What I’ve learned from being a young part-time designer in 2 “professional” years.

Before kicking this off, I just want to let everyone know that I can’t even remember how I got into design. It was just something that came in my way, and slowly but surely, I embraced this opportunity. Also, this is the first time I am writing any sort of article so please excuse any typos.

I was always a young kid that was attracted to computers, like any other normal youngster. I regularly was looking for ways to gain money out of sitting on a chair in front of the computer, but I never looked hard enough, I was pretty fortunate to have started messing around in photoshop before joining a mentorship that taught me most of the basics of design.

Without any other addition to my intro here are some of the stuff I’ve personally learned:

1. If you do not search for clients, clients won’t search for you.

If you are not the kind of guy or girl that regularly finds $100 on the street out of nowhere you’re most likely not going to be approached by anyone that needs some help with their creative work. Start-ups, the people that really need help with their branding and/or any particular element that requires a creative mind behind the work, have absolutely no idea where to find a designer that fits their needs. So what do they do? They search for applicants on a freelancing-based platform such as Fiverr, Freelancer, Envato, UpWork etc…

Even though this can benefit most starting designers, overall it’s a business that requires a huge amount of exposure. There are already well-known designers that circulate these platforms, and if a company decides to re-brand themselves or get help for a new app, they are most likely going to ask the “big” designers to work for them.

Moral of the story: Write some emails directed to companies that you think might need some help with their design, try to approach local start-ups and always grind for more local exposure.

2. You won’t get the dream-deal from the start.

Let’s say that you found your long-sought client, you start negotiating here and there and then the client fixes a price that is 2 times lower than the one you were thinking in your head. And then comes the problem that every beginner has, you cannot raise up the price since you do not have any trustability.

This is a thing that every starter has, and sadly, we’ll have to deal with it, we are going to work for pocket change at the start, that is if you do not get lucky again and get a job in a company that invests plenty in their future talents. Compromises need to be made and at the start of our career we’ll have to make plenty, and we’ll have to get used to it from time to time.

3. Some clients will simply not care about beauty.

Being at the start of your career it is more likely that you will encounter some difficult clients. The clients I am specifically talking about are the ones that have a fixed idea in their head and they won’t give it up for anything in the world. Some clients that fit in this category are the following:

“I need everything on one screen”- This kind of client does not care about anything but the number of elements he can squeeze into a simple and small area. Most of the times you will have to make microscopical designs and you’ll just have to accept the fact that you need to go through a brainstorming session all by yourself in order to make the design look…decent.

“I want those colours no matter what”- A type of client that you see all around the market. This client usually goes with his favourite colour combination on everything, some clients choose colours that have a decent contrast to it but others…well… they just like how pink looks accompanied by red.

“This just doesn’t feel right, maybe we need to raise that element 1px to the right, oh no! Maybe 2px to the left”- Those sorts of clients are not necessary annoying because of their lack of creative tastes or sense of functionality, but rather they always feel like something should be moved around, just to see how it would look. Don’t get me wrong, not all of them are bad, sometimes you might be surprised by how the client can actually help you improve your work.

4. While others could be a little over the top.

Apart from the clients that have a weird taste or creativity, there are also the clients that always want to go with their design “on the next level”. Keep in mind that I am not referring to the people that have some experience in these field of work or that might have some interesting ideas, I am talking about the people who prefer 3D design on their websites, a multitude of gradients that have the colour of the rainbow on their apps and others who want 6 different textures on their printing components

5. Expect the majority of clients to ask for a .PSD version of anything.

It seems to me that everybody nowadays when they hear about the job “Graphic Designer”, Photoshop always pops in their mind. I don’t know how this became the usual way to look at designers but you should always specify the program you are going to work in. Something along the lines of “I will work in Adobe Illustrator and send you the vector files for the logo that you can edit in the same program, that should be fine with any future modification”

By mentioning the software you are going to use in a formal but assertive manner you will let the client know that using your preferred program will have the best results they can get.

One of the magic words that clients seem to like and use most of the times is: “it will look more professional this way”.

Just give it a try next time and see if the client gives you the green light.

Creative mind currently based in Timișoara, Romania