Advice for a starting professional?

Hello everyone,

I am graduating next May with a BSD in ID, and as I consider my professional future I have a question.

I am starting to pick up design work from all over the place. The firm I interned at last summer has me working part time. I’m getting contacted by prospective clients, there are some contests I was considering entering, relatives are asking me for design favors (paid ones), and I go back to school in a week. As I’m just getting started professionally, would those with some experience share their advice on how to manage clients and workload? Maybe I just need to learn to say no if I’m feeling over committed, but I’d hate to miss an opportunity either. What do you guys think?

Learn to say no. Assess if an opportunity is worth it - is the client a pain to deal with? Do they care about this project, or are they just trying to find someone to do it for them? Are you going to learn something valuable that you can’t learn by doing personal projects? Most importantly, is it worth your precious time and will it look good in your portfolio?

I get inquiries often for web design projects from clients who don’t understand what the purpose of an interaction designer is. They seem to think that our job is to make a pretty website and that we can make a great product in a week. I usually turn them down by asking them detailed questions on their products and what precisely they want from me as a designer. Surprisingly, 60-70% of them never respond after I grill them. Those guys wouldn’t be good to work with.

relatives are asking me for design favors

There are some gems buried in this discussion that I think you might find both amusing and of interest: Why to never ask favors from designers.

Prioritize and be honest. Right now you have school to finish and a full time job to get. You probably don’t have a ton of time so you need to take the projects that best fit your priorities. Looking at your portfolio, I think you need a lot of work on your sketching and form development, so make sure you really focus in on improving that in the next few months. Don’t jut get sucked into CAD. It can be short term lucrative, but you can get pigeon holed as a CAD guy.

Some questions that might help you do that:

  1. will I be able to use it in my portfolio? I assume you are going to be looking for a full time job in a few months, so portfolio should be top of mind.
  2. do I have time to do this justice, or will I have to half ass it?
  3. is this the type of project I will feel proud of?
  4. am I going to make a decent hourly rate doing this (I would guess $30/hr bare minimum)

Thanks for your advice everyone. I’m meeting with a new client later this week and I’ll keep your advice in mind.

I got I Draw Cars and some Gnomon Workshop DVDs for Christmas, so between that and school starting back up I should have plenty of sketching practice in the next few weeks. :laughing: I think my problem is I take long breaks in my sketching practice so any time I spend sketching is just getting my skills back up to where they were. I just need to draw more frequently.