Design

How to get the first orders in design when there is no portfolio and experience

How to find the first clients?

This is one of the most popular questions that aspiring designers ask me. And this question is absolutely logical, because it worried me too, when I was just starting my professional career, living in a hostel, without a MacBook, special education and practically not understanding anything in design.

In this article, I will share purely personal experience and will not collect scraps of information from popular design blogs, whose materials often have little to do with the real world.

I will not call my experience objective and I do not think that everyone can apply it. I did not set myself such a task. My goal is to honestly tell you how I got the first customers, which became the foundation for further development in the product area.

First projects

I try to answer all the questions that designers ask me on social media. And the following dialogue happened recently:

It seemed to me that it was in every designer’s blood to independently invent tasks for themselves and implement them in a free style (even if it was cut off from the real world). But it turned out that not all of them. Therefore, I will tell you about this in more detail.

I started out in design by copying popular concepts. Rather, trying to copy, as the quality of my work left much to be desired. After that, I began to come up with tasks for myself, but still regularly peep into other people’s work, trying to reproduce various visual effects. (I didn’t realize then that the essence of a designer’s work is different.)

Thus, in practice, I tried to figure out a new business for myself. I did not understand the essence of the projects that I copied, but, nevertheless, I got my hand in the visual part of our work.

Having made another project, I compared it with popular concepts and tried to figure out why my work looks worse. And little by little I began to understand the importance of correctly selected margins, colors, contrasts, the logic of the arrangement of elements and much more. I liked the design of the services better, so my projects included an email client, notes, task lists, and CRM systems.

I have posted all of my work on Behance, regardless of the quality. I don’t know why, but I was not afraid of negative criticism and I was not ashamed. Perhaps because I could not adequately assess my level and considered it worthy.

I see that many designers are embarrassed to display their work and ask for feedback. Sadly, without this they will grow much slower. If at all.

Any initiative develops through iterative improvements. In other words, evolving. This is how the world works: you do something, then you get feedback from the real world, draw conclusions and try again. Those who are able to go through this cycle many times will be rewarded.

First suggestions

As time went on, I regularly practiced, deleted old works, replaced them with new ones, and at some point I began to receive offers. No magic or secret tips. I just developed in design for many months, showed it to the world, and at some point he started answering me.

The largest project at that time was a service for the automation of Swiss clinics. This project is from Russia, but since the development was carried out abroad, I had to communicate mainly in English, although I did not have a deep knowledge of the language.

Despite the lack of experience, I managed to earn a record at that time 50 thousand rubles per month, and I went on vacation to Spain. (A few years later, I managed to earn the same amount in 4 hours).

Then I did not understand that what type of projects I publish in my portfolio, this type of customers I will get. Looking back, I see that this is exactly what happened. Since I did the design of services, I still do them today, which I like much more than creative concepts. To each his own.

This does not mean that you should follow my path. Pick a theme that you like best and practice with it. If you don’t know what you like best, experiment.

Don’t be trendy. You can prove yourself in any area, so start working in the one that you like best. Life will become much more pleasant, believe me.

Quality of work

It’s funny, but during the preparation of this article, the same client with whom we were engaged in medical services wrote to me. He asked permission to transfer my number to a potential customer. And this is not the first time that old ties have come back a few years later. And they come back for two reasons.

First, because I did my job well. You can’t do without it. The client should be satisfied, and you yourself should be sorry to waste your time, so always try to do each project better than the previous one. Only then will you grow.

Secondly, I have shown myself to be a reliable performer. While working on financial services, it happened that after a workshop with business representatives, I would go home, promising that my work would be done by morning.

And I still remember those nights when I was designing banking services until 4 in the morning, and after two hours of sleep I went to the office of a well-known payment system and demonstrated the service first to a focus group, after to project managers, and at the end presented it to the bank’s board. (It even happened that in the car on the way from the office to the conference room of the hotel, I was finalizing an interactive prototype).

You yourself understand what responsibility was hanging on me at that moment. But after assessing my attitude to work, clients were ready to return, despite the fact that they could easily find a designer half the price.

Work presentation

Without the right presentation, your ideas, even ingenious ones, will not be heard. At the start of my career, I did not understand this and could just send the layout to the client and wait for a feedback. Now I understand that this approach is utopian in most cases.

Imagine that a developer sends you a code for review. Can you assess how effective it is? Of course not. It’s the same with design. Most often, the client does not understand our craft, but he will certainly want to express his opinion. Therefore, your main task is to correctly present your work.

In short, the essence of the presentation is to raise the problem in the first part, and in the second to show that your concept solves it in the best way.

Think in advance what questions the customer might ask. Thus, you can find flaws in your work and prepare logical answers.

I have been doing product design in startups for several years now, and here presentation skill is equally important. Simply, instead of formal presentations, you argue your decisions in collective conversations.

What should I do now

Above, I described how I managed to get the first customers. And now I will ask myself what I would do now if I was just starting my career and would like to earn my first money in design.

But, before I lay out a specific plan, I will share one important thought, the understanding of which greatly simplifies life.

When you achieve your goals, you get something else, just as important as the result itself. You gain an understanding of the mechanism for achieving goals. And its essence is insanely simple, but for some reason very few people believe in it.

The main secret to achieving meaningful results is to start doing something and not stop for a long time.

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It’s that simple, but I keep wondering why most of us can’t take advantage of this advice.

Let me give you an example.

Gary Vaynerchuk launched the WineLibrary YouTube channel with 0 subscribers, just like each of us in our own business. (My Telegram channel also had 0 subscribers, and after three months more than a thousand designers read it). But Gary realized that only disciplined work could be successful, so he recorded over 1,000 episodes of his show. 1000! Think about what it cost him. Today Gary is an entrepreneur and one of the most popular people on the internet.

Think about yourself now. Have you completed at least 10 projects?

I do not know how you answered me, but I know that nowadays successful designers nod in agreement at this moment. Because this is true. Quality comes only with experience.

Take a look at the portfolios of top designers and imagine that early in their careers, their work was terrible and their profile pictures were not taken in the studio. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And only one thing made them better – patience.

And now I will return to the posed question:

What would I do now if I wanted to prove myself in design

I would choose a certain area (services, sites, applications, animation, motion, graphics) and set myself the task of publishing one project in my portfolio every week for at least three months. And he would carry out this plan, despite the lack of approvals, the presence of negativity and trolling, motivation declines, a bad horoscope and new episodes of his favorite TV series.

Where can I get ideas for projects? Study the work of other designers and try to copy them. Think about your dream project and try to make it happen. Think about how you can improve the services you use yourself.

Friends, the world was created by people, no smarter than us. The services you use on a daily basis have been made by the same professionals that you are, only a little more experienced.

If you want the coming year to be more successful than the outgoing one, appreciate every day. Keep your time down the toilet by flipping through endless feeds and browsing popular blogs.

As the movie “Fight Club” said: “This is your life, and it is getting shorter every minute.”

Time cannot be controlled. It has existed for billions of years and is not going to stop yet. It can only be used or lost. The choice is yours.

Source: vc.ru

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