Okay, don’t think that I’m trying to discourage anyone who is currently a design student in university or anyone who is thinking about enrolling in one. I have a Bachelor in Digital Arts and Animation myself; and although real life has slapped me on the face several times, I don’t regret going to university. However, there are some things I wish I knew or was more prepared for before entering the world of design.
There’s always a chance of culture shock making the transition from school to your first internship, your first job or even the start of your freelance work. You may be in your last year of design school and feel like you’re ready to start your professional life, but here are three reality slaps that you will experience.
- Dealing with clients
At school, you have teachers who give you assignments, elaborate projects and the worst part is that your grade depends on them. At times you might even curse them for trying to make your life a living hell; but in reality there are people much worse. They are called clients.
To be fair and honest, there are many types of clients you will have to work alongside as your career progresses – some are great, some are awful; but you must be prepared to face them all. They are even less flexible than your uptight teachers. Some might take advantage of your inexperience and refuse to pay you your deserved fee or worse, nothing at all! They may not understand the time and effort it takes to create a logo, to design a banner etc. This is when you learn the art of patience and think to yourself, “Hey, maybe my teachers weren’t so bad after all. I miss them.” So, be prepared.
- Facing competition
School can be like living in a bubble, especially if all you do is keep to yourself and focus on your classes. But when it comes to the working world, it’s a big universe of millions of people fighting to be the greatest designer there ever was. Your biggest competition are those with experience who have been working in the field for a while now and already are really good at what they do.
No pressure though. Everybody has to start somewhere and it’s your job to work hard to earn your place at the top. However, beware of the fact that grades aren’t everything and that other people are vying for the same jobs you are. So, go out there. Enter contests, do out-of-school projects, find freelance design work, work with other designers – especially designers who have more experience than you. Learn as much as you possibly can from them. It will not only give you experience in turn, but you can also start building a network of contacts for future projects and create a standout portfolio.
- Business skills
I’m pretty sure you’re amazing at expressing yourself visually and you are up-to-date with the latest trends and design software. You might already have an awesome portfolio of your own personal projects. But maybe you’re not a people-person and you would rather be left alone to work remotely from your own station – just you and your art.
Well, even if you’re not planning on working in a big corporation and just want to do freelance work, you will need business skills. Trust me. You will need to talk to people, vocally pitch your ideas, negotiate, appropriately price your customers, etc. Basically, you must know how to manage yourself and your design business or else you will be faced with a hard time.
From what I have researched, most design schools do not include business-related classes which is something that is really lacking. That is why you need to be more proactive with your learning and acquiring of skills. Find business courses, acquire a mentor, learn from your experienced teachers; and if you’re lucky (like me), you might get to learn more about the business world in school. Never underestimate classes that you have to take and think that it will not do you any good in the future. Your “Why do I need to learn this?” attitude might hurt you because trust me, you’ll be needing this external skills. They are even more important than your other design classes because you will need to practice them long after your years of studying and working.
So, now you know. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If there is any more advice I could give to you, it would be to start gathering experience as soon as you can and do not be afraid or shy of anything. Have you ever heard, “If you don’t try, you will never know?” Well, if you don’t take the first step forward, you will never reach your destination. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your first year and still doesn’t have all the skills you want. Practice makes the master. Start building your portfolio now and don’t forget to ask for feedback. You can only get better. So, good luck!
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