Have you ever wished you could go back and give advice to your younger self? Unfortunately there’s still no technology that allows us to communicate with people of the past, but it’s a fascinating thing to think about. This advice could also potentially be useful for a young person considering a similar career path. It couldn’t hurt, right?
Dear Inexperienced Designer,
Greetings from the future! I’m writing to give you some advice, and also to brag a little, since you don’t even have an iPhone or Smart TV, and you definitely don’t know what 3D printing is.
The good news, and the answer many college students want to hear is yes, you’re on the right path. You still enjoy graphic design, and unless a high-paying kitten-holding position arises, or a relative you’ve never heard of dies and leaves you millions of dollars and a private island, you’re probably going to stick with it.
You’ve got a lot going for you right now, but there are some important things you should keep in mind in order to make things easier for yourself going forward.
Stop being late.
I’m aware this can be difficult at your age, with distractions surrounding you at all times, but you’re responsible for yourself now. You’re going to have to be punctual in the real world, which includes physically being places, but also finishing projects for clients. You might as well start holding yourself accountable right now. It’s a good habit. Plus, your future self really appreciates clients being on time, so let’s practice what we preach, shall we?
Meet (and remember) people.
It wouldn’t be entirely truthful to say you’ve mastered this by 2015. Start networking RIGHT NOW. It will seem awkward at first, but the connections you make will be invaluable to you in this industry. Your future employers are going to judge you not only on your work, but what people who have met and worked with you have to say. Make meaningful, lasting impressions whenever possible, and please, I beg you, start remembering people’s names the first time you meet them.
Learn to say no.
You’re about to start being approached by everyone you know, (and some people you don’t) for freelance work. This is mostly a good thing. It’s a great way to get experience and build your portfolio. However, many of these projects will either be pro bono, or what I like to call the “friends and family discount.” You’re inexperienced, so it’s understandable you won’t be making bank right now, but understand it is ok to turn a project down. There are really two acceptable project types to accept, (besides the birthday invitations for your sister’s children. Those are free forever, sorry.) There are projects you’re being adequately compensated for, and those which are interesting to you. Taking on a project that is both free and boring is never a good idea.
Keep your portfolio updated.
You’re probably just starting this, so you don’t yet understand what the big deal is, but this is incredibly important. Once you start the job hunt, you never know who will be checking out your work. If a potential employer goes to check out your site and you have out of date information, broken links and no new work to show, that sends a bad message. If a great opportunity presents itself you want to be prepared to go for it without hesitation.
Probably the best advice I can give you, or any young designer, is to stay curious. Learn everything you can. You’re going to be doing this for a long time, so make sure you keep it interesting for yourself. If you love the process as much as the results, it will show through your work and you can expect a much more successful career.
That’s all you need to know for now, you’ll figure the rest out on your own. Good luck, and no matter how much you accomplish, please never refer to yourself as “#blessed.” (This will make more sense to you in about four years.)