Some freelancers seem to thrive, while others have cash flow troubles. If your design business has you worried about clients who don’t pay, or payments that take forever to collect, the frustration is real.


If you’ve struggled to figure out your rate structure and have clients who try to negotiate a better deal, we’ve got information you need to know.


We’re going to tell you what actions to take, what behaviors to monitor, what mindset to insist is yours — and we’re going to prove to you that it’s within your power to be a profitable freelance graphic designer, brand designer, or web designer.


Have you taken our free $12k Client Attraction Masterclass yet? We walk you through the 3 things high-ticket clients want (and how to attract them to your design business) — be sure to snag your free spot here!

$12k client attraction masterclass

Reason #1: You Need a Solid Source of Direction

We’re here! You found us at Aventive Academy, and we’re glad you did because we have so much to share.


So, off the top, we want you to know:

  • We’ve been where you are.
  • We know what it’s like in the market.
  • We figured out how to get graphic design clients who will pay you $10k+ for a project.
  • We love sharing our tips with freelance graphic, brand, logo, and web designers.
  • We did the work and now we regularly land clients for $12k+ packages.
  • We no longer have any cheap clients 😊 In fact, our branding agency repels them to the point that cheap clients don’t even contact us!

freelance web designer relaxing on a couch

Reason #2: You Say “Yes” to Every Project That Arrives

We’re here to tell you that you don’t need to run around saying “no,” but you do need to learn how to set boundaries, understand how a healthy freelance design business operates, and stop saying “yes” to everything.


Here’s what happens when you say “yes” to everyone:

  • You over-focus on money, rather than profitability
  • You ignore (or miss seeing) the red flags problem clients are waving
  • Your mindset is focused on worrying about failure more than aiming for success
  • You don’t know who your ideal client is or where to find them

Reason #3: Your Approach to Sales is 100% Price Competition

Unconsciously, you might not realize what you’re doing. By not focusing your pricing structure on your expertise, your skills, your service’s value, or your clients’ benefits when they have your finished project working for their business, you are focusing 100% on price.


It’s a race to the bottom, once price is the central consideration. Until you change your mindset and shift your assumptions about your value, you will always be scrounging for the dollar that’s thrown out by disrespectful, cheap clients.


Recognize how you’ve been limiting your freelance profitability. At the very least, admit that your current pricing attitude is too low.


Even if higher prices scare you and feel way outside your comfort zone, begin by recognizing that the only way you can become profitable and enjoy being your own boss is to do great work for wonderful clients paying you profitable rates.

two brand designers working on laptops

Reason #4: If a Potential Client Asks to Negotiate Your Rates, You Agree

Big-time rookie mistake. Easy to avoid. Don’t negotiate. Establish your pricing structure (we have an entire course that walks you step-by-step through how to price your design services so you walk away with a profit!).


If you’re competing on prices, you’re already starting at the bottom. Then, if you are pressured to negotiate and the client succeeds….well, you can kiss profitability good-bye. And you’ll be working day and night, for nothing.

laptop on a desk for a graphic design business

Reason #5: Your Approach to Sales is Passive

You let clients come to you, likely because you’re afraid of the sales process. Well, you’re in business now and business thrives when it has lots of great customers. Eventually, your design business will “sell itself” through word-of-mouth and a great reputation. This is especially true when you niche your design business.


Until you have some clout in your niche, you need to be marketing your services. You will find the great clients if you go looking for them. In fact, can you see why they aren’t the ones coming to you? The clients coming your way are the cheap and unpleasant ones, because knowledgeable designers aren’t going to them.


You need to have a change in perspective and start learning how to sell. You need to know:

  • How to respond when someone contacts you
  • When to do the work of creating a proposal (use our design proposal template to make this 100x easier!)
  • How to craft the proposal for a positive response
  • How to own your rates with pride
  • What creates a great closing rate on proposal presentations

woman working on her freelance graphic design portfolio

Reason #6: You Haven’t Made an Ideal Client Profile

Do you know who your target client is? Do you know their industry? Where they live? Where you can find them, to connect online? If you can’t give a quick, memorized description of your ideal client, you likely don’t have one.


If you don’t have a target in your sights, you aren’t going to hit it! You have to establish who your ideal client is. Once you know who they are, you can start figuring out how to reach them.


Setting a target client profile also helps you define what your niche is. We’re going to talk more about your industry niche because, if you don’t know the bigger picture, you won’t be able to target individual clients.


If you can’t target individual clients, based on a profile you have in mind, you won’t understand who the good clients are, where the great clients are lurking….and how to avoid the cheap clients entirely.


One way to attract clients who value your work is to set up your portfolio so your work looks more expensive! You can learn how to do that in our free Uplevel Your Design Portfolio workshop.

workshop to improve freelance graphic design portfolio

Reason #7: Your Approach to Marketing is Scattered & Spread Too Thin

Do you know how much you will spend on marketing and advertising this year? Do you know where your ideal clients will see you? Is advertising necessary, or can you do a low-key, high-impact networking campaign using one or two key social media platforms?


If you can’t answer these questions, don’t worry. That’s normal for freelancers. But it’s also the problem.


The solution isn’t to run out and place Craigslist ads, go to networking events, post on Twitter, update Facebook, create an IG carousel, and buy Google ad space. That’s not strategy. That’s chaos! You’ll burnout and you still won’t have great clients.


(By the way, first rule of increasing your freelancing profitability and getting rid of cheap clientele is to not be advertising on Craigslist! Leave it behind. Move on to where the real clients are. LinkedIn, likely, but you need to understand where your ideal client is hanging out — and then go there and meet them!)
freelance brand designer working on a laptop

Reason #8: You Don’t Know How to Price Your Services

If you don’t know what pricing model you are currently using to price your services, you’re likely leaving money on the table.


In design, there are three significant pricing models. One of them will ensure that you aren’t picking up the crumbs of our industry anymore. But you need to learn about the pricing models and how to set your rates.


If you are priced low, great clients will ignore you because they can’t believe great service can come from low prices. It isn’t logical. You wouldn’t expect a great pair of shoes from a company that sells them for $20. If you price too low, you make yourself irrelevant in the market. Even if you’re really good at what you do.


Build trust in the market for the quality of your services. Find out how to price your services. Aventive Academy covers all the nitty-gritty behind setting up the foundation of your business, choosing the right pricing model, and landing five-figure design clients in our 12-week Profitable Designer Program.

profitable designer program

Reason #9: Your Marketing Looks Cheap

Like attracts like. It could be that you’re swamped with low-paying clients who send endless emails and even more revision requests.


Does your copy talk about being “reasonably priced” or “affordable”? Drop that kind of self-deprecating talk. It’s going to take you down. It already is, or you wouldn’t be reading this article!


It’s time to own the value you bring to your customers. Your clients rely on your expertise. Only you can produce what they need. You have the creativity, tools, resources, software, networked contractors, and end results that they need. That’s why they are paying you.


They aren’t paying you to be “reasonable” or “affordable.” They are paying you to create additional value for their business or project. You are part of their sales and marketing strategy! And they need to pay for your expertise according to the value you are going to bring to their bottom line.


If you don’t know how to determine who your ideal client is, or you are afraid of turning business down if you niche down….then our Profitable Designer Program has everything you need to learn. We’ll give you the reasons why our recommendations work (they worked for us, after all!), we’ll give you clear action plans and instructions, and we’ll show you how to be profitable.

freelance brand designer holding money

Reason #10: You Don’t Feel Worthy of Higher Rates

Imposter syndrome is real. We all fight it. Even the most successful struggle at the beginning of something new. They need wise counsel. They need courage. They need experience to feel entirely comfortable.


Now, you can take our 10 points and turn them into your new goals. For profitability. For clients you love working with every day. For positive mental health and the lifestyle you envisioned when you launched out in freelancing.


When you’re experienced, you’ll pass on what you know, just like we are. Because we need to be each other’s cheerleader, coach, and encourager. There’s lots of great clients out there. We’ve found ours and they love us.


It’s time for you to find yours. What are you waiting for? Make this the year you set your freelance business on the path to profitability and the “wow, I love doing this” lifestyle you’ve heard other freelancers talk about!