Freelancing lingo – what do I need to know?

Working with freelancers from another industry can feel a bit like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end. Each freelance trade has it’s own specific lingo and terms. It can feel a bit like learning a whole new language from scratch. Before you know it you’ve got your wireframe confused with your grid system, and your HTML mixed up with your URL.

So, make sure you hit the ground running and get the basics covered. We’ll run through some common freelancer types and their basic lingo. With our help you’ll never end up feeling confused or baffled by freelancer lingo again.

It’s worth noting that a good freelancer will never try to confuse you with technical lingo. Anyone who does this is trying to make you feel small and inflate their own ego. A good freelancer should always talk on your level and explain new lingo as they’re going along.


Graphic designer lingo:

This is one of the most common freelance jobs, and a very technical role. You don’t need a graphic design dictionary to be able to work with a designer. But, a solid grasp of basic industry lingo will definitely help.

  1. Raster images and vector images:

Raster images (also known as bitmap images) are images with a fixed size. Photos are raster images. To make a raster image larger, you have to stretch it. This means the image may end up pixelated. Photoshop is a common raster image editor. Vectors on the other hand, are the opposite. They’re usually edited in a program like Illustrator and they can be resized to any size without losing quality.

  1. CMYK vs RGB

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key) is the standard colour mode for printed projects. If you’re dealing with printed goods, you want your documents to be set up in this mode. RGB is the standard colour mode for screen, so anything digital. For projects that are going to be viewed only on a screen, set your document to RGB (Red, Blue, Green).

  1. Typography

Type refers to the letters on the page and typography is the art of arranging them. Typography is a highly technical skill.

  1. Grid

Put simply, it’s a grid that the designer uses to align all the elements in their document and make sure everything’s in the right place.

  1. Logo vs branding

A logo, or logomark, is a mark that represents your company or business. Branding’s a wider term which includes your logo. Branding is the visualisation of your brand. It includes everything that represents your business. From business cards to websites to letterheads to packaging to uniforms and more.

Canva has a list of 50 graphic design terms for non-designers if you want to learn more.


Web designer:

It can be intimidating for someone who’s not a tech head to hire a web designer. Sometimes it feels as if they’re speaking a different language, but don’t be put off. You’ll be surprised to learn that a lot of their lingo’s actually very simple to grasp.

  1. Alignment

This refers to the positioning of elements on the page. Basic example: this text is left-aligned. Elements can be aligned to both the page and to themselves.

  1. Wireframe vs mockup

A wireframe is a basic layout that shows where different elements on your page will go. They don’t include anything fancy such as colours, fonts or images. Mockups are a realistic visualisation of what the finished page will look like. They include all design choices like colours, logo, images etc.

  1. HTML and CSS

HTML is the computer language used to build webpages and display content. CSS goes on top of HTML and tells the page how to look. CSS holds the fonts, colours, layout and more.

  1. Responsive design

This refers to a design that responds to the device it’s being viewed on. This could be anything from a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

If you need more, Smashing magazine has a full glossary of web designer lingo.


Digital Marketer:

Digital marketing is a fast paced world to work in. Tech’s constantly evolving and growing in the digital marketing world. Stay in the know by learning the basic lingo.

  1. A/B test

An A/B test compares two versions of the same thing with the aim of discovering which one is most successful.  You can perform A/B tests on almost anything. But they’re mostly performed on webpages and emails.

  1. Analytics

Analytics refers to tracking data then making patterns and discoveries from that data. You can use analytics to analyse trends and create insights.

  1. Social media

Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Snapchat. Tumblr. Google plus. You’ve heard of them all, and they’re all examples of social media platforms. Marketers use social media to raise brand awareness, expand their audience, and gain new clients.

  1. Blogging

This is a core part of most businesses’ digital marketing strategy. Blogging means creating regular articles that inform and entertain your target audience. Their purpose is to drive traffic to the website, create new leads and grow brand loyalty.

  1. Call to action

This can be anything – a button, link, image, etc – that encourages a user to perform an action. If you’ve ever seen a button that says ‘Subscribe now!’ in big letters, that’s a call to action right there.

Passion Digital have a handy glossary of digital marketing lingo if you want to know more.


Web developer:

The worlds of the developer and the designer are sometimes confused. So make sure you know which one you need and what to ask for. These two professions often use the same vocab and lingo.

  1. Web development:

Let’s start with the difference between design and development. Developers will build how your site works, and designers build how the site looks. Some languages that developers use include PHP, ASP, Ruby, and mySQL.

  1. URL:

URL is just another name for your web address.

  1. Domain:

Your domain is the part of your web address (or URL) that identifies your website. For example, in ‘’ is the domain.

  1. CMS:

CMS – Content management system. This is an easy to use interface that lets you manage your website behind the scenes. Create new content, edit old content, delete content you don’t want. WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems out there.

Creative Bloq have a useful list of the top 10 web developer terms to help you get up to speed.


After studying English Literature at university, Vicky decided she didn’t want to be either a teacher or whoever it is that writes those interminable mash-up novels about Jane Austen and pirates, so sensibly moved into graphic design.

She worked freelance for some time on various projects before starting at Twine and giving the site its unique, colourful look.

Despite having studied in Manchester and spent some years in Cheshire, she’s originally from Cumbria and stubbornly refuses to pick up a Mancunian accent. A keen hiker, Vicky also shows her geographic preferences by preferring the Cumbrian landscape to anything more local.