Don’t know how to become a graphic designer yet?
Join the club. Many people struggle with making a career change, especially one in an industry as competitive as graphic design.
But it doesn’t mean you should put off your plans.
In this guide, you can learn the top tips that’ll help you transition to graphic design and build a great career out of it!
- An Overview of Graphic Designers: A Primer
- What You’ll Need to Become a Graphic Designer [& Associated Costs]
- Is It Hard to Become a Graphic Designer?
- How to Become a Graphic Designer in 7 Simple Steps
- Reasons to Consider Becoming a Graphic Designer
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Similar Gigs to Check Out
- Wrapping Up
An Overview of Graphic Designers: A Primer
If you already have an idea of what a graphic designer looks like, forget it. Anyone can be a graphic designer, no matter if they have any formal education in it or not.
Graphic designers are creative people who can take an idea or concept and turn it into visual material.
Some of the tasks a graphic designer can be asked to do include:
- Logo design
- Book cover design
- Create social media visual content (photo or video frames)
- Create website icons
- Create visual assets for print (ads, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and the like)
It’s a creative career path where a piece of paper from a university doesn’t matter. What will matter are your visual communication skills, creativity, and technical abilities.
Related: How to Become an Artist
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
Indeed data shows graphic designers make an average of $20.57 per hour. Junior graphic designers can expect to earn $18.62 per hour.
But this doesn’t account for the revenue coming from any personal projects designers can take part in to increase their earnings.
What You’ll Need to Become a Graphic Designer [& Associated Costs]
Before we get into the steps to becoming a successful graphic designer, let’s first consider what you need to enter the industry and the costs you can expect:
- Artistic Ability and Skill: This is a creative field, and while you can perfect some design skills through education, you need to come into it with some pre-existing abilities.
- Design Concepts: You’ll need to learn some basic design principles. They’ll help you improve your work and produce high-quality designs.
- Graphic Design Tools: These include design software and a laptop or computer where you can create your designs. The specific tools and software you need depend on the type of design you want to do.
- An Online Portfolio: Even if you don’t have a college degree, many graphic design jobs will ask for proof of your technical skills, which you can demonstrate through an impressive portfolio.
- Desire to Grow: Successful graphic designers know they need to keep learning, follow trends, and improve their graphic design skills to remain competitive in this creative industry.
How Much Does It Cost to Become a Graphic Designer?
The cost of becoming a graphic designer can vary a lot, depending on where you’re currently at.
The American Graphics Institute estimates that the cost of learning graphic design can range from $500 to several thousand, depending on the learning program.
You’ll also have to pay for most graphic design tools. The most popular is Adobe Creative Cloud, which costs $19.99 per month in the first year and $29.99 after that.
This suite includes tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, and more.
Lastly, there’s the initial cost of a laptop or computer and any other tools you may need. A MacBook Pro’s price can start at $1,000, and if you need an iPad for drawing, you can add another $500 on average.
Is It Hard to Become a Graphic Designer?
Becoming a professional graphic designer isn’t impossible, but it’ll require some hard work on your part.
You first have to build your skills and knowledge of the graphic design industry, then create a professional portfolio that’ll make potential clients want to work with you.
But the effort may be worth it. Labor statistics show around 24,800 graphic design jobs open every year, and this doesn’t account for freelance graphic designer roles.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Graphic Designer?
It depends on the choice of education.
You’ll need a few weeks to a few months to study the basics of graphic design through an online or offline course. However, opting for a university degree will take a longer time (three or four years).
After you’ve completed your education in the field, you’ll start building your portfolio to find gigs online.
How to Become a Graphic Designer in 7 Simple Steps
Ready to start your graphic design career?
Check out these seven simple steps that can help you land your first graphic design job:
1. Sign Up for a Graphic Design Course
Enrolling in a graphic design program can help you learn the basics and build key skills.
While you don’t need a college education, it helps to have a certification that can attest that you have a solid understanding of some things, such as:
- Color theory
- Graphic design history
- Graphic design theory
With knowledge from school or graphic design courses, you may be more competitive in this field. Also, you can learn a lot of practical skills to improve your work and build a solid portfolio.
2. Choose a Graphic Design Niche
Graphic designers work in various industries and create different types of content. It helps to specialize in one specific field so you can focus both your education and activities to achieve a higher level of skill.
This can mean targeting a specific industry, such as gaming or the medical field, but also choosing a type of graphic designer:
- UX designer or web developer
- Motion designer
- Print publications and typography designers
- Packaging designer
The design process for these roles is different. Web developers require different skills and knowledge when compared to motion designers.
3. Practice with Design Software
You’ll need to master a tool to create any type of visual design. Whether you’re doing it on your own or following a course, try to identify the essential tools required in your desired niche.
For example, if you want to specialize in web design, you’ll need to work with tools like WordPress to create a site theme. Photoshop will allow you to build website assets, such as buttons or even a logo.
You don’t have to learn all these tools perfectly. Identify the ones most useful for your graphic design niche and familiarize yourself with how they work as much as possible.
4. Gain Practical Experience
Before you can land your first graphic design role, you need to gain hands-on experience. This won’t only help you further develop your design abilities but also show potential employers that you have the right soft skills to be part of a creative team.
Here are some ways you can start building your design experience:
- Sign up for an internship program
- Volunteer at a local NGO
- Help a friend or family member with new design elements for their business
- Shadow an experienced graphic designer
You should also continue to create designs even outside of a program or internship.
5. Build a Portfolio
A good portfolio can help you land better graphic design positions.
You can create a personal website to host your graphic design portfolio or choose a hosting platform like Behance.
In either case, you should make sure your portfolio is:
- Fully reflective of your skills
- Easy to access and navigate
- Complete with a short bio and contact information
- Easy to share with potential clients
Your portfolio may be the reason someone hires you—or keeps looking.
Target your portfolio to the potential clients you want to attract and ensure it reflects your style, experience, and what you have to offer.
Remember to include some lines that outline your experience next to your digital design materials. Add what graphic design software you use, awards, graphic design degree or certificate, and the like.
6. Form Professional Relationships
Networking isn’t mandatory, but it can help.
Meeting with art directors, marketers, and other communication designers helps increase your visibility in the field and could allow you to discover gigs. It’s also beneficial if you’re planning to become self-employed.
Here are some ways to form more relationships:
- Go to conferences and meetings on graphic design
- Follow designers on social media and reach out to them for mentorship
- Join social media groups
- Sign up for classes, internship programs, etc.
7. Apply for Jobs
As you build your portfolio and experience, you can start looking for job openings and sending your resume.
Look for positions that match the type of employment you want. Usually, it’s one of three options:
- In-House Graphic Designers: These are best for entry-level designers. You’ll design only for the company that hires you and build your skills even more.
- Agency Graphic Designers: Although you have one employer, you’ll create material for multiple clients. These positions need more versatility to target the specific needs of each project.
- Freelance Graphic Designers: These roles offer the most freedom, as you can choose your clients and projects. But they’re also difficult to land without a great portfolio and hands-on experience.
Find out how to become a freelance graphic designer in this separate guide.
Reasons to Consider Becoming a Graphic Designer
Being a graphic designer is rewarding on many levels:
- Diverse Job Opportunities: The field offers many positions both for self-employed designers and those looking for a 9-to-5 job.
- High-Paying Positions: Graphic design has many financially rewarding job opportunities. As you grow, you can attract better projects and clients.
- Exciting Projects: Graphic designers can work on social campaigns, rebranding projects for major brands, and other unique gigs that make their workload anything but boring.
- Creative Work: This career is ideal for a creative person who needs an outlet for all their ideas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Graphic Designer?
Graphic designers need both hard and soft skills to succeed.
They need good design abilities in their chosen field, such as web design principles or photo editing.
But they also need to have good communication skills, pay attention to details, and have a problem-solving mindset.
Can You Learn Graphic Design Alone?
Absolutely. Many self-paced learning resources can help you learn alone, from online courses to YouTube tutorials.
What’s important is to put the knowledge you accumulate into practice. Graphic design is an industry where practical skills matter most.
Similar Gigs to Check Out
If graphic design isn’t right for you, try these career paths:
- How to Become a Ghostwriter: Use your writing skills to help people tell their stories in just a few steps.
- How to Become a Video Game Tester: Do you love playing video games? You can get paid for having fun and sharing your experience.
- How to Become a Social Media Manager: Help brands communicate with their audiences on social media for a fee.
Becoming a graphic designer isn’t an easy process, but your hard work can be rewarded with exciting design opportunities and a career where boredom is never part of your daily schedule.
Use the simple steps in this article to create an action plan for yourself and enter the graphic design field on the right foot.
What did you think about this guide? Are you confident enough to start a new career as a graphic designer?
Sound off in the comments!