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If you have a love for design and a desire to learn more about technology, you might enjoy becoming a graphic designer.
But understanding what is graphic design can be difficult, because the career of a graphic designer has changed a lot over the past few decades. Originally, graphic designers predominantly created marketing materials for print ads by combining words with pictures. They often drew their designs by hand, which were later mass distributed in print ads or flyers.
Today, most graphic designers work with online technology to create websites, logos, digital products, online ads, video illustrations, and more. The world of graphic design is vast and varied, and if you have an interest in becoming a graphic designer, it’s important to pick an area of focus.
For example, you might help create incredibly versatile websites as an accomplished UX designer. Or you might create video game designs. You can also design logos for businesses, print ads, and more. You have many choices when it comes to being a graphic designer. You just have to find the field that works best with your skills and interests.
How Does a Graphic Designer Make Money?
A graphic designer earns money from completing design jobs. They may be employed by a company, like an ad agency or large company’s marketing team. Many large firms have entire departments dedicated to design. If you work for a large organization, you might work in conjunction with computer programmers or with the marketing department.
Alternatively, many graphic designers are self-employed. If this is the route you take, you’ll earn money from finding your own clients.
How Much Money Does a Graphic Designer Make?
Like many design fields, the amount of money a graphic designer makes depends on their experience and where they work. According to Salary.com, graphic designers make on average $73,000 annually. If you’re self-employed, the number of clients you acquire determines your income. Most graphic designers charge on a per-project basis if they’re self-employed.
However, if you work within a larger company you’ll be paid by the hour or earn a set salary. There are many graphic designers who go on to create graphic design agencies and large businesses.
What are the Graphic Designer Qualifications?
If you want to become a graphic designer, there are a few ways to acquire the necessary skills. You can go to school for graphic design or get on the job training through internships. You can also do a significant amount of self-study and practice and teach yourself how to use the common tools and software that graphic designers use.
Choosing Your Graphic Design Path
There’s more than one path you can take as a graphic designer. Graphic design has two broad categories: online graphics and print graphics.
If you’re interested in becoming a graphic designer who handles online graphics, you’ll be in charge of creating products like logos, websites, illustrations for video, and more. You can also become a UX designer, which is someone who creates the layout and wireframe for websites to make them user-friendly.
If you’re a designer who predominantly works with print graphics, you’ll create designs for magazines, brochures, large posters, etc. The two fields definitely have overlap. For example, you might use online software to create a design for a print ad. Although graphic designers mostly work on online projects these days, there’s still a great need for quality print design.
How to Become a Graphic Designer in 8 Steps
If you’re interested in becoming a graphic designer, here are the eight steps to take to get there. Keep in mind there are numerous ways to reach the same goal of becoming a graphic designer. The path you take depends on your career goals and if you want to be self-employed.
1. Consider Earning a Degree in Graphic Design
You can learning about graphic design by attending design school or a regular liberal arts college with a design program. If you’re a high school student looking to pursue this as a career, you might want to research colleges and universities that have specialized programs in graphic design.
If you’re already in college or a career and you’re looking to switch to graphic design, you can consider going to school for additional training. You can also take online courses and tutorials until you become proficient.
2. Create a Business Website
Whether you choose to go to design school or invest in online graphic design courses, creating a business website is a must. Your business website serves as your portfolio so potential clients and customers can see your work. When you’re applying for full-time jobs, your business website serves as a resume to show potential employers what kind of work you do.
3. Prepare to Network
Just like any career, it’s important to network with other designers and potential clients if you want to become a graphic designer. There are many different online forums you can join to meet other graphic designers who might work for companies you’re interested in working for as well. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to graphic designers.
There are courses that you can take that have communities attached to them. You can always network in person to meet people in the design community where you live. LinkedIn is also a great place to meet people.
4. Understand Your Target Client
When you’re creating your website and your resume, think about who you want to serve as a graphic designer. It’s important to identify and understand your target client. For example, you might be someone who wants to help other small business owners create their websites. These small business owners might fall within a certain age range or a certain budget.
Some other examples include being a graphic designer for video games and doing game design. Or perhaps you want to design for fashion brands or companies in the wedding industry. Whatever it is, it’s important to hone in on what you truly enjoy and the people that you want to serve. Establishing a niche early on makes it easier to find companies and people to target.
5. Build Your Portfolio
Now that you understand your target client and you’ve created a website to showcase your designs, it’s time to build your portfolio. At first, you might not have any clients, and that’s why it’s important to use your own creativity to complete projects that you can showcase on your website.
Make sure you include a variety of projects in your portfolio. For example, you might want to showcase a business card design as well as a mock-up of a website or an app. Once you acquire clients, add them to your portfolio so you can show more and more examples of your work and versatility. Make sure to get permission before you add their work to your portfolio; some may have strict rules about letting you use their branding in your online portfolio.
6. Apply for Graphic Designer Jobs or Pitch Clients
Now that you have your portfolio and your website in place and you’ve identified the type of company or client you want to work with, it’s time to move to the next step. If you want to work for a company, continue to network and apply for graphic designer jobs. If you want to work for yourself, look for gigs and get referrals until you have a nice list of clientele to work with.
Keep a spreadsheet of clients you pitch, so you can keep track of their responses and avoid repeat pitching. Create a calendar to follow up on a regular basis.
7. Promote to Your Target Client
If you’re self-employed, it’s important to get your product in front of your target client. This means going to places where your target client goes, like specific Facebook groups, Pinterest or Etsy. You might even consider investing in ads to promote your services to a client.
8. Build Your Brand
Complete the steps above over and over again to secure a job or acquire clients over time. Keep building your personal brand, whether or not you’re in a company so that you continue to grow as a graphic designer and always have an ongoing portfolio of new skills and designs to showcase.
Is Graphic Designing Right for You?
Knowing if graphic design is the career choice for you depends on the kind of job you want and what you have a personal interest in. If you’ve always had an interest in design but want to have a new job or build your own business, graphic design could be a great choice for you. It’s the type of career that creatives find fulfilling and constantly changing.
There are always new tools to learn and skills to enhance. As a business owner, it’s exciting to grow something from scratch and serve clients who can help you. As a successful graphic designer, you can make a great living doing something you love.
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