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| The Business Side of Graphic Design
OK so you've worked your butt off for two or four years. You've worked and studied hard. You've become a master at PhotoShop, Illustrator and InDesign and that hard earned degree hangs framed on the wall. You're all set to take the world by storm with your cutting edge designs. You have a portfolio full of student designs, half a website and now the question is.. Now what?
This is the question facing hundreds of newly graduated Graphic Designers every year. You may choose to seek employment with an already established design firm doing designs for many different clients on many different subjects. You may join an "in-house" design department of a larger business or perhaps the art department for a commercial printer. If web design is your specialty you may seek employment with a local ISP or the web department at an ad agency. All of these career paths will allow you to express your skills and talents under the supervision of someone else. Finding one of these jobs is another whole article which I will cover at a future date.
A lot of you will wish to go the entrepreneurial route and work as a freelancer. The rewards of choosing this career path can be enormous. Being your own boss, setting your own work hours, staying home with the kids. However, In reality to succeed in this career path will require enormous self discipline and a superior work ethic. I will attempt here to offer some advice on how to get started. This advice is based on my business degrees, my many years working for a very successful small business owner and my own failed attempt at a freelance career. My failure was because I discovered that I do not have the proper personality for sales. Salesmanship will be a huge part of your job so consider carefully whether you can talk to people you just met as if you have known them for years. And persuade them to hire you.
The first and most important thing to understand is that you are not an artist. You are a business. And like all businesses your goal is to sell a product. In this case the product you are selling is your own artistic skills and abilities. Your ability to interpret and project the customer's message through the media they desire, be it a website or the printed page. Understanding this is key to your success or failure. By grasping this simple concept you now have several thousand years of basic business principles to draw on. And this is a good thing. So put away your artists hat and only take it out when you are doing actual design. The rest of the time wear your business hat and treat that stunning layout you just finished as the piece of merchandise it has become.
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| So where do I start, you ask. You start quite simply at the beginning. Sit down and make a list. Lock the doors, turn off the phone and sit down for a couple of hours and list everything you need. This list will be very informal so don't worry about categories or priorities. There will be plenty of items that you don't know you will need, don't worry about it. You can always add them later. Imagine a job, go through it in your mind from first contact with your client to delivery of the final product. Now list every single item that you will need to accomplish this. List everything from your choice of wardrobe for the first meeting to the packaging of your final delivery. Include office supplies, computer equipment, software and furniture. Be sure and include items that you already have.
Congratulations! You just started your Business. You have taken the first small step towards your goal. Sit back and enjoy it for a minute. Give yourself a small pat on the back. Your business is no longer an abstract idea floating around in your head. It's now down on paper. It's real. You still have a lot to do and many details to work out though so don't rest for long.
When viewed as a whole, starting a business can be a pretty intimidating thing. All of the hundreds of details can be overwhelming. A designer friend of mine once called me and told me that she was overwhelmed by the prospect of designing and preparing a 100 page manual she had been asked to bid on. She was worried that she couldn't handle it. I told her to forget about a 100 page document. What she really had to do was 100 one page documents. When viewed in this light she felt a lot better because she had designed lots of one page documents before. My point here is that any large project such as starting a business is really composed of many, many small projects. Completing your list was the first of these and you have already accomplished it. Now take that list and organize it, prioritize it, break it up into small manageable chunks and make a list of them.
This is the point where self discipline becomes a factor. You need to set aside an hour or preferably two hours every day. Talk to the roommate, the spouse, the children or parents and explain that you need this time. That during these hours you are effectively at work and unavailable. Divide this time up into half hour segments and devote each segment to one of the items on your list. If you do this, over time slowly but surely you will cross items off the list, then entire sections. Progress will become apparent and your goals will start to fall into place.