How to Become a Freelance UX Designer
How to go above and beyond your peers and successfully find work as a freelance UX designer.
As a veteran or aspiring UX designer, you may be wondering if the freelance lifestyle could work for you too. Is launching a freelance career in UX possible? How much should you expect to earn, and how exactly would you get started?
This guide will help you find your way when building a freelance UX career. We’ll cover everything from creating a portfolio to finding jobs to working remotely—and much more
Why Become a Freelance UX Designer?
Before pursuing a career as a freelance UX designer, there are some basic things you should know about the freelance lifestyle in general. Here are some of the pros and cons:
Pros of Being a Freelancer
There are many advantages to being a freelancer. As a freelance UX designer, you’ll be able to control not only your workday but your entire career.
Here, we’ll discuss four “pros” of freelance work.
Rather than working a fixed 9-5 schedule, freelance UX designers work the hours they choose.
As a freelancer, you will be able to work part-time or full-time, as you see fit. You can take time off to spend with your family and friends when they need you. And you can organize your workload around your everyday tasks.
Time flexibility can significantly improve your quality of life.
Another great thing about being a freelance UX designer is the income flexibility it offers.
While employees are limited to the same salary every month until they get a raise, there is no income cap on a freelancer’s earnings. You can charge anything for your UX design services, up to what the market will accept.
The earning potential doesn’t end once your time is fully booked. You can put prospective clients on a waiting list, securing more earnings for the future. Or you could hire an assistant to perform certain tasks for you (for example, marketing and billing), freeing up more time for clients.
Since most freelancers work remotely, they also enjoy location flexibility. This could mean anything from working at your local coffee shop to working on the other side of the planet.
As freelancing gains in popularity, it’s becoming increasingly common to work while traveling. People who do this are known as “digital nomads.”
Being a digital nomad has many benefits. Besides being able to explore new places as a tourist, you will also have the freedom to move somewhere permanently, while taking your clients with you. This can allow you to enjoy a lower cost of living and/or higher quality of life.
Continuous Career Growth
A final benefit of becoming a freelance UX designer is career growth.
As a freelancer, you will gain experience working with many different types of clients. You will also have a chance to experience a bird’s-eye view of all the aspects of running a company. This can give you more empathy for your clients and the business challenges they face.
The extra time flexibility you have may also give you more opportunities for professional development.
Paying for Your Own Benefits and Expenses
As a freelancer, you will have to arrange for your own healthcare coverage. You may also have to pay for other types of insurance (such as professional liability insurance). And you will have to buy all your own equipment.
These expenses are usually tax-deductible, but you will need to factor the costs into your business plan.
If you enjoy working as part of a group, you may find the freelance lifestyle difficult.
As a freelance UX designer, you will probably change teams often. Your contact with your clients will be mainly project-focused, with limited time for daily small talk.
This doesn’t mean that freelancers never interact with other people. Just like freelancers create their own work schedule, they are also responsible for creating their own social interaction.
Work-related socializing for freelancers could mean networking via social media, meeting clients and prospects for coffee, or attending industry-related networking events and conferences.
When Should You Become a Freelance UX Designer?
Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of being a freelancer, perhaps you’ve decided that becoming a freelance UX designer is right for you. But when should you take that first step?
The good news is, you don’t have to take big risks right away. To start with, you can take on some small projects outside of your current responsibilities to see if you enjoy them. While you may already be quite busy with your full-time job, those first few “side-hustle” projects can become the beginning of your new client base.
Some people recommend having a savings fund of 3-6 months of expenses before leaving a full-time job. The exact amount of money you need will depend on your personal financial situation.
People with large financial commitments (such as car payments or mortgages) might need to be more cautious than those with fewer permanent obligations. If you don’t have many ongoing commitments, you can always scale your expenses down temporarily as your business gets off the ground.
Skills Needed to Become a Freelance UX Designer
Perhaps you already have experience working as a full-time UX designer, or maybe you’re transitioning from a related field (such as web design or graphic design). Either way, there are certain skills you will need to succeed as a freelance UX designer.
UX Design Education
If you don’t yet have formal UX education or are looking to gain more, now is the perfect time to invest in yourself. While experience is very important for getting hired as a freelancer, education will improve your skills, increase your confidence, and show potential clients that you are dedicated to your craft.
You’ll want to look for a UX design course that is pragmatic, industry-focused, and can be completed while keeping up with your other responsibilities.
Creating a Portfolio
To prove yourself to clients, you’ll need to create a portfolio. A portfolio is like a freelancer’s resume—it directly demonstrates what you’re capable of creating as a UX designer.
An effective portfolio should include, at a minimum:
- an “about me” page with information about your background and experience
- visual examples of your best UX design work
- details about the projects you have worked on
- up-to-date contact information, or a contact form
It could also include:
- testimonials from past clients
- an FAQ page
- a blog section