Getting Started In Freelance Design On A Budget
Making money online has gotten tougher in recent years. Google has made it so that only large websites with tons of backlinks and long, high-quality content typically rank well in the most competitive niches. Unless you are already established, it’s a lot of work to make money with blogs and websites.
But there’s one easy way to take advantage of the current climate, and that is to offer your services as a freelance designer!
Offering services is a great way to make money without having to compete with millions of other websites in a single market, and without having to spend huge amounts of money on ads. In fact, you don’t need a single penny to get started as long as you already have a computer, internet connection, and some basic design software. (Even if you don’t, there are workarounds.
For example, you can rent a pretty decent laptop or desktop computer from a place like Aaron’s, use free internet at a library or coffee shop, and rent software through Adobe Creative Cloud for a few bucks per month.) You don’t even have to have great design skills. It’s possible to make decent money as a designer with little to no existing skill.
Just watch a few tutorial videos on YouTube, and you’ll be creating basic graphics in no time! You can always move into more complex designs as your skills progress. Trust me it's allot different than when I got started back in the days of working with film and having to burn your color into the prints... Fun times, (really showing my age here, I mean experience, lol).
Meanwhile, back to the point at hand... Are you ready to learn how to make money as a designer? Let’s begin.
Before you can make money as a freelance designer, there are a few things you must have. If you’re reading this, you probably already have all of these, or at least most of them. If not, we’ll talk about a few ways to get what you need without spending thousands of dollars upfront.
Here’s what you need, at minimum:
1. A Decent Computer – You can’t get away with using a computer with very low specs, unfortunately. Today’s graphics software packages all use considerable resources, so using a 10-year-old laptop with 4 GB of RAM just isn’t going to work. You are going to want to look into something with at least 8GB of RAM and a decent graphics processor.
2. Decent Internet – Again, you can’t use really slow internet an expect to do well. Graphic files are often quite large, and a very slow connection is going to frustrate you very quickly. You need at least a 3 Mbps connection to be productive, but more is obviously better. But often that's all you can get on a public connection or even a cellular hotspot.
3. Design Software – Adobe Photoshop is highly recommended, as there is more support in the form of tutorials, add-ons, etc. The only downside to this is the subscription that you will have to pay for monthly. There are other options out there depending on if you are using Windows or Mac, but Photoshop is the industry standard.
So what if you’re missing part of these things? Let’s talk about some of the ways you can get access to the things you need to get started.
It’s imperative to have a decent computer if you want to design graphics, because most software packages used by designers require a lot of system resources to function properly. You’ll need a decent processor, at least 8 GB of memory, and a good graphics card, at minimum.
It’s also helpful to have a larger hard drive, as the files you’ll need to store on it will often be quite large. However, you can get around this requirement by either using an external hard drive to store a lot of your files, or using cloud storage like Dropbox. Getting a decent computer doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending hundreds of dollars upfront.
A lot of people can’t afford to buy a new computer outright. Financing is probably your best option, but keep in mind that if you don’t have great credit, you’ll end up paying a lot more for your computer, because interest charges on options that don’t require good credit are usually very high. A lot of places will help you finance a computer without great credit.
Here are a few places to consider:
Not everyone has access to fast internet where they live. There are still a lot of dead zones in the world, and sometimes it’s just not affordable to have internet, even if it is accessible where you live. Fast internet can often cost $100 per month, or more, and if there are no affordable options where you live, you may think you can’t make money as a freelancer.
Fortunately, there are some options available to you even if you don’t live in an area with access to fast, affordable internet. The first option is using mobile internet. If you have a cellphone, you may be able to use it as a personal hotspot in order to access the internet from your computer. You simply log into the hotspot as you would WiFi, or connect via Bluetooth.
Sometimes you can even connect to your phone’s hotspot by plugging your phone into your computer. If you don’t have a phone that has a hotspot feature, you may be able to get a dedicated hotspot device through your cellphone carrier. Many carriers offer these small devices, and you can often connect several devices to a single hotspot. Of course, you’ll have to be careful about how much bandwidth you use, as mobile bandwidth is often quite expensive, and even “unlimited” plans are never truly unlimited.
The second option is to use the internet at a place like a local college, library, coffee shop, or restaurant. Many places have free WiFi these days, although some do require a small purchase to be able to use it. Even very rural areas usually have some kind of free internet option.
Okay, software is a bit trickier, because aside from theft (which I obviously do NOT condone), there’s no way to really get the type of software you need for free. You could try to get by using free alternatives, but keep in mind that there won’t be as much support for free software. If you look for tutorials and add-ons, there just isn’t likely to be anywhere near the variety you’d find for software like Adobe Photoshop.
If you insist on using free software, I recommend GIMP:
If you’re looking for power and support, Photoshop is the way to go. Fortunately, you no longer have to shell out hundreds of dollars upfront to buy the software. You can simply get onto a monthly plan through the Adobe Creative Cloud program.
Yes, it’s still relatively pricey, but for software this powerful and with the potential to make you as much money as this one, it’s well worth it. You can get Photoshop (with Lightroom) for $9.99 per month, or you can pay $49.99 per month to get all 20+ Adobe apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premier Pro and more.
There are also other options out there that I personally haven't explored that much because I am stuck on the Adobe products, also still using Mojave on my Mac because I am still running the last box version of the Adobe suite, lol. From my research and sources, I have been told that Afinity Photo and their Designer programs are the most comparable to Photoshop and Illustrator, and from what I have seen in the documentation, looks like a good alternative. Also if you are on Mac, you can look into Pixelmator and Pixelmator Pro. I have seen those in action and they are pretty solid Photoshop alternatives. All of these options are one time payments in the Mac app store or on their websites.
Wrapping It Up
So to wrap it up, becoming a freelance designer is not an expensive business to get started in. It just takes some creative thinking and the ability to learn some new things. If you already have a creative mindset, or you are a current artist needing to rethink your work and business in this new digital age, then you might want to take up graphic design! All it takes is some research and some education and you can be on your way to making money online helping build brands and styling businesses!
After you acquire your gear and you start to feel comfortable with your work, you should look into building a website to show off your portfolio! It's okay if you don't have much of one, yet, you can build it over time. I suggest making a bunch of demo pieces to display in a gallery. Once you establish yourself you can start using platforms like Fiverr.com and Upwork.com to advertise your services and score some clients, but that will be for another article...
Good luck in your ventures!
Featured Image downloaded free from pixabay.com
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