How To Gain Graphic Design Experience – A Guide For Starters

If anyone ever told you that designing digital artwork is like painting pears and making a living out of it, make sure you find a fat pear and throw one at them the next time you see them. Bonus: Tell them about your current awesome graphic design job.

I quote: graphic designing is NOT a profession that lacks a market demand or a sufficient pay. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a graphic designer’s median pay is $44,150 and according to the job outlook, employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 7% from 2012 to 2022. This is slower than average, but it’s still increasing.


For creative people out there who are just getting started and who want to make a living out of what may have been their favorite hobby or passion so far, gaining experience is the key. But before you reach the garden full of roses you were looking for, you might have to run a caucus race, meet a few crazies, and experiment around until you –or your portfolio – exude ingenuity at its best.

Here’s what the adventure before the awesome job—and the pear throwing– will look like:


Answer the Important Questions

Just like any other job in the marketing or media field, you need to consider yourself a “brand” first. Welcome to the world of clients, pitches, and selling yourself. Start out by deciding on what kind of an image you want to set of yourself in the market. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I want employers to see me?
  • How do I want people in general to talk about my profession?
  • What will I need to build that image?

That “image” is going to be your brand image. Tip: Try to position yourself differently from your competition. A POD (point of distinction) always comes in handy when you are trying to prove to employers “why they should hire you?” and not someone else. Your POD could be anything from having extensive experience in a range of graphics, or being adept at a certain type of graphical presentation.

As an introduction, you can begin by re-building your social media profiles: Facebook, Twitter, especially LinkedIn, etc. Start building your networks, sharing graphics design related stuff (insights, posts, etc.), and connecting with people or groups who share your interest in this field.


Offer Volunteer Design Services


Remember that we are trying to make a break at this point–not a stash of cash. With some volunteer work in your pocket, you will be able to gain experience and start building a portfolio full of projects.

Volunteer organizations are eager to hire anyone who is willing to offer their skills for charity purposes. Additionally, they are always looking forward to hiring graphic experts who can put together creative prints, logos, banners, and other graphical materials. Employers won’t be concerned about how much you were paid for a past project. They are only going to be interested in what you can dofor them.


Seek Paid/Unpaid Internships

One of the best ways to gain credible work experience when you are starting out is through an internship. Target the best marketing or ad agencies or graphic design studios that offer internships. Competition will be tough, but with a portfolio in hand and plenty of volunteer experience, you can prove your passion and get your foot in the door. If you get in the groove and make your mark, you might even be offered a full-time job.


Take Matters in Your Own Hands

Many companies are interested in the re-touched versions of their own logos and other designs. Find out if any organization is interested in a design makeover for their previous logos, ads, banners, business cards, or anything for that matter. If you are able to hand over something they like, even better than the existing design, you might win the heart of an employer!

Regardless of whether or not you are able to impress an employer, the experience with the organization will earn you credible work and enhance your portfolio.


Show What You Got

Graphic artists, web designers, writers, and photographers all have one thing in common. They want a way to showcase their skills in the most effective and public way possible. And what better way to showcase you skills than through an online blog?

In addition to your social media presence, it is important to build an online presence through your own personal website. This is great for putting up all your work in one place, just like a folder full of various projects—and guess what! This folder has an endless amount of space!

graphic design colors

Whether you choose to build a WordPress Blog with a creative portfolio theme or go for an online portfolio channels such as Behance, is entirely up to you. The idea is to build an online presence and get in touch with people all over the world who are interested in your work, wiling to hire you, or would profit from your connection—and vice versa.

Furthermore, the “freelance experience” you gain from an online presence is quite useful since most graphic designers and design agencies have to deal with high paying clients. This will expose you to a variety of people all over the world, many easy-to-obtain jobs, and allow you to acquire other skills such as learning how to motivate yourself, pitch, multitask, and demonstrate your brand.


Leverage Your Network

Ask yourself where you would like to work. Research the best design offices, marketing/ad agencies, or individuals in your locality who are willing to hire top-notch graphic designers. If you have graduated with a bachelors design degree, you have a better chance of reaching out to a large number of corporations that recruit design students.

Leverage your network and ask individuals in the field you know about local organization that recruit design positions. Ask your family, friends, alumni, social media contacts, institutional members, or anyone in your network about local design firms and if there is any way they could help or refer you to someone they know.


Finally…Your Garden Full of Roses:

Once you feel you have all the necessary experience required for the best design job around and you are confident about your portfolio, go ahead and apply to large organizations.


Images provided by Shutterstock

FrontPage Image: Graphic designer using tablet via Shutterstock

In-post Image: Young man using his laptop in a library via Shutterstock

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