Become a professional designer: our handy how-to guide

You’ve got a notebook full of designs, a head full of ideas and nowhere to put them- so what happens next? Finding and taking the first steps to becoming a designer professionally might seem like an unachievable feat, but there are simple things you can do which will really improve your chances and help you on your way.

Step one: get your name out

Promoting yourself properly is the first and easiest step to getting work. Joining social networking sites and forums  or even setting up your own website can really help to boost your exposure- after all, how can people fall in love with your designs if they can’t see them?

Social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook fan pages and Tumblr can be really useful tools in self-promotion. Acting as an online portfolio, social networking sites can allow others to share your work, or ‘like’ it, which will ultimately give you a wider reach and can even provide the foundations for a fan base. See our helpful tips on how to use social media sites for more information about finding sites which suit your work, and how you can get the most out of them. 

Joining design forums and websites can help put you in touch with other designers and alert you to any events happening near you. Going to social events and seminars set up by groups local to you provide golden opportunities for networking, and could be filled with prospective job opportunities and invaluable advice. Websites such as The Association of Illustrators and UCreative are great places to start.

Step two: where do you want to work?

There are a number of options available to you as a designer; you can join a design agency or creative agency, which can either keep you in-house or find you temporary work placements. Choosing to work in-house for an agency will mean that you are not able to be selective with the jobs you take, but will ensure security, a regular pay check and a whole team to collaborate with. Temporary placements are only short term but will give you invaluable experience, and are great for designers with a very wide range.

Feel like the freelancer’s life is the one for you? Staying proactive and finding your own clients can be hard work but will be very rewarding in the long run. Having flexible working hours and the ability to accept or reject jobs will be some of the main perks to look forward to as a freelancer, but remember to stay focused and proactive to ensure regular work comes your way.

Step three: finding work

Now you’ve got a strong online presence and substantial portfolio, you can start looking for work. Job sites such as LinkedIn and Creativepool make it easy to browse current vacancies and will give you a taste of what clients are looking for. Both sites feature freelance and permanent vacancies and will allow you to create your own professional profile. Jobs are easy to apply for when signed in to your account, and there are loads of great design groups which you can join.

Many illustrators and designers can make regular money from selling work to stock image companies such as Bigstock who rely on regular submissions to keep their content fresh. Alternatively, turning your work into high quality framed prints, t-shirts and greetings cards which you can sell yourself on Etsy and Not on the High Street is a more hands-on way to distribute your own work, and setting up a seller account is simple and quick.

Do I need to copyright before I can get started?

Although copyrighting your work is not completely necessary before you start selling it, having an official claim to it can make life a lot easier if you do discover that someone has taken your stuff. As the original creator of the work, you will automatically have copyrights to any images, and this can always be verified with your drafts and rough sketches.
If you are working as part of an agency or for a larger company, it is likely that they will copyright everything created in their name, so you will be covered. If you’d like more information on registering your work, you can find out more in our blog post about copyright.

Top tips from the design team:

Rob says: “Teach yourself by doing little projects for friends and family, learn from sites and blogs rather than books as they get out of date too soon.”

Gary says: “Know what the client wants and make sure you’ve got a really thorough brief.”

Emma says: “Don't just say yes to doing everything, because if you can't or it's not possible within the time and money, your client will just be disappointed with the results and you'll get bad reviews and no more clients!”

Getting that dream design job may not be as difficult as you think- with a little internet savvy and some proactive thinking, you can be making money from your designs in no time!

Are you a designer by trade? Share your tips with new starters in the comments box below and help inspire a new generation of artists!


Fiona Dawson
13 Mar 2014 16:40
Learn web design at the same time. You can offer buy a website get a logo services. Works for me!
08 Dec 2015 19:17
useful blog ~ thanks for sharing :)

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