I try to stay current on the happenings around the industry, through exhibitions, lectures, online groups, printed magazines and certain organizations such as AIGA. Lately I’ve been thinking about the students currently enrolled and how they will compete once they graduate and enter this field. If they are educated at a good school, it’s my hope that the teachers are preparing them so that their portfolios will be outstanding, but in a slow economy, will they find work?
Having been in this industry for over 25 years, I’ve built a wide circle of colleagues and every one of them has special gifts and talents that has helped them be successful, but the industry is growing at an alarming rate and the competition for each assignment is getting more difficult. At the same time, companies are still acquiring others and the jobs as well as freelance assignments are getting thinner.
Take for example these online competitive sites like Elance, Guru, Logo Tournament, 99 Designs and more… Some of these sites do not put forth the right message about our industry. By giving clients hundreds of ideas, and all for FREE, this sends the wrong message about why a business needs a designer. A client posts an assignment, pays a set fee, and then tons of designers are wasting their time entering and the clients picks one winner. Only one person gets paid folks, so perhaps 50-100 or more have just worked for free. In other cases like Elance and Guru, designers are bidding against 50+ others and the sites don’t give clients enough information to help them choose between them around the world. In some cases clients ask for FREE mock-ups so they can decide without doing their homework. How about looking at each person’s body of work? How about seeing how many years experience one has, or reading testimonials from their clients? In our fast paced world, the clients would rather we just make it easy for them. Let 100 people design for free and they’ll just pick a winner. Just awful.
In 2010, every student has the ability to express themselves via a portfolio, print marketing and an online presence. Today they are expected to know every software program, both print and web design and be an expert at it all. It’s just not realistic.
I have been considering hiring an assistant and I’m wondering about these things. Should I find someone whose design esthetic matches my own? Should they know print or web or both? What types of projects have they worked on and which types of clients, what industries? What are their goals? I’m going to weight all of these issues as I look through resumes and portfolios and set up interviews.
What I do recommend is to design in different industries, try assorted projects but eventually try to pick a niche that fits where you’d like to be in 5-10 years. In order to compete, you have to do great work and if you want to be recognized, be consistent. A career isn’t created overnight through Facebook or Twitter. It takes dedication, expertise at your craft, and an openness to new and exciting advancements in technology. Always be willing to expand, learn and continually move forward. If you focus on the details and slow down you will achieve great things.
Clients also stay with someone who they trust and respect. A successful career is one built on the clients who stay and continually need you to help them. Care for your clients and they will take care of you.