One career that allows you to work from home is that of the graphic or web designer. Graphic design is a way to communicate visually with people. It may be a poster, an advertisement in a magazine, a website, a business logo, a mobile app, an album cover, or even a font (hand lettering) these are examples of images graphic designers create.
What Training Do You Need to Be a Graphic Designer?
There are a couple of ways you can become a graphic designer. One, you can get a Bachelor's degree in graphic design, visual communications, computer graphics, multimedia, illustration, advertising design, or industrial design. The second way you can become a graphic designer is by teaching yourself the craft of design.
“I called design studios, agencies, and businesses, and somehow got my foot in the door. I was relentless, and eventually, it paid off. To back up, I never went to design school (I have a BFA), so I supplemented with design classes where and when I could. I learned almost everything on the job; that's right; I am self-taught! Over time I developed a distinctive style, found client niches, and now have a thriving business. I believe talent is talent, regardless of degree or lack thereof. On a personal note: I'm an absolute proponent of going to design school if you have the ability/opportunity/funds to do so.”
Another well-known, self-taught graphic designer is Karen Cheng. She says:
“I got my job as a designer without going to design school. I had hacked together my own design education in 6 months while working a full-time job. I didn't think I was ready but started applying for jobs anyway – and got a job at a great startup, Exec. To be clear, I'm nowhere near as good as those design prodigies that come out of a 4-year education at an elite school like RISD. But I'm definitely good enough to do my job well. I'm the only designer at Exec, so I do a pretty wide range of things – visual and interaction design, print, web, and mobile app design.”
Graphic Design Resources, Tools, and Training
If you're not interested in going to school, there are lots of affordable books, online courses, and resources that can help you get started with your graphic design career.
Graphic Design Education and Courses
- Become a Freelance Graphic Designer (course)
- Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills (book)
- How to Create Printables (course)
- LinkedIn Learning (online classes)
- Skillshare (online courses)
- Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students (book)
Graphic Design Tools
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers can earn an average median salary of $52,110 per year. They also suggest that graphic design jobs (especially web design) will continue to grow as demand for graphic designers continues to increase from advertisers, publishers, and computer design companies.
Where Do You Find Freelance Graphic Design Jobs?
There are a couple of routes you can take with graphic design. One, you can work for a design agency as an employee, or you can start your own freelance design business. Most in-house companies will require you to have an advanced degree, which is one reason why many graphic designers choose to go out on their own.
Here are the best places to search for freelance graphic design jobs.
- Authentic Jobs
- Design Observer
- Envato Studio
- People Per Hour
Ready to Start Your Graphic Design Business?
Like any other home business, you will need to educate yourself on the best business practices, file all of the appropriate paperwork, and get your legal and financial ducks in a row. Once you set up the preliminary business framework, you can start working on the fun parts of your business.
1. Choose a Niche
There are many different design formats you can work with, but even something more to consider is what industry you would like to work in? While some graphic designers are generalists and work on a wide variety of projects, it is easier and more lucrative to choose a specialty. Figuring out what niche you want to focus on can be a challenge, but if you mind-map your passions, interests, experience, and knowledge, you can narrow it down relatively easily.
Here are a few niches to consider:
- Pin designer
- Logo creator
- Printable template designer
- WordPress designer
- e-Book cover designer
2. Build a Website
To be competitive as a graphic designer, you need to have a website. Having this online presence will help you attract more clients, it gives you a place to showcase your work, list your services and testimonials, and it makes you look more professional.
Don't worry; setting up a website is easy and affordable. This post has step-by-step instructions that will have you up and running in no time — and it's affordable!
One note about your website. People do judge a book by its cover, so be sure your website reflects the quality and type of work that you churn out.
3. Market Your Business
There are tons of ways to promote your graphic design business; the thing you need to remember is consistency is key. Choose two to three methods that you think you'll enjoy doing and spend time each day working on those methods.
Not sure of your options? Here are just some of the ways you can market your business:
- Cold calling or pitching
- Email marketing
- Facebook groups
- Lead generation
- Online advertising
- Social media
Now that you've got your website in place and you're actively marketing your business, it's time to connect with potential clients. Some experts believe you should follow up with five to ten new prospects a day until you have a constant flow of clients in your pipeline.
4. Invest in Your Design Business
As your cash flow builds, you'll want to reinvest some of it into professional development. Luckily, they are events, conferences, webinars, teleconferences, online courses, books, membership sites, mastermind groups, and coaching sessions – there is something to fit every budget and every niche. By investing in yourself and your business, you gain the knowledge, information, and skills to make your freelance business a success.
As you can see, you don't need a college degree to be a graphic designer. With some motivation and self-study, you can learn the craft and quickly sell your freelance design services online. If you need more tips for working from home as a designer, Meg Farrington shares some great advice here for having a successful first year as a freelance web designer
Originally published in March 2009. Content updated in May 2020.
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