You’re the new designer on the block and there are a lot of other more experienced and established, bigger designers already swimming the sea. Like most fields, graphic design is extremely saturated and it may be difficult to not only define yourself, but establish yourself in the industry. Another challenge a new designer may encounter is shade from designers already in the field, because they feel as if their toes are being stepped on.
I personally believe there’s room for everyone, as long as they are bringing something different, authentic, and unique to the table. However, some designers don’t feel this way and choose to discourage or down new, upcoming, or less experienced designers. When I see this, I always question why these more experienced designers are doing this, because I would think, if anything, that they would be super confident in their own skill set and not be worried about the “little guys”. Anyhow, its part of the harsh reality of the industry and something that every new designer must consider.
If you’re a new designer, here’s a few things you can do to help establish yourself, build your portfolio, and find a community that you fit in with your aesthetic and skills.
Why You’re Awesome
Whether you’re straight out of design school or completely self-taught, and want to share your talents, you must be prepared for the aforementioned issues that your may encounter. With that being said, you can not get discouraged or down on yourself or skills. Yes, you’re new, you may not have the portfolio to back up your talents, but that’s okay. Even if you do have a portfolio, is may not be as extensive or impressive as a more experienced designer’s. Again, that’s okay, because you have so much more room to grow, so many more skills to obtain.
As a relatively new and self-taught designer myself, I have faced many of these emotions, but I’ve learned that I just have to stay focused and not let comparison or what other people think define me. Just like them, I’ll get there one day and be that more experienced designer. However, my goal isn’t to get to their level, it to surpass it and set a new benchmark. Your thinking should be similar to this, in that you’re focused on yourself, your business, and your skill set.
Being new is awesome, because people are always interested in the what’s new. If you have anything working for you its that, the rest is up to you! You have work to do in the meantime, and it doesn’t involve drooling over other designer’s work, it involves you putting that time and energy into your own.
Show Your Work
As I mentioned above, it may be hard to build a portfolio off of little experience, but show the work you have completed. Its something, even if its just work you’ve done for yourself. A lot of designer’s and artist’s portfolios are made up of work they created for themselves. It at least shows your skills on some level and potential clients can get an idea of the type of work you create.
Another great thing you can do is start a blog, where you can not only show off your work, but talk about it. Blogging is also a great way to get your name out there, market yourself, and find and establish a community and following.
Being a newbie is a great time to collaborate with not only more experienced designers, but other new ones as well. Like the old saying, two heads are better than one and you all can learn from each other. Additionally, you’ll feel like you’re not completely in the game alone by collaborating with others. Don’t be afraid to reach other to others, but do be smart about it. Make sure you get to know them and see examples of their work ahead of time, so you know if you all’s styles and methods will be a good fit for each other.
I approach this subject very carefully, but do feel its something necessary to do. Doing favors or work for free is another good way to build your portfolio and get your name out there, because your work is at least out there being utilized by someone. Many times if people are happy with what you’ve done for them, they will come back for repeat (and paid) business and refer you to others. Sometimes, that one small thing you did for free and can set you up for very lucrative dividends down the line. If you look at service, yet expertise based careers like doctors or lawyers, even they do work pro bono sometimes.
I will say to not get in the habit of doing work for free too often. You don’t want to be known as that designer that does all their work for free if you ever plan on making a profit from it. Its important that people see the value in you and your work and pay you for it. This includes friends and family members, because they should definitely appreciate you enough to compensate you for your time and skill.
Never Stop Learning
Although you may be done with school or feel that you’ve obtained all of design skills that you can, there’s always room to learn more. You want to make sure your abreast of current trends and happenings in the industry to keep yourself competitive. Don’t live in a bubble, explore other art forms and aesthetics during this time, because you never know what you can add to your repertoire to broaden your skill set even more.
Go to workshops and conferences, because these are places where you will meet fellow designers and connect and learn. Many of the individuals putting these type of events on aren’t the one’s feeling threatened by new and upcoming designers, and are the main ones that will help, mentor, encourage, and promote you. Those focused on teaching, aren’t focused on the competition, because they’re confident and secure in their skill set. These are the folks you need to be surrounding yourself with!
If you ever find yourself being discouraged about being the new person on the job or in an industry, remember that everyone already in was once in your position. You won’t be in that position forever, but while you are make sure you’re focused on the right things. Things like competition, comparison, and listening to those who truly aren’t in your corner should be avoided. You don’t need the negativity. Focus on growing more, learning, and surrounding yourself with like-minded, positive individuals who will support you.
Additionally, one of the best things you can do and what I highly recommend doing during this time is finding a mentor. Find someone to show you the ropes and give you feedback, it will make you so much better in the long run. One day you’ll be someone’s mentor and you’ll think back and value that mentorship and time with so much.
Have you ever felt like a little fish in a big pond? – How did you cope with being the rookie?