8 Practical Tips on becoming a Graphic Designer
not all graphic designers are the same.
Sep 27, 2019
I get a lot of jaw-drops when I tell people I have no idea how to use Photoshop.
The fact is- you don’t need to learn Photoshop in order to be a graphic designer that makes a living, and I hope this blog post will show you how easy it can be to become a graphic designer.
I think that some people still have a
structure in mind when they hear the words
Check out my 8 practical tips on becoming
a Graphic Designer, and hopefully discover you
got yourself a business!
# 1 - re-discover the old ways!
Word is not a dirty word, and people still sell services that are based off of word or even powerpoint!
You need to understand- a graphic designer is not only a person that sells logo design services and website PSD files. Graphic designer do all kinds of work- from designing items to print (like flayers, invites, menus, etc.) and ever designing products.
You can easily turn an A4 pdf on Word into a foldable birthday card printable item to sell on Etsy, or design flyers for someone looking to print their items at home- on a simple A4 printer paper.
There are also a lot of coloring book artists still making their living- designing coloring pages from stock-sources and shapes on word.
You could also check out Powerpoint’s abilities, as well as the Mac equivalents (Keynote & pages) or the Google Drive equivalents (Docs & slides), as they both hold a large template library that could help you get started!
#2 - don't think for your clients
As i often talk about Fiverr and selling in this online platform, I get a lot of responses like – “No one would want a $5 logo”.
To that I have 2 things to say-
1. Fiverr is not a $5 website, and it hasn’t been a $5 website for a very long time. People on Fiverr purchase logos from $5 to $500 on a daily basis.
and- 2. some people need a simple logo.
You might need to be extremely talented and creative to design a complex psychedelic logo, or a smooth handwritten calligraphy logo, but not all clients want that.
Don’t assume you know what all potential clients need.
yes, there are clients who need you to think for them, to find out for them the different branding solutions they need for a new website and business.
But, some clients are simple people, who opened a store on eBay and need that 1 time logo to place there and get it over with!
(That was my first $5 logo design, 4 years ago- to a guy selling jewelry on eBay who simply wanted the name of the shop in the simplest font, in black, and didn’t know how to create that size himself).
#3 - research other service providers
In the photo above me you can see a quick search I ran on Fiverr on the term- Business card.
Although you see Fiverr in the photo- this tip will come in handy even for people who are not selling on Fiverr!
Think of a service you think you could offer- and search it as a buyer on Fiverr.
Check out the results from the most reviewed gigs, and see what people are offering:
How are they customizing the service?
Do they use templates and have clients pick a template that fits them?
What size files are they providing?
What are the file types they are offering clients?
This directly connects to the whole “photoshop is mandatory for graphic designers” approach.
I don’t know why people still think PSD files rule the world, but most people need PNG files for their print shop – and that is something you can do in our next tip- on Canva!
(and as long as we’re on the topic- check out my post about how to start your own business card design business!)
#4 - make canva your best friend
I got a lot of weird-vibes from “veteran” graphic designers when I told them I’m using Canva for my clients. Those vibes- didn’t hurt my profits at all!
Canva is a major design tool- allowing you to easily make PNG files, as well as JPEG, PDF and more!
Canva is a magnificent online tool for everyone- with a free user interface, and addition options for paid members.
You can easily design anything for Canva’s pre-existing sizes and templates- a quick fix for logos, Facebook covers, Pinterest infographics, flyers, menu designs, wedding invites, and so much more!
I personally use Canva not just for my clients- but for the graphics you see in my website here, as well as for patterns I make for my RedBubble shop.
You could also skip the sizing and templates you see and design based on your own measurements!
You got countless of free stock photos there, amazing and unique fonts, elements and illustrations that are great for any Graphic designer – beginner- and veteran!
Biggest downside for the free membership is that you cannot create designs on an “empty” background, but for that I use Clip Studio Paint (more about that 2 tips below).
#5 - familiarize yourself with measurements
Pixels, inches, Centimeters, they need to be in your head!
You need to be able to understand different sizes, and how they relate to each other, where they fit, and how do they manifest in DPI qualities.
I personally have a page in my bullet journal with my most used measurements, in all 3 of the distance-measuring-methods written above.
One of the reasons I adore Canva is because of its ability to easily give you the right measurements (in most cases).
As this is not a graphic design course, and I am a person that loves to see people educate themselves- Google! Everything!
Google a good chart for measurements, google explanations on what DPI is, and how to scan web-pages for their measurements to learn what photos these pages need!
A lot of graphic designers buy an A3 paper from a print shop- and sketch on it their most used sizes- in pixels and cm and inches, an A4 example, all- true to size.
I also keep a ruler in my desk, as well as a measuring tape to better visualize what I’m about to design.
#6 - Get a wacom tablet
One of the smartest things I have ever done was to get my WACOM tablet.
While a lot of people think “wacom” is the definition of that cool tablet graphic designers use to draw with- it’s actually a name of a company (same way people use the word Kleenex to describe tissue.)
There are different types of tablets, ones in which you draw on and see your drawings in the computer, and others that you can draw on- as a display tablet- just like on a piece of paper. (I’m using the one without a screen as somehow I find it easier, go figure).
Wacom tablets allow you to do so much more! Even the process of “deleting a background” becomes easier when you can just draw it, and it also gives you so many other things to offer- like handwritten logos, high quality illustrations and custom portraits.
When you get a Wacom tablet, depending on the price/size/sale you also get access to some of Wacom’s softwares.
I have been using Clip Studio Paint for the past year- and it’s so much easier and far more intuitive than photoshop!
It’s not only a great professional tool, but it also sprouts out creativity- and you know you need that one to succeed!
#7 - practice on fake clients
A lot of people just don’t know where to start from- so they offer their initial services for free- in order to build their portfolio.
Now, I will never tell anyone not to offer free services, it’s your full right! However, you could have a portfolio without giving away free stuff!
Let’s say you want to offer branding services that include a logo, a business card, and a Facebook cover!
Sit down and write 4 businesses on a notebook. Make them random, for example:
A new yogurt brand, a hair stylist that comes to your home, a new vintage second-hand thrift shop, and a dance school for all ages.
Now, pretend you are dealing with actual clients!
Write down the name of the business, if they have any specific colors they’d want to use, the ages they are targeting, etc.
Once you got all their demands- create a logo, a business card and a Facebook cover for all 4.
On top of having an instant portfolio- you are also finding out what info you need from your clients, what questions to ask them, and get faster while performing these tasks!
Now, you don’t need to display these as “fake” clients- just as Examples of your work and style! (These works could also help people guide you towards what they’re after, for example: I want my FB cover like the one you did for the dance school!)
#8 - don't forget to get inspired
Your designs are as good as your inspiration.
if you’re feeling uninspired- you won’t even create a good black and white simple text logo in a given font.
For me, I drive inspiration from nature, color clashes, and from large sceneries.
As I currently live in a mountain city- finding breathtaking HUGE views is pretty easy!
I take inspiration walks to different parts of my city, take close up photos of flowers on trees, catch cats running away, check out local graffiti works, and honestly- I just love stepping on stuff and seeing the colors that are made- just like the photo you see below- taken at a public playground with starts all over the fake-grass.
I also sketch a lot, just things that come to mind, I do calligraphy for song lyrics that get stuck in my head, and I play the guitar.
Inspiration is so valuable for a graphic designer, and for any online freelancer, really.
It’s the key to trying out new things, discovering color combos you didn’t think of before, or even simply- letting your professional mind rest a bit while you look at pretty things <3
I guess these tips were not really what you thought they would be when you saw the post’s title.
It’s not a “how-to” manual, but it’s valuable nonetheless.
Your mindset and skill levels are key for you to succeed as a graphic designer
or as an online freelancer of any kind.
I hope you found it useful <3