Design is one lucrative career and it attracts (sometimes for the wrong reasons) crowds of newbies. While for some newbies the journey is smooth and painless, this is not always the case. When you are a newbie, the road is especially bumpy. Here are some tips to make a newbie designer’s life easier.
Why Do You Think You Belong in Design?
I hope you already know for yourself the answer to this question but if you don’t, this is the first thing to do. Give yourself an honest answer why you want to be a designer. Is it because you love to design? Or because it looks easier than many other careers? Or because it’s well-paid? Or maybe you want to become a designer simply because you can’t think of anything else you could try?
While you still could become a designer even if your reasons for this are different from love for design, talent, and the ability to learn, it will be very painful for you and for others, so you’d better think of another career where you fit better.
If you don’t design because you love it, you will hardly become a good designer and what is more, you won’t enjoy it. Working 10 hours a day something you hate is hell, even if money is good, so if you don’t love design with your heart, maybe it’s really better to look for another career.
Learn As Much As You Can (and More!)
After you have passed the motivation test (i.e. Why I want to be a designer?) and you honestly believe you are going in design because of your love for it, we can go on with the tips.
Since you are entering design because you really want to, you won’t be scared by the fact that you will constantly be learning new stuff. I know veteran designers, who dedicate at least half a day a week to learning, so if you think you learn design once and you are done forever, this isn’t so. Technologies change and you need to follow them. Otherwise, you just drop out.
What is more, if you are tied to one technology only, this hurts your chances for professional growth. It’s best to learn as many tools and technologies as you can but master at least 2 or 3 of them . In other words, get some idea of most of today’s design-related technologies but choose 2 or 3 and learn them in detail.
Get Some Coding, Writing, and/or Marketing Skills
In addition to design-related technologies, it makes sense to expand your expertise in neighboring areas, such as coding, marketing, or writing. The more you diversify your skills, the better your chances to get good projects.
I know guys who are 50 per cent designers and 50 per cent coders (or 70 to 30 percent, if you don’t want to go that deep in coding). This is a great combination because most real-life projects require skills in both areas. When you have both design and coding skills you can take the whole project on your own instead of look for subcontractors who might not perform the way you want. You have full control over the project and you don’t have to pay to subcontractors.
Of course, you might decide you are not a good fit for a developer. In this case there is no drama – even as a designer only, if you are really good, the future is bright. However, I myself find it more fun when I switch between design, writing, and occasionally marketing and coding – I just don’t get that bored when I have tasks so diverse, as when I am when I am doing only design or only writing for weeks.
Don’t Pay Attention to Envy
I know this is easier to say than do but if you are really talented, you will soon get familiar with envy. It’s usually co-workers who bite the most but you can also meet bosses who instead of appreciating your talents go green with envy.
It’s best not to work with such people at all but if this can’t be avoided, just try to ignore them. Very often they will try to screw you in various ways, so if your co-workers/bosses are like that, you should really consider finding a better job.
Learn How to Handle Criticism – Accept Constructive Criticism
Envy is one side of the coin, creative criticism is the other. Not all remarks you hear are due to envy. Very often these remarks are not groundless and you’d better listen to them. Sometimes it’s just the experience of veterans that saves you from making lame mistakes, so when somebody more experienced gives ideas, weigh them carefully and honestly admit, when they are better than yours.
It’s very subjective when criticism is constructive and when it isn’t, especially with design with its creative nature. You like one thing, the others like another – it’s a slippery ground. In any case, even if you don’t follow suggestions blindly, always keep an ear on what the more knowledgeable than you are saying.
Be Patient and Persistent
I mentioned in the beginning that design seems an easier career than many others. Well, this is not so. Of course, design is not rocket science or brain surgery but if you are to make your designs good, there is lots of hard work. In Web design, be prepared to spend countless hours writing CSS code or getting mad at browsers that don’t display your code properly. In such cases just be patient and don’t give up.
You will also need patience when you deal with clients. While some might love your designs, there are always clients who don’t know what they want or simply whose taste is different from yours. This isn’t a designer’s dream but it’s part of life, so get used to it.
Patience and persistence are again your best friends when you can’t find the projects you want. There might be millions of sites to be designed but when you are out of work (and out of money), you won’t feel happy when you can’t get a decent project for weeks or months.
This happens even if you are a top designer but you stand a better chance to get good projects, if you can do more things than just design. This is why in a previous section I advised you to learn as many technologies as possible.
If You Are In Design for the Money, Think Again
As I mentioned, design is (or at least looks) a lucrative career and part of it goes to the fact that (supposedly) designers make lots of (easy) money. This isn’t necessarily so. I don’t want to discourage you but if you browse job ads, you will find lots of design projects that pay min wage or slightly above it.
You might think that lousy jobs are for lousy designers. This is only partially true. Yes, there are designers who are so bad that even min wage is much more than what they deserve. Unfortunately, there are many more who are good but have to work for like $10 an hour simply because there is a lot of competition and no matter how great you are you can’t land at all times projects that pay $30-50 per hour.
Sure, if you are lucky and if you have sales/entrepreneurial skills, you can get projects that pay $50-100 per hour but don’t consider this the norm. There are designers who make $10,000+ a month but don’t think that any designer is entitled to this simply because he or she knows how to open Photoshop.
Design is a great career but only if you really love what you are doing and you are prepared for the bumps on the road. Design as a career can be very rewarding in any aspect but if you don’t belong there, it could turn into a long-time torture. If you are confident design is right for you, stick to it and don’t allow the bumps to through you out of the road. Years later, when you get experienced, you will be laughing at all this misfortunes you are dealing with right now, so just go on with faith and patience.