Freelance digital design in Sydney – Review after my first year. A guide for Beginners

Is it possible to freelance full-time in digital design and have a consistent income? Can I balance my free time and workload in an efficient way by being my own boss? Is it too difficult to set up a profitable business in digital design starting from scratch? All of these were questions that came to mind before leaving my last full-time job in June 2019. In this post, I explain some details about my experience and the things I went through being an immigrant in Australia with not many contacts in the industry. I have included useful links, resources and some advice for beginners.

One year ago, I left my full-time job as a digital designer and eDM developer in a very well-known business in Australia after just over two years to embrace a new journey as a full-time Freelance Digital Designer. Like many employment decisions, I considered personal plans (long term overseas travel) and the motivation to face new professional challenges. I was also looking for more flexibility at work, change of routine, the chance to work with new people and get new design projects.

What did I consider before finish my full-time job?

  • A decent online portfolio: A few months before leaving my full-time job I redesigned my personal portfolio, including adding a new case studies section. I wanted to show more solid design projects rather than just fancy design shots. I just published four projects that I felt proud of, explaining the process behind the scenes, putting more focus on my soft skills, the specific problems I solved, and the results.
Look & feel of my website 2019.
  • Relevant contacts database: After every chat with an HR person or recruitment professional I always saved their contact details. I put together a simple spreadsheet/database including names, email, contact numbers and specific sector they were recruiting people for.
My contacts spreadsheet – Just 19 contacts at that time
  • Up-to-date LinkedIn profile and the CV aligned with my website’s look and feel: I watched a couple of YouTube recommendations about LinkedIn profiles and I made sure the information on my CV was updated with my latest professional experience. One of the things people miss in LinkedIn and it is very important is to change your availability to “Open for work”.

Two weeks after leaving my full-time job, I started a new role in another big business in Australia. Initially, it was a two-week gig and I ended up working there for five months. After this period, I still had a little gap before leaving overseas, and fortunately, I got another gig right away doing an android app interface project.

After my three month trip overseas and COVID19!

When I was overseas, I was still able to reply to all emails and checked the LinkedIn feed often. I even had an interview over the phone when I was in Patagonia! One of the most important things when working freelance is that you have to always reply to emails very regularly.

I came back at the beginning of March and I got another job quickly (after two weeks). After that, COVID19 happened and I was set up already to work freelance from home.

General tips I’ve learned on the journey so far :

  • Think more like a small business rather than just a designer offering freelance services. This means keeping track of your business growth and good records of your data.
  • There will be always somebody that will offer a cheaper quote than you on Fiverr,, Upwork, etc. I don’t really like these platforms. 

Good recruitment agencies for freelance work in Sydney:

Interesting Youtube Channels (Design & Business):

Good practices, things to do today!

  • Make a call if you are really interested in a job rather than sending an email.
  • Be fast in responding to emails and messages.
  • Look for the keywords like “immediate start” when searching for jobs on IndeedSeek, etc.
  • Register your business and get an ABN. This is super simple and will give you more structure as a business.
  • Get a template for your quotes and invoices.
  • Have a proactive attitude on LinkedIn. Do more than just comment “I am interested”. Connect with that person, send a private message and tell them why you are really interested in getting to know more about the role they’re offering. 
  • Apply for the job you like regardless of the number of applicants: sometimes it’s there is a huge number of applicants for freelance gigs but this does not really matter. 
  • Your hard work will be always rewarded: direct recommendations from colleagues is the easiest way to get your next freelance gig!
  • An online portfolio is a must.

Please reach out if you have any further questions or want just to say hi! 

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