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Follow these steps to become a professional graphic designer

If you are considering a career path in art and want to become a graphic designer, there are several options for you. A great friend of mine inspired me to write this blog as he successful turned his passion into a high-paid job.

Check out his Instagram @robottopunch

Going to art schools is associated with stigmas that are not necessarily true. People may think that art school is meant for dropouts and eccentric students. People may also think that art school is waste of money because you are either born with or without the artistic profile and therefore talent cannot be learned or acquired. Others may even think that art is not a practical career because you’ll end up broke and living in your parents’ basement.

These preconceived ideas often come from protective people who may be well-intentioned in the first place. They don’t want you to struggle and not have access to financial independence. However, you could regret studying a field you’re not truly passionate about just because it leads to a stable but unfulfilling job. Let me tell you this, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to following your dreams and putting effort into a field that you are curious about. If art is your calling and you don’t feel time passing by when you’re in your creative bubble, go for it.

Nowadays, people don’t necessarily end up working in the field that they initially they studied, so rest assured that you’re never stuck. A diploma doesn’t lock you up in the same career until retirement. It’s only giving you tools for what you’re like to learn.

Whatever path you choose, it’s entirely your decision. People who love you should support it. Life is full of surprises, so you may start by creating designs and end up being a bigger millionaire than if you went for a traditional safe 9-5 job.

Take art classes that include drawing, infographic design and web design

If you can afford classes at a university, it’s awesome. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to check out art classes at a local community college. They’re also good quality and you’ll get more attention since classes usually tend to be smaller. If you’re motivated, you can also get a graphic design associate’s degree and pursue your bachelor’s of art. If classes are out of your budget, you may also find tutorial videos on Youtube, and practice on your own. Check out the syllabi for graphic art programs in your nearby schools and try to learn the content from each class if you can.

Start by making drawing a habit, don’t hesitate to show your work to anyone. You can check out few books to get tips on your drawing. Art is somewhat subjective and getting someone else’s opinions on your work is always a good idea. You can also train yourself by designing logos for existing brands and see how you can improve their image if you were on their marketing team. Creativity has no boundaries. Practice and be proud of your work.

Find your preferred medium to work on. Some people may express their creativity with a pencil and a sketch book. Others may prefer holding a brush and oil paint on a canva and scan their work to Photoshop. You can also use a digital drawing tablet with a stylus. If you’re going for traditional and digital painting, check out these two-finger gloves. It can prevent the surface from being smudged. For more ergonomic and efficient work, don’t hesitate to invest in a stand for your tablet. It can relieve your eye strains or help you work in a better posture.

Build your portfolio and cumulate experience

If you’re just starting, consider volunteer for a charity or non-profit. Having a good heart is awesome for your mental health and it always looks great on a resume. You can help associations create logos, banners, build a website or make flyers. Don’t hesitate to reach out and see if they need help!

An efficient way to have a record of your work and experience is to use social media. My friend shows his work on Instagram and it’s a perfect platform for any visuals or videos. Facebook is also a good platform where you can build albums for people to look at. Have a section to showcase your best piece and have a little text to explain the context of your work and how successful it became.

If you have computer skills, you can also build your own website to show your web designing skills. I really like this comic book on how to build your own website with funny illustrations. It’s a great gift to kids who would like to learn how to code and use Wordpress. It definitely caught my eye because I’m a visual learner and I love this delightful way of teaching.

Consider also applying for internships while you’re studying and tell your friends you’re looking for experience. You never know what they might need or who they might know. Networking can connect you to unexpected contacts who might bring you potential opportunities.

Where to network

LinkedIn is the traditional networking platform for professionals nowadays. It’s a website that lets you list all your professional accomplishments and you can connect with people in your field. Here’s how you can maximize your LinkedIn profile. However, when you have a portfolio that involve tons of visuals, try to build connections through events where you can showcase your work. For example, some coffee shops may have local events where you can hang your paintings/prints and have business cards/flyers available. Customers from this place may notice your work as they pass by and would be interested in connecting with you.

Another way to network as a graphic designer is to go to Meetup events. Most big cities have meetups based on your interests. There’s surely one happening in your town where you can meet like-minded people and connect.

An unusual way to network is to use Bumble Bizz. Bumble isn’t just for dating, it also allows you to connect with people sharing the same interests and professional goals. You may connect with other people from your town this way!

How to network

An important lesson I’ve learned from networking is to not look desperate. You can show your passion and be honest about not having a job, but don’t come too strong. You may scare the other person off. Instead, try to be genuinely interested in the other person and listen to get to know them as a friend. You are more likely to get more help if you connect with the other person than if you come asking for favors.

You may end up helping them in the first place and they’ll help you out later. Stay open-minded about new interactions. People cross paths for a reason so don’t discard an interaction because they don’t bring you a job right away. Also, don’t take it personal if you don’t get a reply after contacting them. People might get busy and it means they’re probably not the right person to work for.

Work as a freelancer

Graphic designers may work as freelancer for marketing and advertisement companies. You may advertise yourself on social media to find clients. The positive side of freelancing is the autonomy of being your own boss. You can set up your own rates and schedule and choose your clients. The downside is the invariable salary and having to deal with administrative and other annoying tasks on your own.

You may post your services on Fiverr, LinkedIn or Indeed. You may also get a good referral from a previous boss and ask for more opportunities at a firm. From there, you can get promoted to artistic director or communications manager. The sky’s the limit and in the end, you get to decide how fast and competitive your career should be.

In conclusion, becoming a graphic designer comes with its own sets of challenges. One needs to be passionate about art and visual communication. Taking classes at a university or community college may help you get guidance. Practice and be productive to feed your passion. Don’t forget to get feedback from your family, friends, teachers… Constructive feedback lead to progress. From there, begin with internship or volunteer your services at non-profits or charitable causes. Try to network when you have an opportunity and stay open to people’s advices. It is common for graphic designers to work as a freelancer, however you get to decide whether you’d like to remain solo or get hired at a firm. Freelance brings you autonomy and freedom whereas working for a firm provides you with a stable salary.


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