How To Get Paid Freelance Work While You’re Still A Design Student

Getting Paid Gigs As A Design StudentAs a second year graphic design student myself and an active freelancer, I want to share some tips on how to get paid freelance work while you are still a graphic design student.

For most 1st, 2nd or 3rd year students, finding a part time or even casual job in the design industry is quite frustrating and nearly impossible and most resort to working at their local store, however, there is hope – I am living proof that a design student can get a job in design while still studying, here are my tips.

The Problems:

The problems most design students will face is they do not yet have the skills needed to be a professional designer as they do not have a reputable portfolio or any knowledge about dealing with clients, budgeting or time management – and they are still trying to figure out the good ol’ pen tool. Let’s have a look at these problems.

The Solutions:

No Basic Design Skills: This of course, is the reason you are at University or College… to learn these skills. However, do not just be a static learner at University, you must propel yourself forward to learn more and be the leader of the pack. You should be active in graphic design forums, read design and freelancing blogs like as you are now, borrow/buy books, ask questions and get out there. Go to your local design studio and ask for work experience – I did this and I worked on all their pro bono jobs, it was a great experience and I learned more about clients and time management while I was doing it. These few things will help your basic design skills up to scratch.

Forums I Use And Recommend For Students (And Experienced Designers Too):

Books I Have Read And Recommend:

Graphic Design Blogs I Read And Recommend:

No Computer Skills: You need computer skills to be a successful graphic designer and a great way to acquire these skills is by reading tutorials, books and of course, practice. I repeat again… tutorials, books and practice. By reading tutorials and books you gain more knowledge of the softwares and get better as a graphic designer. Try to get first hand experience off another professional designer – a great way to do this is ask for work experience at your local design studio, they are usually more than happy to help. Another thing I did was to get free stock items and deconstruct them to see how they were made, this opened a whole new world for me. Last of all… Practice, Practice, Practice.

Tutorial Websites I Use And Recommend:

Book To Learn Softwares That I Use And Recommend:

Do not have a reputable portfolio: Every designer had to start somewhere and every designer started with nothing so you are not alone. Building your portfolio is probably the most important thing you do at University as this is how you will get a full time job once you leave. Portfolios are another topic in itself, however you can build it up by making up your own fictional graphic design briefs. Studios do not mind if your portfolio items are fictional as long as they are quality, trust me.

Resources I Have Read And Recommend Regarding Portfolios: 10 Tips On Creating a Design Portfolio, Design Portfolio Preparation Tips

Forums: To build your portfolio up you can get some small paying jobs (between $15 to $200) on Digital Point Forums.

No Knowledge About Clients Or Time-Management: Nearly every graphic design graduate lacks these skills… This is where experience is the key and there is no way to get better experience than to gain work experience at your local design/print store – just drop in and ask, you will be surprised how happy they are to hear from you – just mention your a graphic design student and wishing to learn some new things. By working there you will learn all about dealing with clients, time management and the design industry – the big picture.

Getting The Clients Or Jobs: Here comes the hardest part. After you feel confident enough to go out freelancing or working at a design studio during Uni, you should start looking for gigs and clients. I wrote an article on how to get your first job over at my personal graphic design blog. It will cover this topic more in depth as it is much needed. For more tips you could also check out 25 ways to become an effective freelancer and the art of getting freelance work on forums here on Freelance Folder.

Are you a student doing freelance work or wanting to? I would love to hear your stories.



About the author: Jacob Cass is a freelance graphic designer from Sydney, Australia. He’s currently studying Visual Communication (Majoring in Graphic Design) at Newcastle University. Check out Just Creative Design, his graphic design blog, and stop by his portfolio!