So, you're a graphic designer! Congratulations! Now, how do you go about making a living at it? Several tips, strategies, and methods are presented here to allow you to make the most out of your graphic design business, whether you're freelancing by yourself or are putting together a larger firm.
The first thing to do is secure for yourself good, cheap art supplies. Dick Blick is an online store that regularly sells high-quality art supplies for all mediums, and their prices are always between 30% to 50% below what you'll find in any brick and mortar art store. Another place that caters to design papers off all kinds is Limited Papers, they sell custom paper sizes of a wide variety of quality papers, and they'll sell in broken carton quantities. That last point is essential as you must maximize the profitability of any given graphic design, and buying a whole carton of paper to produce one logo or sign is not the most efficient use of your budget. If you're a computer graphic designer, save your pennies and get the best graphics software out there, and get a decent computer to go with it. Adobe Creative Suite 3 is widely regarded as the top of the line total digital package for graphic design, and TigerDirect can set you up with a decent bare-bones kit that can handle your design needs without breaking the bank. I particularly recommend the barebones kits because putting a computer together these days no longer requires a computer degree, and is a great cheap alternative to getting one already set up.
Having a good workspace that contributes to your creative process is also essential. Whether it's a spare room in your house or a rented office space, you must have a studio in which to work and store your finished pieces and supplies. Many art supplies are toxic to animals and small children, and distractions can be toxic to your creativity, so having a workspace set aside is an absolute necessity. Be sure that the workspace in question has plenty of light, both artificial and natural, as you must be able to see how your artwork will appear under various lighting conditions. Decent studio furniture is a must as well, nothing wrecks concentration quite like back pain from a bad stool or poorly designed drafting table. Last but not least, having a workspace set aside can help train your mind to start generating ideas when you enter your studio. Keeping the studio separate from where you go to goof off is vital for many professional artists and graphic designers.
Of course, for most graphic designers contracts do not start rolling in just because you hung out your shingle as a freelancer. For this reason many graphic designers take a job with a design firm for a few years before trying to fly solo, but even if this course is taken, marketing is still a vital continual endeavor. You must be known as an independent, freelance artist before you can expect to get contracts. Getting a professional account on a website like DeviantArt, which provides an online gallery space and an account option allowing you to sell prints through them, is an integral strategy to many graphic design freelancers. ETSY is another website that allows freelance artists to sell their original works in an environment tailored for hand made art appreciation. Most graphic designers don't place their works in brick and mortar galleries, as those are generally reserved for fine art, but offering subcontractor services to interior design companies can be another way to get your name and reputation known.
Placing your company's logo, which of course you designed yourself, onto such things as bags, totes, pencils, and mousepads can be a great way to start advertising your services. Teaming up with a company that provides promotional items for companies also allows you to expand the range of services that you offer your clientele. Again, always put in the work to find good companies to use, as you need to be able to offer streamlined, worry free services. If a company can't get your orders to you on time or accurately, your reputation will suffer due to someone else's mistakes.
By using these strategies, keeping an open and creative mind, and with a bit of business planning and luck, your graphic design career should take off like a rocket. Good luck!
Get A Good Work SetupIf you don't have the means to produce graphic designs, your business will go nowhere fast. Before offering any services whatsoever, make sure you have your studio setup, art supplies, paper, and any design software or hardware you might need.
Do Graphic DesignYou must start producing good graphic designs to show people before you can get anything resembling a contract or commission.
Market Yourself!Get your work out there, some how, some way. Call up interior design firms, clothing design firms, any firm with the word "design" in its name, and offer your services as a subcontractor. Put your artwork on anything that people use. Get into art and design communities, online and locally. Participate in your industry.
- Deadlines are your Ten Commandments. Never break one, at least without a really, really good reason.
- Accept critique graciously, and always fit your graphic designs to your client's needs. If you want to produce art for art's sake, go be an artist. If you're doing graphic design, you're trying to make your client happy.
- Always be realistic in your projections. If you are projecting a deadline, give yourself about twice the time you think you'll need. Don't pretend to be familiar with an art style or a piece of design software that you're not, you can't learn it fast enough to make that client happy.
- Invest in yourself! Never stop learning! Sure, you might not know how to work Adobe Creative Suite 3 right this instant, but work on a training course in your own time, and increase your value.