Top 4 industries looking for a freelance designer
With salaried workers laid off or furloughed and companies looking for more flexible working arrangements, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the growth of freelancing across the globe. Already on the upswing and growing on both the supply and demand side, the freelance design market continues to be a huge part of that. IBISWorld even projects the global graphic design market will hit $45.8 billion in 2021.
But who’s driving that demand? Freelance designers are hired and work across tons of different industries, but some of those promise more demand, higher pay, and easier access for new freelance designers.
Below are the top 4 industries looking for freelance designers, based on those criteria.
Software and technology
The software and technology industry is the number one fastest growing sector for freelancers in general—and freelance design is no exception to that. Some of the roles software and tech companies hire freelancers to fill include, among others:
- UI/UX design
- Website design
- App design
- Product design (software)
While some of these roles are easy to break into (like website design), most or all will require you to establish familiarity with popular industry tools. For example, website designers need to know how to work within the confines of common web building platforms like Wordpress, Shopify, and Squarespace.
Other roles—including UX and product design—may even require specific education or certifications.
Pros of freelancing in software and technology:
- Above-average pay
- High and growing demand
- Flexibility in the type of work you do (including the roles mentioned above)
Cons of freelancing in software and technology:
- High demand means lots of other freelance designers are clamouring to work in this industry
- Certain roles—like UX design—require a specialized skill set and familiarity with common industry tools.
The marketing industry is one of the most diverse when it comes to freelance design needs and projects—and demand continues to grow as professional design becomes table stakes for brands. Marketing teams may hire freelancers to design:
- Social media graphics (including posts, ads, header images, etc.—across any social platform)
- Visual content (like infographics and animated videos)
- Content layout and design (for ebooks and whitepapers, for example)
- Website design
- Logo design
With the breadth of jobs available in the marketing industry, demand, and relative lack of specialization required, it’s pretty easy to break into this industry. If you have a solid portfolio and expertise with basic graphic design software, you’re in.
Pros of freelancing in marketing:
- Large variety of jobs to select from
- Low barriers to entry
- Above average pay
- High demand
Cons of freelancing in marketing:
- Lack of specialization required may cap your earnings
- Relative ease of breaking into this industry can mean lots of competition for jobs
- Tools like website building platforms, Canva, Fiverr, and more may eat into the demand in this industry as more marketers choose to handle smaller projects themselves or opt for lower-priced options.
One unexpectedly prominent sector for hiring freelance designers, the publishing industry remains a good option for freelance designers. Despite the digitalization of—well—everything we do, the industry around publishing magazines, newspapers, and books still represents a lot of the demand for freelance design.
In other words, it’s a shrinking industry that’s still very much viable for today’s freelancers.
Publishing companies hire freelance designers for jobs like:
- Logo design
- Magazine, newspaper, and book layouts
- Visuals for magazines and newspapers
- Book cover design
Similar to marketing, the barriers to entry here are low because few of the roles in publishing require any specialized training or experience beyond general design skills. Plus, certain roles in this industry (like book cover and logo design) can allow for more creative freedom than industries like technology and marketing.
Pros of freelancing in the publishing industry:
- Variety of roles available
- Potential for more creative work
- Easy to break into the industry
Cons of freelancing in the publishing industry:
- It’s a shrinking field—demand is likely to become increasingly limited
- Pay is average to slightly below average.
Manufacturing is another unexpectedly popular industry for freelance graphic design, with steady demand over recent years. Often called “industrial designers,” freelancers who specialize in this field take on tasks like:
- Product design (physical products)
- Packaging design
Of the top four industries featured here, manufacturing is perhaps the most difficult field to break into.
Designing physical, 3D products requires working in close collaboration with engineers, production experts, and others to ensure a product design is feasible. Freelancers in this industry will also need experience with more advanced and niche 3D design tools (like CAD, for example), familiarity with key product safety regulations, and an understanding of production materials and costs.
Pros of freelancing as an industrial designer:
- Above average pay
- Steady market demand for designers
- The opportunity to see your designs become physical products
Cons of freelancing as an industrial designer:
- Requires expertise and experience beyond general design principles and tools
- Requires freelancers to work within constraints on production costs, safety regulations, etc.