The Right Essentials to Start a Successful Design Business

So you’ve officially decided to take the plunge and start your own design business…Congratulations! It’s exciting, thrilling, frightening…and confusing. Where do you begin? How do you actually start a business? The biggest factor in starting your business is knowing just where to begin. The following tips and resources are a great place to start and give you a solid foundation to build a successful business.


Work Portfolio

Any client interested in doing business with you will want to see samples of your work. More specifically, they will want to see projects you’ve done that are similar to the type of project they’re looking for. For example, if you’re beginning a web design business, your portfolio should have plenty of web design projects. Seeing work you’ve designed in the past makes your business credible and reassures clients that you are qualified to provided the products or services you offer. Be sure your portfolio is available online so you can easily promote yourself to potential clients with the simple click of a link…sort of like this one:

Print portfolios are another great way to showcase your work in a professional and creative way. They’re great for in-person meetings and, specifically if you work in the print industry, a print portfolio can help you stand out from a competitor, who may only have an online portfolio.


Business Plan

Creating a business plan is one of the first steps to starting a business. It’s a chance to think through all the details of your business, such as what type of products or services you’ll offer and what you’ll need to provide them. It can be complicated beginning a business plan and trying to think of everything you’ll need in order to start a successful design business can be overwhelming. To help, I’ve created a guide to help creatives like you write out the thoughts and ideas for your business.



Ready to plan out your freelance business?
Download the Freelance Designer’s Business Plan




Having a project agreement in writing is essential to managing your business and your relationship with your clients. Your contract should clarify all expectations and outline the details of the project, so you have a clear understanding of the services or products you need to deliver. In the unfortunate event that things with a client just don’t work out, you’ll want to have all the necessary legal jargon to protect your business in tricky situations such as late fees and work ownership. Rocket Lawyer is a great resource to use to begin drafting your contract. You can outline any type of contract specific to your business needs, such as ‘Graphic Design Contract’s, ‘LLC Operating Agreement’s or ‘Partnership Agreement’s. There’s also a great contract template you can download for FREE right here on the blog.



As a business owner you should naturally be in the habit of documenting everything (especially invoices!), but it is especially important to keep track of your design time. When is a client is curious about how many hours you’ve put into a project, it’s much easier to answer their questions when you have a reliable record of your work time. Time sheets are tangible records you can refer to for a variety of business purposes – interacting with clients, filing taxes, calculating estimates for incoming projects. There are numerous time tracking tools available online, such as Toggl,  that simplify the task of tracking of your design time and organizing your projects.


Looking to start a successful design business? Download the Freelance Designer’s Business Plan to start your design business on a solid foundation.


Comment below to share how a business plan has helped you. Be sure to leave a link to your website as well!

Ariana Nicole
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