The choice to become a designer

The choice to become a Graphic Designer happened through a series of decisions that led to the realization that Designing was something I enjoyed doing. In all honesty, becoming a designer was not a dream of mine. It wasn’t even on my radar, but when I found out that I was pregnant the first year I would be looking at starting traditional college with a vision of being pre-med and eventually going to medical school, I knew that my plans would need to change.

I never wanted someone else to raise my child. I knew I wanted to be present and not pass my little baby off to someone in a daycare every day to raise her. Let alone, the hours that would follow with all of the classes and years of school. So that led me to dive into photography, which lead to design, and ten years later a business and four kids I still love what I do.

So what is it like to be a Graphic and Web Designer?

Well, let me first say that I do not just simply do Graphic and Web design. At this point in my life and Degrees, I also work in marketing across numerous platforms, especially within social media, however for this article we are going to focus on Design.

One of the biggest misconceptions about becoming a designer is that you are going to step out of school, land a fabulous job, and make a ton of money! In fact, I would suggest that a lot of people sell the position to up-and-coming designers that way. However, what they don’t tell you is that before you are 10 years in and charging hundreds an hour you start at $10 an ad and hope you can get it done in an hour without enough revisions to make you want to quit or cry or both.

Graphic Design is an extremely refined skill with never-ending learning and adaptation as you work across numerous brands. The reality is while you learn incredible skills in school, while you learn how to use the tools, it does not replace the actual moments you get hired for your first designs and have to produce the results the client wants.

Being a graphic designer is like being an extension of everyone else’s vision. You must learn to listen closely, take criticism, and breathe life into your client’s project. You really are what makes it all come to life for them; you make it real.

What you wish they would have told you about working as a freelancer when you start…

What you think is great design doesn’t mean someone else things are great designs. This is a tough pill to swallow especially when you really pour your heart into your work, and then you get feedback that the individual doesn’t like the design and wants to redo the entire thing.

This will happen to you, more than once. So here is a TIP to those of you entering the design space and looking towards working as a freelancer on some of your first projects.

Ask all of the questions you could possibly think of prior to the design. Make sure that you develop a mood board that truly reflects what the client wants. Always remind yourself that this is not just your vision, it is their vision, and therefore you must realize you are just simply striving to be an extension of their vision and placing into the design they so wish they could just do themselves.

If you do end up needing revisions and you have that mood board and their vision truly laid out it should be so minimal that you both find yourselves only mildly bothered by the idea of doing a few quick changes then finalizing and sending it back to the client.

So, How long does it take to actually make a career-level income as a designer?

This really depends on the path that you want to take as a designer. One of my biggest pieces of advice to all new graphic designers is if you can find freelancer work while you are still in school, do it. I know all the studying and projects feel overwhelming, but I promise you if you can get yourself into some freelancing work you are going to learn so much and come out of school with much more experience under your belt. This will then give you a huge leg up when it comes to your next decision about your career; are you going to work strictly as a freelancer or entrepreneur or are you going to apply as a designer for a company?

The choice is yours of course and the difference in pay is going to depend on which path you take, the level of designer you are, the area in which you live, and the duties you have. I would suggest being prepared to make a nominal amount if you choose to work while you are in school. Most likely you will get paid per design as an offered amount regardless of how long it takes you to finish it. If you choose to work for an organization right away you might expect to start as a junior or assistant designer making around $25 an hour, which is not a lot right? You are going to have to start somewhere just be reminded of that. As you continue to learn and advance your income will as well. Don’t be afraid to branch out into illustrations as well if you would like to further advance your freelancing workload.

Do you think the market is overly saturated with designers and any other parting advice?

I do not believe the market is oversaturated at this point, as the need for design is evergrowing. With the amount of media we are exposed to from commercials to social media, there is a need for design everywhere. The tricky thing now is that people have learned to better advertise themselves and clients will often hire whoever is available first. It can be challenging to get a client to be consistent to just use you and your services. Loyalty I would argue is one of the challenges amongst designers right now. I would also suggest that with so many new design apps out there today many individuals are not looking for small jobs anymore as they are using online apps to instead create their graphics and not have to pay for the service from a designer.

As we look forward to the future, I think designers are going to have to find more specialized areas of service and design as apps are going to replace a lot of the smaller work projects that many designers had from start-up companies. As far as established larger budget clients they will still seek out designers as they do not want to bother themselves to do the work they can simply pay someone else to do so they can focus on what they do best – running their business.

I look forward to seeing many more individuals enter the design space as specialized designers and am happy to answer questions for those who need help getting started on this journey –

Lela Crawford – Benson
Doctoral Student – Innovation In Leadership in Technology
Masters Degree – Industrial Organization Psychology
Bachelors Degree – Graphic Design