A student asked me a few questions about working in the design industry for her assignment. After I e-mailed her my answers, I thought this would make a great post.
A bit of background: My day job for nine years was for a large corporation where only a part of my duties involved design. However, at home I worked on my own creative projects in web design, illustration and comics.
1. What attributes are key in dealing with clients?
Professionalism, diplomacy, checking your ego at the door. Be a problem solver. Also, and I feel most importantly, your clients may not understand why some requests may be “ridiculous” or impossible to do.
The reason I bring this up is I’ve come across too many designers who choose to take on a condescending attitude towards some of their clients. Gauge your client’s willingness to hear you out, but look at this as an occasion to inform or educate. I learned that some clients with no technical or design knowledge may feel that they don’t need to know or may just not be aware of any importance in knowing the reasons behind technical and design do’s and don’ts.
So when you’re asked to use comic sans as a font, or given a low-res photo in powerpoint format seconds from deadline… smile, educate and find a solution.
And never vent about them on social networks. You never know who’s reading. And it’s unprofessional!
2. Do you work mostly at home, office, or do you travel a lot?
I regularly took the train to the office however, I was able to work from home once I was given remote access. For my own personal work, I work at home on my laptop for web projects. For art stuff: anywhere I can take my sketchbook :)
3. If you could start a new career would you still chose the field of design?
Definitely :) One thing I learned is to follow your passion. Try not to focus on which job or career would be most practical. We all have to eat but at least try to follow what you enjoy doing. And work hard at getting there. When you do, great things happen.
4. How many -on average-hours do you spend on the computer?
Too much :) And that’s not including time spent on the iPhone ;)
5. If you had to take on an apprentice what 5 things would be on your “person must have…”list? ( e.g. – person must have typing skills etc…)
In no particular order:
- People skills (see #1 above) (ok i’m cheating, since I listed 5 things up there already).
- Eagerness to learn (and teach!) new things (did I just list 2 items?). I enjoy learning from others.
- Great talent and passion for producing fantastic design.
- Professional attitude
- Innovative spirit (enthusiastic towards trying out new things, new ideas, new concepts)
6. Do you do a lot of thumbnails or hand renders?
Yes. Constantly. Pencil and paper has always been the best way for me to work out and dream up ideas.
For any student looking at jumping directly into freelancing from school I’d suggest that you don’t. Get out in the industry and get some experience in a design firm or in house. Not only do you learn lots about your craft the business lessons are awesome. Even if the business lessons just teach you how to don’t want to run a business it’s a great education.
I agree with Curtis. You need some real world experience before jumping into freelancing or making your own business. One very important thing to realize is that freelancing doesn’t have a steady income unless you sign a long-term contract with a client. Get your hands dirty!
Also, don’t be afraid to go to events in your area. These are great places to do networking, and the sooner you start, the better.