Graphic designers imagine and create digital images and art for all types of clients, ranging from a business who needs updated graphics on their website to a band who wants posters for their upcoming tour. Since many clients require designs on a temporary basis, a high proportion of graphic designers work as freelancers relative to other careers. If you’re creative, have an eye for detail, and are good at meeting deadlines, graphic design might be for you. Here’s everything you need to know about becoming a graphic designer and how to get hired.
How to Get Hired As A Graphic Designer
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that as of 2016, 18 percent of graphic designers were self-employed. The other major areas where graphic designers work are in specialized designer services, advertising and public relations, printing, and publishers of newspapers, books, and other print materials. However, the number of self-employed graphic designers is likely to rise as the freelance economy in the U.S. blossoms. According to a 2018 Gallup study, 36% of United States workers are self-employed, or part of the “gig economy”.
To become a graphic designer, you don’t necessarily need an undergraduate education. Often, the quality of work in your portfolio and the caliber of the clients you’ve worked with will speak louder than the degrees in graphic design you’ve received. However, many people do choose to obtain bachelor’s degrees in graphic design, or in related fields such as industrial design, animation, or fine arts. In fact, some graphic design jobs require a bachelor’s degree in order to apply. There are also associates degree programs focusing on graphic design, which are a more cost-effective alternative to betting a bachelor’s.
Graphic Design Portfolio
A killer graphic design portfolio is your ticket to any graphic design job. Today, the majority of graphic designers upload their portfolios to a website, which can be either public or password-protected. Here are four easy steps toward building a great portfolio:
- Choose your best work — Find the samples that best show your artistry, creativity, and skill as a graphic designer. If you are applying for jobs in a specific sector, such as publishing or advertising, make sure to include samples that show your expertise in this area.
- Tell the story of each piece — For each sample you chose to showcase, write some words on why you chose it, what it was created for, and the process of its creation. Also mention if you worked on it with any other people, and what it was ultimately used for.
- Choose your website — As mentioned before, most graphic design portfolios will be hosted on a website. Popular platforms include PortfolioBox, Adobe Portfolio, Cargo, and Behance. If you’re an avid web designer, you can also choose to design your own website.
- Get your work on social – a great added component to a web portfolio is a social media account where you showcase your work as a graphic designer. You can send your graphic design social media page to prospective employers, as well as producing content in hopes to be discovered for your talents.
Graphic Designer Hiring Process
There are two main avenues through which you’ll be hired as a graphic designer: full-time and freelance. Here we break down the hiring process for the two:
As a freelancer, you’ll typically stitch together an income through contracting with multiple clients. You can find freelance graphic design positions through job search sites like Glassdoor, as well on sites that connect freelancers like Upwork and Fiverr. Typically, you’ll submit your resume and portfolio to the companies listed in these job postings. Don’t be afraid to send your portfolio far and wide, and see where it catches. Also, before you send out freelance applications, make sure you know how much you’re comfortable with charging for your work, so you have a metric to enter negotiations with.
Many companies and independent design firms are constantly hiring full-time in-house graphic designers. Opportunities can be found through job search sites – for example, you can set a job alert on Glassdoor under the title “graphic designer”, and receive alerts each time new jobs are posted within your criteria of location, minimum salary, and more. Typically you’ll submit a resume, your portfolio, and in some cases, a cover letter. After that, you may be invited back for an in-person interview, and you may have to showcase your skills on a take-home assignment.
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median pay for 2017 for graphic designers at $48,700, or a median of $23.41 per hour. Of course, some graphic designers may make more or less than this, depending on whether they are employed by a corporation, work as freelancers, or have their own firms.
As of 2019 according to Glassdoor salaries data, the national average salary for a Graphic Designer is $48,561 in United States. Salary estimates are based on 21,771 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by Graphic Designer employees. In New York, however, graphic designers earn on average $55,242 per year, which is 14% above national average. Graphic designers in Texas report earning an average of $48,561 in the same time frame.
Graphic Designer Job Market
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 266,300 graphic designers employed in the United States in 2016. The rate of employment growth for graphic designers until 2026 is 4 percent. However, these statistics account only for the United States market, and because graphic designers can complete assignments from their computers, freelance employment opportunities are often open to graphic designers across borders.
There are currently over 15,000 job openings for graphic designers across the United States on Glassdoor.
Graphic Designer Interview Tips
If you’re invited to an in-person interview, it’s important to prepare all your materials ahead of time. Here are a few tips to nail your graphic design interview:
- Bring a paper copy of your resume, and if you can, paper copies of some of your design material.
- To showcase your profile digitally, you also might consider bringing a flash drive with files of your work, as well as bringing a tablet or computer you can show your work on.
- Dress sharp – graphic designers don’t have to adhere to the corporate dress code like those in other industries. Your clothes can project the vibe you wish to give off as a future employee, such as edgy, laid-back, or put-together, depending on what you wear.
- Research the company – learn what you can about the company’s values, its future goals, and any recent news you can find about the company, using either the company website or online news articles.