Career Growth / Freelance Career

How to become a freelance graphic designer in India: The ultimate guide

. 12 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
How to become a freelance graphic designer in India: The ultimate guide

“There are three responses to a piece of design — yes, no, and WOW!” – Milton Glaser

Becoming a freelance graphic designer, honestly, is no easy job. There are multiple things to consider. However, if you have the will to design and the talent to follow through, you are halfway there. We have the ultimate freelance graphic designer guide for everything you need to know about becoming a freelance graphic designer in India.

We’ve put together everything you need to know about freelancing as a graphic designer in this freelance graphic designer guide to help you navigate this career and understand its various aspects concerning starting out and earning as a freelance graphic designer in India.

To provide you with in-depth insights about freelance graphic design, we have helpful, real-life tips from fellow freelancers and experts Ava Marolia and Creative Stree.

Ava Marolia is a freelance graphic designer and brand consultant. Creative Stree a graphic design agency to give you an idea of making it as a freelance graphic designer in India.

Who is a freelance graphic designer?

Freelance graphic designer meaning

A freelance graphic designer is their own boss! They work with clients separately and produce creative designs using various tools tailored to suit the client's requirements. Their work might include creating logos, designs, assembling graphics and so on.

They work independently and are directly paid by the clients for their work.

What does a freelance graphic designer do?

A graphic designer visually communicates the message of a project by using images, symbols and colours. No business in the world works without visual communication - logos, business cards, promotional materials, etc. This makes graphic designing one of the most sought-after jobs. The responsibilities of a freelance graphic designer might include various types of work.

  • Graphic designers are responsible for creating a visual identity for the brand. This includes creating the logo, business cards, brochures, and more.
  • Graphic designers also work on images used for social media and design web and print advertisements.
  • Some graphic designers also excel in creating websites using Adobe Muse or customising a WordPress website template.

While some companies have an in-house designer, plenty of freelance designers work on a per-project basis.

What are the various types of freelance graphic designers?

We've narrowed down the list to eight types of graphic designers for this freelance graphic designer guide and the kind of work they do.

If you're working with a digital client, you may also be required to know about web design and be fluent in programming languages like HTML and CSS and web design content management system platforms like WordPress.

Freelance visual identity graphic designers must know all types of graphic design to create suitable designs across all visual media.

Freelance marketing and advertising graphic designers work closely with the company owner, director or manager to create assets for the company's marketing strategies. Examples of the kind of work they would do include designing advertisements and making infographics, banners and images for websites and blogs.

Freelance user interface (UI) graphic designers specialise in creating designs for websites, apps and games. They work closely with UX (user experience) designers and UI developers.

Freelance publication graphic designers work with editors and publishers to create layouts using photos, graphics and illustrations. They often create newsletters, magazines and newspaper images, pages and catalogues.

Freelance packaging graphic designers create concepts and develop mock-ups for a product. They require an understanding of industrial design and manufacturing.

Freelance motion graphic designers are relatively new and work with television, films, and sometimes digital platforms. They create animated logos, trailers, promotional videos, video games and GIFs.

Freelance environmental graphic designers use a visual medium to connect people with places and help improve their overall experience. Some examples would include public murals, museum exhibitions and office branding.

While illustrators are not the same as graphic designers, one person can do both. Some examples of graphic design illustrators would include designing T-shirts, patterns for textiles, graphic novels, album art and infographics.

What kind of education and skills does it take to become a freelance graphic designer?

Before becoming a freelance graphic designer, you may or may not want to be institutionally trained. While both are equally viable options and don't affect a freelance career in negative ways, it is crucial to know the details for each of the scenarios.

What are the best colleges to learn graphic design before becoming a freelance graphic designer?

  • NID (National Institute of Design), Ahmedabad
  • IDC, IIT Bombay
  • Pearl Academy (Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur)
  • NIFT, Delhi
  • MAEER’S MIT Institute of Design, Pune
The average full-time fee charged for the course in India ranges between INR 30,000 to INR 3.1 lakhs.

If you already hold a degree and would like to brush up on your knowledge, get your hands on these books:

What skills do you need to be a freelance graphic designer?

Graphic designers have to master various forms of technology. They have to be comfortable using Quark, InDesign, and Adobe design software.

If you're working with a digital client, you may also be required to know about web design and be fluent in programming languages like HTML and CSS and web design content management system platforms like WordPress.

How to become a freelance graphic designer without a degree or experience

Becoming a freelance graphic designer does not necessarily mean that you come in with a lot of experience or a degree. You need to love the arts and be willing to learn constantly. You need to familiarise yourself with the tools you might need for your work. While you don't require a college degree to become a graphic designer, you can learn the skills either in college or via online courses on websites that teach graphic design like Coursera, Skillshare and Udemy.

How much can you make as a freelance graphic designer in India?

Freelance graphic designer salary

While an exact figure depends on the project you are working on, your skillset, and the relationship you have (or would like to build) with the client, freelance graphic designer salaries can be anywhere around ₹15,000 to ₹50,000 per month. It varies depending on the type of freelance design work you do.

Freelance graphic designer salary per hour

According to a survey by Payscale, the average hourly pay for freelance graphic designers in India is ₹296.

Pointers to remember while deciding how much to charge as a freelance graphic designer

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind when establishing your prices after becoming a freelance graphic designer:

  • Realistically, set your prices as per what you feel your skills and talent are worth. You put in the work, so you know the best rate to charge for it.
  • Create a list of services you offer and put a price point for each. For example, if a client has six months' worth of projects compared to a single project, you can reduce the rate a bit.
  • Create a budget that illustrates how much money you need to earn per month to pay all your expenses (including buying software).
  • Talk to fellow freelancers and see how much they charge. You can also check this on sites like Upwork or Elance.
  • Keep track of the time you spend on projects. The more time you spend, the more you should charge.
  • You can offer discounts to recurring clients, friends or family to maintain relationships.

Useful articles on freelance careers

How to start working as a freelance graphic designer in India

Define your niche

Like most careers, finding your niche is the stepping stone to a career in graphic design. There are various types of graphic designers; you cannot be an expert in everything. Find what you love doing best, and become a pro at it. From logo design to production design to working with a media house, defining your area of expertise will not just help you get clarity on the kind of clients you need to approach but will help you explain your services to prospective clients and justify your rates.

Promote your freelance graphic design business

There are a lot of freelance graphic designers out there, and to stand out from the crowd, as a beginner freelance graphic designer, you need to market yourself and your work as a brand in itself. Use social media and online portfolio sites to put your work out there, and get your clients to write testimonials for you which you can then display to make sure your work is remembered.

Remember, your portfolio reflects the kind of work you can do, so make it perfect.

You can either build a website from scratch or use websites to create an impressive freelance graphic design portfolio for your business. Some popular portfolio building websites are:

Work on building connections

To find freelance graphic design work, you'll need to network extensively. The downside of freelancing is that you have to dedicate time to looking for clients and marketing yourself rather than simply designing and showcasing your talent. Whether you're just starting out or an established freelancer, keep a day aside every two weeks to get in touch with new clients, touch base with old ones and generally ask if anyone has any project for you to work on.

Add networking to your schedule, and attend offline events and conferences to meet people and increase your contacts.

Also, join online communities and Facebook groups to showcase your work and find more projects.

You can also follow some of the biggest and best graphic designers in the industry to get some inspiration. Check out their social media profiles and see the content they share; they will often also post job openings that you should watch out for.

You can also follow some of the biggest and best graphic designers in the industry to get some inspiration. Check out their social media profiles and see the kind of content they share; they will often also post job openings that you should watch out for.

Don’t be afraid to collaborate

What do you do when you get a project but can't take it on? Do you refer it to a friend or acquaintance, or do you say yes to the project for fear of losing out on the contact or future work?

Yes, having your contacts is a big win-win in freelancing, but that doesn't mean you can't partner with other talented freelancers. It will help you improve your skillset and help you get bigger projects in the future.

Maintain work-life balance

There'll be days when you have no work, and there will be days when you have too much work, and you'll want to say no to projects. The main thing here is to find the right balance. Do not take up new jobs because it comes your way. Analyse each project in terms of the money you are getting paid and the kind of hard work and time you need to put in. Make sure each new project you take on fits in with your current routine and doesn't leave you feeling overworked or unvalued.

Taking on too many projects can also lead to career burnout. So make sure you do as much work as possible but within reason.

Make sure you get paid

Many freelancers end up getting cheated because the field of freelancing is unstructured, and not every client is willing to sign a contract. Here are some things you can do before taking on a project to ensure that you get paid on time.

If the client refuses to sign a contract, ensure that you put your terms in writing via email and get approval from the client before you start working.

  • Include details about the workflow
  • Talk about charging extra for reworks (we recommend doing two changes for free and then setting a small fee for each change)
  • Talk about intellectual property rights
  • Talk about payment terms and late payment fee

Set up your workplace

As a freelance graphic designer, apart from needing a space to work at home, you'll also need to buy certain tools to get you started. The most obvious tool you need is a computer. If you're just starting out, don't go for brands. Buy a basic computer that will let you work with ease and has adequate RAM (around 1GB). Upgrade to a better machine once you start earning.

Software like the Adobe Creative Suite can be a bit pricey but think of it as an investment in your career.

Do I need a license to become a freelance graphic designer?

If you're a beginner freelance graphic designer, you're not required to register as a proprietorship or company. You can go on to work as an individual and quote your PAN number for taxation purposes as long as your annual income from freelancing does not exceed 20L per annum. TDS (Tax deducted at source) will be processed on your PAN card and will reflect on your income tax.

If you're starting out as a freelancer, you do not need to have any license if you earn less than 20L per annum. But it's always beneficial to register as a basic proprietorship.

To learn more about tax (GST), registration, contracts, and payments related to freelancing, click here.

How to get freelance graphic design work

When you're starting out, your main priority is to build a portfolio that you can showcase to future clients.

Start with talking to your friends, family and acquaintances about your new role and how you are looking for work. Trust us, it's worth designing your annoying aunt's blog page as long as you can showcase this as your work on your portfolio.

You can also cold email the companies and clients you wish to work for, asking them if there's any upcoming project.

Here are some suggested online locations for you to secure a paying job opportunity or to sell your work:

You could also sign up at Kool Kanya Marketplace as a freelancer and sell your services to businesses in need; it's a curated marketplace of women freelancers.

How to get clients,  charge as a freelance graphic designer, and more

Experts Ava Marolia and Creative Stree answer some crucial questions to help you understand the various aspects of freelance graphic design.

How to find work as a freelance graphic designer

Ava says, "I browse through social media daily and email potential clients who have expressed their requirements on these platforms. Linkedin, Indiefolio, and Behance are great places to find work."

Creative Stree says, "Till now, I have found jobs through word of mouth or networking. When your work is good, people recommend you to various organisations. That helps a lot in finding jobs. Although I have done a lot of cold emailing with my designing portfolio attached, a designed resume helps grab attention."

How to showcase your work to potential clients

Ava says, "I have my website, which I update from time to time (earlier, I used Behance). When approaching clients, I tell them I have worked with people having similar requirements as theirs so that their trust in me is there. I show them my previous work so that they know what they should expect."

Creative Stree says, "I have created one portfolio website. And I also have a design portfolio with my best work. I also include my clients' names to focus on the work I have done."

How to charge for a project as a freelance graphic designer

Ava says, "I have a rate card kind of thing, but I write 'Rs. XXX/- onwards' as client requirements are never the same. I ask them about the requirements, and based on my rate card, I adjust the rates accordingly. While quoting, I include the cost of resources and tools, travel for the meetings and the cost of labour. A quotation is then made and sent to the potential client."

Creative Stree says, "I charge based on the client and their paying capacity. Cost of resources and tools are included, but travel for meetings is not included as we want the client to give us work."

How much do you earn as a freelance graphic designer in a month or a year?

Ava: “On average, I earn Rs 45-50,000 monthly.”

Creative Stree: “Around six lacs per annum.”

How do you ensure you don’t get cheated?

Ava says, "I check the background of the client before making any decision. Is it a valid company? Does it have a social media presence? How old is the company? Any nasty remarks about it?"

Creative Stree says, "I check the company's credibility online, check their website and social media profiles beforehand. Then I go to the meeting and take 50% amount in advance, which helps a lot. There are certain companies that I got through networking or mutual people; I feel more comfortable taking up their projects."

How do you deal with the instability of income and workflow? What do you do when you don’t get paid?

Ava says, "I maintain an emergency fund to stabilise. Until now, I have not faced any major issue of not getting paid."

Creative Stree says, "I have full-time office work to take care of when I don't have any freelance work. It has never happened to me that I didn't get paid. I keep in touch with the client. But if it ever happens, I think legal help won't work here. We have to call them continuously and ask them to clear the dues."

As a freelancer, how do you maintain work-life balance?

Ava says, "It's a tricky thing to do. I work on holidays and weekends too. I feel the work-life balance comes with time and experience. I'm still struggling with it."

Creative Stree says, "I work for 8 hours and then dedicate the rest of the time to my freelance work. I am working on making 'Creative Stree' a big brand in the industry of designing and social media marketing. My team and I are giving them extra hours for the work."

Any tips for beginner freelance graphic designers?

Ava says, "Don't be afraid to start small; just start! Hustle every day. Grind, and one day it will all pay off."

If you found this guide useful, you might want to check out these articles:

  • For information on how to become a freelance content writer in India, click here.
  • To know more about how to become a freelance photographer in India, click here.
  • If you wish to start out as a freelance baker in India, click here.
  • For information on how to become a freelance makeup artist in India, click here.

Research: Devika Awasthi

Additional contribution: Shayri Bhattacharya & Siddhesh Suman

We hope that this freelance graphic designer guide was helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment if you want us to add something else.

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