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How to Consistently Make $40-60/hr When Your Freelance Graphic Design Business Gets Slow

By Doug Farrick

Sometimes when you freelance things do get slow. And at times there is often not enough month at the end of the money. If this becomes a pattern I have a few ideas for you (based on personal experience!)

Consider becoming a part-time or contract employee. This can solve a few problems. First, you will be getting a consistent check every week (or every other week). This helps tremendously in getting your bills paid.

Secondly, you now have 1 major client and can focus exclusively on them (and you have a new set of skills to fall back on)

Of course, this is just an option. Lack of business can be traced to one thing - not enough marketing. We will be covering solutions to this in upcoming articles.

So you ask, "Who would I be working for?" Larger corporations with money, that's who. And "What would I be doing?" You can pursue a number of positions that use your design skills. What I did for a time was Information Architecture and User Interface Design positions.

These allowed me a very steady income while business was slow. Most were very short contact assignments - from a couple weeks to a few months. I would then do my "other" design work in the evenings.

The positions sound sort of intimidating but they really are not. Information Architecture is really a combination of organizing, labeling, searching and navigation within web sites and intranets.

User Interface Design (or Interaction Design) is concerned more with the behavior of tasks that users encounter in software and websites at the interface level.

They are also positions that are in high demand as more and more corporations are finding the productivity and cost savings of finding/not finding information, the cost of construction of a site, cost of maintenance and cost of training. These all add up to huge dollars so it makes sense for them to invest in positions to solve these issues.

Of the two, IA (Information Architecture) leans slightly on the design/front end of a web site and UI (User

Interface Design) is more technical/back-end involved.

What this means to you is that by being a designer you already HAVE a good deal (if not all) of the skill set to be an Information Architect. You have the ability to design/organize, to understand visual relationships, to create wire frames, user flows and Photoshop mockups. As IA positions typically involve web work you would need to have a basic grasp of internet technologies, content management, etc.

UI, on the other hand, is more technical and often involves doing HTML working interface models. If you have done (or do) web site design and enjoy this aspect of work then this should be a breeze for you. Technologies/protocols you should be familiar with are: javascript, HTML, XML, AJAX, CSS.

These, by the way, are some of the hottest positions in the visual design marketplace. And the information juggernaut keeps plowing forward there will be more and more for a demand for a way to share, organize and collaborate on the proliferation of this information. I see no slow down for this type of work at all.

Finally, this is not something you typically do overnight. It takes time (usually a number of months) to get up to speed with your skills and training.

It's not for everyone but it IS an option to consider while building your design business.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

http://www.useit.com/ (usability and web design)

http://www.lynda.com/ (training resources)

http://www.upassoc.org/ (The Usability Professionals Association)

http://www.e-learningcenter.com/gui_design.htm (training resource)

http://iainstitute.org/ (Information Architecture resources)