A lot of the fonts I see are pretty darn expensive. Of course you can find some awesome ones for free, but do freelance designers usually buy fonts? Or is buying fonts a practice reserved mostly for studios?
Professional freelance designers buy high quality commercial fonts. It's possible that you may find cheaper alternatives in free fonts. However, a lot of free fonts don't offer full glyphs and other intricacies that high quality commercial fonts offer.
You don't have to buy a bunch of fonts up front, or even the entire family, that'd be costly. But as you create your designs, think of which fonts are appropriate for the design and buy individual variants accordingly. It's cheaper that way.
It is always a good thing to buy fonts for several reasons:
- They are not that expensive. They look expensive, but they are not since you will use them multiple times.
- You encourage the maker to make more good fonts by buying
- You use a font that you are sure of that it has no bugs and is spaced correctly in big and small sizes.
There are ofcourse free fonts on the web, but most of them are made by people who started them as a hobby. There are some good free fonts, but the problem is that the majority of freelance designers use them quite often so you are not that unique.
Google: webdesigner free fonts (smashing magazine) I set Smasing magazine between () since it is an option for your search. The reason i added this is that smashing magazine is one of the leading online magazines on design. So besides this answer i also provide the tip to follow this magazine if you didnt already know it.
By the standards of what they used to cost, fonts are quite cheap. You can buy the complete Adobe Font Folio for a few thousand now. When I was involved in the print industry it would have been the better part of 10x the price.
There are also quite a few other alternatives. For example, Corel Draw is not so expensive and comes with a large set of Bitstream fonts, which are professional quality with good hinting and kerning pair data.
There are lots of good free fonts now (and in fact there were back in the early 1990s when I was doing this), but the professional ones are not all that expensive.
To work as a freelance or to obey to your boss? That is the question!
Sure it's harder to a freelance to buy computers, printers or fonts, but remember there is a guy that draw the font, tune hinting, kerning and more, it's a hard work that's worth being paid for. He too have bills, children to feed and so on, so follow the advices from Jin & Luuk, buy only the variant you need and sometimes mix them with some good free fonts!