Starting a career as a self-employed graphic designer can be both exciting and daunting. You have the freedom to express your creativity, choose your clients, and manage your schedule. However, this journey is often riddled with challenges. To assist you in navigating this path, we’ve compiled a list of the most common mistakes graphic designers make when starting up and how you can avoid them.

1. Lack of a Business Plan

Mistake: Many designers, excited to turn their passion into a profession, often neglect the importance of a solid business plan. They dive headfirst into working without a clear strategy or goals.

Solution: Start by writing a detailed business plan. This document should cover your target market, services, pricing, marketing strategy, and financial projections. It will serve as your roadmap and continuously guide your business decisions.

2. Undervaluing Their Work

Mistake: Many graphic designers, especially when starting, struggle with pricing their work appropriately. They tend to undervalue their services either due to a lack of confidence or in an attempt to attract more clients.

Solution: Research the industry standards for pricing and consider your level of experience, the complexity of the project, and the time it will take. Remember, your skills are valuable, and your pricing should reflect that.

3. Overcommitting

Mistake: In the desire to build a portfolio and a client base, it’s easy to take on more work than you can handle. This can lead to burnout, decreased quality of work, and missed deadlines.

Solution: Learn to manage your workload effectively. Be realistic about how many projects you can handle at once while still delivering high-quality work. It’s okay to turn down projects if your plate is full.

4. Neglecting Contracts

Mistake: Some designers overlook the necessity of having a formal agreement or contract with their clients. This can result in payment issues, scope creep, or miscommunications about deliverables.

Solution: Always draft a comprehensive contract that outlines the scope of work, timelines, payment terms, and intellectual property rights. This will protect both you and your client.

5. Not Asking for Deposits

Mistake: Many new designers make the mistake of starting work without taking an upfront deposit, putting themselves at risk of not being paid.

Solution: It’s industry standard to request a percentage of the total fee upfront. This not only secures some payment for your work but also commits the client to the project.

6. Lack of Self-Promotion

Mistake: Many graphic designers shy away from promoting themselves. However, in a competitive market, relying on word-of-mouth or sporadic referrals isn’t enough to sustain a business.

Solution: Develop a marketing strategy. This could involve social media promotion, networking at industry events, blogging, and more. Remember, your potential clients need to know you exist before they can hire you.

7. Not Continuing to Learn and Grow

Mistake: Some designers, once they’ve mastered certain skills, stop learning and evolving. In a field that’s always changing, this can quickly render your skills outdated.

Solution: Continually invest in your professional development. This could mean learning new design software, staying abreast of design trends, or expanding your skillset to include related areas like web development or animation.

8. Poor Client Communication

Mistake: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, unsatisfied clients, and negative feedback. Some designers struggle with articulating their ideas or managing client expectations.

Solution: Strengthen your communication skills. Be clear about your processes, timelines, and deliverables, and ensure you understand your client’s needs and expectations. Regularly update your clients on your progress.

9. Ignoring the Business Side of Things

Mistake: Many designers focus solely on the creative side and neglect essential business tasks like accounting, taxes, and legal matters.

Solution: While your passion may lie in design, it’s essential to remember that you’re running a business. Consider using software to manage your finances, consult with a lawyer to handle legal matters, and stay organized to keep your business running smoothly.

10. Not Building a Diverse Portfolio

Mistake: Many designers often stick to projects within their comfort zones, which leads to a lack of diversity in their portfolio.

Solution: Strive to work on a variety of projects that showcase your versatility as a designer. A diverse portfolio can attract a wider range of clients.


Embarking on a career as a self-employed graphic designer can be a fulfilling adventure, but it’s not without its pitfalls. By being aware of these common mistakes and taking steps to avoid them, you’ll be better equipped for a successful and sustainable journey in the world of freelance graphic design.