It’s been about 4 months now since I have taken my hobby of graphic design to a profession. Believe me, they weren’t lying about the whole starving artist thing. Although I feel I have the skills and techniques required to produce quality work on a consistent basis, the lack of contacts and clients is what is preventing my growth. I have tried several different freelance sites (Upwork.com and PeoplePerHour.com) but both give you limited free proposals to projects each month. Beyond those meager few, you are required to pay for more.
These websites really get you coming and going. Upwork takes your hard earned money hand over fist, skimming a full 20% off the top of any money made under $500. Then they slap holds onto your accounts and retract all current proposals (with no refund) if they get the slightest whiff of “paypal.com” or email addresses, suggesting you are trying to go around their massive toll gates. When you inevitably run out of proposals by the 10th of the month, you are forced to pay $2 per proposal after that. A reasonable ratio of proposals-to-jobs on that website is roughly one in fifteen, so if you are applying to 15 jobs to only land one, that means you spend $30 just to work! Only to make $50 on a logo design (of which $10 goes to the website). It’s tough out here for a freelancer. The one saving grace to Upwork is that they offer US only projects, which are not plagued by the international and 3rd world freelancers that will do equivalent work for a fraction of the cost. Yes, even graphic design gets outsourced. To compete on other websites, such as PeoplePerHour, you are forced to cut your bid to a fraction of what it normally would be to even be looked at by the client.
PeoplePerHour offers only 15 free proposals each month, but it does allow Hourlies (Small projects with a set cost that should only take you around an hour like a simple logo design, etc.). These Hourlies are displayed on a long list, rated from top “CERT” score to lowest. Your CERT score is a relatively arbitrary number that relates to successful work completed (But is rated by volume of work more than anything). Therefor the people who have the most proposals (By buying them) and get the most complete projects have the highest volume of work and thus get a higher rating. It seems the only way to get ahead is to dump money into your profile.
I have tried to apply to positions in graphic and motion graphic design, but without any certification or education in the field, it is hard to be legitimately looked at. I once had a phone interview with a company in Seattle called MedBridge, who creates higher medicine tutorials for healthcare professionals. They do pretty simple motion graphics and animations, all of which I was more that qualified to do, but the pure and simple fact that I had no education in design completely disqualified me for that job. I am still building up a portfolio, and I am proud of how far along it has come, so I am remaining hopeful for the future. I think that within the next couple of months I will have enough recurring clients to sustain myself.
Moving forward, I am applying to a website called TopTal, which acts as sort of an agent for the “Top 3% of Visual Designers.” I have submitted my portfolio and resume and am hoping to hear back soon about that opportunity. The advantage to TopTal is that they work to find you clients, which keeps your working consistently (40+ hrs per week). I feel that if accepted I will be able to learn a lot from the fellow artists in the Visual Designers Group and also bring a lot to the table, in terms of creativity, proficiency, and overall design problem solving.
I am hoping to tap into several other mediums for my design as well. I have been steadily posting to Instagram to attempt to generate somewhat of a following. I look to create a Twitter soon, and also populate my Facebook page with more content (yes, I have a Facebook page for design. No, there is nothing on it yet). I also might look into other freelance or portfolio options such as tumblr, reddit, or dribbble.
Overall, I am pretty happy with this journey I have set off on. I feel I have finally found something I enjoy doing daily and am glad I have turned a hobby into something that can be profitable. It really is true what they say –
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Maybe it’s just poor people that say that.