How do I break in? Best approaches

That is fantastic information. Thanks!

I am a full time freelancer, specialising in print design and niche category of photography. I’m busy but I do have a degree and over a decade full time work experience.

If you can’t go back to school at this stage, my advice it to pick a lucrative niche and make a name for yourself in that niche. You don’t need to be a one stop shop but you need to be skilled at doing a few things well. Don’t be afraid of turning down work if it’s outside your skills (example, I always turn down web work) and make sure your portfolio focuses solely on the work you are good at.

If you do more than one type of work, have a separate portfolio/website for each niche. I have a portfolio for my print design and a separate one for my photography work. They aren’t related so they shouldn’t be marketed under the same business.

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Out of those dozen applicants, only one was turned down.

That explains a lot. LOL.
We were on government IDIQ for a while. You will spend a lot of billable hours on the paperwork associated with those jobs…DotGov loves their paperwork.

The one that was turned down was over a technicality of not getting the paperwork filled out right. Yeah, government is typically more concerned with procedure than results.

The dozen applicants really were good companies and freelancers, though. I got the impression that only savvy designers and design firms knew about the RFP that was open and were willing to dive into all the bureaucratic paperwork associated with it.

You’ve gotten some good feedback and advice with this thread. I’ll offer a bit of advice in a different direction. You didn’t ask for this, so I hope I’m not stepping on your ties.

Your website needs some work. It’s clean, simple, and easy to navigate – all of which is nice – but you’re showing way too much work and a lot of it is repetitive. Every category under photography and graphic design needs to be pared down down to just show your very best work.

Haha. Right on. All constructive criticism is appreciated. I was told by someone else that I didn’t have enough work on there. I agree there are some things that could be taken down. The reason there is repetition is because some things fall into more than one category. I also wanted to show different ways that certain logos or designs have been used. I was planning on updating it soon, so I will take your advice to heart. The other guy is a marketing guy and not a designer…

Do you think there are too many categories?

Slightly tougher call, but I’d say yes. I think when you cull your work down to the strongest of the strongest, you could have one category for photography, one for design, and, assuming this is a niche your going after, one for sacred geometry.

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This latter makes sense if you could show a comprehensive branding program. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Under Graphic Design > Logos, you have the audio dept logo presented as sort of a wallpaper with repeating logos, and you have it again as a lockup with the phone and url. Absolutely no need to have both of these presented the way they are.

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Thanks man. I just don’t think I’m ready to go solo. That’s why I want to work with someone. Maybe I’ll try to find a job at a print shop. I’ve submitted about 20 proposals on upwork this week, and not a single bite. It seems like a huge waste of time. This is getting ridiculous. I appreciate your advice, but I think I’m just kidding myself.

All my professors in school say it’s best to be on a team. I’ve worked in a team environment, and it does seem much better to have that creative collaboration, but so many designers seem to be running the solo game. Everyone I know doing it is working in their own bubble with no interest in teaming up with anyone. I’m just not ready to do that yet. I need to learn more.

This lack of collaboration between designers is hurting the industry.

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I think this would be a great way to go. I did part of my work study in the school print shop, and have found it very helpful.

I learned a lot about clients’ needs, print shop needs, and gained several good networking contacts. Even now, the manager still sends potential clients to me if their needs are outside the design program scope.

It’s hard to collaborate with other designers when the industry is so competitive. I have a network of creatives but it’s better to network with others where your skills don’t overlap.

When I refer a client to someone else it’s because that other designer has clear focus what they offer – a skill that I don’t have.

I’ve tried to find people with complementary skills and partner with them too, but it’s difficult to find in an industry that pushes graphic designers to be jacks of all trades.

I’m especially frustrated with employers expecting graphic designers to code. It’s nice if one can be just as technical as they are artistic. But that shouldn’t be the norm. Employers would probably get more bang for their buck if they hired designer engineer teams than the single designer engineer combined.

I hate this trend and hope it goes away. It’s my opinion that the two types of wiring are (usually) completely different. Designers are generally tuned into human behavior, while coders are deep into technical.

Not to say some of us can’t do both, we can… but I bet there’s not too many of us who are really good at both.

What gets me are the employers who are like “we need a graphic designer with experience in creating and implementing strategic marketing plans.”

Uh, you need a graphic designer and a marketing consultant. That’s two people. :woman_facepalming:

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Umm, I see things a bit differently.

In larger or mid-sized companies, yeah, they would be two separate positions, but the two skills are closely related and tightly linked.

Not all, but most graphic design is in the service of marketing efforts, so to me, the two things go hand-in-hand to the point of graphic design being considered as visual marketing.

As important players in marketing efforts, designers need to be well-versed in marketing strategies and tactics or they risk missing the mark with their design efforts.

I don’t have any problem at all with savvy designers taking the lead in marketing efforts. For that matter, I admire companies that regard design as being such an important part of their marketing efforts that they specifically look for designers with solid marketing skills.

I agree.
Graphic design is the what.
Marketing is the why, (not to mention the where and who).

The size of the company matters more often than not. But sometime’s it’s all about the expectations. Even in a small company, the expectations placed on any particular job position can be closer to what’s expected from a position in a larger company than a smaller company.

If a small company is trying to reach a global market or capture the largest market share of a local area, they would be better off hiring a designated marketing person who knows how to research an make big marketing decisions, and is not distracted by the details of how to use graphic design software or code. I agree that it would be good if the graphic designer who works with the designated marketer is also good at marketing, or at least marcom in that situation. But that’s still 2 positions.

All right, points taken. I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to work with marketing departments for most of my career, so I haven’t had to create many marketing plans from scratch.

That said, I don’t know that I agree that graphic design is a “what”. Perhaps layout is the what. Design is bigger than that, isn’t it? Maybe it one could think of it as how the marketing strategy is portrayed.

Marketing is “we need a brochure to tell our audience who we are” —large-scale, big picture planning.

Design is “the message needs to express that the organization is stable and friendly and forward-thinking, and we’ll do that using this combination of images, typography, texture, and color” — specific strategy for specific concepts.

Like the programmer/designer, the marketer/designer certainly exists… but doing both really well isn’t comment and shouldn’t be an expectation.

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