This featured article comes from guest author Jenna Smith.

Whether you’ve just graduated from a graphic design program or you’re a self-taught Photoshop whiz, chances are good that you’ve given a lot of thought to your design career. If you don’t particularly want to work for an advertising agency or even in a graphic design firm, what are your choices?

Specializing and consulting are just two ideas to get you started on your dream career.


Every graphic designer has an area of design that’s their specialty. Take the express route to a truly satisfying career by thinking creatively in seeking out projects centered around your design forté.

For example, if your particular passion is typography, why not offer your skills to companies whose products depend on innovative type design. Greeting cards come to mind as a good example. This is a huge product category, including cards for birthdays, holidays, and just “thinking of you”. And special-occasion cards cover events from buying a new home or graduating from high school to religious rites of passage and weddings. To get an idea of how big the wedding category alone is, check out wedding announcements by With all the print-on-demand services offered online, many opportunities for designers are popping up with card vendors.


With more and more office managers now being expected to use desktop-publishing software and online tools to produce everything from newsletters to websites (tasks that, in the past, were always farmed out to graphic designers), isn’t it getting harder to find steady freelance graphic design work? If you’re working in a market where this is the case, particularly in smaller cities, think about offering your services as a graphic design consultant. (Consultant Journal has guidelines for getting started.)

What does this mean? In the traditional process, you’d meet with your prospective client for an initial project briefing. You’d include design specifications, project timeline, and budget. Then, you work on some initial mock-ups, and meet again for the client’s feedback. Then, once you have a green light, proceed to completing the design. Lastly, you would ensure seeing it into print, online formatting, or whatever is appropriate for the project. All this adds up to serious billable hours— great for you, not so great for your client’s budget.

The difference with graphic design consulting is that your role is now that of a guide:

You’ll walk your client through the design and production, while they do the actual work. You’re basically looking over their shoulder, ready to give advice and/or instruction on anything from logo design (or redesign), typography, and photo formatting, to preparing files for printing or uploading to their website.

Since your client’s primary need is education, just having you there will instill confidence in their ability to handle their specific design tasks in the future, once you’ve walked them through it one or two times.

Consulting translates to fewer hours for you to put in, since you’re not doing the hands-on design. At the same time, you can easily command a higher per-hour rate. This magic combination of fewer hours and higher pay mean that you can commit to more clients simultaneously. Or, better yet, just take a day off once in a while.

It’s a win-win-win for you, your clients, and your career!