HOW IT STARTED?
I’ve been freelancing for about five years now and during these years I met so many awesome people. Many of them being enterprenours, designers, artists and programmers. And what always inspired me most is hearing peoples stories – how they got to the point where they are now, where did the idea and the knowledge come from. So I decided to share my story as well, maybe you will read it, maybe not. But if it inspires just one person I will consider it a huge success.
Ever since I was a little kid I was artistic. My dreams of who I want to be when I grew up were changing through the years. It went from painter, fashion designer, interior designer to architect. As long as pencil and paper were the main tools to work with, I liked it. All 8 years of primary school I was the quiet artsy kid, who kicked ass in art class. I couldn’t wait for primary to be over, so I can apply to high school for design and photography. Imagine the shock when I got rejected. The next four years I was going to a regular high school, slowly dropping my dream of having a creative job.I took architecture classes and very quickly figured out that architecture is a creative version of being data analyst (boring AF) – sorry architects. I could not for the life of me decide which college to apply to, so in the end I just picked the easiest, thinking I will reapply somewhere else next year. Fast forward 4 years – I got a degree in political theory and was already working as a buyer in a large pharmaceutical corporation.
I loved studying political theory and if I could go back in time, I would never change choosing that. It gave me so much knowledge, perspective and most importantly critical thinking. Now about my job as a buyer. My stepfather helped me get a student job in the marketing department, which I hated. I was mostly making coffees, copying contracts and answering the calls, but this is not the part I hated. I hated all the rules, the enforcement of hierarchy and the office gossip. Ugh, endless gossip about stuff that doesn’t matter. It was an enviorment where there is no space for creativity. By chance, there was an opening in the procurement departement and they were looking for driven people who are good with computers. All we were doing was putting data in a program called SAP, but I liked it and I was good at it. After a while they gave me my own projects, more repsonsibility, a promotion, more power. For a while I felt like this badass business women. I was good at my job, people were interested in my ideas. I dare to say I could even get creative, when I was writing a pissed off mail to a supplier who missed a deadline. Sincerely, fuck off.
While I was working there I met Uroš who just shaped two stand up paddle boards. He saw some of my sketches and asked for my help with the painting of the SUPs. I remember being soooooo scared right before I began painting the first board. Now I think it wasn’t fear, it was my brain and body comprehending that this is what I am supposed to be doing. With this another lifetime dream resurfaced – surfing. We made two surfboards and went on a van trip to north Spain. I was hooked. When we were driving back after 3 weeks of waves, surfing and stress free life I made a decision to quit my job after my contract ends. I had 4 months to achieve one goal: find a job that is creative and allows me to go surfing whenever I want.
In the 4 months we were both thinking more and more about starting a surf company. The boards were good, but we were missing a name, logo, website… everything. So I decided to give it a try. I installed Adobe Illustrator, googled how to make a website EASY, watched all the free tutorials about graphic design, WordPress, photography and being an enterprenour. I gotta be honest, it took me forever to make the website and it took all my will power to convince myself I don’t suck and it’s gonna get better. I made the website and the logo and with it a decision to be a visual designer, doing graphic design and web design.
After I quit my job I made it my mission to learn about design and practice every day for 8 hours. I had some savings but all in all, this wouldn’t be possible without my mom. She and my stepdad were both really supportive mentally and financially in my decision to pursue design and without them I doubt I would be working in this industry today.
5 years later I am living in Fuerteventura – Canary Islands, chasing waves, having fun with my dog and doing some work in between. It took me a while to even grasp the fact that this is my life and that I have an amazing comodity of deciding when and how I will be working. One not many people have.
How do you learn design on your own? A few facts to make it less scary.
YOU DON'T NEED TO GO TO SCHOOL OF DESIGN TO BE A DESIGNER.
I know many people that went to school of design and most of them say they learned most from later experiences when they were working. Think about it, we work with software, that is changing incredibly fast. And the modern school system isn't famous for being adaptive. Meaning, you have to learn on your own even if you went to school.
You don't need to know everything.
You don't know all the functions of Illustrator? No biggie, my friend. As long as you have a general idea of what you want to do and Google, you're fine! Believe me, nobody knows everything, even professionals doing design for 20+ years. What makes you great is that you are willing to learn, to question, to look for different ways.
Learn from real projects.
Being a newbie in design you get ZERO projects, obviously. First you need to practice, do some work for free to gain recognition and build portfolio. One great way to practice is on platform Freelancer. You pay a few € per month to be a member, but with that you get to apply for projects and contests. When I was learning, I applyed to at least 3 contests per day. Contests are great, because you have clients specifications of what they want and you get to see work of other designers applying to a project. So what you do is pick the projects that are interesting to you, and do the design. Enter it in the contest and see the response. I was in complete shock when I actually won one after a month since I started. I got some money and a lot of confidence.
Work for free. Yes or no?
Well... we all hate when somebody calls you and says: "Hey, do you wanna make me a logo, I will tag you on Instagram". If somebody asked me this now (and they do), I would laugh and politely tell them to fuck off. But in the beginning you just take whatever. Remember, you're learning, take this as a practice and a way to build your portfolio. Do 2 projects for free, then start charging a small fee for it, and then go from there.