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Freelance graphic designers assist companies with their visual communication with their customers. Graphic designers specialize in solving problems that companies have getting a message out. For example, they design advertisements or a user-friendly website that leads to sales. A freelance graphic designer does this on a project-by-project basis for clients who approach them for their services. Common projects that freelance graphic designers are approached for include web design and logo-making for a business, or design of a single object, such as a book or publication.
Education and Career Path
Most graphic designers have obtained a B.A. or even an M.A. degree in graphic design with a concentration in an area such as industrial design, web design or publication design. There are top schools around the country, but it is important to choose one an that reflects your desired balance of aesthetics and technology. After college it is common to work as an assistant designer for a more well-known designer in order to gain experience. As you build your experience and develop a recognizable style and area of expertise, you will become desirable as a freelance graphic designer.
One of the benefits of working as a freelance designer is that you can work from home and have control of your schedule. This is a plus for most people, but requires self-discipline and the ability to have a quiet home office. Working freelance and not in-house with a company has pros and cons. Being less familiar with the company can inspire radical new ideas they may get overlooked by those who are in the midst of working. At the same time, those working often with a company have a clear picture of where the company's reputation stands. Freelance graphic design can also be stressful as you start out, because you are depending on clients to reach out to you with work and you may be bidding against multiple designers for a job.
Web Design and Branding
A common job for freelance graphic designers is to either build or redesign a website. To do this the designer must have a clear picture of what the client wants the user to do; purchase a product online, call the business or consider it a trustworthy entity. On existing websites, a designer can solve visual communications problems, making a site easy to manage and intuitive. Branding is another common freelance position. Branding involves the company's reputation and the visual images that can enhance its reputation. Consistency between the look of a company's website and its letterhead, to the design of its offices, all come into play. A graphic designer may be taken on as a consultant for part of this work.
Book and Publication Design
Book and publication design is a very different side of graphic design freelancing. It is less commercial than working with advertising companies. Print designers work with authors and publishers or others making catalogs to create the look and layout of a publication. This involves choosing the cover images, fonts, layout of the text and images, as well as other print specifications. Print design projects often involve working first with the client, then with the publisher to ensure the work is done correctly. If you develop a solid reputation as a print designer you can become highly desirable, with a steady flow of income.
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.
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.
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