Graphic Design: Going from a Hobby to a Career

Graphic Design: Going from a Hobby to a Career

Many budding graphic designers treat graphic design as a hobby where they can while away their time designing for fun or even earning a little bit of pocket money. And there’s nothing wrong with this as we all need hobbies or life turn into a tortuously dull stretch.

However, some of these graphic designers reach a point where they start to seriously consider whether they can make a living doing what they love.

And this isn’t just some wild pipedream which is best put to one side while you slave away in an office job which numbs your every sense. As long as you’ve got the talent and the drive you can easily shift your career into the exciting world of graphic design.

Getting started on this path is a little intimidating, though, so let’s take a look at how you can get started.

What Attributes Do You Need?

Sure, you might be the most amazing graphic designer to pick up a pencil since Milton Glaser, but if you can’t deal with clients efficiently then you aren’t going to advance your standing as a professional designer.

As with any business you’ll encounter in this crazy world you need two key attributes to succeed and these are:

  • Communication
  • Reliability

If you’re unable to communicate effectively with clients then you’re going to struggle to clarify the finer points of projects and this leads to work which doesn’t satisfy the client. And reliability, of course, is the newbies route to repeat work. And that’s what builds your business.

Oh, and most importantly, you need to want graphic design more than anything else. You need to exude a passion for graphic design which means you don’t mind working 7 days a week for the foreseeable future.

And this drive won’t just keep you going; it’ll shine through into your work and show your clients you’re the real deal.

Discover a Niche

We all like to think big and for a graphic designer that means landing glamorous gigs such as designing film posters, billboard adverts and logos for multinational companies.

Problem is there’s a lot of competition. And that competition already has a résumé a mile long to compete for the top jobs.

That’s why, as a newbie, you need to discover a niche where your creative design is going to solve a problem no one else currently does.

If you can exploit these niches then you’ll find that your reputation grows and you can begin diversifying into those dream jobs.


Don’t Give up the Day Job Too Soon!

It’s a real thrill when you get a few graphic design jobs on the side and earn some extra cash. Suddenly you can buy those amazingly cool trainers you were resisting due to essential outgoings such as rent!

And then a few more jobs tumble your way and you’ve got a nice stack of disposable cash in your account. At this point it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re on to a winner and that it’s time to give up the grind of working for the man.


The early days of freelancing are characterised by a lack of steady, reliable work, so spend this time building up a killer portfolio on the side.

Only when you’re in a position to start arranging contracts and guaranteed long term work should you say goodbye to your day job.

Get the Right Equipment

The majority of graphic design work these days is created digitally, so you need to make sure you’ve got a great rig set up to work in this arena.

If we were to debate whether a Mac is better than a PC for graphic design then we would probably be here for several hours. The truth is that you should go for what works best for you. If you’re happy working on a PC then don’t feel as though you have to rush out and use a Mac because that’s what you read all the hipsters are using.

One thing you definitely 100% need is fully licensed software from Adobe. The hipsters are right on this one as without packages such as Photoshop or Illustrator you’re simply making life tougher for yourself.

And, remember, all your equipment is tax deductible!

Understand the Financial Limitations

I’ll be honest with you, a new graphic designer – working freelance – is going to struggle to make a mint. If you can hit the £14k mark in your first year then, quite simply, you’re having a blinder.

You may struggle to make ends meet for a long, long time, so you need to be in this for the long run. In my early days I made sure that I regularly told myself that I was doing something I love and it’s very rare that people get to achieve that.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a full time graphic designer is an incredibly rewarding move, but you need to make sure you’ve got the desire to fuel this. Starting any business presents a whole heap of challenges, but as long as you prepare yourself then you stand a good chance of carving out a solid career in the design world.



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