Table of Contents
- Doing graphic design from home
- Software for graphic design
- Finding graphic design work
- Getting work from competition sites
- Do not work for free
Doing Graphic Design From Home
If you are looking for a career change, then working on graphic design from home could be a fun option. Graphic design is a satisfying career that lets you unleash your creative juices, and it’s something that you can do without needing a huge amount of equipment. A decent computer will do the job, and if you become serious about the career then a quality mouse and graphics tablet will make life a lot easier compared to cheaper devices.
Software for Graphic Design
The most popular tools for graphic design are still the ones made by Adobe, but there are other applications that are useful and that people can do good work with that cost far less. If you want to do photo editing work then the GIMP is a good piece of open source software that is free to use, and that supports a large percentage of the most popular Adobe Photoshop plugins. There are still some that are designed with Photoshop specifically in mind, though, and if you can justify the cost then it is well worth investing in Photoshop and Lightroom. If you want to work with vectors, then Illustrator is useful to have.
While you are learning the ropes, you can use the student license of Adobe Creative Cloud (CC), which is a fully functional but far more affordable way of accessing the software. If you want to do graphic design from home as a paying gig, though, then you will need to pay for the full version of the software. Fortunately, there are tiered packages so there is no need to pay for apps that you are not using.
For simple graphics, even some professionals are turning to online/cloud-based apps these days. Canva is a versatile tool that will let you throw together vouchers, posters and even infographics in a simple and easy to use interface and download them as PDFs for easy printing. You probably won’t find yourself doing much detailed or bespoke work using Canva, but it is handy if you are, say, an online marketer and you want to produce some promotional materials quite quickly.
These days, if you want to do layout work and not break the bank, you have the freedom to download and use Scribus. For vector work, there is Inkscape, and for fancy texts and charts, there is LibreOffice, which some veteran open source fans may recognise as being an updated version of Open Office. If you’re doing paid graphic design from home as a part of a team then you may want to look at something like OrangeScrum for project management.
Finding Graphic Design Work
Finding work as a graphic designer can be tricky. It is not easy to do it online because there are so many people competing for work and many of them are from countries with a very low cost of living. This means that you can find people who will do quite skilled work for a very low hourly rate.
If you are trying to make a name for yourself and build up a portfolio, you will probably want to get a few clients who will vouch that you can deliver to a brief, and on time. Work that you have done for yourself or for friends can be a starting point for a portfolio, but a lot of the better-paying clients will want to know that you can work to a brief, which is a slightly different skill to just doing things when inspiration strikes. You should pick some skills market/jobs sites to join and start building up a client base.
One of the easiest sites to get started on is Fiverr. This site has a bit of a bad reputation because it started life as a website where you could get people to do jobs for $5. While there are still a lot of $5 jobs on the site you will now find that there are some people who charge higher rates for better work. Sellers can add extras to their jobs so they can charge more to do the job quicker, or to provide people with additional file formats, or even charge for extra revisions. Some sellers offer work based on a general template for very little money and charge extra for more customisation.
One of the downsides of Fiverr as a platform for doing graphic design from home is that they have a lot of users from countries with a low cost of living who are willing to over-deliver for the money that they are getting, and also the site itself takes a significant cut out of anything that you get paid, so you will have to do a lot of work to earn a decent living.
It may be better to look at some of the other freelance sites, such as Freelancer, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour, which allow people to put in more detailed bids for work. It can be harder to get noticed on those sites, and it may be time-consuming to get clients via them but it is usually possible to do so if you put aside an hour or so each morning to review gigs and bid for them.
Getting Work Through Competition Sites
Another option is to work on competition sites such as 99Designs. With this site, users can post requests for designs and offer a prize. Artists submit prototypes and ideas, and then the user specifies which design they like the most and will pay the prize to that used to get a copy of the design, tweaked to their liking.
This idea is controversial, with some artists disliking it because it is essentially asking the designer to do some work for free. There are others who like the idea because it is similar to doing a tender or a bid in other industries. If you are new and do not yet have a portfolio, then it could be a way for you to practice, build up some good examples to put in your portfolio, and showcase your skills.
Do Not Work For Free
Whatever you do, try to avoid working for free. One of the biggest issues in the creative industries is that people devalue the skills that artists have. Since the barrier to entry for art and design is so low there are so many people who are willing to call themselves artists, and the level of training, time and skill that it takes to become a skilled artist is not valued any more. When someone works for free, it devalues the skill for all designers.
Do market research and find out what a skilled artist would charge for a logo, poster, card, or whatever it is that you have been asked to make. If you are still learning your trade then yes it makes sense to charge less, but not too much less. If someone expects you to put together an image in “just a few minutes”, remember that even if it does take you only a few minutes to do that job, the reason you could do it quickly is because of the hundreds or thousands of hours that you put into practice. It can be tempting to help people because you think that the job is fun, but you do still need to make money to pay the bills.
Your graphic design work needs to pay for the computer you do the work on, the license fees for any proprietary software you use, your internet connection, any stock photography sites you are a member of, any plugins you have bought, any fonts that you have had to pay for, and any tutorial videos or courses you have bought. It needs to pay for electricity, to replace anything breaking down with wear and tear, and also for your time.
Value your skills, and remember that the person who is asking you to do the work is asking because they do not have the skills to do it themselves. If they want you to do a drawing as a gift, then what would a physical gift be worth? If they want you to make a cover for their book, then how much are they expecting to make from selling the book?
Graphic design can be a flexible and rewarding career if you are willing to invest the effort into doing it as a proper business, but it takes a business-like approach to actually make money from it. Think about how much time and effort you put into learning those skills, and start valuing them. It is hard to charge money for the work that you do, but it will get easier over time, and once you have a few paying customers you are far more likely to get other people who are also willing to pay for the work that you do. When you become known as the person who is willing to work for free, you will find that you get far more requests from other people who also expect you to be willing to do things for them for free.