In the first part of our starter kit, we have covered the basics of graphic design. We talked about all the things you need to know if you are thinking about a career in graphic design. Whether you are an eager enthusiast, a beginner or you are knee-deep in design, it’s always beneficial to go back to basics, as graphic design gives you ample opportunities.
Once you have covered the knowledge sources and possible directions in graphic design, it is wise to see what the graphic design market has to offer.
So, without further ado, let’s explore graphic design job possibilities and employability.
Freelance or Fulltime Job
If you are dreaming of working as a digital nomad while touring the globe, you are certainly not the only one. The freelance market is on the rise and UpWork, the leading freelancing platform in the world, predicts that freelancers are going to become the U.S. workforce majority within a decade. Now, even though business independence is gaining momentum that doesn’t mean that lifestyle is suited for everyone.
A job takes a big part in your life, so it’s very important to take a moment and evaluate the best option for you. Both freelance and fulltime have their pros and cons, and these might be different from person to person.
Let’s go through some of the differences between full time and freelance job types, so you have a better picture, and refrain from just relying on common beliefs.
Stability and Income
As a freelancer, you’d essentially be a solopreneur a.k.a. a person who runs the business on their own. Like any other entrepreneurial endeavour, you’d be facing certain risks. One of those risks would be earning enough money on a monthly basis. Another thing to keep in mind would be paid holiday leave. Since freelancers are switching from one project to another, and are not a regular employee, holidays are never paid.
On the other hand, a fulltime job means the company is obliged to pay you a salary each month. In some companies workers also get certain bonuses for hitting the marks. And we can all agree that extra cash is always a welcome thing. Fulltime job brings stress-free and paid holidays. However, you’d need to state in advance when you want to be off and work it out with other co-workers.
One of the best things, when you work as a freelancer, is that you can decide when and where you are going to work. It can be from a beach in Bali, a cabin in Switzerland or a coffee shop in Buenos Aires. All you need is a solid wifi connection. This means that you choose what time of the day are you going to work and how many hours are you going to put in each day. But one of the best advantages of being a freelance graphic designer is the liberty to choose which project are you going to work on. You have the opportunity to avoid any work that you deem boring or ‘soul-sucking’.
With a fulltime job as a graphic designer, flexibility gets a new meaning. Usually, you’d be spending your 8 hours in an office with others from your department. The best-case scenario is causal and flexible Friday and the office with some cool additions i.e. ping-pong table or some other entertaining stuff to help you get into the creative zone or relax if you have some stressing project going on.
Design is at its core an interactive process, thus collaboration with other people and giving-receiving feedback is critical. It’s a no-brainer that with a fulltime job in any kind of company you become part of its social network. With so many people around, you have a chance to socialize with others and form relationships, participate in social and training events and so on. All of this makes the employee’s work dynamic and very interactive.
On the other hand, working as a freelancer means that you’ll run a one-person show. That is, unless on a specific project, you are to collaborate with someone, working as a freelancer usually entails solo work. Sure, this means some peace and quiet while you are working, but it can get lonely sometimes. If you are not a fan of working alone in a room, you can always opt for coworking space where other freelancers spend time as well.
A fulltime job means a certain routine in the working day. It could happen that the same task is carried out for several consecutive years, in the same office, often with the same people. As much as this means well regulated daily activities, it can be a reason for monotony and stagnation.
Freelancer, on the other hand, has to be a self-motivated person. In other words, your success and monthly income are reciprocal with the level of your hustle. To be able to work efficiently as a freelancer you’d need to be disciplined and very well organized.
How to Get a Job as a Beginner Designer?
If you decide to go for a fulltime job, you will be applying for an entry-level position as someone who is just starting out and who doesn’t really have enough experience. This usually means you need to decide whether you are going to work in an agency or you want to do in-house design in a company.
Agencies come in various forms like advertising agencies, publishing houses, editorial offices of newspapers and magazines to give you a few examples. Due to the long client lists, here you would have the opportunity to work on very different projects on a day-to-day basis.
In-house design in a company means you would be working on a certain aspect of branding for that particular company, like product design and branding or company advertising, for example.
As a freelancer, you would be collaborating with agencies, companies or individual clients. This type of collaboration can and usually is occasional, thus, you would be working on many different projects. One good thing though, you don’t have to specify that you are on an entry-level. To get the job you need to show the portfolio and if the prospective client thinks it fits well for the work, and you agree on terms, then you are hired.
In any case, the good news is there are plenty of openings but bear in mind that the competition you would be facing is fierce. You would need to be assertive and even aggressive a little bit if you want to get that first job.
Where Do You Look For a Job?
First things first, you will need to build a resume and one hell of a portfolio before you even start sending applications. We will cover how to make your first portfolio in part 3 of this starter kit, but for now, let’s say you have what you need.
The graphic design job application is very similar to any other job application. Basically, you need to decide what you want to do and where. Then start looking at what’s available out there and start building relationships. You can use platforms like Linkedin Job Search, Glassdoor, or even the good ol’ Google Search. You can also expand your search and try alternative keywords like a visual designer, production designer, digital designer, agency designer or even Photoshop, Illustrator etc.
Another approach I recommend is to make a list of 10-15 companies you’d like to work with and start approaching them proactively. DM them on social media. If you want to take a step forward, try to find decision-makers in these companies and contact them directly. Keep in mind that you need to communicate clearly and as specific as possible. This means no long life stores, people don’t have time for that. And don’t ask what you want right away, it says you only care about what you get out of the deal.
Instead comment on their work, things that caught your eye like a color scheme or typography for a logo they did. Keep coming back with these positive comments and then after some time ask if they want to jump on a video call or send them your portfolio to take a look at.
Apart from this, it would be a good idea to create a profile on websites such as AIGA and CreativeHotlist and even Dice and CyberCoders. Here you can find a lot of openings for fulltime jobs and some contractor works as well. Also, there are agencies like Creative Group that can help you out with a job search. These agencies are typically useful for the just-graduated and beginner groups. On top of this, if you want to do freelancing, check out UpWork, Dribbble, Behance and Fiverr for starters.
As I’ve mentioned in part 1, I’m a huge fan of Chris Do and just so it happens that he has a video on his YouTube Channel where, together with 3 other people, he talks about how to get the first job after graduation. I know some (or most) of you are self-taught but this hour-long lecture will give a few ideas on what to do and where to start as well as give you a few insights on what employers might be looking for.
Work On Your Business Approach
I know a bunch of great artists and designers who are marvellous at what they are doing, but a mention of sales and numbers, and they just want to jump out of their own skin. For most of them, their artwork is personal, a part of themselves, and thus it’s very hard to separate from or put a price-tag on. That’s understandable, but to be brutally honest with you, you would need much more than just core skills in design to be successful.
To get a job, and to continue building a successful design career, you would need to pay attention to things like communication, marketing, self-promotion, numbers etc. You will need to learn as much as you can about the business approach in general. To get a job you want, you should be ready to figure out exactly what your prospective employer needs and find a way to present yourself in the most attractive way. At a certain point, you would need to know how to negotiate for the conditions you want at the job. And this is no time for “I just want to make good designs cause it fills my soul” attitude.
Thus, I strongly recommend investing some of your time in an online business course like the one by Douglas Davis. You could also listen to podcasts and YouTube videos explaining the business aspect you need to improve. There are a lot of YouTube videos by successful designers like Chris Do that will teach you a lot about the art of selling your design.
Before You Go
Remember the story of Michel Jordan? The one about him missing more than 9.000 shots in his career and losing almost 300 games? “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” he said.
Chances are you will end up sending tons of applications and be rejected many times before you hit the jackpot. So, load yourself with a lot of patience, work hard on improving yourself as a designer, a business person and overall as a human being and the success will eventually follow. 🙂
Note: This post is part of our series dedicated to graphic design. We are going to walk you through the basics of graphic design and give you pointers on how to thrive and have a successful career. Stay tuned for the release of our eBook on Graphic Design!