January 2021 bookings open now→

How to Become a Graphic Designer in College

If you’re looking to become a graphic designer as a college student but thinking “where do I start?”, you’re not alone. How am I supposed to find clients? How much should I charge? It can take a bit of testing the waters to truly figure it out. In celebration of graduating from university next week, I’ll pull together some insight into how I built a 800+ customer, five-figure graphic design business on the side over the past year while attending college full time.

TUTORIALS, TUTORIALS, TUTORIALS!

I’d say that 80% of my graphic design skills are self-taught with the remaining 20% coming from design school itself. The good news here? You don’t really need to go to design school to become a successful designer—it’s all about having the drive to learn and better your skills on your own time.

Online tutorials are probably the #1 most powerful way to learn graphic design—the wealth of information at your fingertips online is astounding. Lynda.com, Skillshare, and Adobe are all wonderful resources that are great ways to learn the basics and get comfortable using a variety of graphic design tools and programs. Once you have those down, YouTube and Pinterest are amazing for finding more niche tutorials that will bring your design skills to the next level (and allow you to have fun while doing so).


WHAT SOFTWARE SHOULD I USE?

My recommendation to someone looking to dive into graphic design would be the Adobe Suite all the way—specifically Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat Pro (perhaps Lightroom too if you’re working heavily with photos). These are the pretty much the holy trinity of graphic design—learn the uses for each tool and when it’s appropriate to use them (ex. logo designs in Illustrator, magazine layouts in InDesign).

Luckily, Adobe offers a pretty kickass student discount that makes it affordable and definitely worth a subscription.

Beyond this, some of my top-used tools in my belt include:


WHERE TO GET CLIENTS?

I’ll let you in on a little secret—all of my clients so far have been inbound. That’s right, I haven’t once put out a sales pitch (yet—planning on it in the future!). So, how did I achieve a steady pipeline of clients as a total beginner without a degree or portfolio?

My (not so) secret ingredient is—an Etsy shop!

Here are a few magic things about Etsy that make it the perfect tool to jumpstart your graphic design career:

Once you’ve found your groove and put products up in your shop, the flood gates will open and you’ll start receiving inquiries for custom designs—it’s portfolio building time!


TIPS FOR DESIGNERS SELLING ON ETSY

So, do you think you’re leaning towards setting up shop and diving headfirst into the freelance world as a college student? Here are a few more points to consider when deciding if it’s right for you.

BENEFITS OF FREELANCE DESIGNING IN COLLEGE

DRAWBACKS OF FREELANCE DESIGNING IN COLLEGE

Overall, the one thing that I truly believe you need to have in order to balance a full course load + a design business is passion. Generally, when working on a design project, I don’t even feel like I’m working at all—that’s how much I love what I do. I’m not sure it’d be an easy feat to succeed if your heart’s not in the game. However, if graphic design is your thing (or at least you think it may be in the future and you’re excited to put in the work and learn), there’s a wealth of opportunity out there for you, even without the design degree and no previous experience under your belt.

Graphic designers in college (or any other graphic designer for that matter!), how do you make it work? Are there any tips + secrets I missed? Leave a comment below!

Let’s stay in touch!

Instagram  |  @bungalow.creative

Pinterest  |  @bungalowcreative

Etsy Shop  |  Bungalow Creative

Liked this? Sign up for our newsletter for more branding + design tips
no spam here — WE'll give you the good stuff
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
© BUNGALOW CREATIVE 2020 / SITE DESIGNED IN-HOUSE