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!


  1. says

    Sounds like some really good tips for a lot more than just graphic design students Jacob. This could apply to many other areas of learning.

  2. says

    You’re very welcome Jacob, anytime :)
    Adam is right, a lot of this can be applied to other fields like writing, photography, even music (being a musician myself a lot of these tips I find really useful)

  3. says

    This is a great article, thanks so much for posting it. I am currently just a high school junior trying to get freelance web design jobs on the side, since I plan to study web design & computer science in college, and it’s pretty inspiring to read articles like these. Very cool, keep it up.

    Also, weird we have the same name.

  4. says

    Good article. Sometimes the trick is not to lay down the full truth, but just selectively pick what to say and what experience you should reveal. A student can sometimes do even better work than a professional, simply due to their strong desire.

  5. says

    Just because one is a student doesn’t mean that one cannot possibly hope for a job that coincides with one’s course. I myself am still a student and I’m earning more than the regular wages per month. One of the things students have to realize is that nothing is impossible. And that there are opportunities everywhere. It might not come knocking on their doors so they would have to seek them out themselves!

  6. Jacob Cass says

    Glad I could help you out Jake. Good luck with your studies and your freelancing.

    When you say don’t lay down the full truth? What would you with hold and why?

    Jay F.H
    Well she is quite humorous in the book but probably not as much if the real Robin Williams did it.

    Some people are luckier and more motivated than others, and that is what makes us stand apart (and earn more) and what makes your statement close to true… nothing is impossible.

  7. CrayZeeGurl says

    Hi Jacob. You’re a legend. I followed your advice about just asking a local studio and was shocked when they said i could go in one day a week! I always thought they’d be miserable or ‘have no time for silly young students’, but true, THEY had to start somewhere aswel! It maybe be ‘pro bono work’ but its vital experience that will set me apart from other students when applying for a full time job.

  8. says

    Good article. I’m still in school and doing freelance web design work, so I noticed that a lot of what you said goes for web design too. At my school there are a lot of jobs even on campus to get graphic and web design experience. That was my stepping stone before freelance.

  9. amjath says

    hi jacob. thnx for ur info packed article. i would like to be a freelance designer or paginator. will u pls help me to find a job.

  10. says

    I’m a student studying product design who is freelancing web design (my old, pre-student life). Is reasonably profitable and keeps me in networking with other creatives.

    Some good advice in this column. Thanks.

  11. says

    There is a website that caters to just this need for student freelancers called Thought you might be interested to know.

  12. Dazedreamr says

    Thanks for some excellent tips Jacob. I never thought about design blogs before and the other books you recommended will be very helpful. These tips will definitely help me gain a foothold as I earn my degree.

  13. says

    Great article! Just what I’ve been looking for! Off to Uni next year to study Graphic Deign, but having a gap year until then to gain some experience within the industry and build my portfolio. I was just wondering, what would you say the best places to ask for experience would be?…printers? companies who my want design work done?…. just I’ve asked some design studios but they don’t seem to be able to offer me much. Also trying to find a job to get money if I can’t get paid work experience which isn’t seeming likely.
    I’d appreciate it if you could have a brief look at some of my work (on my site) and maybe suggest where I could add more to it, what sort of designing?
    One more thing (sorry to hassle), I was looking at your portfolio on your site, and love the ‘Make a Move 3D”, just wondering, what software did you use for that?
    Your work is amazing! Great inspiration.

  14. Britni says

    Jacob this is great info. I am in my first year of web graphic design at DeVry Univ. The part about the pen tool made me laugh. I just had that problem like 2 months ago when using Flash for the first time. Thanks for the good information!

  15. says

    wow, thanks for this post! =) i am taking information technology and i think our school is so slow in teaching us. So, in my side, i am trying my best to be a freelancer and earn a little money if i could. =)

    More power to you!

  16. says

    Excellent Opportunity to Study
    Many people still think of online education as a way to take an extra class to supplement their brick-and- mortar education. However, online education, or distance learning, is becoming an increasingly popular way to complete an entire degree. More people are turning to distance learning to complete associates, bachelors and masters degrees……

  17. says

    Thank-you for the informative article! I’ve actually finished design school and I am now looking for freelance work. So this article was very helpful, and the resources too. Thanks!

  18. julzeatworld says

    I’ve been wondering far too long in the design field, till I got lost. I’m at uni at the moment studying Design Visual Communication as well. I stumbled across this article in need of inspiration and found out about this just today through googling random words. Thank God, I came across your page.

    Thank you for posting this article. It has given me motivation and hope.

  19. says

    It’s really hard for students to line up quality freelance gigs without deep experience / contacts, which makes it especially important for them to leverage as many tools as possible to get at least their personal work seen by people who might be potential clients.

    One thing I’m trying to work on is a way to incorporate very personalized video that can be embedded onto new freelancers’ personal websites, shared on Facebook / Twitter, e-mailed to friends and potential clients, etc — a way to promote a freelancer’s portfolio and personal brand through documentary-style video.

    If that is something that anyone here might find useful, why don’t you check it out at: and let us know what you think? :)

  20. says

    Totally agree with what you said about building a portfolio. Make up your own projects, but try to make sure that they’re the kinds of projects that you’ll want to keep doing once you get clients. If your portfolio is full of one type of work, you can bet that’s the type of work clients will seek you out for. Show the kind of work that you want to get.


  1. […] Are you a Graphic Design student in need of some extra cash? Don’t count yourself out of the freelance market, as a Graphic Design student, you have the skills and talent to successfully provide graphic design services. This article will give to you first hand experience with tips on how to land your first freelance graphic design project while still in school. Not only can you make some good money, you will get a head start on building your professional portfolio with real life business experience.  Read more with this article … Find Freelance Work While You are Still a Graphic Design Student in School. […]

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