Could a Freelance Graphic-Design Career
Be Your Ticket to Financial Freedom?

Last month I gave you everything you need to know about becoming a freelance copywriter.

Today I want to build on that and introduce you to a related opportunity: freelance graphic design.

As with copywriting, learning how to design marketing and editorial pieces gives you two financially valuable opportunities:

  1. You can work as a freelance graphic designer in your spare time, or you can do it as a full-time career.
  2. If you’re already a copywriter, you can also do the design for your clients and charge up to 50% more for every promotion you write.

Either route gives you the freedom of working for yourself and total control over the money you make.

And if you don’t consider yourself an artist, that’s ok. That’s not really what being a graphic designer for the direct-response industry is all about …

What does a direct-response graphic designer do?

Every piece of mail you get … every ad you see in a newspaper or magazine … every newsletter you read … they were all created by a copywriter and a graphic designer.

Of course, the copywriter wrote the words. But the designer’s job was just as important …

You see, there’s a common misconception that a graphic designer’s job is simply to make things look pretty. However, that isn’t quite right.

As a graphic designer, your work plays a critical role in the success of each marketing piece. It’s your job to help capture the prospect’s attention and get him to read further. And then, once you’ve got him, making sure the copy is readable, and that the most important parts stand out.

Graphic design can have a huge impact on the success of a sales piece. A good design can boost response rates. And that means more money for the company.

So it’s easy to see why a freelance graphic designer gets paid so well …

How much can a freelance graphic designer make?

It's no secret that copywriters earn higher-than-average salaries.

But what you may not know is that the people who do the graphic-design work for the direct-mail packages they write are paid very well, too … in fact, sometimes they’re paid even more than the copywriters!

As a freelance graphic designer, you can easily expect to make an average of $75 an hour … often more. Of course that hourly rate will increase as you get more experience, and you’re able to complete projects faster.

As a freelance graphic designer, you can also charge your clients by the project rather than by the hour, if you choose to do so. That way, the faster you get, the more money you can make!

Some designers work part-time hours and make a comfortable yearly income of $50K-$75K. Others work a little more and clear the six-figure mark. And those who are able to put in more time can make $200,000 a year or more.

But the freedom you gain is even better …

Take Angela Mayor, for example. She quit her job 8 years ago to become a freelance graphic designer. She charges $85 an hour and has all the business she can handle. In fact, her business is so profitable, she was able to put her husband through law school.

Sean Martin, another young freelancer, started out using Macintosh design software to create designs for screen-printed t-shirts. Creative? Yes. But not an easy way to get rich. Then he discovered he could make a lot more money doing desktop design for direct marketers. Today, Sean handles 5 to 15 jobs at any one time. And with an hourly rate of $75 an hour, he’s earning an income even a lawyer, doctor, or airline pilot might enjoy. (In his spare time, he plays in a steel drum band.)

Catherine O’Neill lives in rural Ireland. She works part-time from home for clients in Ireland as well as the U.S. She says, “I wake up whenever I feel like it. My office is a comfy overstuffed chair that sits right by my living room window. I work, overlooking my tulip and lily beds. I am reminded of my freedom every time the breeze blows through the window.” Catherine receives all of her work by fax and email. She cuts and pastes it on her computer and then changes it around to make it readable. Then she emails the completed job back to her client, “I start and finish each job,” she says, “without even leaving my room!”

Dave Robbins charges between $10,000 and $15,000 to design a single direct-mail package – and he has six major clients that give him all the work he needs or wants. He didn’t want to talk about exactly how much he earns … but, if he does only two direct-mail packages a month at $15,000 each, that’s a gross annual income of $360,000 a year. Dave did say this: “I think I have the best job in the world. I live where I want (rural Idaho), do what I want, have freedom and time to spend with my family … and am well paid for it.”

None of these people had any “formal” graphic-design training. Yet they’re making great incomes that give them the freedom they love.

What makes a good freelance graphic designer?

First, a willingness to learn is important. Although I guess that’s true with any freelance career.

Along with learning some simple design skills, you’ll want to stay abreast of new design ideas that are working for other companies in your industry.

Second, you need a good eye for readability. You’ll need to recognize what’s readable and what’s not, and how design causes a reader’s eye to move through a page. (Don’t worry – this is something you can easily learn!)

And finally, you need basic computer skills. If you can point and click a mouse in a program like Microsoft Word, you can learn to be a graphic designer.

So there you have it … a willingness to learn, a good eye (or the commitment to develop one), and basic computer skills. That’s about it!

What kind of clients will you work with?

As a freelance graphic designer, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients.

If you’re passionate about animals, you could design fundraising letters for your local humane society. Or you could design marketing materials for local vets.

If you love alternative health, you could design direct-mail packages for alternative health newsletters or for health-boosting supplements. Or you could design newsletters for acupuncturists or chiropractors in your area.

Or maybe you enjoy learning how to better yourself. You could design the programs and marketing materials for self-improvement gurus like meditation expert Dr. Deepak Chopra or time-management expert Stephen Covey.

Get the idea? As a freelance graphic designer you’ll have the freedom to work in the industries you love the most.

How do you start a freelance graphic-design career?

You don’t need a degree, certificate, or previous design experience.

Because most of the “learning” involves looking at both good and bad examples of design and deciding which is which.

AWAI offers a program called Graphic Design Success that gives you all the tools you need to learn how to layout and design direct-mail pieces.

If you can point and click a mouse … you have all the qualifications you need to become a graphic designer.

You don’t need any artistic talent or ability to start out. In fact, you don’t even have to be able to draw a straight line.

Direct-marketing graphic design is a little-known segment of the graphic arts market that happens to be the easiest.

By the time you finish this program, you’ll have real-world techniques you can use to design almost any project that comes your way.

Best of all, you’ll know more about good direct-marketing design than 99% of the other freelance graphic designers out there.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 2.6
Published: May 5, 2009

1 Response to “Could a Freelance Graphic-Design Career Be Your Ticket to Financial Freedom?”

  1. Well if there happen to be any freelance designer's out there, I'm in a steel drum band and looking to get some designs for our gear. Comment, and I should be able to get you the details quickly!

    Guest (Thiago daLuz)March 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm


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