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Career Advice

7 Steps to Setting up a Freelance Design Business

  1. Setup Costs

You could be mistaken for thinking as long as you have a copy of Adobe Creative Suite and a laptop you are ready to start your business.

However there many other start-up costs you need to think of such as;

  • A domain name
  • Web hosting
  • Building your website
  • Business insurances
  • Printing business cards
  • An accountant

To name a few… It would be safe to assume your planning and budget skills are going to start to be tested!

  1. Brand yourself

So what are you going to call your business? You could use your name and use the phrase “design services” afterwards, or you may decide to get creative and think of a brand name that is less out of the box.

Either way, make sure you don’t get too carried away and check your name is available at Companies House by using the online name checker. It could be rather frustrating if you pick a name of which you couldn’t use if you decide to incorporate your company. Even if you choose to trade as a sole trader you might still want to reserve your name at Companies House.


  1. Sole Trader or Limited

Deciding how your company is going to trade, arguably is even more important than branding your company. The last thing you want to do is setup your company in the incorrect way.

It is advisable to have a conversation with an accountant to help navigate you through the minefield of legislation when setting up a company but also to ensure you are planning to operate in the most tax efficient way possible.

The general rule of thumb is if you expect your profits to exceed £25,000 in a 12 month period that it would be more tax efficient to set up a limited company. Though there are many advantages and disadvantages of both trading as a sole trader or through a limited company, you really do need to get advice on this before you go any further.

  1. Online Presence

As mentioned earlier you will need to budget building a website either yourself or by using an external agency.

Your website will be there to shout about you and your services and is likely to be seen by many of your potential clients. We’ve all seen those visually stunning websites designers have with jammed packed portfolios of the work they have completed.

If you do find that your portfolio is looking a little blank, this may be the time to do a little bit of free work. Ringing up local charities and schools is likely to yield a few pieces of work, and also it will help you be involved in the community.

Once you have established your business, you can update your portfolio to reflect the work you are more likely to do.

Don’t forget to fill your website up with call to actions and perhaps even consider offering a discount code for their first project with you.

online presence

  1. Setting your rates

Understandably research is critical for this debate, as the last thing you want to do is work for peanuts or straight away price yourself out of the market.

The simplest way is to speak to online communities of freelance designers, who will be able to give you an idea of how much they charge for a piece of work or their hourly/daily rate.

Or you could calculate how much you need to take home in the year before tax, divide the figure by the number of weeks you plan to work and lastly divide it by the number of days you would like to work. Not only will this give you an idea of how much you could charge it will give you an idea of how much you need to earn to keep your business afloat.

A handy tip is to install an app called Toggl; this allows you to setup a time for each project so you know exactly how long it took, and can see how accurately you have estimated your time.

  1. Marketing your business

There was a day when no one had even heard of the iPod and then suddenly overnight everyone knew what it was and wanted one, well that was because of some excellent marketing.

Understandably if no one knows your business exists you will not be able to sell to anyone. You are likely to be offered advice by many individuals and companies on the way, just make sure it is advice you believe could result in clients and you’re just doing it because a marketer has told you to do it.

The best marketing is often free, so you do not need a huge budget. That piece of work you did for free for the local school could result in one of the parents asking you to work on a lucrative project for them. Or you could just stand outside of a busy office block with a sign saying “Free Advice” with a handful of business cards, curiosity will get to many and they will want to know what you are offering advice on.

  1. Learn, Learn and Learn

So your business is setting to pick up traction, and you’re slowly building a base of loyal customers. You could be mistaken to think this time to start slowing down.

In all honesty, this is just the beginning, make sure you sign up to online communities, so the challenges you face can be solved with others, if you feel confident writing, start writing articles for specialist websites online and most importantly never stop evolving your skills.

This guest post and content was provided by Jessica Vella-Bone, the Digital Marketing Manager at  Orange Genie, who provide Umbrella and Limited services to contractors and freelancers.



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