freelancers Day