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How to Start an Online Graphic Design Agency

You’re tired of going to the office and working the 9-5 on graphic design projects that don’t excite you. So, you’ve been thinking about starting your own graphic design agency.

And why not? These days it’s easier to work remotely and to be your own boss. And as a graphic designer, your creative juices may flow more freely when you get to say what projects you want to work on. And that is part of the perks of running your own graphic design business.

But to be successful starting out on your own in a highly competitive field, you need a plan. You need a road map that details all you need to do to start your own online graphic design agency.

Luckily for you, we’ve put together all the critical steps to take to be successful at your own creative design agency.

Now, keep in mind that this post assumes that you already know all about graphic design and have been in the business for several years. There isn’t enough time in this post to go over the basics of graphic design, what education you need to become a graphic designer or how to get started in graphic design.

But, if you are interested in becoming a graphic designer, there are plenty of online courses you can take that give you a good idea of what is truly involved with becoming a graphic designer, for example on Udemy.

What Graphic Design Services to Offer?

When you are starting your own graphic design agency, you need to focus on pulling in as many clients as possible. Not only is this to get some cash flow going, but also to start word-of-mouth and reviews circulating.

In order to make yourself available to a wide range of clients, from bloggers to small businesses, you should know how to design a wide range of types of graphics. Sure, you can specialize in a particular area later on. But to start, you shouldn’t be fussy and welcome every job you can land.

Graphic design services you’ll be asked to work on include (but not limited to):

  • Logos
  • Social Media Images
  • Illustrations
  • Ebook Cover Artwork
  • Website Banners
  • Image Editing

Starting Your Own Online Graphic Design Agency

If you are looking for how to start your own graphic design agency, here are the main things that you need to focus on. All the steps below will help you build a strong foundation and get you started with your own graphic design company.

Land Clients

Let’s face it, you don’t have a business until you have clients…paying clients. So, if you are serious about starting your own online graphic design agency, then first and foremost is getting paid clients.

Why?

Word-of-mouth is great free advertising for you and your skills. And, if your early clients are happy with your services and end product, you can ask them for reviews that you can use later when you build your graphic designer portfolio.

Landing those first clients takes work. And once you get over that first hurdle, you will have the confidence to continue down the path of setting up your own graphic design business.

But where do you find those first clients if you don’t even have a graphic design agency name? First, use your connections. You have friends, family, co-workers, etc., a network of people who know you and can vouch for how reliable you are. Let them know that you are in the market of doing freelance graphic design and see if they know anyone that they can send your way.

The other way is by offering your services on task-based platforms like Fiverr and 99designs. The pay will probably be below what you are looking for, but you need to remember that you are at the start of trying to get a graphic design company up and running. In the beginning, it’s all about landing those first clients. It’s only a temporary, but critical, stepping stone in the larger picture of starting your own online graphic design agency.

Give Those First Clients Something to Rave About

It goes without saying just how critical those first clients are to setting you up for success with your own online graphic agency business. Glowing reviews lead to more clients. Bad reviews will kill your graphic agency dead in the water.

So, give those clients what they asked for and more. And this goes beyond the graphic design. You are offering them a complete service package. And this means being on top of communications with clients, providing options, etc. You want to be easy to work with and give clients that feeling of being in capable hands. You need to over deliver to your clients in every way.

And if you do this, you will get those testimonials and recommendations. It seems a lot to ask for jobs that pay less than desired, but it is all about laying a strong foundation. Remember, there is a lot of competition when it comes to graphic design agencies. An easy way to stand out from the crowd is what you offer beyond the visuals.

It’s All in the Name

Starting with focusing on finding clients allows you time to figure out what you will name your graphic design agency and, more importantly, how you want to brand yourself.

And it’s here that you need to think about the future. What type of graphic design agency do you envision having? Will it always be just you running the business or would you like to grow your graphic design business into a company with multiple employees?

It’s easy to say that you are going to use your name for your design agency. It’s you and you shouldn’t have a competitor with the same name. But, will having your name for a business work if you one day have other people working for you, perhaps even doing the design work?

If you haven’t fully committed to what your end goal is or if you are thinking that your long-term plan may change, then pick a name that will work in both situations and that can be flexible so it always represents you and your brand in the best possible light throughout the years.

And before you have your business cards printed and website created, ask friends and family for their opinion on the different name options and logos you’ve come up with for your graphic design business.

Building a Portfolio

When you start approaching clients as your newly formed graphic design agency, you are going to need more than a strong verbal pitch. It’s the visuals that matter most when it comes to graphic design. And any potential client is going to want to see just exactly what you can do.

And that is easily done by presenting your graphic designer portfolio. This portfolio represents the best of the best that you can do. So, you have to be overly picky and critical when selecting which of your work should be showcased in the portfolio.

You do not want to put in everything you have done. No one wants to see that, and no one has time for that. Your graphic designer portfolio needs to represent the wide range of skills that you possess and the type of projects you can handle.

Actually, you may want to consider putting together two portfolios. One that is succinct and concise and that contains the absolute best of what you do. And, you may want to include some testimonials from your early clients, too.

The other portfolio contains more examples in case a client is on the fence about hiring you or just wants to see more samples. Rather than waste extra time trying to put something together to send to a client, you have this portfolio at the ready. But again, don’t put everything in it. You want to showcase the best of what you can do. This time, though, you are just offering more flavors.

It’s More than Graphics

Regardless if you are planning to expand your graphic design agency to include other employees, when you first start out, it is going to be just you. And only you designing the graphics, reaching out and giving pitches to potential clients, sending out and tracking invoices, keeping up with correspondence, balancing the books, etc.

Though a fundamental aspect of graphic design is knowing the ins and outs of graphic design, if you are going to be running your own graphic design business, there’s a whole lot more that you need to be able to do.

If you don’t know the first thing about business, running a business, negotiating, or marketing, you need to learn quickly. Luckily, you don’t need to invest in a business degree. There are plenty of ways you can find out what you need online either through tutorial videos, eBooks, or online classes (think Udemy).

As long as you have a base foundation of what is needed to run a business, you should be able to keep up with the demands required of having a business.

What to Charge Clients

Another key area to think about when setting up your graphic design agency, is how are you going to determine your graphic design pricing? Are you going to have set rates for different projects and graphic design services? Are you thinking of having a set hourly rate? Or, are you going to work with the client and see what they offer?

It’s good to try to see what graphic design agencies are charging and try to price accordingly. Of course, your pricing also needs to match the skills and experience. If you are still new to graphic design, you shouldn’t be charging premium rates. And you also don’t want to over price yourself out of job. So, do some research and come up with your graphic design pricing so you can stay consistent across the board. 

graphic design agency

Getting Paid

And while on the subject of charging the clients of your online graphic design agency, the life blood of being successful and being your own boss is getting paid. And let’s be real, a lot of customers are not good about paying for services rendered on time.

First, as soon as a client accepts your work as says they are happy with the outcome of the job, send out that invoice. That falls on you. And the quicker you get the invoice out, the quicker you can expect payment.

And how long a client has to pay an invoice should have been negotiated before taking the job. Using either professional software or your own spreadsheet, you need to track when an invoice was sent out and when payment was received.

If you don’t receive payment on time, do not feel bad about reaching out and reminding the client that payment is past due. It’s not always a fun or comfortable task, but it is a part of business. Plus, you held up your end of the bargain and delivered a product. So now it’s the client’s turn to pay for your work. It’s business.

Keep Networking for Clients

As crucial as it is to get clients quickly when starting out, trying to get new clients is a constant task that will never go away. It’s the bread and butter of any online graphic design agency. Though it’s nice to dream that clients will be running to you, that is not going to happen at first. Or even in the first few years.

You need to build a name for yourself and a reputation. And you must always be networking with who you know and previous clients to secure new clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your satisfied clients if they know anyone who may be in need of a web graphic designer. If they are happy with your work and the working relationship, it will be easy for them to recommend you to others.

And depending on how long you have been business, it is up to you if you want to start getting particular about what jobs you want to take.

Researching businesses and finding new clients does take work. But it is work that pays off (literally) for you and your graphics company.

Following these guidelines will help you on your path to being your own online graphic design agency. Remember, this takes time. So, if you really want to venture out on your own and be a freelance web graphic designer, you need patience and perseverance.

Having your own graphics company gives you full creative rein, and you get to make all the decisions. And that alone makes starting your own graphic design agency something to shoot for.

If you have the skills and the drive, you can succeed.

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