The Designer’s Guide to Moving from Freelance to In-House

The Designer’s Guide to Moving from Freelance to In-House

Being a full time freelance graphic designer has its advantages. You get to be your own boss, work on your own schedule, and be selective in the types of projects you take on.

But freelancing also has its drawbacks. Being your own boss means that you need to make difficult business decisions while sacrificing a steady salary.

At some point, many freelance graphic designers choose to make their way to in-house roles in search of a more stable income or opportunities for career growth. If you’re thinking of moving from freelance to full time, keep the following tips in mind to make your job hunt easier.

Be Flexible In Your Search

Do you want to be a jack of all trades or a subject matter expert? Deciding between generalist and specialist listings is key to finding an in-house opportunity that suits your goals.

As a freelancer, you may be a specialist in your niche or style, but finding a full time position that fits this specific mold may take a while. If you’re looking to find a position more quickly, consider widening the net to include generalist roles. Chances are your niche skills and experience apply to more general positions, too.

Translating Your Skills

As you update your CV, make sure to highlight how your freelancing experience makes you a valuable asset as an in-house graphic designer. Even if you’ve never had in-house experience, there are many valuable skills you develop as a freelancer that will help you succeed in a full time, in-house position.

Be sure to emphasize your experience in multitasking and successfully managing multiple clients files at once. This shows that you can exceed in a fast-paced, demanding environment that many in-house teams will be looking for.

Also focus on any experience you have working with teams. At the very least, this could include working closely with in-house teams on long-term projects as a freelancer.

As you reach out to past clients to provide recommendations, consider asking if they might have a role for you in their company. Looking for opportunities with past clients is a great place to start your search when making the transition from freelance to in-house.

Negotiating Salary

Salary is a big change when switching from freelance to full time. Freelancers often make a lot more money in fewer hours of work with project-based invoicing. But, of course, this also comes with the uncertainty of not knowing if you will have another project to follow your last.

When moving in-house, you should expect to make less money on an hourly basis compared to freelancing, but it’s important to weigh the whole compensation package when negotiating your wage. You may make less from a project-based perspective, but you gain access to a steady flow of work and income. This could translate into a higher annual income, not to mention other benefits and compensation you may be provided as an in-house employee.

To calculate a fair wage for an in-house graphic designer, take a look at similar job postings in your field and city. You can also use a tool like Glassdoor’s salary estimator or LinkedIn’s salary reports.

Consider Part-Time Positions

Instead of making an immediate transition from freelance to full time, you may want to consider starting off with a part-time in-house position. That way, you’ll balance steady work and the independence of being self-employed.

If you decide to take on a part-time in-house role, you’ll need to make sure your new company lets you manage clients on the side. This would be an important discussion to have with any potential employers to make sure they are comfortable with your plans and are willing to provide you with the flexibility you need.

During these discussions, you should talk about whether you will have set hours or the option for flexible hours, if you will be expected to work from the office every day or if you’re able to work remotely, and—very important—whether there’s any conflict of interest with you freelancing on the side.

Conflict of interest may be an issue if you’re applying to work with an agency, for example, and your services are similar to those offered by the agency itself, so make sure to have this discussion to avoid any issues in the future.

Psst: Check out part-time design positions on Authentic Jobs.

Keep Your Entrepreneurial Edge

As you make the transition to an in-house graphic designer position, don’t forget the entrepreneurial edge that led you to pursue freelancing in the first place. The entrepreneurial traits of being self-motivated, driven and versatile are as much of an asset in a freelancer as they are in a member of an in-house team.

So, don’t be afraid to share your opinions and lessons learned from past experience. The right team will appreciate your insights, and your confidence and tenacity will continue to help you achieve your highest potential in your new role.


Considering a new opportunity? Authentic Jobs has one waiting for you.