28 Things I learned as a full-time graphic designer

tweet share share pin email

I recently decided to make the switch to Freelance Design after working for a local production agency. In this post I have encapsulated some of the most important lessons that I learned while I worked as a full-time designer there. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

The Creative Process

1. Graphic design is a problem-solving process.

2. When you focus on function, a design becomes naturally beautiful.

Note: When you're done here, try the tactic that helped Rob book out his freelancing for 6-12 months in just 30 days. It's called SolidGigs and we really think you're going to love it. Trade some of your worst clients for the best companies in the world. Learn more.

3. A creative brief is of great importance.

4. Going the extra mile in both design and client relationships enhances the design process.

5. Run your ideas past people before getting too deep into them.

6. You should always make sure your design fits the occasion.

7. Most people don’t know what they want but claim they’ll “know it when they see it”. Convince them that what they see in your design is absolutely what they were looking for.

Client RelationsClient Relations

8. One of the most important aspects of design is client relationships.

9. It’s important to explain your creative reasoning to others – especially clients.

Psst... Looking for more passive income as a freelancer? Learn from 4 solopreneurs who built their own passive income streams from scratch. Enter your email below and we'll send you a link to our free guide. Or preview it here.

10. The customer is not always right. Handling this issue well is vital to success as a designer.

11. Always design with a purpose.

12. Keep in mind your target audience when designing. Don’t do what attracts YOU, design what attracts THEM.

13. Everyone thinks they are a designer. Find your own RESPECTFUL way of reminding them they are not.

14. You should never call a client in to look at a piece until you are fully satisfied with it.

15. You should never talk negatively about a piece when a client is present.

16. You shouldn’t wait until a client angrily calls you to update them on the status of their project. (I had a co-worker who did this)

Time management

Time & Project Management

17. It is useful to get opinions from others who aren’t designers.

18. Full time designing is much better than part-time. Ideas seem to flow more easily.

19. Procrastination is horrible in the design business. (okay, I already knew this, but it’s an important one)

Necessary abilities and skills

20. A good designer will never stop learning.

21. Critique from fellow designers and others should be embraced and appreciated.

22. Formal education is important but that which you take initiative to learn on your own is what really makes you a good designer.

23. Even if you just want to be a graphic designer, you better know how to design for the web.

24. There are certain attributes that professionals look for when hiring creative people. If you don’t possess them, you should get them.



25. Working at a desk isn’t always bad. (Freelancing’s great don’t get me wrong. It was just nice to not have to manage the books and stuff.)

26. Building your own wordpress theme isn’t really that hard after all.

27. You probably know a lot more about design than a lot of people. You also know a lot less than many people too.

28. Graphic design is not fine art. If your design doesn’t fulfill a purpose, it’s just illustration or art. It’s not design.

What other suggestions would you add for those who want to get into the business of being a full-time graphic designer?

tweet share share pin email

Say Goodbye to Roller Coaster Income

Your income doesn't have to be a guessing game every month. Let 4 thriving solopreneurs show you how in our free guide.

About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

Leave a Comment



  1. Number 26 really struck a cord with me. For the longest while I avoided building a theme from the ground up till one day I just did.

    Something else that is helpful is knowing sales strategies and methods of closing clients.

  2. Wow, these are very poignant. I thought this list was going to be the same stuff you see everywhere but I was pleasantly surprised! Excellent.

  3. Welcome in the freelance world!

  4. Finally, someone who echoes with me on No. 28. I can’t tell you how many times I see this minimalism and installations in design mags and conferences and it drives me bonkers.

  5. Ditto on No.28! I think that’s what attracts me to graphic and web design, is that it has a purpose. Sure art looks good but I’ve never been interested in creating it!

  6. no.7 is the age old classic! great comments

  7. Excellent list! Definitely deserved a ReTweet! 🙂


  8. I love #28…that is such an important distinction that often seems to get overlooked by new creatives. Great post!

  9. Great insights, as always. Thanks for sharing Preston. I particularly like:

    27. You probably know a lot more about design than a lot of people. You also know a lot less than many people too.

    This is SO true.


  1. […] 28 Things I Learned As A Full-Time Graphic Designer […]

  2. […] “I generally let the client make whatever changes they want” After years of “fighting” with clients over the rights and wrongs of graphic design, the professional has become tired and simply lets the client drive too much of the creative process. There are many solutions to this problem. […]

  3. […] you are a freelancer, try an office job. If you are in the office, try […]

  4. […] you are a freelancer, try an office job. If you are in the office, try […]


Need more clients?

Download our free guide:
25 Top Freelance Job Sites for Real Clients with Big Budgets