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Female and freelancing in the digital sector? It’s good news for you…

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Online business marketplace,, has reported a 165% rise in women working in the digital sector, with 80% of those working full time as freelancers. Nearly half of these positions are in design and programming, 10% database development and 9% each in web graphics and flash programming. The highest increase in women moving into the digital sector was in the North with a 1,000% in projects won by women in the last six months, and a 2,995% increase in earnings, compared with just a 72% increase in the South. Women also gained the highest rating on the website for quality of work, with an average score for female digital workers of five out of five!

Commenting on these findings, which are great news for woman freelancing in the digital sector, Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO, said:“These latest figures provide the evidence that women have broken through the digital jobs glass ceiling and are now competing with men on both numbers of workers and on quality of work. The IT sector had predominantly been seen as male dominated, but these figures show that women are easily a match for men in the sector. It also shows that attitudes have changed too. Employers are now more likely to employ a digital worker based on the quality of their work rather than their sex.”

With statistics like these, it seems that now could be an excellent time to think about freelancing or contracting in the digital sector, whether that’s as a graphic designer or a web designer. And whether you’re male or female, the opportunities are certainly out there! But how can you get started? Most designers tend to work for design or marketing agencies, although some other types of company will employ designers directly if they have a sufficient requirement. Somewhere along the way these designers almost always find themselves doing the odd ‘little project’ on the side for friends and family, and this can often head to a situation where they might think about freelancing for the first time, as an alternative to being employed.

The benefits of becoming a freelance designer are easy to see. Not only do you get to choose your own working hours, and your own clients, but you also have the opportunity to earn far more than you might do as an employee, if you are prepared to put in the hours. In fact our freelancer take home pay calculator shows you how much you can expect to take home as a freelancer. But leaving the employed world can be a daunting prospect and so many graphic designers opt to try freelancing as a sideline in the short term, and then move into full time freelancing further down the line when they are more sure of the business opportunity. If you’re doing this or thinking of doing this it’s probably a good idea to have a chat with an accountant as there may be tax implications you should be considering and maybe also allowances you aren’t taking advantage of.

So, having made the decision, how do you find work? You may have previously been a permanent employee doing the same mundane work in need of a new challenge, or you may of liked the idea of being your own boss, so set down the path of freelancing…but naturally their is no joy in being your own boss should you not get any work! So before doing anything, ask yourself the following:

  • Who are my prospective clients?
  • Where can I find them?
  • Where do they go?
  • How should I approach them?
  • How do I engage with potential new clients, so when they do need a graphic designer, they’ll instinctively think of me?

By knowing who your potential clients are means you are more likely to know where they are going to look for your services. Read our helpful hints and tips below to finding those clients and building up that client database:

Word of mouth

Everyone will tell you that this is one of the best ways to ‘market’ yourself, and it’s true. Word of mouth is very powerful, however as you’re just starting up, chances are you won’t know that many people. However, it is still worth making sure you tell everyone you know about what you are doing.

Work for free

A horrible thought we know, but if you are just starting out, then it’s vital that you build up a credible portfolio as soon as possible. If that means working for free in return for being able to use samples for your marketing, then do it. The best option is to target small companies who would not be able to afford your services otherwise, or charities and societies in your local area. They will benefit from it and so will you – so it’s a win-win for everyone, plus they may also recommend you to fee paying clients.

Design and marketing agencies

All agencies will at some point in time use freelancers, either when they are especially busy, or to cover holidays, illness and so on. What you need to do is to make as many agencies as possible aware of your existence, so that they will add you to their list of approved suppliers – and will think of you and call you when they need extra resources. The simplest and cheapest approach is via email – and this is especially easy with agencies as often they will publish the contact details of the person you need to speak to on their website. Then all you have to do is send an email (or even pick up the phone if you’re feeling brave!) and ask if they are looking for freelancers. Then tell them about you and give them your website details so they can see those samples of work. Some may ask for more PDF samples to be emailed, so make sure you have a selection at the ready.

Forums and discussion groups

Despite the number of freelancers looking for work, it is often difficult for clients to find suitably qualified and experienced graphic designers. To address this market, there are now a few well regarded forums and websites that allow freelance designers to post a professional profile listing their skills, credentials and experience. We can’t guarantee you’ll find all of your work this way, but it can only help. Discussion groups are also a free way to showcase your knowledge in your expert area. Should a debate be going on to do with a particular topic, your input may spark the interest of others reading this discussion should you have a valid point, even getting various people to click on your website.

Social Networking

Once you have a website you can start to drive traffic to it, and one way to do this is to make people aware of your services via Social Networking. Which is not as bizarre as it seems! Some workers who are self employed may feel that LinkedIn (being well known as a ‘business’ network site) the most beneficial of all of the Social networks. However with the option for visitors to ‘follow you’ via Facebook and Twitter – or read and comment on your blog should you have one – gives ‘followers’ regular updates on what’s happening with you and your business. It is also a good forum to include special offers online for your services.

Good luck, and remember to keep trying new things even when you have lots of work on. You always need to be thinking ahead! And don’t feel downhearted should you get turned down for a project. Just keep building up your portfolio and making people aware of your existence.

Please visit our Contractor News page for all other news. To discuss this story further visit our SJD Accountancy Blog.

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