It’s hard to make money as an artist, but graphic designers are the exception to the rule. Those who can successfully break into the graphic design industry can look forward to spending the rest of their working lives doing what they love. Not everyone is cut out to be a graphic designer, but those with the skill and devotion to their craft required to pursue this kind of unique career can read on to find six tips that will help set them up for success.

Pursue a Formal Education

It’s common to hear successful professionals in any field talk about how getting a foothold in the industry is primarily about who newcomers know. Pursuing a formal education will give newcomers access to expert advice not just about how to improve their craft but also how to get a foothold in a competitive industry. Just having an exceptional student graphic design portfolio developed over the course of several years of study can really help when it comes time to interview for jobs or submit quotes to clients, so that alone may be worth the extra time investment.

Work for charities

One great way for newcomers to the field to start building their portfolios is to volunteer their skills for local or national charities. Putting those blossoming skills to work for a good cause is reason enough to pursue this option, but volunteer projects can also lead to paid work in the non-profit and for-profit sectors. Just make sure not to get taken advantage of by setting a precedent for producing free projects for anyone and everyone.

Look for internships

Both paid and unpaid internships can give novice graphic designers a foothold in the industry. Newcomers to the field can get valuable experience, expand their portfolios, and learn what to expect from working with a formal organization. In many cases, internships can also turn into full-time jobs, especially for those who are willing to give their all.

Start freelancing

All graphic designers need to get started freelancing is sufficient knowledge of the required software, artistic skill, and the time to complete small projects for individual clients. Freelancing is a great way to make some money, hone networking skills, and start getting real-world experience that will look good on an application while waiting for full-time job interviews. Plus, it will give recent graduates the chance to translate the theoretical skills they have developed during their formal studies into practical skills.

Build relationships

Success in the field of graphic design is all about networking. Try to form an informal network of peers in related industries and devote some time to forming genuine, friendly working relationships. Communication and networking are key to getting well-paid jobs and progressing in almost any career, and graphic design is no exception.

Don’t give up

Don’t take rejection personally. If a client doesn’t request more work or a hiring manager opts not to call a graphic design student in for an interview, it’s easy to get discouraged. Instead, keep honing those skills and building relationships in the industry. It will pay off eventually.

The Bottom line

A career in graphic design can be incredibly rewarding. It’s one of the few ways that artists can devote themselves full-time to their craft without resigning themselves to a life of struggling to get by. With time, effort, and skill, any talented artist can make it in the field, so stay patient and don’t lose sight of those goals.

Susan Ranford

My name is Susan Ranford. I am an expert on job market trends, hiring, and business management. I often write about issues related to employment and business.