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7 Tips for Freelance Graphic Designers

I can’t believe it has already been six months since launching Spruce Rd. in January! Seriously, time flies. I thought it would be fun to share my reflections from these past six months, and be transparent in what worked and didn’t work for my business. I posted about the lessons learned from my first month of freelancing, if you want to check that out as well!

Stay tuned at the end for a FREE bonus, the Freelance Blueprint. This blueprint is definitely something that I wish I had starting out, and it provides a few steps for your freelance career to keep you on track.

What worked

Attracting ideal clients

One of the main reasons I launched my own business was to work with clients that were a better fit with my vision. I desired to work one-on-one with clients, who valued the design process, and wanted quality design. I didn’t want my portfolio to be passively influenced by the projects that came my way, so instead I opted for tailoring my blog content and portfolio to my niche market. I am still working on defining this audience right now, but I would say they love good design, are passionate about their small business, and are eager to get noticed online!

I can’t tell you how great it felt to finally work with a client who fit this profile to a T. I am SO thankful for these wonderful clients, and the joy of being involved in launching their business, and bringing it to that next level.


I have been blown away by friendships I have formed online through my business. It really has been one of the best benefits of going out on my own, and was entirely unexpected. It was amazing that the first time I talked to another fellow designer on the phone, I left feeling energized and as if we were long-time friends. Since launching Spruce Rd., I can say I have truly gained friendships that have pushed me both creatively and in my business. I would bet that behind most successful entrepreneurs, there is a team of supporters + cheerleaders that propel them forward. I can say that has definitely been true for my business, and I am forever grateful for it.


Prior to going full time with Spruce Rd., I knew that prioritizing my blog was necessary to get my name out there. The blog has brought in the most traffic to my site, most of which has come from Pinterest. If I didn’t have a blog, it would be challenging to build my business online. If you don’t enjoy blogging, definitely don’t pursue it. It consumes a lot of time + energy, so it is important that it aligns with your vision and is something you enjoy. If I didn’t have a blog from the beginning, I would have pursued guest blogging, webinars, or other social media to put myself out there. I am thankful that my blog has brought me clients, and even facilitated collaborations with fellow designers!


On a seemingly boring note, I have not been stressed about bookkeeping! I know this is a hangup for many freelancers, and I decided early on that I would not let it deter me from pursuing my business. I hired an accountant from the get go, invested in an online bookkeeping system (Quickbooks), that makes my accountant’s life easy, and made sure I kept it updated every week.

Packaged Services

After spending multiple hours a week replying to inquiries with a custom proposal, I finally took the leap and started offering packaged services. Most of the inquiries were looking for similar services, so I created three tiers of branding packages. I even posted them online, which has saved me a ton of time! I no longer waste a potential client’s time in reaching out to me for a quote, and instead they can instantly view my prices and see if we are the right fit. I also spent too much time in the first couple months, emailing back and forth with potential clients, only to find out they weren’t sure what they were looking for. Posting my packaged services online has eliminated the email chains.

What I would change

Block out time for office hours

Since my husband is in grad school, his schedule is inconsistent between varied class times, and hours of studying. Because of this, I have guilt-free opted for a loose schedule. I worked-out mid day, worked a couple hours, took a break, worked into the night, etc. I had some structure to the day, but no specific set hours. Now that he is nearing the end of school and has a 9-5 field work schedule, I realized I need to stick to a schedule. I think a desire for a routine is innate in each of us, and I am realizing that more and more.

From now on, I plan to have set office hours, and structured daily blocks of time for blogging, bookkeeping, side projects, etc.

Start with a website template

Since launching in January 2015, my services have changed a bit. Initially, I thought I would offer only custom designed + built websites, and not offer theme customizations. Boy, was I wrong. I have designed a few sites before, but my role in the design did not involve the developer. After custom designing my site earlier this year, I learned that I honestly don’t enjoy designing for web that much. This came as a shock to me, since I really get jazzed about a great web design + UI. I learned that I don’t have to offer this service, and dread working on these projects. That is not good for either me or the client.

So, I took action and now only offer theme customizations. This is much more enjoyable for me to work in, and also it better fits my vision to serve small businesses. Website themes allow for an easier process to update the site on your own, should you need to add a page or change something. Win/win.

Since I only offer theme modifications now, if I could go back I would make my site a theme modification as well. Not that I don’t love my website (I do!), but it would better serve as an example to my clients.


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  1. MOna

    Jamie, again such an informative post. I love to read about other bloggers careers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and lessons learned. Although I am just starting out and far from calling my blog a biz it is so inspiring to see how other businesses flourish. I totally get what you mean with blocking office hours. As much as I would love to spend all my time working on my blog, unfortunately there are some other things to do… I am studying full-time, working on my thesis – and let’s be honest – have a social life. But as I love blogging so much, I have to be disciplined and treat it like a business.So I guess it’s fair to say you’ve inspired me to my new blogging resolution: Working 2-3 hours a day on my blog.
    Keep up the great work.
    x Mona

  2. Anais

    Interesting read! I’ve had a situation today that could use your advice 🙂 A client asked me who my printer is. I actually don’t want to share that information, but should I tell him? How do I handle this? Thank you !

    1. Jamie

      Hi Anais! I don’t mind sharing printer information, but I guess it depends on what your client needs from the printer!

      1. Anais

        Well, it’s a letterpress printer, and around here they are hard to find. To me it feels like finding a unique dress that you were looking for for a long time, and then your best friend asks you what brand it is and also gets the dress 😀 I’m not explaining it right I guess 😀 I don’t want him to tell ” Hey Anais, works with So-and-so, you should also do your printing with so-and-so”. I feel like it’s a little bit of a trade secret 🙂

        1. Jamie

          Ohhh gotcha, and I completely understand! You could just specify that you prefer to work directly with the printer, to ensure that you can keep an eye out on the quality. Phrase it in a way that seems like it is in the client’s best interest :).

          1. Anais

            😀 I’ll try to make it sound like I’m not totally avoiding his question 😉 Thanks so much for taking the time to give me advice ! Keep it up with the blog!

  3. Deana | Simple & Soulful

    Great post Jamie! I, too, loved hearing about your lessons. They’re so powerful and help us all:) Thing thing I’ve learned in my first year of business is that it’s okay to start small and raise your rates as your skills and ‘feel for things’ gets more solid. Also, I used to try to follow formulas. My business journey has taught me that I can trust myself and growth can be organic (and profitable:) Loving your content woman! xo

    1. Jamie

      Love your insights Deana! And that is SO true, your business growth should be organic, and doesn’t have to follow a formula. Thanks for popping by!

  4. Ciera

    I love hearing your process and progress Jamie! You seem to be really on top of everything, congrats on your first six months!

    1. Jamie

      Thanks so much Ciera!

  5. Monica Galvan

    I’d love to hear more about your experience with that ideal client! Congratulations, I’m sure it resulted in amazing design work 🙂
    I’d also love to hear more about the business side. For example, how did you choose your accountant? It’s one of those things I’m struggling with right now.

    1. Jamie

      Thanks Monica! My accountant is someone that a friend referred us to. I’ve heard great things about this lady too:

  6. Kercia

    This is so insightful and honest – thanks for sharing! I think creating and sticking to a schedule would be something that I would struggle with if I didn’t have it set before I started freelancing, but it’s so necessary for productivity.

    1. Jamie

      Hey there Kercia!! I definitely struggle with the schedule… but plan to work on it! I’m like you, and celebrated when I left the 9-5, and here I am craving that routine again 🙂

  7. Savanna

    It’s so impressive how far you’ve come in just six months! I launched roughly around the same time and you and I can say one thing I would change would be having my website fully coded and ready when I started. I believed that having an active blog was more important but I’ve realized now that without a beautiful, professional website for people to land on, having a blog doesn’t matter as much (at least as far as finding clients goes). I’m currently finishing up coding my website so super excited about that. Here’s to the next six months Jamie!

    1. Jamie

      Can’t wait to see your finished site Savanna! It is great that you didn’t let the website deter you from getting out there and creating great content. Better than not having an online existence at all!

  8. Megan Minns

    Love what you wrote here! I feel like these tips are SO valuable – even for those of us who aren’t yet full-time freelancers. I love what you wrote about web design and working off of templates. I experienced the exact same thing when I was doing web design. It felt like to make “the big bucks” I had to go fully custom – but I didn’t enjoy it!! Way too stressful! Thank you so much for sharing these insights! xo, Megan

    1. Jamie

      Yes! I honestly was turned off by templates, but now that I get to know my clients + readers better, I see them as a great resource for people who need to get up and running quickly, and the capability to maintain them on their own! Also: so stressful!

  9. meg

    I think the hardest part about going freelance is the pre-full-time, maybe that’s because it’s where I am in my career? The working a 40 hour job, and scraping to get clients in order to save enough to jump in the deep end. I think having a partner/roommate to share in some bills would help!

    1. Megan Minns

      Hi Meg, I’m right there with you! I’ve got a full-time job and my own business and it can be hard. Luckily, I do have a roommate (saving money rocks!) but there are still other aspects where side hustling can be a challenge. I actually am about to launch a side hustler community, if you’d like to join! It’ll have 24/7 live chat access to others who are hustling – it’ll be a great resource for how others balance it, what systems they use, and more! If that sounds interesting to you at all, sign up for the wait list here: — would love to get to know you better! 🙂 xo, Megan

    2. Jamie

      Hi Meg – I completely agree! Transitioning from your side business to full time is a huge undertaking, and a leap of faith! Thanks for chiming in Megan Minns! You should definitely check out her resources, this side-hustle transition is totally in her wheelhouse!

  10. Tenns

    Thanks so much for sharing Jamie! I love reading insight into how people’s business are going, there’s so much to learn.
    Although I’m a web developer, I ended up making s similar decision in terms of the services I now offer for branding and web design. Development takes a lot of time that with family and my business I just don’t have. Plus, I enjoy the branding process and actual design and customizations much better. I’m more interested in helping someone have a site that properly represents their brand then trying to build one from scratch. In addition, the turn around process is much faster meaning someone can get up and running much faster, rather than waiting on a completely custom design. I just had to make a decision that I was comfortable with and best for business, and that would allow me to provide the best product and service to my clients.

    1. Jamie

      Looks like you had a similar transition Tenns! I bet your development background really helps with theme customizations. You are totally right, custom web design takes forever, and I agree I want to make the client get up and running faster!

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