How to Kickstart Your Career Getting Gigs as a Graphic Designer

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Dec 29, 2021

Dec 29, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

It’s a great time to start your career as a graphic designer. Much of the world runs on the internet; every business needs a website, and most businesses need support designing digital ads. But even if you have a degree in graphic design and a bit of experience in a practical environment, you may find it difficult to start landing your first web design gigs.

What steps can you take to start getting work as a web designer?

Build Your Personal Brand and Portfolio

To start, you’ll need to develop your personal brand and portfolio.

Who are you and why are you different than other graphic designers? What are your core competencies and areas of expertise? What skills do you have, how do you work, and what is your personality like?

You’ll want to take note of these qualities and characteristics, then work them into your website, your social media profiles, and any other platforms where you’ll be interacting with prospective clients.

You’ll also need to build your portfolio (and, ideally, host it on a website of your own). This can include past web design jobs you’ve done, work from your time at university, or pet projects – anything that shows off your skills in a professional way can be included. Make sure you list your best examples first, and include a variety of different specialties to showcase.

Get Listed

Selecting the right platform is essential. You need to get the right visibility for yourself and for your work – it’s not going to come to you on its own. 

These are just some of the ways you can get involved.

  • Web design agency. You could choose to work for a web design agency. You won’t have the same independence or autonomy that you’ll get from being a freelancer or owning your own business, but you should get a steady supply of projects – and plenty of ways to develop your own skillset.
  • Freelance website. If you’re just starting out, you could make a profile on a freelance website created for graphic designers. You can advertise your services and your prices here – but because of the competition, you may not be able to charge much.
  • Job postings. You can also search for job postings on classified boards and submit an application. This can be time-consuming work, and depending on the competition you face, you may not get many responses.
  • Personal website. You can also start your own website, complete with your portfolio and pricing, and start marketing and advertising it.
  • Social media. Social media profiles are free, so if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it can be a great way to cultivate an audience from scratch. Get involved in groups, reach out to new individuals, and post new content on a regular basis.

Start Networking

No matter what, you’ll want to spend time networking and meeting new people. With a bigger network, you could be seen as more of an expert – and every new node in your network could be a job opportunity or a connection to a job opportunity.

Marketing and Advertising

If you’re struggling to find your momentum, and you have a bit of extra money, you should consider marketing and advertising your services. Investing in some paid advertising or getting involved in campaigns related to search engine optimization (SEO) or email marketing could put you on the fast track to your first design gigs.

Offer Cheap Services

Everyone likes the idea of charging more for their services; after all, a higher price and higher profit margin mean you’ll make more for the same work. But if you’re just starting out, you won’t have the experience or skills to justify those prices. Consider offering discounts for your first few customers, or even volunteer web design services for free if you don’t yet have a portfolio.

Where Do You Go From Here?

After landing a couple of impressive web design gigs, you can start building momentum for your career. These are some of the best steps to take next:

  • Improve your portfolio. Add different types of work, or showcase something amazing you’ve recently done.
  • Expand your relationships. Foster the relationships you already have (and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals).
  • Invest more heavily in marketing and advertising. With a steady flow of income, you’ll have more capital you can use to market and advertise yourself.
  • Partner up. Join an agency or partner with another designer to expand your reach.

One of the reasons graphic design is such a promising career is because of its flexibility. Your career can go in a multitude of different directions, depending on your long-term goals, your personal desires, and your experiences as you begin to gain influence. Stay open-minded as you discover and explore the possibilities.