How to get started as a self-taught designer

February 5, 2020

Being a self-taught designer, how to start your own design business, how to become a freelance designer, becoming a freelance designer, The Blog Stop, Ariel Garcia

Interested in learning graphic design but not sure where to start? You’re in the right place!

I’m a self-taught graphic designer. I went to a liberal arts college and got a degree in Communication with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t discover my love for design until I was 24 years old, working in a boring old 9-5 office job.

I’ve talked to so many aspiring graphic designers who are scared to get started because of their lack of experience, education or audience size.

But the truth is, anyone can be a self-taught graphic designer. It takes hard work, perseverance and patience, but anyone with passion can do it. And if you’re truly excited about design (because it will be HARD WORK), here are some actionable things you can do to get started.

1. Post your work.

I know this is SO scary when you’re first starting out. What will people think? Are you even good? Will people like your work? I get it. I felt the EXACT same way. But if you’re not brave enough to post your work, you will never make it. Posting your work is THE THING that will build your design career the quickest. Share your work. And then share more work. And even more work. Never stop sharing what you’re creating.

2. Make-up client projects

When you’re just getting started, you most likely don’t have a ton of paying client projects lined up. Which is TOTALLY FINE. Everyone starts out that way. But don’t let that stop you! Make up a client! Replicate that dream client in a fake client project. Treat it like it’s a real client and design the hell out of it. You’ll now have a legit project to put in your portfolio AND you’re showing your dream client that you can, in fact, create something amazing, even though you may not have a ton of experience under your belt. Take a look at one of my made-up client projects HERE.

3. Pinterest is your best friend

90% of my website traffic, clients and sales come from Pinterest. The longer a pin has been circulating on Pinterest, the more traction it gets in search results. Some of my most popular pins are ones I pinned when I was first starting out because they now have 6+ years of SEO juice behind them. In addition to sharing your work on social media, you should also be pinning EVERYTHING you create – linking back to your website or portfolio.

4. Practice & improve your skills.

It’s ok to not be the best, most talented designer in the beginning. I sure wasn’t. Despite how it may appear, talent isn’t born overnight. It takes hard work and years of practice. Just like with anything, if you want to be good & competitive, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. You should always be learning something new. Work on projects that are out of your comfort zone. Always be pushing yourself to be better. If you start doing this now, you’ll be amazed at how talented you’ll have become a year or two from now.

5. Start creating digital products

Creating multiple revenue streams for yourself from the beginning is SO SMART. Selling digitals products is an amazing way to make money as a designer. But creating those products takes time. So start now. Start now when you don’t have a ton of client work and you just need things to create. Decide what kind of products you’d enjoy making and selling. I knew I wanted to sell website templates earlier on so I just started. Even if your sales are low at the beginning, a digital product lasts forever. A year from now, that product might be bringing in thousands of dollars. And if it’s already created, there’s little to no more work that needs to be done to make those sales.

6. Be genuine

Everyone has to start at the beginning. And that’s 100% ok. Spend your time creating real work that you’re proud of. There is no need to fake or appear to be a booked-out, successful designer from the start. If you work hard and stick with it, your work will speak for itself and you WILL grow. Be honest, genuine and transparent about your journey. It’s the only way to gain future clients’ trust.

Being a self-taught designer is hard work and takes patience. Buuuuuut, if it’s something you love and are passionate about, you can truly create the freedom to live the life you want to live.

If you want to dive even deeper into how to build a profitable design business as a self-taught designer, I created a totally free training on the 3 Simple Shifts I Made to Build a 6-Figure Design Business.

Be brave.
Take a chance.
Don’t stop trying.

All my best wishes, friend.