So, you’re thinking of becoming a full-time graphic designer.
It’s not an easy choice. In fact, many parents discourage it and they do have their reasons. No matter how long you’ve been learning about all the techniques, art movements, and color theories during your college years, it still takes a lot to prepare yourself for the reality of being a graphic designer.
A necessary nightmare
Once you become a full-time graphic designer, you’ll be facing one of your biggest but necessary nightmares: the client. The client is an unpredictable creature who holds your sleeping schedule and your paycheck in their hands. Don’t be fooled by their use of smiley emojis or any other indication of kindness. They’re willing to send you rates lower than you can imagine or even ask if you can do it for free in exchange for “exposure” or extra freebies. Don’t worry too much, not everyone’s rates are that unreasonable!
The next hurdle is the brief. Not all clients will give you a complete brief, from the branding down to their color palette, and might even make you figure out what exactly they want (because they themselves don’t know). Just be prepared to make revisions after sending your first, second, third, and or fourth draft.
Experiencing technical difficulties
With the likelihood of multiple revisions looming above your head, you might not have time to find a proper system for organizing your files. There will be times where you can’t remember whether your client liked the “FINAL FINAL” file or the “REALLY FINAL FINAL” file. Since your client had set your deadline only a few hours after they sent their revisions, you might have even misplaced the final version in a whole other folder due to sleep deprivation.
More on the technical side, let’s not forget the feeling of regret from merging or flattening the layers as you can only press undo so many times. There’s also the constant feeling of anxiety on whether the dreaded dialogue box of death will grace you with its presence and disregard the work you’ve done for the past five hours.
The chase is on and on and on
And lastly, the end of this journey can open to a new one. At times, you might not even realize that your latest submitted draft was the last draft. The client might have gone ahead and used your work a couple of days later without any notice. Thus, you embark on your chase for the payment that is so rightfully yours.
That is of course only if the client doesn’t need your tax identification number (TIN) and or an official receipt. Otherwise, expect this journey to extend into a Tolkien-length trilogy.
After slowly degrading your eyesight and playing mind-games with your client – and possibly the BIR – emotional fatigue is not too far off. Suddenly, weight of your mouse or stylus feels heavier than usual and you begin putting things off. While procrastinating on social media, you see other designers prospering with published art on distinguished platforms – who can be equally unprofessional as your last client – and insecurity begins to fester.
Pain and passion
But know that each and every one of those great artists have gone through some degree of struggle. Some may have played it smart or some have learned to do so. Because regardless of nightmare clients, technical difficulties, and emotional fatigue, there can a pot of gold at the end that is life as a graphic designer, whether it’s financial or personal growth.
The feeling of fulfillment should never justify the maltreatment by clients. But don’t worry, not all of them are like that. There is the equal chance of meeting great people with mutual respect for artists. You might even find a community of amazing creatives to call family.
Where there is passion, there is pain. But take each struggle as a learning experience. Communicate and negotiate with your clients. Know when to take a break when you feel burnt out. And lastly, don’t forget to triple back-up your files!