Working the freelance lifestyle comes with its own struggles and triumphs. Often when working on another person’s project idea you cannot express your own creativity in the same manner. You may feel stifled when your ideas get shot down for something of a different magnitude.

But in this article I want to share how you can take on freelance projects without sacrificing creativity. There will always be a limit to how far you can go with somebody’s idea. When getting paid to work for someone else it’s often required that you color inside their lines. I believe you can follow these rules while also expressing your own inner talents.

Creativity painting drip and easel - featured image

Effective Communication

I have worked with clients years ago who were very poor at communicating their needs. A simple 5-page business website can be designed in nearly unlimited fashions. But don’t just guess based on your client’s instantiated market.

If your client is not a communicator then you must take the wheel! Steer the project in your own direction by asking questions and clarifying details. Don’t be afraid to offer some other websites as comparisons. This is often a great way to put together a layout mockup where you can both enjoy the design.

Chat with Freelancers and clients - iPhone ringtones

Figure out what the main goals of each project should be. Communicating ideas on which you’re confused or don’t understand is the most practical method. Unfortunately you can’t always get clients on your side of the argument. But learn from these experiences and keep a mental note to work only with projects which both of you are a fitting match.

Offer your Professional Opinions

Age and experience play a big factor when taking on freelance projects. A client who recognizes your skills of 5+ years in web design will be more willing to accept your design opinion. But just because you’ve been freelancing for less than a year doesn’t mean your ideas are any less valuable.

MailChimp cutout in the office

Talk over new ideas with your clients and gauge their initial reaction. You can learn a lot about design standards as you work on more project ideas and build up a creative sixth sense. Over time it will get easier to suggest ideas you know the client is going to love.

Push that Extra Mile

There are some projects you’ll work on where the end result is solely getting paid. Money is always a driving factor in freelance work – but it shouldn’t be your only motivation. Regardless of your skillset it’s not difficult to give your favorite clients a bit of extra spice.

Illustrations, web graphics, promo stock photos, and custom icons are just a few examples of powerful freelance techniques. You can express great bouts of creativity by redesigning the entire branding of a website.

MailChimp Monkey is visiting

I can immediately think of MailChimp with such a powerful logo and monkey mailman illustration. This has become a staple to the website and users will immediately recognize the friendly primate on any website. Small creative ideas like this can have a snowball effect where over time your designs are associated with a company’s image. This is how you know your work has truly made a difference.

Learn from your Mistakes

We all screw up every so often and it’s only part of being human. Even freelancers in the business 5 or 10 years have struggled with some larger projects. But if you do not learn from these errors you’ll be doomed to repeat them.

If a majority of your clients don’t like a specific type of layout then it’s safe to assume the design just isn’t very good. Generally we as designers will take fault in our shortcomings as a personal attack. But constructive criticism is actually a good thing. This allows you to step out of the moment and reflect on your artwork objectively.

measuring tools and pencil

As you pick up what works and what doesn’t you’ll feel much more comfortable being creative. Any works in web or graphics design will require loads of practice. But practice means you will have some great designs and some very poor ones. It’s about how you handle each project and move forward with your ideas that defines the truly extravagant freelancers.

Related Sites

For such a hot topic there are very few resources geared towards creative freelancers. It can be difficult finding the right information about moving forward on web projects. So I’ve collected just a few interesting websites you may consider skimming. New content is always interesting and you’ll learn the best advice from freelancers who have lived through it in their past.


There is no easy fix when it comes to freelancing for a living. Everybody struggles in finding balance with their work life. This is especially true when your clients are the ones holding all the money. But don’t let the business of freelance deter you from making creative decisions.

I hope this article can provide some ideas for young aspiring freelancers. Designers and developers alike will have to overcome many obstacles in achieving their own success. The brightest examples of creativity I’ve ever seen have often been completed under pressure. Always keep your mind open and malleable to new ideas – this is the quickest way to go from mere thoughts to expression in the creative process.

Posted by Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a writer & digital designer/illustrator. He writes about all things web and creative. Check out his website for work samples and follow his latest updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau.

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