5 years ago, I was jobless and living with my parents. Even though I graduated from college with a degree in social sciences, it was basically a paper qualification with few career prospects where I lived.
I was lost in life and finding it harder to make ends meet. The bills were piling up and I couldn’t keep relying on my parents for financial support. I knew I had to get a job, but grinding my life away at a 9 to 5 office job just didn’t appeal to me.
I always have a passion for graphic design. Designs that make beautiful use of type, color, form and image have always inspired me throughout my life. At the same time, I heard stories of professionals who were able to turn their passion into successful careers. A thought came to me: if they can do it, maybe it’s not impossible for me. After all, what do I have to lose? With that in mind, I made the decision to actively pursue my passion and begin my journey — as a freelance graphic designer.
I haven’t looked back since.
The last few years have blessed me with many valuable lessons — both good and bad — which guided me on the path to success. Along the way, I worked with people from all walks of life. Some were great to work with; others less so. But they all taught me the importance of building and nurturing long-lasting relationships. Success means different things to everyone. For me, I’m lucky enough to earn enough to pay the bills and turn a decent profit as well.
The truth is, I didn’t go to school for graphic design, and couldn’t afford to. But I have come to understand that in graphic design, it’s your portfolio that counts. A formal education doesn’t fully define you as a graphic designer. In fact, there are many professionals who are self-taught and have found much success.
That said, having a degree does dictate your chances of getting hired if you are looking to work with corporate entities. A job application without a relevant college or university degree is more than likely to be discarded before it even reaches the creative director.
As such, I have to play a different ballgame by working exclusively online as a freelance graphic designer. Instead of high-end clients like Google, I decided to target budding entrepreneurs and small business owners since they are usually more result-oriented and less likely to care about qualifications. It also means I’m not bounded by location, and can work with people from all over the world.
With no background in graphic design, I have to devote most of my time and effort into mastering my craft, starting from the fundamentals. Fortunately, online resources are very much accessible, but scattered throughout the internet. Compiling them was a tedious process, but the knowledge I gained from them made the time and effort invested worthwhile.
I also took time to learn about tools that are essential to a freelance graphic designer. However, since I didn’t have much money, I decided to go with a more budget-friendly (in other words, free) approach. Instead of Adobe Illustrator, why not go with an open-source alternative like Inkscape? If you’re on a budget and would like to find out more, be sure to read the Tools of the Trade series for Graphic Design and Business.
And so, I spent the next year studying graphic design, practicing my craft, and creating a quality portfolio. It was a lot of hard work and dedication, but doing so gave me the confidence to finally launch my professional career.
Starting out as a freelance graphic designer was an uphill battle. I didn’t know how to reach out and market my services to potential clients. I was lost at the time, but Lady Luck was on my side — for she led me to discover Reddit. There, I was able to secure projects and earn my first paycheck. In fact, most of my clients to date are Redditors, so don’t underestimate the marketing power of this social networking service.
Finding Success on Reddit outlines the tips and strategies you can use to market your services and attract the right clients.
In the meantime, I looked through many sites to learn more about freelancing as a graphic designer. However, I realized there isn’t one dedicated to those who wish to pursue their passion in graphic design, but don’t have the education or funds to do so.
With that in mind, I decided to create Fraphic so you can gain some insight on how I achieved success as a freelance graphic designer. Besides sharing my notes on graphic design, I will also provide tutorials on Inkscape so you can improve your knowledge and skills.
At the same time, you will find that most of the information here requires you to think more like a business owner, and for good reason — freelancing is a business, and success ultimately depends on the sales you make. Without clients paying for your services, you won’t survive long as a freelance graphic designer.
In the end, there is no right way to do things, but I hope Fraphic will guide you on the path to success.