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Scaling your freelance graphic design business

by Hollie Arnett

In the later stages of your freelance business, once you’ve been underway for a few years, it will be time for you to scale your operations. This includes booking bigger and better clients, becoming a leader in your field, and starting to think about growing your team! 

Booking Bigger Clients

Niche your business

Once you have built and grown your business, it could be time to niche down. It might seem counterintuitive to niche smaller when you want to scale bigger, but niching makes scaling more achievable. By niching down, you become an expert in that area which makes it easier to design for those people as you already know all the ins and outs of their industry. It also makes you an expert in the eyes of your audience, which means you are more likely to be recommended as the go-to designer for that niche, as past clients know and refer you for being so knowledgeable. 

You can niche in a number of different ways, too. It doesn’t just have to be the clients you work for. Your niche could be: 

  • The industry you work for (ie. designer for wellness brands)
  • The price-bracket or business stage you work with (ie. designer for early-stage startups)
  • The skill you offer (ie. Webflow designer)
  • The style you work in (ie. 3D illustrator) 

Become an expert

If you’re looking to scale to bigger and better clients, they’re going to be looking for someone who knows their stuff. At those higher prices, they’re not looking for someone who can just execute the design, they’re looking for an expert who can offer expertise, consult on decisions, and guide the process with confidence. Creating content and showing up online in a way that establishes credibility and shows that you’re an expert is going to help land those bigger clients. So think about how you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and impress those dream clients.  

Use social proof

If most of your clients up until this point have been friends, family, or referrals from those people, they already know and trust you to do great work. But when you’re marketing yourself to others who are just hearing about you for the first time, they need to know that they can trust you. That’s where social proof comes in. Share testimonials from past clients, results from previous projects, screenshots of positive feedback, and reshare when a client mentions you online.  

Automating Your Processes

Create easy onboarding 

One of the best ways to scale your freelance design business is by automating parts of your process so that you can get back to what you do best: designing! Creating an automated, repeatable system for your onboarding process will make it faster, easier, and more hands-off for you to book and welcome clients. You can use software like Hnry for your invoicing, proposals, and contracts, as well as automation apps like Zapier to connect different tools together. For example, you could have an automation that sends a welcome email to your client once their contract has been signed.  

Streamline the design process

70% of freelancers manage two to four projects at once, so once you’ve onboarded clients, you want to streamline the actual design process too in order to make sure that you can easily manage all of your projects. You can use automation tools and purpose-built software to make the design and feedback process as streamlined and efficient as possible for both you and your clients. 

For example, with software like Figma, you can collaborate and communicate with your clients in the same software you design in, or you can use Adobe Creative Cloud to share Adobe documents with clients for them to comment on which you can see directly in your working file. Tools like this will help you scale your processes and ultimately, your business. 

Finish projects in style

The way that you onboard clients is important, but so is how you offboard them. When you’ve finished a project, find ways to make the process of delivering their assets and wrapping things up as easy and amazing as possible. What software could you use to seamlessly deliver assets? Could you send them guides or videos on how to implement their new assets? Maybe you could send them a gift or thank you note, or take them out for lunch to celebrate the project. First impressions matter, but last impressions are what people remember, so make it count!  

Growing Your Team

Outsource work

At some point as you grow and scale your business, you’re going to reach a point where you can’t do it all on your own. One of the first things you can do is outsource work to other designers. You could outsource some of your smaller jobs to a junior designer, for example. 

Collaborate with others

Another way to scale your capacity is by collaborating with other creatives to offer new or expanded services. For example, as a web designer, you could collaborate with illustrators, copywriters or developers. Together you can collaborate on a holistic process and split the payment between you.  

Hire your team

And last but not least, you could be ready to hire your own team. This could mean other designers, but could also include project managers, accountants, developers, and other roles that would support your business. Think about which roles you need first and will help you scale the most successfully. 

Whether you are starting, growing, or scaling your freelance design business, these tips will help you with where you’re at, and with getting to the next stage. Own where you are, take care with each step, and keep working towards the next stage! Read the full guide here.


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