When I realised that I had a flair for design, the first thing I searched was “how to be a graphic designer?”. I get a lot of questions on ‘where do i start’

For every designer right now, there was a moment where you asked the question, ‘where do I start?’. Whether you went to design school or you’re self-taught, you get to a point and you want to take things to the next step so you ask yourself this question.

In this article, I will share 7 ‘things’ to do when you want to take design to the next step or make a career out of it. This won’t take into consideration the time you have to spend in learning how to design. Ultimately, once you have a very good understanding of the principles and elements of design and software, understanding of typography, layouts and colours, you have already started.

These 7 tips will be a good starting point for anyone trying to figure out what to do.

1. Start with a few personal or free projects.

The true degree or qualification of any creative, is your portfolio. It is your strongest asset. How do people believe you’re a designer if you have nothing concrete to show for it? In our part of the world, immediately you mention an amount you want to charge, potential clients demand to see your work. It is to give them some level of assurance that they’re not ‘throwing their money away’. Doing personal projects help you express yourself creatively. It gives you the freedom to do the things clients might not allow you. I also suggest volunteering to do free work especially for non-profits who cannot afford to pay for design. Unlike the personal projects, it brings some of your work to life.

2. Jump unto the freelance train.

Start freelancing. It’s as simple as that. Let the world know you’re a designer and you’re open to work on projects. I find that for every designer starting out, 7 out of your first 10 projects come from family and friends. Social media has made it very easy for us. Everyone needs designs. Tap into your personal network. Ask friends to refer you, share your fliers and keep you in mind for any future projects. Just sharing your work on your WhatsApp status alone can generate some leads for you. Make sure you over-deliver for your first few clients. They will become your ambassadors and through them, you’ll get more projects.

3. Intern

Interning is one of the great ways to learn and build a portfolio. It provides you the opportunity to work on projects you might not have had the opportunity to do if you were working on your own. It also gives you the chance to work with other creatives where you get to exchange ideas. Personally, I encourage internships with startup agencies or studios. Organisational structures there are very linear and experimental. You get to learn a lot of things directly and it provides you a lot of room to experiment some of your ideas. It tests your ability to work in teams and how to manage people as well.

4. Be A Part of A Community

Find a community of creatives and make some friends. So many designers like to stay hidden in their corners. This is a bad idea. There are a few advantages you get for being a part of creative community. You are able to bounce off ideas, get good eyes to critique your work. For your friends who are swamped with projects, they’re able to pass on a few to you as well. In some cases, you get free resources too. Finding new fonts can be difficult sometimes you know lol.

5. Feed Your Creative Soul.

To be able to create, you need to consume. What you feed yourself as a creative is important (and i’m not talking about physical food). Your sources of inspiration show how better you get. Find a few accounts across social media that are churning out good design and follow them (I’ll be doing a post on this soon). It is important to have a very good designer make recommendations for you because sometimes when you’re starting, the challenge is finding out exactly what is good. You might be following a number of accounts based on your definition of what is good design but it might not be the case.

6. Online Presence

Be present. Just like one of the points I shared in my Dear Creatives post, availability and reliability will do more for you than talent would. Let people find you easily. Share your work everywhere. A Behance or Dribble account is mandatory for every creative. I have got clients from Behance, Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s not the best designers who get a lot of clients or make more money. It’s those who are available. Be Available.

7. Learn how to talk

Finally, learn how to talk. Every designer has to be a very good communicator. You need to learn how to express yourself. You need to be able to hold a conversation with anyone at all. You need to be able to break down your process for clients. You must be a good negotiator. The only way you can sell your value to clients is through how you talk to them – what you say to them and how you say it. Being able to hold a conversation has earned me a lot of clients.

Looks like I have more than 7 points. I’ll do a part 2 because I hate long articles.

Daniel Ampofo

Daniel Ampofo

I'll make people fall in love with your brand just by looking at it.


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