First off, you’re probably wondering “do I have the artist gene?” Let’s get that out of the way real quick. You have it. Or if you don’t, just assume that you do.
You see all those naturally gifted people who are better than you, right? I see them too. You’ll have to work twice as hard to be as good as them. But don’t worry, once you’ve worked twice as hard, you’ll be as good an artist as they are and twice as good a worker. Both are valuable.
Now let’s jump in!
Here are 3 practical steps that you can take right now to become a Graphic Designer:
1. Get a portfolio
Nearly every gig you’ll get will involve showing your work. You can get a portfolio by doing any of the following:
Signup for a design class at your community college
I took one intro to web design class. I don’t design websites now, but I still use the Photoshop skills it taught me.
Redesign your favorite app, album cover, or website
It doesn’t really matter if it’s not a paid project. People just want to see that you have a good design sense.
Do work for free
Don’t do it forever, and don’t be used by others. But if you need a portfolio, free work is one way to get there.
2. Get your first client
If you took the school route, you may jump into applying for jobs. Otherwise, getting a client is also a great way to jump into a design career:
Check Craigslist or Thumbtack
Be unique. Send a video to the person, show up in person, send them a package. Whatever stands out from everyone else. Try using If to set up auto text alerts on design listings so you can be the first one there.
Go to events
Business pitch events, design events, hackathons. Step out of your comfort zone a bit and make sure you’re meeing people who could hire you.
Talk about your aspirations
Talking about what you want is like magic. Your dad’s friend’s brother needs a flyer designed and you never would have known that if you didn’t start telling people you wanted to become a designer.
Think about what kind of businesses might need designers (non profits usually need a lot of content). Walk into their office, send them a package, call them, or email them.
3. Get your first job
You may enjoy freelancing so much that this isn’t for you. That’s great! For those of you who want a steady job as a graphic designer, here are a few tips:
Do weird stuff
People get bored looking at resumes. Send a video! Heck, send a message in a bottle. Do what other people aren’t doing. Bonus points if you can tie it into what the company does.
Research all the common interview questions. Get an arsenal of stories about how you overcame problems and did impressive stuff. Practice verbally telling your work stories by yourself until you tell them well.
Yeah, it’s generic advice. But people can sense if you’re being fake. On the flipside, if you what what your interviewer wants, they’ll sense that you’re being genine.
Final thoughts and tips to help you along the way.
Be easy to help
If you friend has a referral for you, don’t ask them to get more details. Thank them and say “yes”. The details will come later.
You should be pushing yourself a step beyond your comfort zone. Take on tasks that you haven’t done before. You’ll learn how & get paid to do it!
Kindness goes a long way. Be nice to people. Be honest. Try to help people when there’s nothing in it for you.
Graphic design is an extremely fun career with endless areas to get interested in and excited about. If you put in the work, except people’s help, and stay greatful, I’m almost positive you can make it!
About the author
Breton has worked on projects for Google, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and many other companies. He is currently a Motion Designer at LinkedIn where he creates tools for animation and automation.