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The Gig Economy: How Graphic Designers Can Thrive

gig economy, social media, what it takes to run a business, your own business, graphic designers

The gig economy is changing the way graphic designers work. More and more are saying “No thanks” to the rigid schedules and stifling environments of traditional employment. But at the same time, they’re not necessarily starting companies and hiring employees of their own. Instead, lots of people are working for themselves, by themselves. While this type of work comes with a lot of freedom, it’s not for everyone.

According to Entrepreneur, single-person companies account for more than half of the 28 million small businesses in the United States. These are businesses where the owner is also the person doing the bulk of the work. It includes consultants, freelancers, and of course, graphic designers like you. What’s more, many entrepreneurs often work from home, choosing to hire people to help them transform a spare bedroom into a functional workspace. (Hiring a handyman to help with this kind of project is easier than you might think, with businesspeople in Cupertino spending between $170 and $460 on contractors to help with the transformation.)

In a single-person company, the success of your business fully depends on your ability to find customers, negotiate fair pay, and perform the work successfully. That’s a lot of responsibility for one person to bear, so if you’re going to enter the gig economy, you need to have the personality for it. That means being a go-getter, a proactive problem-solver, and a self-disciplined and regimented worker. You should also be comfortable with a certain degree of risk because there are no sure things in the design world.

Despite being a single-person company, you can’t do everything yourself. Running a business of any size requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. While you could try to manage everything yourself, trying to be a competent bookkeeper and social media marketer on top of your primary duties is likely to leave you doing a mediocre job of everything. Rather than stretching yourself thin and letting business suffer, consider how you can outsource work.

Hiring staff isn’t the only way to delegate routine administrative and business tasks. Freelancers and other gig-economy workers looking to save money should consider these solutions to common business challenges.


Apps can be free or paid, but either way, they offer big savings over employees and free up more of your time for income-generating tasks. There are apps to help you manage your to-do list, schedule your time, and organize your files. One area where designers can gain a lot of value from apps is by using them to help manage finances. As The Balance Small Business discusses, client nonpayment is a big problem in the gig economy. You spend all this time creating the perfect piece to meet your client’s needs, drinking countless cups of coffee and seeking inspiration in the oddest of places, only to not get paid for your hard work. But if you don’t have a way of tracking which invoices are paid, you might not notice that a client is skipping the bill. By using an invoice app, you can stay on top of payments and easily follow up with clients who are past due so you can get compensation for your designs.

Marketing Tools

Marketing can make or break your business. But when your marketing budget is minuscule, it’s tough to know how to reach customers. Designers on a budget should turn to marketing tools that help them develop their brand and communicate with their market. Website builders and logo generators make it easy to create an online presence, even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy. Plus as a graphic designer, creating a brand is right up your alley. Be sure to include your portfolio on your website so potential clients can view your work. It wouldn’t hurt to create a social media presence either to gain attention and alert your followers to what you are working on. Perhaps you could start a vlog, Instagram account, or blog.

Independent Contractors

Sometimes a task is better off being done by someone else entirely. You have an eye for design, but if your social media marketing or administrative work is taking longer than you can afford, even with the help of tech solutions, consider hiring someone else to handle it. Hiring contractors has the benefit of not requiring payroll taxes or office space. However, you must understand the nuances of hiring contractors to avoid misclassifying a worker.

It’s easy to get excited about the perks of running your own graphic design business. Self-employment is an opportunity to explore a passion and work under your own rules. However, owning a business requires more than a dream. Before you dive head-first into the gig economy, do your research about what it takes to run a business behind-the-scenes.

More on this topic: Using Instagram As Leverage For Your Business


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