Career Tips For Graphic Designers

Updated: June 15, 2022
by TJ Salvatore

As a graphic designer, it is important that you know how to progress your career. Graphic design is a highly competitive field to work in, hugely due to the fact that anyone can work from home, from any part of the world. But if you've been studying graphic design for years, then the quality of your skills should already be standing out from the crowd. Unlike those who only started considering a design career, your solid experience can find exciting new opportunities and the chance for career progression.

I hope my following advice will help find better job or gig orders, whether you are at the beginning or your designing career, or you have been in the industry for a number of years but feel somewhat stuck at where you are now. Here are a few career tips for graphic designers that should help you to achieve your long-term goals and find success.

Career Tips For Graphic Designers

Build Your Portfolio

Most of the successful graphic designers know that one of the most important steps to take is to build their portfolio to impress. A portfolio is like a resume, it should contain your work history, skills and qualifications, but while a resume is usually all in writing, a portfolio can have a range of formats such as your photographic/illustration works, videos, and links to your website(s). It can be as graphical as you wish it to be.

This means that the style of your portfolio will represent your designing skill. But not just the style or layout of it, it should not be ambiguous. Whoever is interested to hire you should be impressed by your work experience, therefore the 'resume' part of your portfolio should be displayed clearly. Needless to say, it's important to keep your portfolio updated with work as it is completed whether this is work from a main job, freelance work or even personal projects.

Your portfolio is how you showcase your experience, talent and capabilities to future clients and employers and will be key for securing new work. In addition to the work itself, you should make sure that your portfolio contains detailed documentation on each project and testimonials from previous clients if you have any. If you don't - asking a few of them to submit a testimonial will be a good start, too.

Work On Your Soft Skills

Work On Your Soft Skills

Soft skills. What are they?

"Hard skills" are essentially, technical skills, therefore in your case, the actual proficiency that's expected from a graphic designer. 

Whereas "soft skills" are things that are generally expected from any professional, such as;

  • Communication skills, e.g. teamwork, leadership, public speaking, etc.
  • Professionalism, e.g. basic business talk/writing, manners and attitude, productivity management, etc.
  • Common sense, e.g. problem solving, facts and analysis, reasonableness, etc.

You already know that you need strong technical (hard) skills in graphic design and you may be constantly looking to improve these. But you should not overlook the importance of soft skills, as this is how you make a name for yourself and develop positive relationships with those that you work with. 

Especially, describing visual images in words can be challenging. Even if you are good at describing, your clients may not be. So you're expected to understand what they're trying to say. Lack of communication can lead to waste of time and resources.

It doesn't mean that you should be capable of doing all the examples listed above. For example, no one expects everyone to have leadership skills. But the least you should do is to familiarize yourself with all aspects of communication, including listening, verbal, written and presentational skills. A lot of graphic design is independent work, but when you work as part of a team, good communication skills will become a necessity. When you present your findings, listen to clients, compromise, accept differences (agree to disagree in a friendly manner), etc.

Know How To Build A Graphic Design Resume

As I explained above, a resume is part of your portfolio. But some professionals including graphic designers prepare and update their portfolios and resumes separately according to different requirements. Some recruiters focus on looking at your career history, while some others look at your current career position, for instance.

In any ways, it is important to recognize that graphic design is a line of work that requires a resume that will be different from many other roles. This is why it is useful to look at graphic design resume examples online that can provide inspiration and show you what the best layout is as well as what information is required. After all, your resume will be key for securing new work opportunities, so there is no harm in spending a good time to craft an impressive resume and ask others (e.g. your agent if you have) for advice.

The Power Of Networking

Not everyone enjoys networking. You may see it as a waste of time because whatever community you belong to, there are always some 'serial networkers' who love to chat endlessly and aimlessly. With that said, we cannot deny the fact that networking is a way to create multiple professional circles. You will always benefit from having a large professional network that you can use to find new work opportunities, meet new people and improve your professional reputation.

But here's good news for those who work in a creative field like graphic designing.

Networking

Networking events do not have to take place in a physical location. They happen through Zoom meetings nowadays, or even via social media where you don't even speak to others face to face. While it makes it easier and quicker to gain trust by communicating with your face shown and your voice heard, virtual networking events on social media are advantageous for creators. Because they can send each other's sample work while they are on live chat and have it looked at by multiple people instantly. 

If you can, try finding as many networking opportunities as you can and making your professional existence known. It will lead you to find clients who want to do business with you over and over again in years to come.

Career Tips For Graphic Designers: Conclusion

Build your portfolio and resume, work on your soft skills, and network with others... These career tips may sound like they apply to every other type of job. But now you may understand that they are especially important for creators including graphic designers.

Unless you work for yourself by selling your own graphic design artwork, your job often involves demands either from your clients or bosses at work. Especially in the digital industry nowadays, it's almost impossible to find a 'job for life'. You are likely to constantly look for exciting new opportunities that pay more and make your life happier, just like all of us do.

So make sure you know how to stand out and get noticed. These career tips should prove to be useful and help you to find success with a career as a proud graphic designer.

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About the author 

TJ Salvatore

A freelancer. A nomad. LGBTQ and animal rights activist. Love meeting new people, exploring new styles of living, new technologies and gadgets, new ways of making money.

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