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Should I start my own graphic design business?

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  • Should I start my own graphic design business?

    I graduated with a degree in Multimedia design a little over 2 years ago and still have yet to find a job in the graphic design field. I'm very capable of not only doing graphic and web design but also mobile UX/UI design. I recently relocated from the Bay Area California to Arizona and have found that they offer less jobs in this field and the jobs they do offer, require lots of experience. I've been in the field of graphic design for over 20 years I'd say as I started out designing simple posters, flyers and album covers for friends when I was a teen. When attempting to compose my resume, I have no professional experience to list and it seems as though all of the freelance work I previously did for friends/ mom and pop companies, have no weight. I'm at the point in my life to where I'm looking for something consistent as I have a family to support but I'm having no luck. Many people suggest that I just start my own graphic design business and try to gain stride that way as oppose to applying for jobs that require me to have lots of professional experience within a company. I'm very frustrated and was wondering if any other designers have had this problem when searching for a job? Any advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Hi Mr. and welcome to GDF.

    We ask all new members to read very important links here and here. These explain the rules, how the forum runs and a few inside jokes. No, you haven't done anything wrong, we ask every new member to read them. Your first few posts will be moderated, so don't panic if they don't show up immediately. Enjoy your stay.
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    • #3
      I don't think starting a graphic design business is a good idea until you have some experience working in a graphic design business. Being a good designer is a different skill set from being a good business person. You have to be good at self-marketing, finding the right clients, retaining those clients, quoting, contracts, licensing, navigating tax issues.... It's one thing to design a business card for someone, or a letterhead, or to do a wedding invitation. Those are one-time projects and the clients may not be back soon, or at all. You won't survive if those people are your target audience.

      To be successful you need the type of clients who bring you projects on scheduled intervals... preferably frequently.... clients that have a 'marketing calendar'. Like, they have an annual catalog, and they use sales sheets, and they do monthly mailers, and they run ads in the local newspapers. They're businesses that run campaigns. To get a piece of that, you need experience and a relevant portfolio. If you've got good contacts for those types of businesses, and they express interest, then maybe you've got something to think about. But without them it's a non-starter.

      You might look at contracting your services to small marketing companies. Companies that are 2-6 people. 1 or 2 people own the business and everyone else is a contractor and everyone works at home. They'll have access to at least one graphic designer, a photographer, a copywriter, and a person doing social media. I regularly bid against 3 companies that are set up like this. No benefits being a contractor, but you might at least get a foot in the door.

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      • #4
        I feel your frustration! The market is not easy to break into!

        I would give you a couple bits of advice:

        First: if you start a design business start it because it's a viable option. Sit down and do the numbers see what kind of start up capital you need etc. As Mojo mentioned it's more then meets the eye.

        Second: if you don't already have one - develop your own brand. Whether it's your name or an alias - the personal brand that all of your work falls under.

        Third: reiterating what Mojo said - after you have a brand saturate your local small businesses. Go in and look around talk to the owners. I've even offered free brand consulting to get in the door.

        These are not big $$$ clients but these mom and pop type shops are great opportunities. Usually they are pretty sustainable and you can get a good read on what they need and what they can offer. Developing contracts with a handful of these will pay your bills as you look for a stable position or consider your own business. I have arrangements with maybe 8 small businesses which supplements my income. They come to me for everything from IT issues to marketing and design work. If they buy your brand you can be a huge help to them and they will keep your lights on!

        I know you just relocated but would you relocate for an open design position? They are lots of cities looking for designers. I'm in Cincinnati and probably see 10 spots open a week.

        Best of luck!
        Kevin

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mojo View Post
          To be successful you need the type of clients who bring you projects on scheduled intervals... preferably frequently.... clients that have a 'marketing calendar'. Like, they have an annual catalog, and they use sales sheets, and they do monthly mailers, and they run ads in the local newspapers. They're businesses that run campaigns. To get a piece of that, you need experience and a relevant portfolio. If you've got good contacts for those types of businesses, and they express interest, then maybe you've got something to think about. But without them it's a non-starter.
          Your advice is REALLY good Mojo , no arguments here. But what you're saying here isn't true. It doesn't work like that for web designers, for example -- in 15 years I've never been on anybody's marketing calendar. The website launches, and there may be some on-going maintenance or consulting, but generally speaking they don't need a web designer again for several years. All of that said, IT IS ROUGH, and it took years to build up a referral base and marketing is an on-going monster. I know designers who make it work because they are marketing geniuses and their inbox is never empty. This way is not for the weak of heart.

          I do have a friend who works on Upwork and LOVES it, and has over time built up a nice clientele and makes decent money... but I think that's a really hard road too, and I just don't know how he makes it work. But it might be an opportunity to meet clients and get some experience and a portfolio built up.

          Kdigennaro -- also good advice, but I've also never marketed to local businesses. I now work remotely from Europe and have only US-based clients. The digital age is upon us and opportunities (and competition) is global. I think it's good to develop a brand and know exactly who you want to serve -- finding them, then, is easier. But starting out with local businesses might be the fastest way to get started, I don't know. I never really understood why anybody would want to tie themselves down that way... I'm a free bird! lol
          Last edited by EC; 05-13-2017, 01:51 AM.
          You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. --GWB

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mr. Mitchell View Post
            I graduated with a degree in Multimedia design a little over 2 years ago and still have yet to find a job in the graphic design field. I'm very capable of not only doing graphic and web design but also mobile UX/UI design. I recently relocated from the Bay Area California to Arizona and have found that they offer less jobs in this field and the jobs they do offer, require lots of experience. I've been in the field of graphic design for over 20 years I'd say as I started out designing simple posters, flyers and album covers for friends when I was a teen. When attempting to compose my resume, I have no professional experience to list and it seems as though all of the freelance work I previously did for friends/ mom and pop companies, have no weight. I'm at the point in my life to where I'm looking for something consistent as I have a family to support but I'm having no luck. Many people suggest that I just start my own graphic design business and try to gain stride that way as oppose to applying for jobs that require me to have lots of professional experience within a company. I'm very frustrated and was wondering if any other designers have had this problem when searching for a job? Any advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
            I suggest that you should not indulge into business yet without experience. A freelance work is advisable at first. From there, it is quite easy to gain experience related to the business you would want to have. Don't rush into things. Sooner or later, you'll also land a good job. Besides, you just graduated.

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            • #7
              Freelance work is not advisable at first. It is irresponsible to market yourself to prospective clients without experience, and somewhat dishonest to learn on their dime. Freelancing is a BUSINESS. It is subject to all the rules of owning a business from paying and collecting taxes to protecting your personal assets from an angry client who sues you. Especially if you don't know what you are doing. Unlike school, if you miss a deadline, the client will come after you, not only for the work not done, but possibly for any business loss you have caused them.
              Know what you are getting into.

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