AN INTRODUCTION INTO
For those who’ve ever wondered, “What IS a graphic designer?”, “What does it take to be a freelancer?” or “…can’t I just do that in Powerpoint” (God dammit, no you can’t!) – this blog aims to answer those questions.
You see being a graphic designer is more than just picking a font, adding an image and throwing a random colour at a page; this ladies and gentlemen is an art. A highly creative, passion-driven, self-motivated, stress-inducing art where you learn to nurture a love/hate relationship with your computer for not being able to instantly predict what you want it to do, yet somehow it always turns out great in the end!
To begin answering those questions I can see biting at your lips, let’s get into it. What does the ‘ol textbook definition tell us about graphic design?
Graphic design is the art of visual communication; the ability to transform a clients brief into a clear, informative and aesthetically pleasing outcome, be it a poster, a leaflet, an infographic, a logo, an entire website or beyond.
With thorough research, planning and analysis a graphic designer is able to find visual solutions to communication problems and using a variety of techniques including (but not limited to) arranging typography, image, colour and layout, the designs can be translated over both print and online publications – ensuring the best possible result for the client. The final outcome may be intended for a short-term promotion, a national, regional or industry-specific campaign or a consistent part of an individual’s / firm’s business image.
Additionally, each project that a graphic designer takes on will be different from the last, making clear communication and determining the individual needs and deadlines of the client an integral part of their role.
Ok, great but what does it all mean? What does it take to be able to translate several pages in Microsoft Word into a shiny, awe-inspiring, mystical, magical document that fits your client’s brief perfectly and leaves a trail of glitter in it’s wake?
* Please consult your local glitter specialist for more information.
Creative Skill: If you have an “artistic eye”, or the understanding of how to create a visually pleasing composition e.g. with text, image and colour – you’ll likely do very well. As a freelance designer it is imperative that you’re able to find a balance between producing the final information-lead outcome for your client in a succinct way – but also being able to make it visually interesting enough for people to want to read or view it.
Producing an attention-grabbing poster or a big, bold advertisement for example is fantastic but if nobody can understand the message or read the information on it clearly, the design (and designer) has failed.
For example, click here to see: 11 Hilarious examples of bad design
Self motivation and self discipline: As a freelance graphic designer you are the secretary, the accounts manager, the sales team, the designer, the project manager and the director in your business; you are the sole person responsible for bringing in clients and delivering the ‘goods’ on time. Heck, it’s a big responsibility!
Being a freelance graphic designer means that, unlike in a creative studio, you have to deal with every aspect of the business, which not only requires a lot of self motivation – especially on the quieter days or weeks – but also a lot more self discipline to balance all of the extra tasks on top of delivering your designs on time.
The key to keeping all of your plates “spinning” and your deadlines met as a freelance designer is simply to plan appropriately. Dedicate time each week to organising your main projects in order of importance and urgency, keep a daily list of smaller and realistic goals, set aside an hour or two each week for settling your invoices and accounts and, when busy, only respond to your emails a few times per day.
You can still let Bob from catering know you’ve received his email and will deal with it as soon as possible, but if it’s not urgent don’t distract yourself from your deadlines by changing your focus.
Communication: Aside from being able to put a design together, a designer’s key skill for surviving the world of freelance is the ability to communicate effectively. Whether it’s with a client, a supplier, a printer or other service provider if you don’t set clear targets or deadlines for your projects, you can’t expect things go smoothly if all of the parties involved aren’t on the same page!
When taking on any new project set manageable project goalposts for you AND your client. For example:
- A date for an initial proof
- A date that your client needs to supply content by
- A date for “final checks” on the project
- An estimated finished project date if all other targets are met in time
- A final invoice date
Putting this simple procedure in place not only sets a clear timeline of what’s expected for everyone involved, it also covers your side of the deal should a client not supply you with something in time and their deadline is missed as a result.
Linda, I’ve been calling you 3 times a day for the past five days – it’s not my fault you gave me your ninth content revision a week after it was due and 3 days after your final print deadline – you’re not getting your 48 page brochure printed by tomorrow!
By being able to manage your clients expectations with timeframes and deliverables (as well as actually turning around their projects on time) you, as a result, build strong and trusting relationships that will not only keep your clients coming back to you time and time again – but you may even get a few referrals in the process!
Patience, practice and perseverance: Finally (although there’s so many more things I could add – maybe in another blog) to go alongside the self motivation point, as a freelance graphic designer it’s of utmost importance to just keep on truckin’!
Sometimes things won’t go the way you planned, sometimes clients will give you bad feedback or suggestions that you know will be detrimental to the project, sometimes you’ll make an obvious mistake that could have been avoided and sometimes you just want to turn your laptop off and go to bed. The best thing you can do in any of these situations is:
- Don’t take things too personally. We’re all human, we all get frustrated and make mistakes and everything can be solved with a little time, cooperation and a cup of tea.
- Be patient. If you’re trying and failing to replicate an idea that looks SO GOOD on paper but awful in rendering or you’re not getting as many clients converting as you’d like – take a step back, analyse or remove yourself from the situation for a moment (or a few hours or a day – whatever you need for a bit of clarity) and go back to tackle the problem again with a fresh mind and a bit of enthusiasm.
- Keep doing what you’re doing. Practice what you preach, better yourself with what you love to do. Motivate yourself to be the best version of your desigery-self you can be by learning new and developing old skills. Find inspiration in a everything and don’t take crap from anyone!
If all else fails, just bang your head on the nearest surface a few times until you can’t remember what the problem was.
Happy freelancing! 😀