By Holly Reisem Hanna
One career that allows you to work from home is that of the graphic 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.
Heidi Yarger owner of Spitfiregirl, LLC design agency started her own business because she was tired of others dictating her time, pay, and vacation. She says: “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.
- Become a Freelance Graphic Designer
- Become a Web Designer
- Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
- Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
How much do graphic designers make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers can earn an average median salary of $46,900 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 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
- Smashing Magazine
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 would you 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 easy.
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!
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:
- Social media
- Cold calling
- In-person networking
- Lead generation
- PR opportunities
- Public speaking
- Print advertising
- Forum participation
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.
Need more tips for working as a home-based designer? Seasoned veteran, Meg Farrington shares some great advice for having a successful first year as a freelance web designer.
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