How to freelance...successfuly!?

I am looking to start a minor freelance operation in my spare time; taking on small design projects, 3D modeling, sketching, rendering, and minor graphics based projects as well. I would hope to work for individuals with specific design needs rather than large companies who need to outsource.

Without anyone giving away their trade secrets, what tips would any successful freelancers give someone starting out?

-What is the best way/place to advertise?
-What type of fee structure do you use? Strictly hourly? Variable? Etc…
-How easy is it to freelance remotely or long distance?
-What types of projects or work are most often freelanced?

Any thoughts or advice would be great!


-How easy is it to freelance remotely or long distance?

Very easy. They may as well be in the same room as you. With email, Skype, and cell phones - clients have nearly too many ways to contact me in my free time. The distance thing has never been an issue. Between living in TX, FL, and GA I’ve worked with clients in Canada, Argentina, and California - no problems.

-What is the best way/place to advertise?

I’ve never advertised. But I’m sure it would help a whole lot, maybe too much? Once I contacted a client directly who had a question on another ID forum regarding freelancing, that’s how that contact was made. Otherwise, clients all have contacted me directly from my coroflot portfolio, commonly regarding bags/packs/softgoods development and sustainable product design. I’m not getting freelance opportunities once a week, but I prefer it that way. Somewhere in the guess of about 1 client every month to 2 months, sometimes we go forward, sometimes we don’t, but I do enjoy my free time living my life.

Take care

Same, I don’t advertise, but I get plenty of word of mouth business, and from people that see my work online. I turn down about 75% of it, and just take things that I have a passion for working on. I work on about 1 a month. This seems about a good pace to keep it fun and not interfere with my primary work or my home life. I do a strict up front fee based on an hourly estimate. New clients put half down, pay the second half on completion. If I’ve done a few projects, or really know/trust the person, I will go hourly if they request it. I have entertained service exchanges, and reduced fee for royalties, but ironically these projects have never moved forward. I tend to bill a bit on the high end, but never had a dissatisfied client. I’ve been lucky and had some great clients where we’ve been able to have a lot of fun together.

Another agreement with the others above…

Networking and referrals are the best way to get “good” clients.
There is a huge difference in the type of client who contacts me through my website vs. one that has been referred to me by an existing client. More often than not the difference is the ability to realise the project.

Definitely some great advice here, thanks everyone!


More often than not the difference is the ability to realise the project.

Especially after the design work is over, some clients discover how difficult it is to launch a product on their own.

You should think about doing a little work for those companies who need to outsource. Even though it’s not your ideal situation, we get calls by people who have projects too small for us to take on. We usually pass them on to our friends, who happen to be our best freelancers. So consider the outsource thing from a networking standpoint.

Totally agree with you…if you have a website, you’ll find that you’ll occassionally be contacted by potential clients with a product that you just don’t feel is viable. In that case, I’ll be honest with them and suggest they do further research.

It’s also quite hard sometimes to get a factory (I get so many enquiries asking for factories), I try my utmost to not take the client on until we have sorted out a factory for them. If they have no funding, or they don’t seem to be completely sure how they are going to market the product, I tell them to do some research and get the funding before they come back to me. It’s easy to say yes to every project that comes along, but it’s not a good idea to do so. If you can have the same passion for the project that your client has and really believe in that project, I really do think you’ll do a much better job.

Edited to add: over the years, we’ve adapted our website again and again to better educate and answer the questions that we get most often. I found that time and time again I was getting similar enquiries. I’ve noticed since we changed our approach, we get far less of these types of enquiries, people do seem to read our content, when they contact us, they are much clearer abut their requirements.

Dear Yo, Can you forward the 75% of the rejections for my freelancing purposes??? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll do the previous guy one better and give you 5% commission on successful rejects that end up hiring me. Haha! Kick backs!

Either have prior experience, killer skills, business sense and be flexible to be successful. That and promoting yourself and work via contacts, website, etc. My 2cents

Is it possible to get hired for freelance even if you don’t have your degree yet?

Absolutely, just make sure you really know what you’re doing. You’ll be more successful as a freelancer if you’ve worked someplace professionally and really know what quality standards you have to have. It’s a different world when you get out of school. But just like what’s frequently said, it’s about the portfolio and your ability to market yourself among other traits. Good luck.

As I have children that are not yet in school full-time (pre-K / elem school age), I prefer to work free-lance (mech. design eng.) as I can spend time with my children when I am not working on a project. You only get this time once in your life.

Fortunately, my wife has a great income working part-time and can work more if needed. By doing freelance work, I am never bored as when I worked full-time for a previous employer, and can pick my own projects. I am also fortunate to know an industrial designer that does excellent hand-sketches, and I can model it in either SolidWorks or Pro-E (whichever the client uses) as I have a license of each CAD software, which is expensive to maintain.

On the downside, some businesses will not let me in the door to introduce myself if they work with a recruiter, or a larger design firm. Smaller businesses are more open-minded as I prefer to work from home, but attend design reviews in person if the company is local.

Some of the businesses that have needed my services maybe designing injection-molded plastics for the first time, and the in-house engineers lack the experience to design / model these products. If I need advice, I always know where to find a local ID person who does freelance work as well.

Hopefully, I will develop a product in the next few years where I can earn royalties, or market the product myself. I am in the process of getting advice on how to do this as have a network of contract manufacturers (U.S. based) that have a previous working relationship. With the economy and cost of shipping, I think it makes more since to manufacturer is the U.S. than China. I also suspect that my more balanced business & personal outlook come from the influence of my Native American Indian side (although it could be Caucasian as well) and my knowledge of history.

In case you are wondering, I consider myself to be a independent center-right moderate (neither Republican nor Democrat), and the economy is a priority in the election, especially for small business owners. Hopefully, I am not getting to ‘mavericky’ (just kidding!) in this discussion.