Every year hordes of new designers graduate and thousands more will buy a laptop, learn Illustrator, and call themselves designers. With such a flood of raw, inexperienced “graphic design” hitting the world I think we can take note of some basic principles that anyone calling themselves a designer should follow.
Never work for free
If your work isn’t good enough for someone to pay you, get a new career or work on personal projects to build experience. You are disgracing the entire industry with your below cost pricing and bad designs. If a client tries to talk you into spec work you need to walk away. This only hurts our industry by letting people think they can get away with it.
Learn how to price your work
Quoting too low is an injustice to you and the industry. All the online sites like 99Designs and Elance are set up to make 99Designs and Elance money, not you. On these sites “designers” quote the lowest possible price to get the job and that’s a disgrace to the industry. Your work should merit the pay you deserve. When starting out you can estimate the amount of hours you think the job will take, fluff that by a few because you’ll be wrong and try to factor in other expenses like photography and travel.
Be aware of trends
You’re just starting out, your skills have not been refined yet and you are susceptible to design trends. Trends come and go and when they go you don’t want your portfolio to look dated. Clean design will never go out of style so learn the grid layout. If you’re not sure if something is a trend just assume it is. Your designs shouldn’t need extra filters and effects to be functional.
Get used to criticism
You’ll submit your work and your client will tear it apart. This happens to everyone starting out, for several reasons. Your work might not be that good. You are most likely not the client’s first graphic designer so you need to live up to the last one’s standards. Also, the client is not paying to stroke your ego. They want the highest quality work for their money so you’d better deliver. They will be blunt to get the point across. Plus they will also need changes, many many changes. Sometimes they don’t realize this until you submit the design. So just get used to it, criticism comes with the job and you have to learn to handle it.
Save, save, save
Save your work as you’re working on it all the time. Power outages, hard drive fails and computer freezes happen. Save the files after you send them to the client. It is very common for clients to call you back and ask you to edit files, sometimes years later. And save your work on a backup drive. Anything with electronics or moving parts can and will fail so you need to keep backups, and keep them in separate locations for extra security.