How to get freelance work

I have a regular job at the moment and was wondering how do you guys find freelance work? I would like to build a new portfolio since all I have is work i did while at college and it isn’t helping me get a design job.Ive realized this is the only way for me to gain experience since I was unable to grab an internship due to not enough process work in portfolio (files were destoryed =[ ) I have read that most of you are contacted about doing work, but what about a Joe Blow like me? I would love to use my education in one way or another before the creativity fizzles away. Ive tried to produce my own product but found that the costs were going to be more than expected so I was forced to abandon it since I am in enough debt as it is thanks to college. So where do I go to find me some design work to freelance? Ive look online for explanations, but no help. I would love to hear how it is done from a professional stand point. Thanks for the advice.

A creative type asking how to find freelance work… come on son, use your head!

  • Build a decent portfolio of work based on a broad criteria so you can swap bits and pieces in and out depending on what the company does that you’re going to hit up.

  • Put a website together

  • get a business card done

  • Put together a list of companies

  • hit the phone ; get names and contact details of the person who would be in charge of overseeing freelancers

  • Phone that person, send that person an e-mail with an attached pdf of your work that isn’t 10mb in size

  • Follow up a few days after to make sure they got your e-mail

  • Say you’d like to swing by and show them your more extensive portfolio

  • Sit and wait

  • Refine your portfolio as you wait

  • Repeat the above until you get something.

You can also start a page on Coroflot. I’ve directly hired freelancers from there. I don’t believe it costs anything.

I just graduated from college and was never taught anything about freelancing, or anything work related to be honest. We just were assigned work to do and that was it. When I questioned the head of the ID department, i was told that we were responsible for that stuff on our own and that the teachers were there to help us with questions on our projects or questions on techniques. I just figured there was a certain process to go through. I have no experience in what goes on at a real firm due to no experience. I don’t know how to work with manufacturers or customers, again because Ive never had the experience to do so.
I have a portfolio up on coroflot but it seems it is being browsed over i guess. Dont have much to show.

A better question is, what do hiring managers look for in portfolio when it comes to hiring. Is it based on how the person thinks as a designer, or is it just for their 3D/sketching abilities. My education directed more as a thinker than a top notch sketching and Cad artist. I am trying to build a new portfolio of my up to date skills and just need to put together some projects so I can achieve my dream of being a designer. Help me please =[ Thanks for your advice people.

Thinkers are great, but design is about thinking and doing. Mdesigner posted in another thread how to get an ID job. On the cusp of it its actually quite a simple process, you show your best work and how you got there.

I would question what you aim to acheive from freelancing with the self confessed lack of any real world experience. I would personally recommend playing the long game and interning somewhere first. Even if you intern for nothing and have to work weekend 9-5 crappy job to keep your head above water, you will need to get some expereince under your belt before freelancing their is a big difference in what goes on in education and the real world… Thats just my personal opinion. However this can be diseraged to an extent if your just doing visulations etc…

Post your portfolio up here for feedback and best of luck!

When looking for a designer, its basically subjective. A company generally has an idea of what they are looking for, and seeks out the best fit. The key word is looking. This is a visual proffesion. It is also competitive. You may need some additional work on sketching, CAD and rendering in order to be considered. While the ideas are the most important part, you have to take into consideration that there are many other people out there that also have great ideas, but they have additional skill sets that compliment those ideas. You should constantly aspire to become a one man wrecking machine of product development. Practice your sketching, learn more software and do your best to blur the line between design and engineering.

Also, while you are building your ever-evolving portfolio, you should consider designing and creating some physical prototypes. There are many companies in this country that specialize in rapid prototyping (SLR’s for example). For a cost of a few hundred dollars, you can create a cell phone body, a computer mouse, a coffee cup etc. This can give you a leg up in my opinion. Showing off a few physical models is impressive because it shows a potential employer that you can create something out of nothing, and creating something out of nothing is a pretty basic requirement for a designer.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

LOL, I needed that.

With a few minor variations, the process loafer described was exactly how I got freelance work. I was kind of desperate at the time, since I had just been laid off, and I wound up freelancing for several companies without ever meeting anyone in person. One of the jobs turned into a long term relationship, and even then, I didn’t meet my client until several months into the arrangement - which is still ongoing. At the time, it felt a little like Charlie’s Angels, although now it seems completely normal :slight_smile:

What I did differently, because it made sense for my situation, was to focus my portfolio very narrowly on the particular industry in which I was looking for work - in my case, giftware. Then on my website I included example of the other kinds if work I did. And my initial contact wasn’t through email either. I made a nice presentation of my work (including resume) in Illustrator - meaning it included photos, illustrations, graphics and some minimal text, kind of like a catalog. It was maybe 10-12 pages long, and included completed projects as well as proposals. I then printed it all out and put it in one of those clear acetate binders with the plastic spines. I put that in a folder with along with a business card and cover letter. I think I sent out about seven of them. That may not sound like many, but I was extremely targeted in my company selection (ie, do your research).

I’ve found that many people in management (at least in the giftware industry) still aren’t as comfortable on computers as you and I are, and it’s much easier and more enjoyable for them to look at and pass around printed information. Plus they are bombarded with emails all day long anyway between sales, internal office stuff and factories. Something printed on paper stands out, especially if it’s nice looking.

Which brings me to my recommendation, which I can’t stress enough: whether paper or digital, make sure every minute detail of your presentation is considered, all the way down to exterior envelope itself. Treat it like a graphic design project, which is actually kind of fun, because you have complete control - get some nice vellum or glossy white folders, stand-out paperclips (or whatever), and make sure all the graphics work together (layouts, letterhead, business cards, fonts, etc). It doesn’t need to be expensive, just well thought out. And don’t just stuff it in a manilla envelope and scrawl the address on it. Think about how you yourself feel when you receive something fancy in the mail (kinda makes you feel important, no?).

The presentation of your work is as important (if not more important!) than the work itself. Remember, you’re now a design “company”, and you want the people who hire your services to feel like they’re purchasing something valuable.

Good luck!

Thanks for the replies!

You make it sound so simple but it hasnt been for me. I have tried interning but no luck. I had an interview for an internship which was unpaid, and was turned down. At that point I knew I had to put a whole new portfolio together, I mean being turned down from an unpaid internship was a real jab at the heart. I figure I am definitely going to have to work that crappy 9-5 and enhance my skills and portfolio to get an real design job. I just figured freelance work would help me with the portfolio and my bills. Also my portfolio only consist of glamor shots of finished projects since I unfortunately lost process data in an accident that destroyed my laptop and a removable hard drive that was attached at the time that had my mockups and sketches in it :frowning:

Ive have seen many designers with incredible sketching/modeling abilities but dull or innovative designs. I figured I would stand out a lot more if I can think and solve better than a majority of designers. Everything I have designed has been built as a prototype. We rarely did 3D modeling so I would say that is my weakest area. What software would you say is essential for modeling. I have Solidworks and Rhino so far. I looked at Autodesk Alias and it looked pretty solid, would that be a better 3D program to focus on? Thanks for the encouraging information!

… thanks for the words of wisdom

Thanks for sharing the first person experience of how you obtained work. I was thinking about doing this beforehand but I thought that it would be very costly and wouldnt be looked at since email is so much easier and cheaper. What I had planned was creating a brochure and handing them local small businesses. Since these smaller businesses cant really afford to hire a firm for their design needs, i figured that going for someone like me, which would be a cheaper alternative would be an opportunity for me to gain experience. I was also thinking of hitting local stores and trying to get small projects whether it be graphic design type of work, or designing and installing the interior of the store (would I would love to do). Im just not sure whether I should do this and gain some experience or create my own projects and resurrect my portfolio…?

Thanks again to everyone who is trying to help, it is appreciated dearly

Thanks dude, I’ve recently been thrust into the freelance world and seeing this no-brainer stuff is a good jolt back out of the “oh i’m depressed” box into the “here’s the problem, now let’s solve it!” mode.

For the Original Poster: The only thing I can add, don’t get depressed or give up. Just don’t. That’s the sure fire way to fail. It’s hard, really hard to stay positive when your meeting with rejection turn after turn. But clients/employers don’t want a negative person. They want someone who will add value to their company/product. So keep focusing on what you bring to the table, what will benefit the client.

Then generate more to show! A good designer is always producing, whether working or not. If you see a hole in your portfolio, then fill it with something that shows how good you are, and what sorts of projects you’d like to be working on. Personal project, pro bono, competition, alternate version of a previous project, etc.

Hitch is absolutely right. I’m always adding.

It’s probably a good idea to enjoy looking for work because as a freelancer you never really stop. The moment you rest on your laurels and get complacent about the clients you have is the moment the flame burns out… contacting and then picking up work from new clients is a big buzz for me, getting praise for work after that then drives me over the edge :wink:

That’s really why I love freelancing, you get your kicks from different areas of business that maybe you wouldn’t be exposed to if you worked for someone else.


Hell yeah, freelancing or working in an atmosphere that exposes you to a broad range of clients is pretty awesome because you get to research all kinds of industries and brands. In a given year I might have 25-30 projects of different sizes, levels and industry. I know way more about supercoliders, avocados, blood science, and sewage waste treatment filters than anyone I know.

I’d echo most of the advice in this thread, especially loafer’s. And I might take up cdaisy’s idea about getting some RP’s done for giggles. In regards to coming up with your own portfolio projects it is good to take on projects that are about things you’re interested in, but also take on projects for products that you aren’t interested in or know little about. The reason I say this is that i’ve seen a fair amount of portfolios where the student has centered all of their projects around their personal interests and they become more about “this is what I like” rather than this is how I take a problem and design a solution. So if you find yourself putting together your own projects pick an industry outside your comfort zone and take a run at it.


I would go insane if I had to work for the same brand/product category all the time - when I was an employee, I’d last two years max with a brand. Now I don’t get bored anymore. My idea of hell would be working for Apple. :laughing:

Absolutely. I just finished a rendering job for a client of mine. Not something I usually get involved in but I was quiet and thought it would be fun. It was for a website for well known soap brand and I had to put together a series of renderings of the interior of a trendy condo. Was a quick job but it was good because it pushed my interior rendering skills a bit more than my usual work would do. So I got to expand my knowledge somewhat… and I got paid for it :wink:

The whole world should be freelance!


LOL! “This Seriously” was meant for someone else, who must have deleted their post!