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 😉

Sergio Ordoñez Suanez
[email protected]

Hi there, I'm webmaster, designer and digital content creator of everything you see at SOSFactory. I love sharing my limited knowledge as more experienced designers did when I was a newbie.

  • zeta
    Posted at 22:06h, 18 October Reply

    Muy bueno man.
    Me encanto leer esto justo en este momento.
    Hace un tiempo ya q vengo dando pasos para hacerme freelance y no me terminaba de animar.
    He visto tu trabajo y la verdad q esta muy bien.
    Los videos de dibujo y pintar en Photoshop son exelentes.
    Gracias por todo

  • Mario Pena
    Posted at 09:35h, 31 October Reply

    ¿Pero qué … es ser un FRELANCE?, personalmente no me gusta decir lo que soy capaz de hacer pero me considero dibujando muy bueno en todas las facetas, creatividad, diseño 3d (3d Studio), photoshop, oleo, tinta, caricatura y quiero aprender a dibujar con TABLETA GRíFICA y de paso ganar unas “pelas” el fin de semana haciendo lo que me gusta como hobby.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 15:20h, 01 November Reply

    Hola Mario, Freelance es lo mismo que ser autónomo. Es decir trabajas por encargo.

    Hombre… hobby lo que se dice Hobby deja de serlo en cuanto le dedicas 8 horas diarias, pero está claro que mejor pasarlas así­ que en un trabajo que no te guste.

  • juan josé salvatierra
    Posted at 12:59h, 01 November Reply

    justo lo que necesitava leer!!!

  • Juan Carlos Tirado
    Posted at 11:24h, 05 November Reply

    Hola, también trabajo como freelance en Guadalajara, México. Si hay mucho trabajo como dices, y todas estas preguntas y respuestas se han aplicado en nuestro caso. Creo que todos los freelance estamos en sintoní­a. Nosotros trabajamos de 8 a 12 horas diarias. Buen artí­culo. Felicidades-

  • jlmarrero
    Posted at 16:17h, 05 November Reply

    Yo he realizado mi trabajo en las islas canarias durante 20 años, 9 como empleado y 11 como autónomo.
    Como empleado, disfruté de mi profesión y mi familia, como autónomo estoy todaví­a, tras 11 meses saliendo de una depresión.
    Pero no todo es así­. Yo tengo la dosis justa de creatividad, y conozco muy bién la profesión, ya no hay agencias grandes, las centrales de compras han echo mucho daño. Lo que importa es saber que es lo mejor que se te da dentro de las necesidades de las empresas de comunicación (periodí­sticas como publicitarias), especializarte y venderte.

  • Ruben
    Posted at 21:06h, 05 November Reply

    Hola Sergio, 🙂
    de nada por el linkeo, al contrario gracias a ti por permitirme el “copy paste”.
    Con respecto al talento y el trabajo al igual que tu pienso que son complementos… ya que el profesional se crea en la práctica… la teoria y el discurso son algo que te da la experiencia o bien algo que repites de tus maestros pero no lo has vivido.

    Gracias por la corrección, efectivamente.. era el gentilicio de Malaga. Corregido.


  • Hernan Silva
    Posted at 03:44h, 29 December Reply

    Gracias Javier, de nuevo un excelente post, muy buenas recomendaciones y muy puntuales, bastante buenas para personas que aun empiezan y/o que como yo tienen este tipo de dudas.

  • Hernan Silva
    Posted at 03:55h, 29 December Reply

    Madre mia!! Como pude confundir tu nombre Sergio, jajajaj, estaba pensando en otro personaje y escribi su nombre. Disculpame, jajaja.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 16:15h, 29 December Reply

    Jejeje, me volvi loco, intentando entender a quien iba ese comentario.

    Muchas gracias 😉

  • FabroX
    Posted at 14:12h, 28 February Reply

    Es cierto la práctica hace al maestro, y valorando nosotros mismos nuestro trabajo de seguro el resto o los clientes lo haran, todo hay q hacerlo con corazón.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 18:10h, 25 March Reply

    Hola Adriana, siempre que nombres la fuente y añadas un enlace no hay problema.

    Mucha suerte con tu blog! 🙂

  • Adriana
    Posted at 14:20h, 25 March Reply

    Hola, gracias por todos tus consejos, hoy empeze a construir mi propio blog sobre photoshop, estoy poniendo cosas basicas para ir aprendiendo yo y ayudar a otra gente, no es como el tuyo pero algo es algo jejeje.

  • Adriana
    Posted at 14:32h, 25 March Reply

    Una pregunta! Puedo tomar algunos de tus articulos para ponerlos en mi blog? (con su respectivo link hacia tu pagina porsupuesto ?

  • watonartist
    Posted at 04:33h, 26 March Reply

    hate to tell the tales but graphic arts here
    though there is money to be made is sorely under appreciated as well
    its very difficult to find quality jobs and the jobs are extremely underpaid depending on the area of the u.s you live in and the type of graphic works you do obviously there’s a big difference in making a poster for a big blockbuster picture , and making the logo’s and big billboarded art for products , and making the advertisements in the sunday newspaper and on down the line ….

    the exceptional individual puts their work out there , and can be accepted without degree – however most places unless you’re free lance may want their person to have a degree for the sake of a degree..

    generally speaking a lot of artists work as much for themselves as they do for money to live … the best do well
    the rest.. live on crumbs..

  • Alma
    Posted at 15:49h, 04 April Reply

    Your amazing thanks for the advice! =D

  • Atomsk
    Posted at 18:01h, 11 April Reply

    Wow esto abre bien los ojos de un diseñador, me preocupa por una parte de mexico, y la verdad es que aspiro a dedicarme a esto.
    A lo mejor en algun futuro trabajo en sos factoy jajajajajajaj es broma

    Vere si lo puedo poner en mi blog, ya que es un tema muy delicado

    gracias, y que bien

  • DNG.
    Posted at 13:43h, 05 May Reply

    Thx again for the tips.. U rule!

  • GML
    Posted at 11:20h, 10 July Reply

    Me parece muy bueno este artí­culo que escribes ya que yo trabajo como freelance en cuernavaca, yo en lo personal comence dibujando a lapiz me gustaba mucho hacer dibujos a escala (tazos), despues conoci varias herramientas de diseño y me fue interesando tanto que todo lo aprendí­ observando y leyendo varios tutoriales que iba haciendo uno por uno hasta poder dominar las herramientas, estas las fui combinando con programción, bases de datos, etc. y asi poder tener un conjunto de herramientas para poder ofrecer servicios mas completos y bastante cotizables( Diseño de sitios Web, Diseño y programción de sistemas, posters, tarjetas de presentación, etc).

    Ahora estoy formando una empresa jutno con mi hermano:
    Vission Web – Webhosting, Dominios, Diseños exclusivos y mas

  • Henry
    Posted at 12:48h, 23 July Reply

    Que tal me parece muy interesante tu articulo, y quiero q sepas q pienso lo mismo q tú

  • gnesisxx
    Posted at 23:31h, 04 August Reply

    wow, muy bueno amigo, has acertado en todos los puntos :D.


  • Manu
    Posted at 16:30h, 19 August Reply

    Hola. Me alegra mucho haber encontrado este blog, ya que, desinteresadamente ayudas mucho a gente como yo que queremos llegar as ser algo en este mundo. Y eso hoy en dí­a no lo hace nadie. Gracias por animarme.

    Posted at 19:20h, 16 March Reply

    Hola. q buen artí­culo, con respecto a la pregunta 7.- ¿Debo hacer encargos gratuitos o participar en concursos para promocionarme?…pues yo me ofrecí­ a diseñarles a una banda local un dibujo de ellos en cartoon, les gustó el boceto pero no me conocen…:P solo por DA, algo informal, no creo q me paguen pero tal vez me den el crédito y eso me de reconocimiento…¿Crees q esto es un error o está bien?

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 05:51h, 17 March Reply

    Sólo tú puedes contestar a esa pregunta.

    Si me preguntas, un grupo que no paga por su imagen corporativa es porque no se toma su imagen muy en serio, mucho menos te van a tomar a ti.

    Si me preguntas, ¿tengo algo que perder? Te dirí­a que sólo tu tiempo.

  • Diana
    Posted at 13:27h, 17 March Reply

    Me parece lógico, además creo q no ven el diseño de mascotas como algo serio o renumerable.

  • Diana
    Posted at 14:40h, 30 March Reply

    Sabes, me apresuré en hacer un diseño, les gustó pero no si no me pagan, obviamente no podrán tener los archivos ni la imagen en alta resolución, pero ¿Qué puedo hacer con ese diseño? si lo pongo en Deviantart me lo roban 🙁 lección aprendida, Sergio.

  • Diana
    Posted at 14:51h, 30 March Reply

    “Quieres trabajar en una buena agencia de publicidad: si es una agencia de publicidad pequeña o una buena agencia, el encargado de la selección de personal será algún experto en diseño, se fijará principalmente en tu portafolio, posiblemente también busque una titulación.”

    Qué extraño, en mi paí­s sucede q en muchos casos son los informáticos es decir, ingenieros en computación los “diseñadores” y lo más curioso, es q aquí­ en Latinoamérica existe un premio llamado La Arroba de Oro y se lo dieron a uno por mejor “Diseño” de web eso implica no solo el armado de la página creo.

  • k-mix graphics
    Posted at 17:51h, 17 April Reply

    i actually agree with everything you said,especially the talent-work part…i think i’ll read your blog and practice and then try to aply for that job offer…it would be nice i you could put some useful links for web sites similar to this just to check other designers/artists opinions on the same subject…it would be extra cool if you could post some links from your favourite european designers cos we europeans are a bit fed up with american if you know what i mean (i’m actually write from croatia and here designer job is very underestimated and people usualy lack the taste for quality design and are usually unwilling to pay for any illustration) i’ll also leave you my email adress ([email protected]) if you want to contact me like this or if you find time…tnx,a lot i discovered your site today after a painful googling job(:)) and it has realy brithen my day…you rule…respect…keep on the good work…

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 15:09h, 18 April Reply

    Hello K-mix, you are very welcome 🙂

    Sites I like? I usually visit and the Envato network (,,…).

    And I follow lot of artist of different countries trough, my username is sergitosuanez.


  • Yeli
    Posted at 08:59h, 04 August Reply

    Esta muy bien el articulo, en estos momentos me viene bien saber todo eso, son como palabras de animo, por que acabo de terminar un curso y la verdad aun me siento que n se nada. Pero tienes la razón hay que practicar muchisimooooo. 🙂

  • Tebe
    Posted at 14:24h, 16 September Reply


    great article once again! Also nice to see you back with your blog, hope you got well after the appendicitis. 🙂 (really struggled with that sentence, hope it is about right..)

  • Robin Robbins
    Posted at 17:10h, 29 September Reply

    I am a developer/artist.. I have been drawing for a long time and now wish to get my youngest daughter into design.
    I found your stuff amazing, and I like your take on tablets.
    Just jotting a note of appreciation, I know we all like to get those.

  • Lesha'
    Posted at 12:18h, 19 November Reply

    Thanks a lot, really encouraging 🙂

  • Nitesh
    Posted at 16:10h, 26 October Reply

    hi sergio,

    basically i relate to accounts profession but i like drawing sketches and photoshoping in my free time.I have a small corner for art in my life.I really love your drawings.Can you please tell/suggest me some sites where i can learn how to draw like you Clean and clear in my free time.

    Please reply

    thanks & regards.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 16:22h, 26 October Reply

    Hi Nitesh,

    to learn to draw just need some basic knowledge about traditional drawing, check this tutorial:

    The rest is just practice and practice, there is no secrets.

    To learn to ink you must master Photoshop tools, there is several choices depending on your resources:

    And to color check this tutorial:

    I also have another one very good but it´s premium content:

    I hope it helps 🙂

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