How I Make a Living as a Freelance Graphic Designer

How I Make a Living as a Freelance Graphic Designer


– Today, I want to talk
about how I make a living as a freelance graphic designer. (relaxing music) There are two different ways that I’m able to make a living as a
freelance graphic designer. One, with client work, and two, with passive income. So let’s start with client work. Last year, client work made up about 61% of my annual income. I am a freelance graphic designer that specializes in T-shirt design, mainly for the music industry. That’s what I love to do
most for my day-to-day, and, on occasion, I
sometimes design logos. But that’s how I make
the bulk of my income. I specialize on T-shirt design and I brand myself entirely around that. So the first two words you
see when you go to my website are T-shirt design. I don’t build websites, I’m not going to design
your business card, but I will design your T-shirt. And because I focus my brand around this and it’s the only work that
I show in my portfolio, that’s how I’m able to
attract those type of clients. And the cool thing is I get to work with clients from all over the world. Sometimes I’m working
with merchandise companies or just individually with like an artist. I gather as much info as I can
from a client on their needs and then I just go to work trying to make the best design ultimately for their audience, something that I know that
they’re going to want to buy and love to wear. Although the majority of my
time is spent on client work, it’s not always reliable,
and that was especially when I was starting out with freelancing, and that’s why it’s important that I have to diversify my income and bring in money from
different income streams. Which brings me to number
two, passive income. This is income that I make
on the side of client work. And in most cases, it’s
something that I make once and then get paid for from then on. To give you an example, there is a website called Creative Market, and I have a shop on there, where I sell resources for creatives, like texture packs and T-shirt mockups. You may have seen a couple
of videos of mine where I’m actually showing the process of how I made those products, where I’m laying out
T-shirts, photographing them, putting them on the computer, and creating the product where you
can put your T-shirt, or your design onto the
T-shirt realistically, or rolling out the ink by hand, scanning it on the computer, and making brushes and that sort of stuff. Those products were something
that I made originally for me to personally use in my
freelance design work. But I know that there
are designers out there that could find those resources useful. So I took what I had already made and just took a few
days to package them up as sort of an official product. So now, every month, I get
money from those sales, and that’s sort of a forever
thing, which is really awesome and really helps with that cash flow. So, you know, if client
work ever goes slow, I have something coming in. And the same concept applies for if you want to teach and do courses, or you want to write like an ebook, or make and sell physical products. I also have a shop off my website where I
sell physical products, but I make little to no money off of it. It was kind of an experiment to gain experience on making a product by hand, producing it,
and then shipping it around the world. So I have a couple products,
they don’t make me any money. It was just really cool to make, and it’s really awesome to
sort of connect with people kind of by hand, because,
you know, I’m hand packaging all these products by hand any time an order does
come in, very rarely. But if you want to check that out, it’s just off my website
or I’ll leave a link in the description below. So client work is my priority, and it will be for years to come. It’s what I love to do most, and I get to work on some
of the coolest projects that I couldn’t have never
have imagined working on. But these side projects are kind of like a breath of fresh air. It’s a way where I can
creatively challenge myself in ways that sometimes
the client work doesn’t. It’s always interesting
to see how creatives make extra money. You could be selling prints, teaching, selling courses. You can have an Etsy shop. There’s just so many ways
that you can make extra money. So if you’re a freelancer
and you make money aside from your main services
or working with clients, I’d love to know what else you do. Leave a comment below. Or if you’re not freelancing or doing any sort of
passive income projects, I’d love to know maybe
what your future plans are, or maybe where you’d like to be one day. Hopefully, you found
this video interesting, maybe even a little motivating, getting those juices flowing and ideas going for what maybe you can do with your creative skills. If you liked the video,
give it a thumbs up and consider subscribing. It’s completely free and it’s a way that you can make
sure to not miss my next video. Thank you for taking the time
out of your day to watch, now let’s get back to work.


100 thoughts on “How I Make a Living as a Freelance Graphic Designer

  1. Good stuff, Brent. Sound advice and ideas for anyone on the never-ending roller coaster ride. There is so much for new freelancer's to learn, absorb, and most importantly, PRACTICE! (Ok, total hypocrite here). I don't remember if you have or not, but maybe pop out a video with some of your favorite or most effective go-to's for more sound advice. Doing good there in Ohio!

  2. hi.. i m also learning graphic designing from net.. and want to make career in this field..can you plz say how can i increase my skills and potential in this field so that i can work as a freelancer in future.. thanks..

  3. Hey Brent, I just discovered you channel and really enjoy your vids. As a fellow designer I am always looking for passive income streams to add to client work. But I'm always a bit hesitant to invest a bunch of time into a market place without knowing what I could expect to earn in return and the ones I have tried weren't really worth the effort in the end. Do you mind sharing what I could expect to earn selling designs through Creative Market? Thanks in advance!

  4. I'm stuck at an Office supply store FULL TIME (Print Supervisor, so I make what I need). I'm pregnant so risk are not a thing right now. I really don't want to be there but my new family needs to eat and stuff… I went to a community college for graphic design but wasn't focused. It's been a year, how do I get focused now??

  5. Very interesting and helpful, I finished my studies but still haven't decided on what to specialize on. How can I come around this issue? How do I choose what to specialize on?

  6. I make my living mostly with client work designing 3D models that are made into coins, belt buckles, medallions etc. I also do some photography for text books, and illustration for text books.

  7. Great video! I am a designer with a day job that I loathe. I am currently working hard on my 2 etsy shops but I have been getting sales is drop in the bucket amounts. I want to do design freelance but one of the biggest things I lack as a designer is confidence and as a designer you have to have confidence and be able to sale yourself and your skills. I also enter surface pattern design contests on printedvillage.com I'd really love to be a freelance surface pattern designer…I tried to get a portfolio together on instagram and Behance but it's been frustrating uploading my work on there…

  8. Awesome I am a freelance artist with client work as well maybe some of my clients can work done by you and vise versa let me know

  9. Hello Brent,
    Nice to meet you. I want to be a T-shirt Designer. It would be great pleasure if you can help me in this process.

  10. Very interesting video! Just a question but how do the clients find your work? I guess maybe google SEO gets you the most exposure? Word of mouth? Would be interesting to know πŸ™‚

  11. Great video! I have a question, do you need a certain degree in order to be a Freelancer? I'm doing a Graphic Design diploma course in an accredited school. Do you think this will be enough, or it needs to be higher than that?

  12. brilliant video, really gave me an insight into the freelance world. just a question, on creative market do you do the illustrating and designs for the t-shirts and once uploaded will they do the rest (printing, shipping?) bit like redbubble?

  13. best youtube recommendation ever, of all time. that's what the algorithm is supposed to do. πŸ™‚

  14. What would you say is your annual yearly income, and how do you get started in this graphic design business

  15. Hi! I want to make a career out of graphic design. Therefore, I am aware that I will need to make a passive income. So I want to implement my designs onto clothing apparel (hats, shirts, sweater, etc.), onto canvases, and others. I really have cool designs that I have not publish.

    Do you have any idea how I can get started once I set up a shop section on my website soon? Do you work with a embroidery company (or a print store) or do you do it all of it yourself?

  16. can I get your email address sir.
    I wanna sir a freelance logos and t shirts design, but dont know how and where to start from.

  17. I jumped into graphics design out of pure luck, a friend liked my photoshop skills and asked me if i would like to use them for a t-shirt design. i was amazed at the opportunity and said yes. here is where the question leads, What are some programs beside photoshop that i should learn for graphic design?
    by the way, amazing video

  18. Great Video, I love when people share their knowledge and experience with the rest of the world! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ THANK you!

  19. Hey, that's a cool video and it come to me just in the right time… I've just started as freelancer and I do greeting cards and T-Shirt designs (as you) I love photography and I am uploading photos there… I also opened an Etsy shop for digital prints. I love hand drawing and hand lettering and there is my focus. I am preparing coloring pages and coloring book (all digital)

  20. Looking to start putting some products up on Creative Market, cool to see you document so much in this and other videos – keep it up! πŸ‘Š

  21. I first went to school 30 years ago when everything was done by hand! (can you imagine!) But unable to find a job I had to go right back to the restaurant biz to make a living so I could raise 3 kids! I was forced to retire and go on disability a couple years ago (too many back traumas and neuropathy, diabetic nerve pain ) So I went back to school (online) and learned the new techniques (Photoshop etc) and would love to be a freelancer! I've always wanted to be one but couldn't because of bills etc….

  22. so how can i participate on your business experience sharing if you are interested please help me graphic designer business online jobs!

  23. It's very motivating to keep me continue in cretive field. As everyone know creative field is very tough and must be very very hardworking especially freelancer. Keep going make great motivating videos!!!

  24. Do you have any thoughts or experience on using Corel Draw? I'm spending alot of time learning this program and wondering if I will eventually have to switch over to another one.

  25. Hello Brent, My name is Roger. I am just getting into graphic design. I really am looking to make this my career. I am looking for a mentor of sorts, someone I can just email once in a while with some questions and things. Is there anyway you can shoot me an email? [email protected]

  26. It should be said that Creative Market will not let you sell unless you meet certain requirements.

    Like having sold products before.

    So I have no idea how he got on there short of having stuff to submit beforehand

  27. Thanks for sharing this! You seem extremely passionate about what do you, super inspiring. You're getting me motivated to develop some resources for Creative Market.

  28. I have so many ideas as a c
    Designer and creator of vehicles and products but idk where to start .. and ideas πŸ’‘???

  29. Thanks for the video πŸ™‚ I made the mistake of favoring client based projects over passive income.

    I've also been freelancing since 2011~ Looks like I'm resigning this month.

    May dabble or come back to it later. Anyway, to answer your question: I've been taking general creative work (graphics, art game assets) and selling virtual world content on the side. o/

  30. you are just like me but a style and interest and i have a full time job as a CG my job didnt get me a chance to do what i like and saleable stuff 90% of the time is licensed photoghraphy and sale sale sale >:O and i have to create a work just for sold for a 25 CENT!!!
    thanks btw i subbed ;D

  31. Your video is extremely encouraging to me. I'm giving the passive income thing another roll this year. I half heartedly tried before, and am running into the same problem again : Where the heck do I start? What do I make that isn't already out there a million times over?
    And you answered both of those questions – sell things that I've made for myself to use! Thanks for the insight <3

  32. Hey there!! I'm a freelancer in Brazil and i'm getting my first regular client now and making my way to a second. They normally ask for newsletter for their business and some art for their websites. Something easy for designers with a little experience. God help me get better on incoming clients! hugs from Brazil.

  33. I'm a freelance WordPress developer and I sell vintage hats on Etsy! Find me there under the shop /thediplohats. Get it??

  34. Wow you're excellent in how you market yourself. Do you have and advice for those who never use social media accounts, how they can market themselves using social media. I going to school to become a graphic designer, but once I finish school I would be at at dead end and I wouldn't know where or how to get my name out there so people can know me. I'm the introvert type of person but I don't mind talking to people.

  35. I ended up in software development. The money is good. But I resent that designers are not paid as much. I want to quit and go back to design because that's what I studied and that's what I like. Programmers are stupid. I can say this, because I know for a fact they are all blind and ignorant about design. They couldn't design anything to save their life and they are so arrogant! They look at designers as pixel pushing pimps. I graduated 5 years ago from an art school (studied web design) feel like I came from a magnificent world of beauty and refinement and parachuted into a hellish warzone where design is an after thought to patch ugly software and web applications. Just enough to get the product to sell. It's always what the client wants even if it's ugly as Hell and completely vandalizes a strong cohesive piece. There is no regard for design except the bottom line. I hate it. I don't regret learning Ruby on Rails or C, or Perl, or big frameworks, but the ignorance in the tech industry towards design is awful. Maybe it's where I live. I don't know. I just hope I can get back to design and make it pay just as well. And because I started as a designer, engineers have always looked down on me as some kind of second class programmer. Well, maybe I didn't study computer science, but I can build anything digital from start to finish with everything in between. My point is, good design is hard work and companies do not respect the amount of time and effort it takes to make a solid design, but they will give the engineers all year to screw around with shoddy software and 'bug fixes'. Oh, refactoring is part of programming. But if you refine your designs, that's seen as a waste of company time. God, I hate programming. Sure, I've made the 6 figure salary, but this sucks. I've spent 5 years learning how not to suck as a programmer because my first design jobs were merely low wage pixel pushing wastes of time. I resent the fact that these jobs have stolen all my time that I could have become a better designer. I haven't made one single digital product or 1 single dollar from a web app or site, because of this stupid allure of a high salary coding that takes all my time to keep up. I want to design again. Rant over.

  36. I REALLY NEED THIS VIDEO :'( THANK YOU SO MUCH!i used too work in a creative agency , and i really love it! the flow and the environment great, but i don't like going anywhere.And then i moved to a corporate where the opportunity really good,but goddamn the treatment i get,so i'm thinking to resign from my corporate work. I feel bad as i always jump into work and the to another work, and another work. i'm so grateful i still have my freelance work all of this time,but again it's not always thereee , and i want to figure how to make it / survive.

  37. I'm glad this came in my recommendation and you earned a sub. I just started my full time freelancing career as designer and having troubles about where to get started. Thanks for this video. It was really helpful. πŸ™‚

  38. I'm an In House designer but I know I can make additional money by doing side work. Thanks a lot! Subbed πŸ™‚

  39. I'm here cause I've been selling vector work for years and now things are naturally moving forward, it's time to take those steps for me. something I've been striving for since adolescence. damn

  40. im a fresh psychology graduate, who decided to go and apply for a job as a graphic designer. in which i got really interested in the course of my college years (i did pubmats for my organization, and i really enjoyed it even at times its stressful). hence i am now an intern for a company (which i will be a regular on october), handling the product labels and layouts for social media and marketing. however, i do not want to be stuck on that phase. i want to specialize branding and illustration but i dont know how to start. im not even sure if im getting enough experience or lessons from my current company. i dont have the experience and knowledge to be a graphic designer

  41. Great video Brent. I am a freelance Graphic Designer with only one real client. I work full-time in a completely different area, but I would love to design and sell tshirts for a living. I was wondering if you can recommend a reliable t-shirt brand selling plain t-shirts in bulk. Thank you in advance and keep up the great work.

  42. My (near) future (working on at the moment) is to develop more my skills in graphic design and be able to quit my 9-5. I have many high dreams but for now, just being able to quit the 9-5 will be a dream come true for me. Currently progressing more my GD skills and I have some ideas. Thanks for the videos. Videos like these give me so much hope and positivity!

  43. Great video…I am also a freelance graphic designer but since lately I have been struggling to get new clients…. What must I do to change my fortunes

  44. Hello, I wonder if are doing freelance work now? I need better thumbnails for my channel here and I am not good in design. Also, if you do, please let me know your fees. Thanks.

  45. I've been volunteering my time to learn more graphic designing skills at a church. Currently, I have a lot of designs I've created. How can I make a website to market my designs so I can be a freelance graphic designer? I don't know how to make a website on my own through coding because I'm not that great at coding, but what do I use?

    I'm really eager to start this. I'm dreading my dead end warehouse job and I really want to start doing something I love. I need change already.

  46. If you sold t shirt design, can you put that design in your portfolio? Do you have to mention it in the contract? Some case, the buyer claim that the design they buy, cannot be used by anyone (including you as designer even in your portfolios). Thx for reply

  47. I'm glad to find someone struggling to sell themselves like me… I thought I'm stupid and ignored lol (I also sell products in my website… ZERO SUCCESS). It's amazing how by simply being honest and sharing we find out we're not alone!

  48. this T-shirt designer,vector specialist and texture abuser are inside of graphics designer or its separate

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