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Learning how to become a graphic designer could be the life-changing career switch you’ve been looking for.
Graphic design services continue to be in high demand in an age of content and online businesses. Furthermore, more and more remote opportunities are appearing every day.
I have been a remote graphic designer since 2012, and the flexibility it has given me has allowed me to travel and work hours that best suit my schedule.
In this guide, we’re going to understand and discover how to become a graphic designer, and how to land your first paid remote work.
Here is a breakdown of everything covered in this guide:
1 – What is a Graphic Designer?
Graphic designers communicate ideas and messages through design. These ideas or messages can educate, inform, inspire, or entertain, depending on the needs of the client.
Graphic designers communicate ideas and messages through a number of means. These include words, images, graphics, and video, among other mediums.
Until the era of the internet, graphic designers worked with traditional mediums, such as print design, branding, and advertising.
Today, a wide range of new and online mediums are now covered under the skillset of a graphic designer.
Graphic design is a fast-paced and creative profession. While challenging, it is also highly rewarding.
2 – How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
Just as in most professions, experience, geography, and sector all have an impact on the amount of money you can make.
A large corporation, for example, could be willing to pay $1000s for a logo redesign. Whereas a small bar or restaurant would probably only pay a few $100, or even less.
However, having a ballpark figure in mind is important when it comes to pricing. Below you can find average hourly rates and salary expectations for graphic designers in several countries.
What is the Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer?
The average hourly rate for a graphic designer can range from $10 for simple print and social media post design, to over $100 for specialized work requiring specific skills or software.
According to Payscale, the average hourly rate for a graphic designer in the United States is $17.67, which increases with experience.
Add more in-demand skills to your offerings, such as UX/UI design and you can expect the hourly rate to be higher.
It is worth noting that, while many graphic designers do bill by the hour, many clients will often prefer you to set a day rate or price for the entire project.
|Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer by Location||Average Hourly Rate (Payscale) on November 3, 2020|
|What is the Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer in the United States?||$17.67|
|What is the Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer in Canada?||$14.58|
|What is the Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer in Australia?||$18.61|
|What is the Average Hourly Rate for a Graphic Designer in the United Kingdom?||$13.47|
What is the Average Salary for a Graphic Designer
While many graphic designers opt for the freelance route to work remotely, there are many remote full-time opportunities in graphic design too.
According to Payscale, the average salary for a graphic designer in the United States is $45,684. According to Indeed, it is $48,942.
However, when searching for full-time jobs, be sure the listing is a remote position. Unlike jobs like virtual assistants, many full-time graphic designers are still expected to work at a company base.
3 – Graphic Design Services in High-Demand
As mentioned in the first section, graphic designers can offer a wide range of services.
From logos to ad campaigns, websites to videos, there are plenty of opportunities to offer your services as a designer.
This means becoming a graphic designer can be very flexible. There are always new products and design-based software packages coming to market.
Below you’ll find a list of common, in-demand graphic design services that are highly sought after.
1 – Logo and Branding Design
Logo and identity design are the bread and butter of any graphic designer. Logos are the classic design brief, and from giant corporations to small boutiques, all businesses need a logo, brand, and identity.
2 – Print and Advertising Design
Businesses have always needed flyers, brochures, documents, banners, and many other physical items designed. A good understanding of how layout, typography, and imagery work in harmony, along with excellent InDesign skills, are needed to be a valued print designer.
3 – Apparel and Merchandise Design
While printing operations may be becoming industrial and large-scale, designers are still needed to design the artwork and graphics that go on clothes, bags, and other merchandise.
With the rise of online stores and all-in-one services, like Redbubble, more and more business owners are looking to add print and merch to their services.
4 – Website Design
While web developers build website databases and often work on the backend of sites or applications, graphic designers are still largely responsible for the front-end of websites, and how they look and feel.
If you enjoy working with grids, layouts, and exclusively on the web, you may want to offer your services as a web designer.
An understanding of basic web languages like HTML/CSS will help, along with an understanding of various CMS software, such as WordPress.
5 – UX/UI Design
One of the most in-demand design services right now, many tools, apps, and online services require the services of a graphic designer to design and create their user interfaces.
Along with a good understanding of design rules like typography, layout, and color, adding additional wireframing software skills to your skill set, such as Adobe XD or Sketch, will help you become an employable designer.
6 – Social Media and Content Design
From banners to YouTube thumbnails, edited images to infographics, pretty much all visual and video content on social needs to be designed.
Therefore, there are many opportunities to work with brands, influencers, and YouTube channels, creating content and artwork for them.
7 – Videography and Film Editing
If you love taking videos and film making, core graphic design skills go hand-in-hand with videography.
Many clients prefer it if they can pay you not only for filming raw video, but also for putting the finished documentary or video content together, with music, typography, and graphics.
8 – Video Design and Video Animation
Courtesy of YouTube and social video, more and more companies and clients are looking to get into video.
Whether it be for informational content or to advertise products, high-energy, animated videos are in high demand.
9 – Packaging Design
Once physical products are made, they need to be packaged. Packaging design requires high attention to detail, expert use of color, composition, and typography, and expert layout and grid skills.
10 – Digital Illustration
Graphic designers’ knowledge of software often allows them to bring their illustrations to life, digitally.
Character design, packaging design, animation, and books all require illustrations in digital formats.
11 – Photography and Image Retouching
In a world of glossy advertisements and Instagram influencers, many people are looking to create pristine imagery for their online presence.
Recoloring old photographs, airbrushing images for social media, and retouching photography are all things people are looking for online.
12 – Data Visualization
Many organizations and companies deal with large numbers of data on a daily basis. Visualizing that data can help clarify decisions and allow people to understand.
Graphic designers can make data look beautiful and easy to understand. Charts, graphs, and infographics all help do this.
13 – Presentation and Slide Deck Design
From funding pitches to internal guidelines, there are so many reasons that organizations and individuals need presentations and slide decks.
Startups, in particular, always need slide decks when going for funding.
With tools like Powerpoint, Prezzi, and video animations, designers can take pitches and make them dazzle.
14 – Design in Specialist Software
Many clients will need items and outputs designed in a specific piece of software. Becoming the go-to person for that piece of software can be a lucrative venture.
Designing websites in Square Space, presentations in Microsoft Sway, or whiteboard explainer videos, are three of many examples of going niche with your services.
4 – What Tools Do You Need to Become a Graphic Designer?
Once as a designer you have come up with a creative new design or idea, it’s then up to you to bring it to life on screen.
There is a wide range of creative tools on the web. From color pickers to mood boards, so many tools exist to help you excel as a designer.
However, there are several essential tools and software packages as a graphic designer you will be expected to use.
Adobe Creative Suite
Without a doubt, knowledge of Adobe CC’s core software packages is any graphic designer’s bread and butter.
Adobe CC has a range of packages, that allow you to design for video, web, animation, music, and many other creative outputs.
However, the three tools you should definitely know how to use are:
- Adobe Photoshop – For photography, graphics, and pixel-based artwork
- Adobe Illustrator – For branding, illustration, and vector artwork
- Adobe InDesign – For web and print layouts, publications, and documents
Video Animation and Editing
If you’re eager to venture into video and animation for the web, there are many packages you can use. As part of the Adobe CC suite, you can gain access to:
- Adobe After Effects – For video and graphic animation
- Adobe Premiere Pro – For video editing and raw video footage
Other tools you could learn to add video to your skillset include Final Cut Pro and online video-maker Promo.
Wireframing and UI Design
If you’d like to venture into produce and UX/UI design, you’ll need knowledge of a dedicated wireframing and UI design package.
Adobe have a great tool in the shape of Adobe XD. Sketch and Figma are also very popular tools and are frequently requested in jobs and UI design opportunities.
While most design takes place in Adobe and other dedicated design packages, Microsoft Office still has a number of tools you may be expected to use.
From using data housed in an Excel Spreadsheet, to working on a presentation in Powerpoint, knowledge of the MS suite will often be expected.
Microsoft Office 365 gives you access to all of the MS tools, as well as other new tools and perks.
Finally, if you are looking to move into content, web, or UX/UI design, at least a basic understanding of some web languages is advised.
Learning HTML/CSS is often your best bet here. This will allow you to deal with changes and design updates in a content management system or help make design changes on the front-end of a website.
It is rare that a graphic designer, unless specialized, will be expected to know web languages beyond HTML/CSS. So both are great to learn and list under your skills.
5 – What Skills Do You Need to Become a Graphic Designer
While tools are important, there are a number of different skills graphic designers need to learn and develop.
1 – Specific computer software skills
Whether it be tiny icons or giant billboards, no designer can deliver their designs and visions without the aid of computer software.
2 – Creativity and innovation
Designers have a passion and flair for creating. They can look at raw concepts or pencil sketches and bring those ideas to reality.
3 – Understanding of design principles
Graphic design as a discipline has been practiced for centuries. The difference between good and poor design always comes down to how effectively you understand and use design principles. These include:
- Composition & Layout
- Form & Shape
4 – Attention to detail
To deliver beautiful, engaging, and effective design, all elements of the design must work together in harmony.
From spotting spelling mistakes to understanding subtle differences in color, designers must be able to think big, but also deliver pixel-perfect work.
5 – Time management and organization
As a graphic designer, you will often be expected to work on multiple projects at the same time.
You will need to manage your workflow, your time spent on tasks, and deliver projects on time, within budget.
6 – Identifying and designing for trends
Graphic design is an industry that moves quickly. One minute something is in demand, and the next minute it is old news.
As a graphic designer, you need to survey online and societal trends. And once you identify them, you can design for them.
Whether it be long-form infographics, Snapchat filters, or 3D video, plenty of trends come and go, bringing with them design opportunities.
7 – People skills
Being a graphic designer means more than designing and creating. Particularly if you freelance, you will be working for clients.
You need to have great soft skills with people. If people like you, understand you, and trust you, they are far more likely to hire you and refer you, if you do a good job.
8 – Visualizing ideas and concepts
Most non-creative people struggle to visualize ideas and finished designs.
As a designer, your ability to visualize ideas, either on paper or on screen, and show the client what they are paying for, will go a long way to getting you hired.
6 – How to Become a Graphic Designer in 8 Simple Steps
Becoming a graphic designer will open up a range of online and remote opportunities to make money from home.
However, the world of graphic design can seem overwhelming. There are many graphic designers out there, all offering their services.
Even if you have zero experience, there are still plenty of opportunities for you. Remember, everyone starts with no experience in the beginning.
To make your transition easier, these 8 steps will help you get educated and set up as a graphic designer. Follow these steps, stick to them, and in time you’ll slowly find more work as a graphic designer.
1 – Decide on your design service(s)
First and foremost, you need to decide what type of designer you are. Then, you can decide on your services and skills.
Whether it be infographics, social media content, or user interfaces, niching your services will help you find work faster.
2 – Decide on your hourly or daily rate
Many graphic designers struggle when it comes to pricing. Often, designers feel the need to take lower-paid work.
While this may be the case, you need to be realistic about how much money you need to make for this to be a viable career path.
First, you should work out your monthly expenditure. You need to know how much you need to make to cover your baseline of living.
You should expect to be working a forty-hour week unless you want to work part-time. Set an hourly rate that is realistic, and can generate the income you need to live on.
There’s a high chance you will have to take lower-paid freelance work in the beginning, but there needs to be a limit.
3 – Learn the appropriate skills and tools
You may already know certain skills, or you may be starting from zero. Either way, you will have to develop certain skills and master certain software.
If you want to be a UX/UI designer, for example, you will need to know how to use Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma.
If you enjoy designing logos, understanding how to create vector artwork in Illustrator is critical.
Know the skills and tools needed for the area of design you intend to work in, and learn as much as you can about it.
4 – Create an online portfolio of work with sample or client projects
As a graphic designer, your portfolio is the most important part of your online presence.
Most clients or employers will judge you on your portfolio. This is where you can showcase the different types of design you can do, and how well you can do it.
Initially, you will either need to use online briefs or fictitious projects to create work, or offer to do work from friends and family for free.
Once you have a few projects that showcase your skills and quality of delivery, you will have a much better chance at clients hiring you.
5 – Create your online presence and profiles
As with any freelance or online business, good work is often not enough. As a graphic designer, you need to make yourself as visible as you can.
Make sure you have a personal website, showcasing your work. Websites like Behance also allow you to create engaging online portfolios.
Being a part of the conversation on platforms like Twitter, or posting daily designs on Instagram, will help you build authority as a designer.
6 – Get your first work by applying online and networking
Once you are up and running online, you can now start looking for you. Freelance websites like Upwork will allow you to bid for posted jobs, and clients contact you directly.
But some of the best jobs and opportunities you can get are through word-of-mouth.
Both online and in-person networking events are an excellent way to connect with business owners and clients who may need design services.
Facebook and LinkedIn groups, as well as other online communities, also commonly have paid opportunities posted in them.
7 – Build positive relationships with clients
Landing your first client is hard. But once you do, it’s vital you do a good job and build a positive relationship with them.
Referrals are still a hugely-overlooked part of getting new work. If you do a good job for your client, they are more likely to refer you to friends or colleagues.
Obviously, make sure what you do is within your agreed work and hours. But go above and beyond, and give them a positive experience.
8 – Set up as a business or freelancer and grow your clients
As soon as you get your first client, in time you will be paid. This means that you have to be set up correctly as a freelancer or contractor.
If you work as a freelancer or contractor, you will be responsible for figuring out you own taxes, liabilities, and other self-employed expectations.
Don’t just see this as a hobby. See it as a legitimate career move, and set up in the right way. Once you start growing, everything will be in place.
7 – Where to Find Graphic Design Jobs
While finding graphic design work doesn’t happen right away, there are many ways and places to find design jobs.
Many tools and services can be used to find both full-time work, part-time or contract jobs, and freelance clients.
Remember, getting your first design job is always the hardest. You have to be persistent. Keep applying, keep reaching out, and don’t give up. Eventually, something will come up.
Here are seven great ways to find work from home graphic design jobs and opportunities:
FlexJobs are one of the leading online job boards that focus on remote and flexible jobs.
With FlexJobs, you can filter your search to look for full-time, part-time, and freelance roles. You can also find partially and fully remote roles.
For a small monthly fee, you’ll have access to opportunities and work from all over the world.
If finding full-time employment or part-time roles with one company or client sounds more appealing, FlexJobs is a great place to look.
If you want to venture into freelance, Upwork is a good place to start your work from home design career.
Upwork allows you to offer your skills, showcase your portfolio, and set your hourly or daily rates.
You can use their platform to bid for potential jobs or reply to clients who may reach out to you directly.
It will take time to get consistent work, but the more projects you complete and 5-star reviews you receive, the more visibility you will get.
Behance is a creative marketplace for graphic designers, animators, illustrators, and other creatives to showcase their work.
Behance has a strong online community that help, advise, and pass work to each other.
Through Behance Jobs, you can also apply for graphic design roles with your portfolio.
Remote Job Boards
There are many remote-focussed job boards online, and many will have dedicated graphic design or creative sections.
Our ‘Remote Jobs‘ section of the Nomad Paradise Resources page has a number of different jobs boards for you to look at. We Work Remotely, Remotive, and Remote OK are three of many.
To many people’s surprise, Facebook is actually a great place for designers to find freelance and remote opportunities.
Many Facebook groups exist, run by freelancers, for creative people. In these groups, you can find support, advice, and even freelance work.
When you work from home, some days it can get lonely. So being a part of an online group for the community alone is worth it.
A social platform dedicated to working professionals, users on LinkedIn are always looking to pitch their services, or find professionals to help them.
Through InMail, LinkedIn’s messaging service, you can direct message potential clients or creatives to introduce yourself, network, and discuss your services.
LinkedIn is free to join. But if you’re looking to get the most out of LinkedIn, LinkedIn Premium allows you to message an unlimited number of people.
If you’re committed to spending time finding the right connections, LinkedIn can be a great way to grow your freelance business.
While many online methods exist, people are still people. The most powerful way to gain someone’s trust is still by meeting them in person.
Services like Meetup can help you find events and networking opportunities where you can meet other creatives or potential clients.
Or, you can find virtual networking events through Facebook, LinkedIn, and searching online.
Networking is always a little scary at first. But just like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. The more you attend, the more confident you will become.
Outreach & Email
When the clients are not coming to you, there is nothing stopping you from going to them yourself. This is where cold emailing prospects can find you work.
With a service like Hunter, you can find specific people’s email addresses. With the right tone and email copy, an email or several is all it may take to get paid work.
Spreadsheets are a great way to track your progress. Be patient when emailing, as it is always a numbers game.
Keep finding people, following up your emails, and in time someone will reach back out to you.
8 – Graphic Design Work From Home Software & Essentials
We’ve already identified key software skills you will need in order to become a professional graphic designer.
However, if you are a graphic designer working remotely, you’re going to need a little more than just an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
Graphic Designer Work From Home Software
- Invoicing & Accounts: Freshbooks
- International Banking & Client Payments: TransferWise
- Stock Photography: Unsplash, Shutterstock, and Deposit Photos
- Stock Vector Graphics: FlatIcon
- Video Meetings: Zoom
- Communication: Slack
- Data Storage and File Management: Dropbox
- Time Management: BeFocused
- Project Management: Trello, Monday
- Online Learning & Courses: Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning,
Graphic Designer Essentials
No doubt software and tools are critical in any graphic designer’s work station. However, what about the physical side of your remote setup?
While you don’t need much to get started as a graphic designer, the last thing you want is to spend your days hunched over a kitchen table trying to focus on your work.
A few sound investments can help you create a remote work station or home office that makes you feel like you’re in a place of work.
- Ultraportable laptop – for remote working and changing location
- Laptop stand – for healthier, ergonomic working
- Wacom tablet – for digital illustration and graphic design
- Wireless keyboard – for a more ergonomically friendly workspace
Our work from home office essentials guide will help inspire you to design the ideal home office, that is both creative and productive.
From beautiful decor to ergonomic desks, there are so many brilliant products on the market for remote working.
9 – Pros and Challenges of Becoming a Graphic Designer
You can work remotely at home or from anywhere in the world
As long as you have your computer equipment and an internet connection, graphic design can largely be done from anywhere.
This means you can work from home, at coffee shops, or in exotic places. The choice is yours.
You have flexibility and can work when you want
If you freelance, most clients will only expect you to hit deadlines. That means, as long as you do the work in the time agreed, you can choose the hours when you work.
You get to create, innovate, and create beautiful work
Graphic design is a rewarding profession. If you’re a creative person, nothing beats the feeling of creating something from scratch.
Being a graphic designer means you get to create and innovate, within guidelines, every day.
You can constantly evolve and learn new creative skills
Graphic design is such a great career choice within the arts because it covers so many skills.
Many designers venture into web design, photography, illustration, video and animation, and other areas. There are many opportunities and career paths.
You need to work quickly and to deadlines
Professional graphic designers have to learn to design quickly. Nearly all design will be aligned with a timeline and budget.
If you want to keep employers and clients happy, you need to make sure you can design what is needed in the time set.
You need to be able to respond to criticism
These days, everyone has an opinion on design. As a designer working for a manager or for clients, you need to be able to take criticism.
Sometimes, your designs will need to be tweaked or changed. Other times, the client just won’t like it. But you must learn to take feedback on board.
You will be working remotely every day
Remote work has many benefits, but it does have its pitfalls. Working alone for long periods of time is not good for your mental health.
It’s important to try and switch up your workday for human interaction. Try to work from coffee shops or coworking spaces at least once or twice a week.
10 – Become a Graphic Designer and Work From Home Summary
Looking for a career that is fun, creative, and has the possibility of remote work? Graphic design could be your calling card.
Even if you know nothing about graphic design, everyone has to start from zero. Why not make today that start day?
As with most things in life, patience is key. Becoming a professional and respected graphic designer will not happen overnight.
You have to learn and know the tools. You have to create a stunning portfolio of work. And you have to find and impress your first clients.
But with this guide, you will have an excellent blueprint to work from. The advice, tools, and resources here can be used to lay down a strong foundation.
From there, your passion, talent, and determination will get you those first paid clients, and a chance to make money, doing something you love, from home.
The very best of luck on your design journey. Keep learning, improving, and looking for work. A career as a graphic designer can allow you so much freedom, and a chance to control your financial future.
You Might Also Like to Read
- How to Become a Virtual Assistant with No Experience and Work From Home
- Work From Home Jobs and Where You Can Find Them
- Work From Home Office Essentials for the Perfect Home Setup
- Best Ultraportable Laptops for Remote Work
- Home Coffee Bar Essentials for Your Home Office
Save and Pin for Later
Keen to kickstart a career as a graphic designer in the coming weeks? Save this guide to one of your Pinterest boards, ready for when you’re about to take the plunge.
Author: Dale Johnson is a graphic designer and content creator. He has worked remotely as a designer since 2012 and also taught design for several years. Dale is a passionate advocate of remote work, and regularly shares advice about freelancing and design online and through YouTube.