We’d like to talk to you about how to make money being a graphic designer. This will be a beginner’s guide to the profession of graphic design and, more importantly, how to turn your own graphic design work into a real career rather than just a hobby.
Graphic design has of course been around for many decades, in some form or another, but it has only been within the last 20 years that graphic design has taken on renewed importance thanks to the rise of the internet.
All of a sudden, every brand imaginable, and many individuals as well, wanted to take advantage of this highly visual virtual landscape, and they needed graphic designers to help them do that.
On top of that, graphic design is also still instrumental in marketing, advertising, and many different real-world applications.
So if someone tries to tell you that you can’t make good money working as a graphic designer, it’s not actually true. However, professional graphic designers do need to work hard to create a positive reputation for themselves and find clients consistently.
Let’s get started!
Develop your creative skills
One of the most important things for starting your very own graphic design career is developing your creative skills relative to graphic design.
On a fundamental level, that should include the study of composition, color theory, and layout. It may also include learning about illustration, depending on how many different skills and options you want to be able to offer to your various future clients.
Also, here in the 21st century, your graphic design skills should include mastery of different software programs that are regularly used to execute graphic design work.
These programs can include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, CorelDRAW, Crello, Autodesk Maya, and many others.
Keep in mind that these programs all cost money to license or to purchase outright, ranging from a modest monthly subscription fee to thousands of dollars.
If you’re still studying graphic design, then try to take advantage of special offers for students, which can include reduced prices or free access to programs for a limited amount of time.
While some of these programs can be intimidating when you first jump into them, try to remember that there’s always a learning curve, and that it’s important to stay dedicated to that process over a long period of time.
You also don’t need to master these programs right away. Give yourself time to learn about different tools and capabilities.
Learn how to market yourself
Marketing yourself as a graphic designer is extremely important, and that holds true whether you’re working as a freelancer or as an employee at a design firm.
Sure, marketing yourself is especially important when you’re a freelancer working on your own and trying to win clients on the strength of your own personal work.
But even if you’d like to get a job with a larger company, knowing how to market yourself and your graphic design skills can be key.
In job interviews and on your various social media profiles, you need to know how to efficiently and accurately present your professional abilities so that clients and potential employers alike know what you’ll be able to handle when push comes to shove.
The foundation for good marketing is having a good product, which in this case would be a substantial set of graphic design skills. But on top of that, you should be very confident when you present yourself in a professional capacity.
It’s also advisable to have some kind of website to serve as a portfolio of your graphic design work.
Another great strategy to find work is to do some networking, which usually involves making connections with other graphic designers as well as potential clients.
This networking can happen at official industry conventions or it can happen casually over the internet or in person.
Find graphic design clients
Actually finding graphic design clients can certainly be challenging, especially at the start of your career.
You won’t have any past projects to show off, other than work you’ve done on your own, and you probably won’t have many connections to other professionals in the industry.
But there are indeed ways to get your foot in the door with clients.
One of these is definitely to have an impressive portfolio, as we mentioned earlier. If the work is solid and your site is getting lots of views, it’s likely you’ll get some clients contacting you about working together.
Another way to attract clients is to create a profile on a freelancing site, such as Upwork or Fiverr. it’s important to remember that these sites are accessible to just about everyone, so there’s going to be lots of competition out there from other designers.
But if you’re able to secure even one graphic design job through these sites, you’ll be on your way to developing a client base, especially if the client is ecstatic about your work.
Have a style, but limit it when needed, featuring Jae Ee
A big question that new graphic designers tend to have is whether they should have a personal style that they use across all projects or whether they should adapt their style to the specific needs of each client and each assignment.
There’s definitely room for debate in this area, but we recently talked to professional graphic designer Jae Ee to get his take on things.
Ee has worked as a branding designer for several years with the New York design agency 2×4, where he has completed work for major brands like Samsung, KAWS, and Prada.
He was won awards from Weltformat International Poster Festival 3, Typojanchi 2019, 100 Films 100 Posters, and Type Directors Club.
His work has been featured in It’s Nice That, AIGA Eye on Design, Print Magazine, and Typography Seoul.
On the subject of style, Ee explains that he certainly has her own style and preferences, especially when it comes to typeface.
“I enjoy using typeface as an image. For example, our typeface Meta Mascot functions like an image, so people see it rather than read it. I’m interested in a moment where the boundary between text and image is blurred.”
However, he also notes that skilled graphic designers know how to use specific elements in very versatile ways, giving new meaning to established norms.
“To show cuteness’ various facets, I use something cute in my work with a contrasty and grotesque look. This contrast creates a weird and uncanny feeling which I like.”
Perhaps the real question isn’t whether to use your own style but to know how to tweak elements to achieve a result that works for everyone involved.
Keep the momentum going
When you’ve started to get a handful of different satisfied clients, it can be tempting to sit back and rest on your laurels, but this definitely isn’t the time to do it.
Once you’ve really started your graphic design career, it’s very important to keep the pedal to the floor so that you can attract even more clients.
You may even find yourself working for a client who has consistent tasks for you, almost like a typical employee-employer relationship.
Expand your client base and make sure that every client is completely satisfied with the work you’ve done for them.
When you’ve started to create a very positive reputation for yourself as a professional, then it will be easier and easier to get new work.
A career in graphic design can be very rewarding, but it requires consistent hard work and attention to detail.