Have you ever wondered what it takes to get started out as a freelance graphic designer? If you are thinking about venturing into the field of graphic design for yourself, then the following will help you tremendously! I will be giving you a look at how I got started out in the freelancing world, provide you with some excellent learning resources that I use again and again, as well as educate you on how you can begin your own graphic design career as a freelancer!
So what is a graphic designer?
The graphic designer’s job is to effectively communicate the intended message of the project at hand visually to a specified audience. Designers do this through arranging type, symbols, color, and imagery to create a brand “feel” related to the business they are working with for the project at hand. Typical projects graphic designers work on often are: brand identity including logo designs, business cards, brochures, flyers, folders, print advertisements, postcards, company letterhead & envelopes, booklets, catalogs, packaging design, greeting cards & invitations, social media pages including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, as well as web advertisements, and web graphic elements. Designers can also create simple, beautiful websites and can customize WordPress templates for their clients as well.
Learn the skills!
So, you may ask yourself: What type of education do I need to become a graphic designer? Well, for me, I chose to obtain an associates degree in graphic design. You can choose to go after a bachelors, or a certificate, or even solely do your own self-study. If you choose to pursue freelancing as a graphic designer, then having a degree in this field isn’t necessarily a requirement. What you choose really depends on your lifestyle and how much time and monetary investment you can put towards building your all-essential portfolio of work samples.
You can invest in college
Choosing the college route is a fantastic starting place if your time and your finances allow you to partake in this option. There are so many great college options to choose between. You could work towards a certificate or associates degree at your local community college, or you can opt for an online college such as Full Sail University or The New School.
The benefits of obtaining a degree in the field are great because you will be provided with a well-rounded education that will cover all areas of graphic design. You will learn the crucial design principles, learn how to meet deadlines, and learn how to take critiques on your many design projects. You also won’t be constantly wondering if you are missing out on any part of your education, but instead will have a good all around grasp on what all of the different areas of design entails.
You could opt for only taking a couple of college classes if you wanted and then pursue the rest of your education through your own self-study. Even if you do decide to pursue a degree, I would also definitely recommend supplementing what you learn in school with your own self-study. By doing so, your work and your clients will only benefit!
You can do your own self-study
Sometimes, the finances just aren’t available or you simply don’t have that much time to dedicate outside of your home to go to your local community college. If this is your situation, then you must know that you don’t need to have a diploma sitting on your desk to become a freelance graphic designer!
The most crucial thing that I have found potential clients are looking for is not a degree, but a quality work portfolio for them to see. I have experienced this to be the number one element that they base their decision on. If you put together a great portfolio full of at least 4-6 beautiful, solid samples of design work you have done – then that is enough to get started.
So, how do you learn from your own self-study? With the wealth of information available at your fingertips, it is now easier than ever to learn everything you need to know by just knowing where to go to educate yourself. I suggest that you put together your own learning course of action by getting a hold of every design book you can, soak up design inspiration from great and successful designers and emulate their work for your own personal practice, start an online learning track on Treehouse and begin taking a set list of courses on Lynda.com and learn all you can for the specific work you want to focus on at SkillShare.
After you have a general overview of the design fundamentals and a good grasp of the basics of each of the Adobe design programs (see the list below), it would be my suggestion to start out by defining the one area of focus that you want to concentrate on. Decide if you want that area to be logo design, business card design, brochure design, WordPress website design, etc and then learn everything you can about your area of concentrated study. Once you know all that you can about the subject, work on designing four to six solid samples for your portfolio so that you will be able to use this portfolio on different work sites. Or, you can concentrate on that one area of study and create templates or graphic packs to sell on Etsy through your own online shop.
If you want to learn the essentials that every graphic designer needs to know, feel free to check out the Website in a Week Workshop online course by clicking here and learn everything you need to know to build a beautiful and strategic WordPress website that will not only help to bring you clients, but will also help you set up website for your clients to bring in their own clients and customers. This course is a highly valuable resource to anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in this field, and for you – it’s free to check out and get started building your own website!
A Reliable Computer:: I own both a MacBook Pro for work on the go and an iMac for when I’m working at home and sitting down at my desk. However, you can easily work on either a Mac or a PC, as the design programs can be downloaded and used on both of these platforms.
Adobe Creative Cloud Programs:: These programs are an absolute must and the industry standard for every graphic designer to have. I recommend to start by downloading Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, & Muse. Learn these programs back & forth and you’ll be able to provide your clients with great value in any area of their branding materials. Adobe Illustrator CC is used for creating vector graphics. This is the program you would use for logos, scalable illustrations, 1-2 page advertisements, and icon sets. Adobe Photoshop CC is used for editing photographic imagery and building website mockups. Adobe InDesign CC is used for laying out booklets, books, eBooks, magazines & catalogs. Adobe Muse CC is used for designing simple websites without having to worry about complex website coding.
Pantone Color Matching System:: Owning color swatches from the Pantone Color Matching system is highly recommended to keep consistent color across both printed materials and the web. (I recommend the color fans)
A Scanner & Printer:: Having a good scanner and printer is essential for bringing your sketches to the computer and being able to test print your work so that you can be sure you are giving your clients the best.
A Sketchbook & Pen:: Having a sketchbook and pen nearby is a great time saver so that you can do quick sketches to determine the composition of your project or concept idea before you bring them to the computer for more concentrative work.
A Drawing Tablet:: This tool isn’t absolutely necessary, but can be a great help with illustration work and quick thumbnail sketches.
How to Work From Home As A Graphic Designer
So, how do you get started in your own graphic design business? I got my start in the freelancing world on oDesk.com (which is now UpWork – Read my post: Tips for Working on oDesk Successfully As An Independent Contractor). There are many other freelancing sites you can look into as well (see my list of recommended resources below). Invest time and effort into making your online work profile shine with your brief work description, your portfolio of 4-6 samples, and any skills testing the work site might have available. I also recommend having your own website set up so that you will have an outside web presence to show your potential clients during the interview stage. (Check out my online course where I teach my students how to design beautiful websites without writing any code! The Website in a Week Workshop) By having a well-designed website set up, you will be one step closer to gaining the trust of your potential client and turning them into a long-term business relationship. Once you have your profile and website set up, the next thing to do is to start submitting applications to the job postings that interest you for work directly related to your portfolio samples. Tailor each cover letter you submit to address what you specifically propose to do for the client to meet and exceed their project needs. Then, once the client hires you, follow through with your promises!
Graphic design is a field that is ever growing and there is no cap to how far you can go in your business! If you are interested in becoming a graphic designer, I urge you to take the first step and start exploring your own area of concentrated study. You can even do this while still working your day job by dedicating an hour or two each evening towards your own self-study and building your portfolio. For me, working from home as a graphic designer is not only exciting, but also so rewarding. I get to do what I love, (create beautiful and effective designs), make a profitable income for my family, help others reach a high level of success in their businesses, and be there for my family all at the same time! I love it because there is just so much flexibility and there is always something new to learn or a new service you can offer. One day your concentration could be designing logos, the next day you could learn how to build a WordPress website and then offer that as an addition to your expanding services.
To help you get started, check out my quick list of recommended resources below. These resources are the top sites and products I interact with on a daily basis in my work and I know you’ll find them helpful too as you begin your freelancing career!
Quick list of resources
WhatTheFont.com (Free Look-Ups)
Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
Thinking with Type
Making and Breaking the Grid
Design Basics Index
Type Idea Index
Logo Design Love
Adobe Creative Cloud Classroom in a Book series