Last week I posted a bit on how I, a hack, came to call myself a graphic designer. Along that same vein, here are four tips for the hack designer:
1. Know what you’ve got to work with. If you’re a self-taught designer with no credentials, understand that you are at a bit of a disadvantage. You weren’t schooled in preflight or client-relations. You may have some game, but there are going to be areas where you need to do a little more legwork, like learning how to prep files for print.
2. Be okay with what you are. Credentialed designers are going to look down on you. You’re a “hobbist” designer. A hack. Accept it and move on. Just because you haven’t gone to school doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to design. It just means that you haven’t got certain bits of knowledge or certifications. So long as you don’t mind that sort of second-class status, don’t worry about any denigrating comments. The design market is large and though you may not land a job at an ad firm, you can still make some money freelancing. The good thing about design work is that your portfolio speaks for itself. Let your work do the talking. When working with a client be confident in your past work and don’t explain away your lack of credentials.
3. After a while, don’t be afraid to call yourself a graphic designer. I’m sort of hung up on labels, personally, believing that one must absolutely earn a title, so it took me a while to accept "graphic designer" as a title. But, I’ve made money over the last few years on this particular skill set, so some people out there must think what I produce has integrity as graphic design. They hang it on their walls' for heaven's sake. Don’t hop on the title too quickly, you’ll just make yourself look like an ass, but once you’ve got a hundred some-odd paid projects under your belt and some extra cash flow, loosen up a bit on your insecurity and embrace the Graphic Designer title.
4. And perhaps most importantly, at least for me, NEVER EVER EVER speak to a client face to face or on the phone. Keep all communications online so that you can refer to them later for your own benefit and so that there can never be any he-said-she-said disputes. My clients were never thrilled that I refused to let them call me, but I never regretted it. And it was always nice to have stuff to refer to directly. The beauty of freelance graphic design work is supposed to be that you get to do it on your own watch, that you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck. Though you’ll always have the client as sort of a boss hanging over you, you won’t have to set a time to call and can keep designing (at 2AM).
I logged onto the Imagekind website just now and discovered my Singing in the Rain poster as the first feature. Stuff like that gets me so high. It builds my confidence to death defying levels. I may be a hack, but I do have some game.