August 1, 2021

10 Ways to improve your freelance design services

Kei Maye

Impostor syndrome going to town on you? Feeling as though you're unsure how to bump up the quality of your freelance design services? Just want to brush up on delivery?

Well look no further, dear creators - here are 10 ways to improve your services and become an even better designer.

1. Have a solid working process.

Sorting out a process - or a project journey -  shall we say, can have a significantly positive impact on any outcomes you produce.

Without a process, you may find it easier to get side-tracked, confused or absolutely hammered with brain fog - making it damn near impossible to give maximum effort at every stage.

Outlining a process to the client can also be reassuring as they know what to expect and when (makes you look hella organised too.)

An example of a design process could go a little something like this:

  • Discovery session
  • Research/concept feedback
  • Ideation
  • Feedback
  • Second draft
  • Feedback
  • Final result

This may differ from designer to designer, some may choose to have less revisions, others more - but either way, in order to keep things flowing as steadily as possible and maximise the quality you provide to clients, you are going to need to create a solid working process and share this with the client in the contract.

This way, everyone knows where their eggs are scrambled.

2. Learn all about semiotics

First of all, what the hell is that when it's at home?

Semiotics refers to the ability to use signs, symbols, copy and colour to convey messages and affect consumer behaviour & emotion.

Think about how certain colours make people feel, how they make you feel, what different typography styles represent, how certain visual styles make people feel etc...

Understanding the connection between the visual and the psychological can be an absolute game-changer - design serves as a way to bring the best of both of these world together, so if you're cracking the code...this makes way for some solid work that genuinely has potential to solve problems for your client.

3. Become besties with colour theory

This is key.

Colour plays a huge part in representing and conveying messages.

Learning as much as you can about the connection between human behaviours and colour will equip you with the tools to create even more impactful and valuable designs.

Colours come with their own set of moods and associations. They have the ability to trigger certain emotions whether we may realise it or not. These can vary from person to person, but there are some undeniably universal themes.

It's important to give thought to this when selecting colours as they can help to strengthen the impact of the end result as it plays a part in communicating messages to the audience.

It can be tempting to bung colours together because they look good, or they may be faves, but in order to maximise the effectiveness of your designs, you will need to consider the associations of the colours you choose.

4. Find your inner Dexter

Experiment and experiment some more.

When you have free moments (and energy to spare) try out different creative things like flexing your drawing muscles or farting around with that software you've been avoiding.

Taking pictures, learning about lighting, collage making, pattern creating - just getting lost in something is not only fun, but can strengthen your creative skills as a bonus.

Creating and doing things for the heck of it without turning it into a grind or some sort of 'side hustle' can be an amazing thing. Yes you're doing it for fun and not necessarily for gain, but you may be quietly armouring yourself with an additional set of skills you may have not had before.

5. Learn about scale, ratio and proportion

Yeah this all sounds a little boring and formal, but these three serve as some of the most crucial components of design across the board.

These can make or break the structure objects, attract or divert attention and make all the difference between a successful design and a poorly constructed one.

Scale refers to the size of objects - helpful to learn when required to create logos or branding marks as you want to produce something that can be scaled up or down on different mediums without it going to hell.

Ratio knowledge will help you learn how to lay different elements in a space in a harmonious and eye-pleasing way.

Proportions refer to the sizes of different objects in relation to one another.  Helpful to know when trying to draw attention to particular aspects of your design.

Learning about 'The Golden Ratio' is a great place to get started.

6. Become a problem solver

As much as we would all love to just create and be done with it, we all know this is not the case.

Designers are primarily hired to create visual solutions to solve problems, as that is one of the biggest core functions at the heart of a design project.

However, in order to create eye-pleasing designs that are actually valuable and informed, you may find it helpful to learn about - and then incorporate - elements of conceptualisation, strategy and understanding of consumer behaviour.

In order to troubleshoot, we need to know what the problems are first of all. Then, once we've got those all fired up, we need to figure out how we can go about providing a visual answer to said problems. There has to be some awareness of semiotics (as mentioned above) and consumer behaviour in order to connect those dots.

7. Find out what the clients problem(s) are.

Organising discovery sessions with potential clients is essential to the success of a design project. These are needed to define their problems, goals and to set the tone for the entire project. If you don't know what the problem is in the first place, how will you be able to create something valuable to the client?

It's also a great way to assess whether or not the project is right for you too.

8. Keep accessibility at the forefront

Making your designs as inclusive as possible is great practice as it means you're automatically (and rightfully)considering consumers with alternative needs or requirements. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (also known as WCAG 2.1) refers to a set standard of recommendations when creating accessible on the web.

Considering elements like text size for example, making sure that text isn't too small or hard to read. Or considering the contrast, how legible the text is against the background, is it hard to read?

If it seems like a lot to get your head around, this amazing free resource called Access Guide, provides you with a breakdown of tools and resources to help guide you along.

Click here to access...the access guide (ha.)

9. Keep an open line of communication

Host open sessions with your client, have dialogue. Open conversation may provide an even deeper insight into the client's mind - helping you create something even more valuable to the client.

You could do this by scheduling regular check-ins as part of your creative process (all while making sure firm boundaries are in place. No 12am calls thanks)

10. Put your well-being first

Your mental health is top dog. If the project doesn't sit right with you, if you feel like you're about to burn out, if you feel like you're confused about what you're doing - step back and strip.

Things won't go to Hades if you take the time away to tend to your needs first. You are a human being before you're a designer.

Carrying on when you're feeling overwhelmed or burned out will lead to poor quality work that won't make your clients feel good - and importantly, it won't make you feel good either.

Give yourself time to switch off so that when you're on - you can put your best foot forward.