11 Apr Education and work for freelance designers
The old SOSNewbie Blog used to have a very active section where newcomer designers were free to ask any question related to design industry. I would try to respond as best as I could based on my experience at SOSFactory.
Feel free to contact me privately or comment in this post to ask your questions.
1.- Do I need a degree to work as a designer?
The answer is… it depends on your target:
- You wanna rock it as a freelance designer: the degree will be useless, in my whole career at SOSFactory nobody requested my CV, actually I have no formal education as designer, if someone hires you it’ll be because of your portfolio.
- You want a job at a quality creative agency: the person in charge of the staff selection will be an expert in design, it’ll mainly look to your portfolio, and maybe some kind of degree too.
- You only want a job at a large corporation: the person in charge of the staff selection will be a talent hunter that will review hundreds of candidates, it wont look at your portfolio; it’ll only see if you have the degree or not.
Another key point is your profile, are you going to be a creative or a technician? If you want to be a programmer, the degree will probably have more importance than if you want to apply as an illustrator… there’s no degree that effectively measures creativity.
2.- Do I need formal education to be a designer?
The answer is NO necessarily.
While formal education is always welcome at any industry, graphic design can be learnt remotely via Internet. There are hundred of websites offering free educational resources for designers and also premium tutorials.
Self-taught education has pros and cos… the main pro is that you can focus on things that really interest you, the main con is that you will have gaps in your knowledge.
As a self taught designer I’m pretty much against design schools; most of them are more worried about profitability than to offer a quality program that helps you to be a good professional. It’s better to have an official degree at University.
If you really want to well spend your money, take individual lessons from someone locally with experience in the area you like, it’s a lot cheaper, more targeted and intensive. You can also buy some good books, although today everything can be reached for free, thanks to the Internet.
3.- Is there a lot of work for freelance designers? Is it well paid?
The world is smaller and smaller thanks to the Internet, there’s plenty of work, but it also gave access to workers from poor countries that makes impossible to compete in terms of price so you have to standout the crowd by offering a quality service.
If you make good promotion of your work and offer a quality service you will have a lot of work, you will enjoy your profession and make a good living. If not you will suffer at crowdsourcing sites, where the winning rate is under 5% of the jobs you apply.
One thing I have learnt over the years… freelancing is not for lazy people, no matter how successful you are, you must always adapt to new trends.
4.- Should I focus in one field or should I know how to do everything?
Again it depends… if you want to be Freelance Designer is good to standout in one or two fields, and be at least decent in as much as possible. I consider myself good in mascot design, but I can design nice illustrative logos and websites, I recently added UX/UI to my skillset.
If you want to work in a quality agency it’s better to focus in a field, if you want to be a regular designer in a big corporation then you have to know how to sketch, design logos, draw, design websites, animate, use 3D programs and program in 3 different languages… Obviously it’s impossible to be good at all those fields.
5.- Do I need to learn how to draw to be a designer?
The answer is YES.
If you want to make a difference you need to know how to draw. You don’t need the level of a top notch comics artist, but you need to know how to draw with grace.
You can start with my Masterclasses about digital inking in Photoshop.
6.- What if I don’t have any talent?
People see my work and say: “You are very talented!!”, which gets on my nerves, I have spent thousands of hours to develop my talent, it was not a gift fell from the sky.
If you think you don’t have any talent maybe it’s time to look for it. How can you do that? Just stop thinking and do things you enjoy, and do it for a long time, no matter how ridiculous you think it may be, if you master it there will be people that will pay for it.
If you don’t find your talent then you’ll have to compensate it with A LOT of work… which is a bummer because you never will enjoy your job 🙁
7.- But how do I get clients?
My friend… clients are like ????… they exist but are hard to find, you must find your own path, no shortcuts. You must be good, must be smart, must work hard and must promote your work a lot and everywhere. If you enjoy the things you do, you will enjoy sharing your achievements with the world, when others see your developed talent they will reach you requesting your services.
Of course, reading wise advice of the Professor will make that path shorter 😉