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The freelance survival guide

Freelance life can be enormously rewarding, but it's not always easy. You have full freedom to choose everything from your clients to your working hours, but you're also responsible for everything else.

You're your own boss, and you can work from a coffee shop or even a beach if you want. In most cases, you can charge more. Sometimes a lot more. 

But to offset that, there's no holiday pay or sick pay. You have to bring in every bit of work yourself. And handle all that pesky admin too – like invoices and tax returns.

To help you out on this exciting, but also daunting, journey of independence, we've gathered together a collection of content to assist on everything from managing your finances to getting yourself out there.

So read on for our essential guide to how to succeed as a freelancer. If we haven't covered a particular burning question for you, fear not – we will continue to add to this collection with more invaluable freelance advice each month.

01. Business advice for freelancers

5 designer mistakes that drive clients mad (opens in new tab)
It takes time, skill and effort to build and maintain a strong, healthy client relationship. Getting it right is crucial, not just for the sake of the project you're working on, but to help ensure repeat work. It's a fine line to tread. Read on for five all-too-common mistakes that designers make that can drive clients mad – and more importantly, how to avoid them.

6 ways not to get hired as a designer (opens in new tab)
When you really, really want to win a certain client, it can make you do funny things. Counterproductive, self-sabotaging things. This post is here to help you identify the behaviours that put clients off, and put a stop to the madness.

6 ways to save money as a freelancer (opens in new tab)
Keep your finances under control with our expert advice on everything from budgeting and planning to watching your spending and staying on top of your taxes.

10 ways to be more business-savvy as a designer (opens in new tab)
Keep the practical side of your business running smoothly and give yourself more time to be creative, with advice for controlling your cashflow, getting to grips with contracts and copyright, managing your tax, VAT and more.

8 ways to make more money in 2018 (opens in new tab)
Want more cash? Here’s how to use your design skills to get it, by creating physical products, selling digital assets, writing about your specialism, teaching, or simply increasing your rates.

5 steps to upselling your freelance services (opens in new tab)
Follow these tips and get more work from existing design clients, by better understanding their business, learning how to sell the benefits of what you do, subcontracting where necessary, and neither under- nor over-selling yourself.

02. Self-promo advice for freelancers

9 great business cards for type and lettering designers (opens in new tab)
Typography and lettering experts show how a business card should be done. Featuring Jessica Hische, Happy Letters, Adam G, Sean Tulgetske, Sean McCabe, Studio Moross, Branding With Type, Andew Wolfenden and Erik Spiekermann.

10 graphic designer business cards you'll want to keep (opens in new tab)
Much of the work of graphic designers today exists only in pixel form. But that doesn’t mean the appeal of print design has gone away; quite the reverse. Here are 10 of our favourite business card designs for your inspiration...

03. Portfolio advice for freelancers

8 portfolio mistakes that drive clients mad (opens in new tab)
If you want to land your dream job in design, you need to drive potential clients wild with enthusiasm, not mad with rage. Here we outline eight portfolio pitfalls to avoid.

10 best portfolio templates for designers (opens in new tab)
Easily customise these pro-quality portfolio templates to make your work shine. Featuring 10 high-quality themes that are ideal for freelance designers, from Adobe Portfolio, Squarespace, Cargo Collective, Wix and Wordpress.

6 innovative ways to photograph your portfolio (opens in new tab)
Presentation is crucial in a design portfolio, and a beautifully art-directed approach can help you stand out from the crowd. We reveal six top designers who have nailed the art of shooting work for their portfolios...

6 rock-solid ways to improve your design portfolio (opens in new tab)
Get more freelance work or a better job by using these expert tips, including how to showcase your personality, describe your involvement in a project, empathise with your audience, edit ruthlessly, and be honest.

8 common portfolio mistakes (and how to fix them) (opens in new tab)
Avoid these common mistakes when touting for work, including lack of context; too much (or too little) work; addressing the wrong audience; lacking purpose; and being out of date.

8 great graphic design portfolio sites for 2018 (opens in new tab)
These top-class folio sites will inspire your own designs. Featuring Rafael Kfouri, Jennifer Heintz, Pavel Kedzich, Mat Weller, Ade Mills, Ben David Sandhu, Jean-Loïc Antunes and Alex Coven.

9 more brilliant freelance designer portfolios (opens in new tab)
More brilliant freelance portfolios to inspire you, including Rakesh, Alexis Facca, Juliette Neveu, Thadde Meneur, Will Sanders, Diane Martel, Peter Tait, Björn Terring and Marija Zaric.

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Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards (opens in new tab) in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.