New Graduate: Freelance or Design Company


My name is Laura and I am a recent graduate. I am having a difficult time deciding what direction to go in after school. I have dabbled a little with freelancing, and eventually would like to take my work in that direction. However, I feel like maybe I need to get a job with a company in order to learn more from others before being able to go out on my own in a professional sense. Anyone with experience in this have any advice?

Thank you in advance!

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Recent graduates have only really learned the basics of design. Learning about the business of how design works in the real world is the next step and very different from what you likely learned in school.

There are people who dive directly into the deep end of the pool, flounder around a bit, then figure it out. Then again, that’s also a good way to drown. Only you can decide, but I’d suggest continuing your education in a company/agency with more experienced people who can teach you how to take your design education and put it to work before venturing out on your own.

Thank you for your response. That was kind of the direction I was feeling a needed to go! Moving in that direction… do you think it is possible to get this experience with a remote position? or much more effective to be in office with these more experienced designers? I am hoping to move to a larger city because I’m thinking it will help me improve and learn more about the field!

Welcome Aboard Laura :slight_smile:

Thank you!
So much good information to catch up on!

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Everyone learns differently, so I can only give you my experience.

Years ago, after graduation and during internships and part-time jobs while still in school, I was lucky enough to work with some very good and experienced senior designers and art directors. They would take me to client meetings and have informal conversations with me about whatever I was curious about. I’d hear all about their frustrations with clients. How they dealt with it. I saw how they worked in action. I got to meet and talk to lots of talented people who would come and go.

In other words, I learned the business and how it works by being there. I’m having trouble imagining how that could be learned remotely.

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Absolutely. Makes sense. Thank you!

Going out on your own too early in your career will stunt your development as a designer.

As a freelancer, 25-40% of your work is non-creative. Accounting, contracts, taxes, client recruitment, pitches, networking, self-promotion, computer maintenance, file management, and in general, learning how to operate a business.

Spend at least the first decade of your career in jobs where you do nothing but creative work. Watch how it’s done, take notes, make photocopies, then when you think you understand the business, consider going out on your own.

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Thank you for the feedback.

To be honest, I find it quite refreshing to hear from a recent graduate who says that they want to actually find a job and gain experience. The skill of knowing what you don’t yet know is hugely important and will stand you well throughout your career, in my opinion.

You see so many posts on this forum from recent graduates saying that they want to start a freelance business – and, of course, those from the non-graduates, that almost always start with, ‘I’m passionate about designing logos …’. I’d imagine the response from anyone that’s been doing it for any serious length of time is to just roll their eyes and sigh a little – I know mine is.

There is no easy, quick, or ‘cool’ (don’t get me started …) route to experience without the hard yards. You cannot possibly begin to know how the industry works without working in it, so good on you. Carry on down that path and in four or five years time, you will be far better equipped to make a choice as to what direction you want to go in.

I shan’t wish you good luck. With that attitude, you won’t need it.

PS. I’ve just had a quick look at your portfolio. You definitely won’t need it. Really nice work, nicely presented. You seem have a basic understanding of typographic hierarchy in a way most don’t – including myself – until a few years out of college. Apologies if this all sounds a bit sycophantic. Often, I can be quite harsh in my critiques, but I always think, when praise is due, you should give it.

I’d say, you just need a few years experience in a major city with a good design company and you’ll be able to build a really solid career – just don’t be too surprised if it turns out, it’s not necessarily in the direction you thought you’d be going.

At your age, a few years in an exciting, thriving cultural centre is an invaluable thing to do; both for your career and personally.

Hi Laura - I agree with the other posts and would also recommend that if your design work is going to be printed as opposed to web based, learn all you can on the printing aspect. Hands on with knowledgeable professionals is priceless in the beginning of your career. Colleges don’t teach even the basics of printing anymore. It’s a whole different world than websites. 30+ years in Prepress and I find my job almost tougher today than it was 20 years ago.
You absolutely have the right attitude - go reach for the brass ring!

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