Are you thinking about venturing into the field of graphic design for your stay-at-home job? If so, I want to give you a graphic designer’s exclusive behind the scenes look at what it’s like to work at home as a graphic designer, provide you with some excellent learning resources and educate you on how you can break into the field of graphic design for yourself!
What is a graphic designer anyways?
A graphic designer is, in essence, a visual communicator. The designer’s job is to communicate the message of their client’s brand effectively to the specified audience. Designers do this through arranging type, symbols, color, and imagery to create a specific “feel” related to the brand they are working on for the project at hand. Typical projects graphic designers work on are: logo designs, business cards, brochures, flyers, folders, print advertisements, postcards, company letterhead & envelopes, booklets, catalogs, packaging design, greeting cards & invitations, social media pages including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, as well as web advertisements, and web graphic elements. Designers can also create simple, beautiful websites and can customize WordPress templates for their clients as well.
Qualifications to get started in your own business
What are the qualifications to become a graphic designer? I chose to obtain an associates degree in graphic design, some choose to go after a bachelors, some a certificate, and some choose to do their own self-study. If you choose to pursue freelancing as a graphic designer, then having a degree in this field isn’t required. What you choose really depends on your lifestyle and how much time and monetary investment you can put towards building your all-essential portfolio of work samples.
Learning Option #1: College
Choosing the college route is, in my opinion, a fantastic starting place if your time and finances allow you to do so. There are so many great college options to choose between. You could work towards a certificate or associates degree at your local community college, or you can opt for an online college such as Full Sail University or The New School.
The benefits of obtaining a degree in the field are great because you will be provided with a well-rounded education that will cover all areas of graphic design. You will learn crucial design principles, how to meet deadlines, and how to take constructive criticism on your work. You also won’t be constantly wondering if you are missing any part of your education, but instead will have a good grasp on what all of the different areas of design entails.
However, you don’t need to have a diploma sitting on your desk to become a freelance graphic designer. You could opt for only taking a couple accredited classes if you want and then pursue the rest of your education through self-study. Even if you did want to pursue a degree, I would also definitely recommend supplementing what you learn in school with your own self-study. Your work will be stronger and you’ll be able to provide even more value to your clients.
Learning Option #2: Self-Study
Fully immersing yourself in a design program at your local community college or an online college isn’t always the best option when you are a busy mom or just don’t have the funds at the time to do so. When this is the case, you need to know that having a degree in this field is certainly not a requirement to be a freelance graphic designer. Even with a degree, in my almost four years of working from home, I have never been directly asked if I had one from any of my potential clients. The most crucial thing that I have found potential clients are looking for is not a degree, but a quality work portfolio for them to see. I have experienced this to be the number one element that they base their decision on. If you put together a great portfolio full of at least 4-6 beautiful, solid samples of design work you have done – then that is enough to get started. How do you learn from your own self-study? I suggest that you put together your own learning course by getting a hold of every design book you can, soak up design inspiration from great and successful designers and emulate their work for your own personal practice, start an online learning track on Treehouse and begin taking a set list of courses on Lynda.com and learn all you can for the specific work you want to do at Skillshare.
After you have a general overview of the design fundamentals and a good grasp of the basics of each of the Adobe design programs (see the list below), I suggest starting out by defining the one area of focus that you want to concentrate on. Be it logo design, business card design, brochure design, simple website design, WordPress design, etc and learn everything you can about your area of concentrated study. Once you know all that you can about the subject, work on designing four to six solid samples for your portfolio so that you will be able to use this portfolio on different work sites.
A Reliable Computer:: I own both a MacBook Pro for work on the go and an iMac for when I’m working at home and sitting down at my desk. However, you can easily work on either a Mac or a PC, as the design programs can be downloaded and used on both of these platforms.
Adobe Creative Cloud Programs:: These programs are an absolute must and the industry standard for every graphic designer to have. I recommend to start out by downloading Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, & Muse. Learn these programs back & forth and you’ll be able to provide your clients with great value in any area of their branding materials. Adobe Illustrator CC is used for creating vector graphics. This is the program you would use for logos, scalable illustrations, 1-2 page advertisements, and icon sets. Adobe Photoshop CC is used for editing photographic imagery and building website mockups. Adobe InDesign CC is used for laying out booklets, books, eBooks, magazines & catalogs. Adobe Muse CC is used for designing simple websites without having to worry about complex website coding.
Pantone Color Matching System:: Owning color swatches from the Pantone Color Matching system is highly recommended to keep consistent color across both printed materials and the web. (I recommend the color fans)
A Scanner & Printer:: Having a good scanner and printer is essential for bringing your sketches to the computer and being able to test print your work so that you can be sure you are giving your clients the best.
A Sketchbook & Pen:: Having a sketchbook and pen nearby is a great time saver so that you can do quick sketches to determine the composition of your project or concept idea before you bring them to the computer for more concentrative work.
A Drawing Tablet:: This tool isn’t absolutely necessary, but can be a great help with illustration work and quick thumbnail sketches.
How to work from home as a graphic designer
So, how do you get started in your own graphic design business? I got my start in the freelancing world on oDesk.com (Read my post: Tips for Working on oDesk Successfully As An Independent Contractor). There are many other freelancing sites you can look into as well (see my list of recommended resources below). Invest time and effort into making your online work profile shine with your brief work description, your portfolio of 4-6 samples, and any skills testing the work site might have available. I also recommend having your own website set up so that you will have an outside web presence to show your potential clients during the interview stage. This website could be a simple landing page that you design in Adobe Muse. (Read my post: Learn How to Design Your Own Landing Page in Adobe Muse CC)
By having this simple, well-designed one page (or more) website set up, you will be one step closer to gaining the trust of your potential client and turning them into a long-term business relationship. Once you have your profile and website set up, the next thing to do is to start submitting applications to the job postings that interest you for work directly related to your portfolio samples. Tailor each cover letter you submit to address what you specifically propose to do for the client to meet and exceed their project needs. Then, once the client hires you, follow through with your promises!
Graphic design is a field that is ever growing and there is no cap to how far you can go in your business! If you are interested in becoming a graphic designer, I urge you to take the first step and start exploring your own area of concentrated study. You can even do this while still working your day job by dedicating an hour or two each evening towards your own self-study and building your portfolio.
For me, working from home as a graphic designer is not only exciting, but also so rewarding. I get to do what I love, (create beautiful and effective designs), make a profitable income for my family, help others reach a high level of success in their businesses, and be there for my family all at the same time! I love it because there is just so much flexibility and there is always something new to learn or a new service you can offer. One day your concentration could be designing logos, the next day you could learn how to build a WordPress website and then offer that as an addition to your expanding services.
To help you get started, check out my quick list of recommended resources below! These resources are the top sites and products I interact with on a daily basis in my work and I know you’ll find them helpful too!
Quick list of resources
Accredited Online Learning
WhatTheFont.com (Free Look-Ups)
This is a guest post article written by Rebecca Lutz, Founder & Creative Director at LUTZstudio and Blog Writer at RebeccaLutz.com