I know, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The idea of no longer needing to specialize in one area of the technology field is boggling to some and very natural to others, but it is a truth: being a freelance designer means bringing a deck of professional skills to the table.
- Focus On the Basic Principles: Working for web or print output, packaging or UI design means using the same basic design principles of color, typography, and grids. Spend some time developing a strong portfolio in several output options that show you have the creativity and experience to tackle a full project.
- Follow Trends: Your client knows what they want based on what is coolest right now. So know what is coolest and how to create it.
- Make Every Piece Count: Yes, you’ve got to get a start somewhere and yes, it’s tempting (and almost involuntary) to take every project that comes your way. Don’t. Every single piece that you create, even the most basic logo design, have to be prime examples of your very best work. This is much more important when starting out than you would think. Unfortunately it can hurt the wallet in the beginning but it will pay off financially, emotionally, and professionally in the long run.
- Keep a Specialization: Build your reputation on a specialized area that you can consistently deliver. In the end it is your reputation that will bring clients back to you with more ideas and future projects.
- Balance it Out: Don’t spend so much time learning new technologies, languages, and techniques that you let your work lag. People are getting to know you. Don’t let them down by not producing work in at least two areas of commerce (Etsy, DeviantArt, and Stock Distribution sites are great starter choices) while you buff up your portfolio with pieces that really make you shine.
Taking this route does take more time to achieve a point of success you’re happy with. My very best advice: if you’re even considering this path, get started now. Don’t wait – make up projects to work on. Pretend a massive company has hired you and create every piece of material they might need designed. Then, do it again.