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Should students pick up freelancing works?

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  • Should students pick up freelancing works?

    College design fellows, do some of you occasionally look for opportunities to design for small businesses? What for and how hard is it to find such opportunities?

    Some of my friends pick up freelancing works every now and then, and I wonder what's the norm like.
    Yes, to earn some $$$
    Yes, for fun and to gain more experience
    Yes, for other reasons
    Nope, too busy with coursework
    It's pretty easy to find such opportunities :)
    It's okay easy to find such opportunities :|
    It's pretty hard to find such opportunities :(

  • #2

    Spend your free time looking for or working in a part time job or internship in the industry working under a suitable mentor that can show you a trick or two. With freelancing, you are just reinventing the wheel every day, and given the choice of the right way or the wrong way.... welllll..............

    Freelancing is a business...not ''for fun''. As a professional in this industry for someone to become a successful freelancer I would strongly suggest working in the industry under a suitable mentor at the very least for 5 years. 10 is better. That way you have the infrastructure and the knowledge chops to be considered competent enough to be offering your services.

    Sure a student can pick up gigs around college doing posters and whatnot. The minute you start charging money? Unka Sam likes to get involved and suddenly you are making promises as ''a pro'' to your clients.
    Document everything. Contracts are a requirement. BTW, nothing ends friendships faster than disagreements over money.

    Freelancing while a student might give you something for your portfolio but here where I work, we don't consider that work experience. Doing something on your own does not necessarily relate to gaining more experience.

    If you do it, rely on your professors as your mentors. Don't just guess you are doing something right. Do you know all the industry standards usedd to create a logo? Do you know if your creation is going to print? What about that brochure you did. Did you remember your bleeds and safeties? Do your full bleed images actually bleed off? Do you know the finishing on that banner you are doing? Or the process you are going to use to make it? Does that website contact page you're doing for your dentist comply with HIPPA regulations? Is your signage ADA compliant? There's a lot of stuff even a college graduate doesn't know. Heck there are some things a designer in the business for more than 10 years doesn't know if they suddenly step outside of their comfort zone. Ask questions. Keep up with the tech and the never assume.

    Getting freelance from small local businesses is not easy. They do not have the money to spend. Even if you work for free, the stuff that you create is not free to print or host.

    Good luck.


    • #3
      Hi Shhxxx 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.

      Don't freelance in school. And then don't freelance until you've worked in the industry for many years. Until you are very skilled at your craft, you should not take on work that could make or break someone else's business.You don't practice on paying clients.
      Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


      • #4
        An interesting question! I wanted to reply to give a different perspective to PrintDriver's response. What is probably most lacking in today's education system is the area of business and entrepreneurial skills. And yet, the future of our working world is heading towards more globalisation, less stable jobs, more flexible working, more solopreneurship - ie. a world where business skills are a must. I would argue that extensive design skills are no longer enough in that context and students need to seize any opportunity they have to develop their business skills. There are platforms and entrepreneurial professors actively looking to provide such experience to students and these + freelance work can only help to broaden your horizons. Sure, everybody will make mistakes, however in my mind you can never start learning early enough - and waiting 10 years to hone your craft before you start to look at developing a business mindset is, in my opinion, the wrong way to go about it in this day and age.


        • designzombie
          designzombie commented
          Editing a comment
          If you want to develop business skills, study the business, but don't do it at the expense of quality for the client. Selling college level work without a mentor will only hurt your reputation as a designer.

        • B
          B commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree completely with the need for designers to develop business skills and attitudes. Graphic design isn't a fine art where one toils alone to give life to one's inner vision. Instead, it's mostly about making money for employers and clients and, in the process, for yourself as well.

          As for freelancing in college, it might seem obvious but students are just that -- students. They're studying to become professionals and haven't yet developed sufficient knowledge and skills to do professional work. I mean, if that weren't the case there would be no need of attending school to learn the basics.

          That said, I still see a role for freelancing at a college level as long as the client is fully aware that it's the work of a student in training. So as long as both the client and the student go into it with modest expectations and with eyes wide open, well, I wouldn't rule it out -- especially if there's some kind of oversight from a professional who might be involved.

        • lon124
          lon124 commented
          Editing a comment
          These response have really made me think. I've also hired student design freelancers because my company was affiliated with the university and results were hit and miss.

          Perhaps students would be better served if they worked, rather than freelance, to further their business skills. So you learn design at uni / college, and work, say, in a sales or part-time marketing role to earn money at the same time. You won't learn design through your paid work but the business skills you pick up will complement your design skills.

          I think a lot of this depends on the individual and their skill level. Quite a few designers I've met would struggle to freelance even after a couple of year's of full-time employment, whereas others I'd quite happily work with even before they head off to university.

      • #5
        This has been a point I've made repeatedly. Today's colleges are not keeping pace with getting their students the skills they need to further their careers in today's job environment. Design students should be required to take courses in business, copyright/contract/trademark law as it applies to the arts, and negotiation skills. The colleges should be actively placing their design students into working situations that get them the experience they need to succeed, even with a solo career. If a college can't place all of their art students, they shouldn't be enrolling more.

        I see no reason not to do freelance work adequately supervised by a mentor, whether that is a job mentor at an internship or an involved professor at the college. The latter is sorely few and far between.

        With the studio system dying out in pockets around the country, the brain trusts and experience of a whole generation of designers is not being adequately passed down to the next generation of designers. Going out and "learning by doing" is devolving the profession back to a level of beginners without the necessary knowledge and practice to know how and why to do things.

        As a for instance, I offer the quikprint solutions out there all over the internet. I've seen designers just get that stuff because it is cheap and they have no idea what other materials and resources may be out there to make their client look good. The discerning clients out there, they don't want that junk.

        The work I do is all custom. It might involve a print back-mounted to a piece of plexiglass maybe with spot mounted photos on top of that, maybe backed with 1" thick MDF that has a shadowbox cut into it that you can view through a cutout in the mounted print, edged with a metal side frame that stands just proud of the face, with laser cut and painted acrylic titling letters attached to the face. Today thought it's more likely the print is direct jetted onto a piece of PVC or printed as a ''sticker'' and stuck it to same. It's no different than printing on a flat piece of paper. Cost difference? Ya. But if you if you don't have exposure to different processes out there and get taught how to use them, how do you intend to up your game?

        Do you want to do yard sale signs as a career or high-end display graphics? With today's trend of pop-up market spaces and high visibility viral ad campaigns and any number of other visible branding exercises in today's corporate climate from web to billboard and beyond, you need to learn how to get more bang for your client's buck. Doing disjointed logo design where the brief is made to fit the design after the fact and building ''chair projects'' in college ain't gonna get you there.

        In Printdriver's school of design, you wouldn't touch a computer until your junior year. You would be learning the theory and the basics of learning to ''see''. All of your projects in your senior year would tie together over the course of a semester. Logos would not be created in a vacuum and you would not get to choose your virtual clients and guess how they might react to your designs. Alternating semesters would have 2 or 3 days where you work in a graphic design setting. Your 3D design classes wouldn't be about ''chair projects'', but more on the materials available to you as graphic designers to realize your designs. You would be working on more than one project at a time. You may be working on a 3 week project and one day come to class to find out you have to do a full spread magazine ad by the end of class that day. Classes would be taught as real world experiences where things might change direction or suddenly your budget is cut. Yes you would work with budgets and logistics and schedules and due dates. Your classwork files would need to be production ready, and if you failed to present a project for critique on the due date, you would get a zero for the project. Three zeros and you would be dropped from the program.

        One can dream anyway.

        Last edited by PrintDriver; 11-28-2016, 09:41 PM.


        • #6
          hye buddies will you help you all did nice work


          • #7
            I wasn't sure if I should start a new thread or not but I decided to comment here because my question is related. I'm a graphic design student at a high school level, not even a college level yet. I'm home schooled and my graphic design teacher is a mom who home schools her children so she offered a graphic design class to teens in our area. Don't worry, she's got all the credentials, shes worked in the field and all that. I've done a lot of work as far as, logo designing, event flyers, etc. through her. Meaning when someone asks her if she can design something and it's a project she believes I can handle she passes that client onto me. I've never been paid over $XX dollars because I don't feel qualified yet to be paid more than that. She checks and approves everything before I send it off to clients and she gives me critiques and advice also. I know many of you believe freelancing as a student is a bad idea and I respect that but is this the same thing? After reading everyone's responses above I feel a little nervous about what I am doing. Thoughts and advice? Thank you.
            Last edited by KitchWitch; 02-08-2017, 08:35 AM. Reason: no pricing discussion


            • PrintDriver
              PrintDriver commented
              Editing a comment
              You are being 100% supported by someone whose business could be affected if she didn't feel confident in you and your work.
              That is more like a mentored internship rather than freelancing. I'd say you were very lucky.
              Though on the pay part, you may not feel you are qualified to be paid more than that, but you are doing meaningful work that should garner some kind of hourly wage. Never be ashamed or afraid of taking pay for work performed. Graphic design is like every other job out there.

          • #8
            Freelancing on your own teaches you how to get better "the hard way--the very hard way."

            Most graphic design freelancers are either self taught or very young college students looking to build up their portfolio. When you freelance on your own a lot of things can go wrong with a client, and then you're going to have to be the one to fix it on your own---if you can't fix it your reputation can go down the drain or the client might go as far as suing you (especially if the project is really big).

            When you freelance you have to seriously know how market yourself or else you will have no clients. You have to know how to pitch yourself as well as your designs to them, and have serious persuasion skills. Why are you better than the competition? What makes your designs better than commercial design studios? Your prices are higher so why should I go to you rather than someone else? Which of your designs have led to higher sale conversions, engagement rates, and for which businesses? You will have to constantly persuade clients, and prove to them that you are better than the cheaper competition. It's not just about what looks's about what sells. They all want money.

            Better design for brand = more professional brand

            more professional brand = more people who likes brand for better professional design

            more people who likes brand for better professional design = more trust in brand being legitimate high quality standard

            more trust in brand being legitimate high quality standard = trust in products/marketing gimmick

            trust in products/marketing gimmick = more money from sales!!!

            You will also have to write out a contract for your clients to clearly understand, and adhere to as well read up on other contracts your clients may ask you to sign such as NDA agreements (and if you break that all bets are off), and so on.

            If you charge on the higher end you will have to know where your clients with higher income are, and how best to reach them or else you will have cheap clients who want you to work for $5.

            Freelancers can easily be taken advantage of when they are new, and do not know which opportunities to say no to---especially if they really need the money. Some people will have you do extra work on top of extra work--you have to set a limit. You have to know the amount of revisions you are willing to do on a project (some freelancers have worked 6 months on a design that should have taken 2 weeks just because of clients being unsatisfied, and wanting to refine their taste. You can hear of these horror stories with a simple google search), and which clients you will absolutely not take on.

            Will you be taking payments upfront? Will they pay half now, and half later? Do they get refunds if they don't like any of the work you spent extra effort on working for them? Which payment system will you be using? You can easily get scammed through paypal.

            How will you calculate taxes owed? Will you do taxes yourself or do you have an accountant? Will you pay taxes quarterly or at the end of each year? Do you have an invoice for all your billed work? I personally took an income tax class when I was high school in a required finance business class (A vocational/technical high school) so I was lucky, but with so much technology available you can also find an online tax income class if you want to handle your own taxes in the long run. If you can't just make an invoice of every single design work you've done,

            If you don't pay taxes it'll haunt you, and the IRS doesn't play. Paypal, and most online as well as in person banking systems report money to the IRS once it hits a certain amount so please be aware that If you are in the USA they are watching all of your transactions to the max.

            Taking on freelancing requires a bit of knowledge as to not get run over, and destroyed like so many others have. Know your strengths, and weaknesses. Always refine what you know, keep improving yourself, and learn about marketing (biggest thing you will need to know).


            Summary of this long epic:

            Freelancing on your own can be very good in learning how to interact with clients, and building up your portfolio while earning money--but not without some serious consequences. Know your stuff really well (taxes, marketing, overall graphic design knowledge and skill), and you'll do just fine.






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