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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Being A Freelance Graphic Designer Could Hurt Your Business


Do you call yourself a freelance graphic designer? Freelance web designer? Or freelance web developer? If you do I suggest you stop right now. I could be hurting your business.

Let me share an email conversation (names withheld) I had with a potential client before the holidays…


As you may or may not know, (graphic designer’s name) is undergoing surgery in January and will be off for 3 months. I would like to know if you are available to cover for him while he’s away.

To which I replied,

Thank you for thinking of me. I hope all goes well with (graphic designer)’s surgery. Due to the nature of my business and my commitment to my clients I wouldn’t be able to take leave for 3 months.

I do however know a graphic designer that would be perfect for you to contact. She is from this area but has spent the last few years working in Montreal. She recently moved back to town and contacted me to let me know she was looking for work. Here is a link to her resume website with all her contact info.

To my surprise, this is the reply I got.

Thank you Mark, for your prompt reply. I fully understand that you could not abandon your business for 3 months.

Thank you for the tip on (designer’s name). I looked over her resume, and although she looks to have the qualifications we need, she calls herself a freelance graphic designer. I’m looking for someone who takes the job more seriously than that.


I couldn’t believe what I read. This woman was perfect for the job but he wouldn’t consider her because she called herself a freelance graphic designer.

What is a freelance graphic designer?

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of a freelancer is: A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization. This person pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.

Isn’t that what we are? The answer is yes. Unfortunately the word freelance has a stigma that makes it an unfavourable word for potential graphic design clients to accept. Some businesses even have a not freelancer policy when it comes to hiring contractors.

Freelancers are often seen as being rebels, risky, lazy, overly proud and hard to get along with. Some potential clients even associate the term freelancer with amateur. Something you don’t want associated with your business.

Being a freelance graphic designer means you are replaceable. You are one in a long list of graphic designers a company could turn to in a pinch for a quick one time job.

Why do we burden ourselves with this title?

There was a time when being a freelancer was something exotic, mysterious even. When working for yourself was something that set you apart from the masses. But nowadays, more and more people are going into business for themselves and the novelty has worn off.

There are many professions that follow the same format that we graphic designers do but don’t use the term freelancer. Can you imagine trusting your money to a freelance financial planner? Would you trust your locks to a freelance hair stylist? I didn’t think so.

What should you call yourself?

When someone asks you what you do, just tell them. You are a graphic designer, a web designer, a web developer or whatever it may be. If they are interested they will ask who you work for. At which time you can explain that you run your own design business. As a graphic design business owner you can explain how you help your clients find solutions to problems they face, which justifies the amount you charge.

By stating you are a business owner you are giving yourself instant credibility and proof that you take what you do seriously. It also establishes you as a professional.

No matter how you refer to yourself, your livelihood doesn’t depend on how you see yourself, but on how your graphic design clients see you and your work. So don’t be afraid to tell people you are a graphic designer and a business owner.

Just leave the “freelance” part out of it.

I would love your comments

How do you refer to yourself? Leave a comment below.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn’t easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I’ll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com