3 tips for launching your freelance design career

3 tips for launching your freelance design career

I recently visited the Melbourne studio of Emma Sjaan Beukers, a designer and illustrator who is inspired by nature, spirit, magic, mystery, folklore, and all the things that make your inner child jump for joy. After working for many years as an in-house designer for huge national brands, Emma took the plunge into the wonderful world of freelance design, where she now works on amazing projects across graphic design, book illustration, typography, product design, and much more.

I’ve been inspired by Emma’s vibrant and playful work for a long time and was so excited to profile her for Great Chats, my interview series with Adobe that profiles diverse creatives from this region and explores their thoughts on the future of technology in the creative space, and how they integrate Adobe tools into their workflows. In particular, I loved hearing about Emma’s journey to becoming a full time freelance designer. While everyone’s experience will be different, there are definitely some things to keep in mind that can make things easier as you embark on this exciting career journey. We’ve pulled together our best advice to help you on the way.

The maximalist art studio of designer Emma Sjaan Beukers, filled with books, trinkets, wall art and stationery

It’s all about the transition
So you’ve made the decision to become a freelance designer - congratulations! Like I said, it’s a wonderful world and I consider it to be an extremely rewarding career path. Now that you’ve decided, it can be quite tempting to make the switch immediately and just get stuck into it, but as both Emma and I have found, success really lies in the transition phase. When Emma made the shift to freelance design she had actually put the building blocks in place years before the actual switch occurred. While working as an in-house designer she honed her creative skills and used her time in the role to learn about time management, project management, client management and communication, so that when the time came to transition to full-time freelance, she already had the valuable skills that she would need to run her own business.

For me, the journey was quite similar. I made a financial plan to have a certain amount of income saved up before I made the switch, to ease the pressure once I no longer had my fortnightly paycheck coming in. I used my day job income to reach that savings goal. When the time came to go freelance, I could focus on creativity and building my brand and business, without worrying about where the money was coming from in those pivotal early months of my new career.
A table full of colourful digital art prints by designer Emma Sjaan Beukers
Build your community in advance
A crucial component of being a full time freelance designer is having a strong client base. Without a steady stream of clients, your business is going to struggle, especially in the early days. Emma and I are similar in that we both used the years leading up to going freelance to build our client list and community online. Emma started taking on freelance jobs while she was still working her in-house role, a decision that helped her build her portfolio, and make those important industry connections and relationships that formed a strong foundation for her to lean on when she transitioned to full-time freelance. When you already have a “day job”, you can be really selective and particular about the kinds of freelance work you take on in addition to your 9-5. You can be really strategic and pick the kinds of clients and projects you want to be hired for in future, and use them to curate a really well-rounded portfolio and client list that shows off a wide range of skills.

Alongside building my client base in a similar way, I used my time working a stable 9-5 to create lots of personal work, which I shared online to help build my community. When I finally went full-time with my freelance career, my audience was already committed, engaged, and ready to support me.
Graphic Designer and Illustrator Emma Sjaan Beukers stands in front of a colourful market stall filled with her design goods
Lean on the right tools
Another crucial component to launching your freelance design career successfully is ensuring you have the right tools to help you along the way. As freelance designers, we often have our fingers in many pies, having to take on multiple different roles in our businesses. I might find myself being a creative director, marketing manager, client liaison person, studio manager, bookkeeper, and administrator all in one day.

Because we’re relying on our creativity to fuel our freelance income, it’s really important that we prioritise it amongst the many responsibilities of running a business, especially in the early days where we are learning the ropes and trying to make it all work. It becomes about putting systems in place to work efficiently, leaving more time for creativity. Adobe Express is a perfect tool to help freelance designers streamline their marketing and design workflows. Here’s just some of the ways I’ve used it to benefit my business:

- As a “one-stop-shop” for my marketing (designing marketing assets, creating video content, making printable flyers, posters, and pamphlets, designing client pitch decks)
- As a scheduling tool for my social media content (by using the content scheduler to plan all my social promo using designs I made from within Express)
- As a way to ensure consistent branding across all my marketing. I use the brand tool to keep all my brand colours, fonts, logos, icons and graphics all in the one place so when I’m designing marketing collateral I can brand everything instantly with the click of a button

- For time-saving and consistency. I created a suite of templates for all my commonly needed marketing assets and can update them quickly for each new project while maintaining a strong and cohesive visual aesthetic

- For fast, imaginative ideas generation. I use the new generative AI tools like text-to-image in the concept phase of my projects to create amazing, out-of-the-box ideas for my client projects.
A colourful collection of kawaii stationery, arranged in various colourful cups and containers
Emma and I both made the switch to full time freelance with enthusiasm and excitement, knowing that we had put plans in place to ensure a strong foundation and easy transition. The same is possible for you, with a little ingenuity and prep work. By honoring yourself, your time, and your skills by giving yourself the best chance to succeed, you’ll set yourself up for an incredibly rewarding and empowering career ahead. Good luck!

Follow Emma and learn more about her work!
IG: @emmasjaanbeukers

And feel free to say hi and share your freelancing tips with me. You’ll find me at:
IG: @kitiyapalaskas

A hand holds up a phone with an Adobe Express template displayed on screen. In the background is a colourful art studio
Get creative!
Inspired to try Adobe Express for yourself?
Why not get started by customising this free social media template to help you attract new clients, designed just for you by Emma? Click through to access the template and remix it to make it your own, and share some fun facts about yourself with your audience. Don’t forget to tag @adobeexpress and @kitiyapalaskas so we can see what you create.

You can try Adobe Express for free here.

This blog post was created in partnership with Adobe Express and accompanies a video series called Great Chats, which profiles diverse creatives from this region and explores their thoughts on the future of technology in the creative space, and how they integrate Adobe tools into their workflows. In this series you’ll get to come along with me to their studios, meet the artists themselves, and hang out with us as I learn about their creative practices and what makes them tick. We’ll also have fun experimenting with Adobe Express and AI, and find out why these tools are so great to compliment our design work, enhance our creativity, and help run the professional side of our creative lives. Watch Great Chats on YouTube, and feel free to share an episode with a creative friend who might find it inspiring and useful. 


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