Pros & Cons Of Graphic Design Self Employment

585 388 Derek Kimball

pros and cons

Are you thinking about ditching your day job and becoming a freelance designer? Here are some of the pros and cons worth considering before making the jump into self employment:

Pros/cons: You are your own boss

Be your own boss

Being able to set your own hours, work at your own pace, make creative decisions, and answer to no one but your clients, are all great benefits of being self employed.

However if you have a tough time with self motivation and staying organized, going solo is probably not for you. Some people simply work better under supervision. If you’re considering self employment make certain you are capable of handling these responsibilities on your own. Also consider the inconveniences of not receiving paid vacation time, retirement incentives or the more affordable health insurance rates that are available to those working in the corporate world.

Pros/cons: Work From Home

work from home

For many designers, the idea of working from home is the ultimate gig. Not having to deal with rush hour traffic, saving money on gas, no dress code, working at your own pace, and the ability to work in your own environment are all huge conveniences not found in a salary based design firm job.

The work at home setting is not for everyone though. If you’re extroverted and thrive from interaction with others, the self employment route is probably not for you. If you have kids or a loud household, you’ll have a tough time with distractions. Another possible downside of working from home is that it can sometimes be difficult separating work life from home life.

Pros/cons: Must Wear Many Hats

designer wearing many hats

Being a freelancer requires the wearing of many hats. If you enjoy learning new skills, putting in long work days and you view the organic process of creating a successful business from scratch as a welcome challenge…then being a freelancer may be for you.

If social media, marketing, building and maintaining a portfolio and website, blogging, customer interaction, creating contracts, organization, and bookkeeping are things you can’t see yourself doing, then being a freelancer may not be for you.

Pros/cons: Investment:

investments required of designers

For an independent designer to offer versatility, quality work, and a streamlined client experience, an investment into the proper tools is a must. These tools aren’t cheap. A fast computer can run into the thousands. Good commercial typefaces can cost hundreds. And lets not forget about printers, scanners, drawing tablets, cameras, professional monitor calibration devices, pantone swatch books, office supplies, external hard drives or online storage backup, etc.

The upside to all this is that you will be investing in yourself and the future of your business. While the growth process of any new venture is usually slow and organic, the ultimate reward (if enough hard work is invested) is your success as a self employed designer. Just don’t expect it to be easy.

Am I forgetting any important pros/cons? Please share by commenting below.


Derek Kimball

Thanks for reading my blog. If you're in need of graphic design services, you can hire me here. I specialize in logo creation and branding design. If you enjoy the articles on this site, please subscribe to my free newsletter where I share design resources, industry news, and tips from my experience being a freelancer. I promise to never bombard your inbox or share your email. Thanks!

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  • kristen

    I would like to start my own freelance business and I’m trying to figure out how to go about finding professional print shops and paper goods to use to produce the work
    . Do I send out bids and use their paper products or find my own paper products to give to the printers. Being a recent grad we never used professional print shops for projects.

  • DesignBuddy

    Hi Kristen. To answer your questions:

    In regards to finding good print shops to work with, it really comes down to trial and error. If you want to be more safe about it, try contacting designers local to you and ask them what print shops they use for local printing. Online reviews may be helpful as well.

    To be honest, I’ve found the majority of print shops to be uneducated in the areas of file preparation and communication. For example, I had one shop tell me they only accept “font flattened” eps files. They wouldn’t accept my vector based, print ready pdf with fonts embedded (which is just plain crazy). I eventually found a decent shop however, and use them for most of my local design printing.

    So find a print shop that doesn’t have stupid restrictions. Some cheap online printers will for example, only accept flattened jpg for printing (despite the loss of quality this causes to vector and type elements). These are lazy printers who don’t want to think. The result is a more streamlined print process for them, but a crappy print for you.

    I’ve found the best thing to do is to visit a print shop and ask for a tour. This will allow you to get a better idea of what digital and pre-press options you have. You will also be able to see how educated the staff are and how easy it will be to communicate with them.

    You also asked about sending out bids and paper products. I’m not really sure what you mean about sending out bids, but if you mean price shopping…yes, call around to random shops and ask them what pricing would be for certain print projects. In regards to what paper you should be printing on, that depends entirely on what you’re trying to achieve. Some papers absorb inks differently than others.

    Talk to your print shop, peruse the adobe forums, buy books on design printing, and read blogs on the subject. You will learn quickly enough. If you don’t quite feel confident with printing client projects yet, consider doing some self projects and having some of your personal graphic design work printed up. This will allow you to test the waters and be more sure when a client project comes along. Good luck.

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