I’m a freelance graphic designer with no design education, no drawing skills and all I know is self-taught. This profession has given me the opportunity to successfully work and travel ever since I was 19. Let’s talk about how it’s possible to become a self-taught professional and start a new career online!
A quick note: These days I actually help aspiring online course creators to turn their experiences into online courses so a bit of the information in this post is outdated. But it’s still relevant for the story!
I’ve always known that my professional path will be rather unconventional. I used to dream of being a theatre director, owning my own hotel, being a dancer and all kinds of other crazy dreams. Then, out of nowhere, I got into design.
I’m a location independent freelancer. This means that all I need for successful work is a laptop and internet, and I can work from anywhere. Therefore, I live abroad, travel often and make Mondays my Sundays whenever I please.
This post will be an insight on how to get here!
I’ve covered many important aspects of location independence in my post What is location independence and will it work for you? So check it out for more info on that.
You can also read 10 Digital nomad income ideas if you’re seeking some new ways to earn money and travel along the way.
How did I decide to become a self-taught designer?
I’ve never really studied. I was a so-called “dropout” and left college after the first semester. After studying music management for one semester, I realized it’s not really relevant to me and I’ve got into this just because I felt like I have to do SOMETHING.
Anyhow, I had some previous experience in media, therefore, I knew that all kinds of creative fields is my jam. But I never really had THAT one dream so it felt a bit complicated…
Moving fast forward, I traveled, I worked as an Au Pair, I worked in all kinds of small jobs. Until I found myself working a part-time job as a social media manager in an art course studio.
It’s all about taking the chances
I got the job as a social media manager because I, first, was applying for unpaid internship positions. I got the position there and after 2 months it turned into a paying job. Since I didn’t have many obligations in my life at that point, I had the freedom to take this path.
My point is: take your chances and think outside the box. Not always you need big bucks or work full time to climb your career ladder.
The whole story could take up pages, but eventually, I had the option to take on some small design tasks and try out my hand in that. With no knowledge of design whatsoever – my first “design” for social media was made in Paint. IN FREAKIN’ PAINT! I don’t know what they were thinking…
Moving fast forward once again, I spent most of my free time learning Photoshop, watching YT tutorials and reading books about principles of design.
It took me around 3-4 months from becoming a part-time intern in social media management to getting started as a paid graphic designer.
Here’s a round of Q & A’s I tend to answer on a daily basis
Could I become a self-taught designer?!
Yes, you can. I’m not kidding when I’m saying that I got into graphic design and learned it without the smallest knowledge of design or art.
Don’t you have to be an artist to do that?!
No, you don’t. I’ve always had a good fantasy but I’ve never been good at drawing – and I’m not doing that as a graphic and website designer. Illustrators draw. But graphic designers don’t necessarily have to do that.
Do all graphic designers do the same?
Well… no! Dooh. I’ve been through several various periods myself until I found my calling. Here are just some of the samples: print design (magazines, posters, flyers, cards); digital design (ads, social media, banners); branding design (logos, business cards, stationery); website design.
The same answers would apply to almost any freelance profession.
Writers, editors, developers, social media managers…
Who do you want to become?!
Start a new career online: become a self-taught professional in any field
How to get into a profession from ground zero? How to start working in a field you have not the smallest idea about? How to build a new career online?
Here are several simple steps on how you can become a self-taught professional in any field.
STEP #1 Remember: We all have started somewhere
All of us have learned what we know. Whether it was when we were five, eighteen or forty. The number doesn’t matter – what matters is the eagerness to LEARN.
So whether you’ve just finished high school and don’t know what to do or you have a 20+ year experience behind you – we all meet in the same position. A place where anything IS possible.
Understanding that your craziest imagination CAN work out is an important part of reaching for your dreams.
Could it include tons of hard work, maybe a bit more time than you’d like to and some monetary investments along the way – quite possible. But will it be worth it? YES.
STEP #2 Decide what you want to do
Usually, it’s not something you can easily “decide” on a spot. The answer should come from within you.
- Is there something you’d like to do but have never had the time or courage to learn?
- Maybe there’s something you’re already doing – either on a side or as a hobby – that you’d like to get paid for?
- Or maybe you’re open to exploring new options and wander around for a while to find the best fit for you?
No matter the situation, remember – you can do ANYTHING.
Yes, there are some professions which could depend on a matter of luck more than your effort. For example, becoming a Broadway’s superstar. Well, it’s a long shot. But most of any rather conventional dreams can be made true.
You can paint, create, change your career path, get into a business, build, grow.
And even if you have this small irritating voice in your head saying “eeemm… no, NOT YOU!!“, just shut it up and get to work.
STEP #3 Focus on learning the basics
If you have no idea about the field you’re getting into, it’s important to learn the basics and, after all, understand whether it’s really something you’re up for.
Try out Skillshare to learn new skills! Skillshare has plenty of online courses from field professionals in many different niches. It’s the perfect way to learn a new skill or improve any of your existing experience.
As a potential designer, I read several books on design principles, how people perceive design, how shapes and colors work. All the most basic things.
Afterward, I started getting into some more complicated Youtube tutorials. I tried experimenting. I continued reading. I established a good base to work with.
The point is – you won’t have much time to get back to the basics once you’re out there. Therefore, give yourself a good headstart!
STEP #4 Start showing off what you’ve got
Remember, you don’t need to be perfect to get it going for you.
My first freelance task as a graphic designer was to design quotes. It included adding an image in Photoshop and writing a text. No specific knowledge. Literally, anyone who knows how Photoshop works could do that.
But it was a new beginning for me! It inspired me to work more and work harder. To take on new tasks. Learn new skills.
No matter what you’re getting into, you have to start providing your skills, services or products to people BEFORE YOU’RE READY.
It’ll never be perfect and you’ll never know it all.
It’s important to get some feedback!
Reach out to your potential clients, offer your services around, publish your skillset on social media, set up your portfolio (even if it’s based on the things you’re just learning to do!). Get on Facebook groups to reach people who might need your help.
If you’ve already had experience in the field (for example, your 9-to-5 is related to the field) reach out to your previous clients and let them know you’ve started a new venture!
STEP #5 Start getting paid
Depending on what exactly you’re up for, there are many different ways to proceed with this step.
For example, if you’re getting into freelancing, you can learn more in these posts:
- How to find freelance jobs on social media?
- Breaking myths about working on Upwork
- Professional freelancer advice that sucks for newbies
If you’re more interested in selling what you’ve created, for example, paintings, any kind of crafts, apps, clothing, you can use services like Shopify or Etsy to open a shop and get it going for you.
STEP #6 Keep improving
It’s crucial to listen to what your audience has to say, what your clients are telling you. Both the good and the bad.
This feedback will help you to improve!
Always stay eager to know more, to aim higher, to create better. Improve within a year and ten years. Keep reading, keep watching tutorials and challenging yourself. That’s how you can become a self-taught professional in anything and grow your new career online!
Have you started a new career online? Are you interested in giving it a try?? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.