How & Where You Pay Freelance Jobs, While You Are Still a Student Designer

As some of you may know I am a third year graphic design student and an active freelancer so I am going to share my tips on how and where to get freelance design jobs while you are still a graphic design student.

For most 1st, 2nd or 3rd year students, finding a part time or even casual job in the design industry is quite frustrating and nearly impossible and most resort to working at their local store, however, there is hope – I am living proof that a design student can get a job in design while still studying, here are my tips…

The Problems

The problems most design students will face is they do not yet have the skills needed to be a professional designer (1) as they are still trying to figure out the ins and outs of the software (2) and to top off this they still are yet to have a reputable portfolio (3) or (4) any knowledge about dealing with clients, budgeting or time management. Let’s have a look at these problems and their solutions.

1. No Basic Design Skills

This of course, is the reason you are at University or College: to learn these skills. However, do not be a static learner at University, you must propel yourself forward to learn more and be the leader of the pack. You should be active in graphic design forums, read design and freelancing blogs like you are now, borrow/buy books, ask questions and get out there.

Go to your local design studio and ask for work experience – I did this and I worked on all their pro bono jobs, it was a great experience and I learned more about clients and time management while I was doing it. These few things will help your basic design skills get up to scratch.


  • Graphic Design Forum
  • Estetica Design Forum
  • Digital Point Forums
  • How Design Forums


  • 50 Totally Free Online Lessons In Graphic Design


  • Graphic Design School by David Dabner
  • Non Designer’s Type Book by Robin Williams
  • Recommended Graphic Design Books –   More books I recommend.

Graphic Design Blogs

  • Recommended graphic design blogs & sites: Graphic design resources

2. No Computer Skills

You need computer skills to be a successful graphic designer and a great way to acquire these skills is by reading tutorials, books and of course, practice. I repeat again: tutorials, books and practice. By reading tutorials and books you gain more knowledge of the software and get better as a graphic designer.

Try to get first hand experience off another professional designer – a great way to do this is ask for work experience at your local design studio, they are usually more than happy to help. Another thing I did was get free stock items and deconstruct them to see how they were made, this opened a whole new world for me.

3. Do not have a reputable portfolio

Every designer had to start somewhere and every designer started with nothing so you are not alone. Building your portfolio is probably the most important thing you do at University as this is how you will get a full time job once you leave.

Portfolios are another topic in itself, however you can build it up by making up your own fictional graphic design briefs. Studios do not mind if your portfolio items are fictional as long as they are quality.

Portfolio Tips

  • 10 Tips On Creating a Design Portfolio

Forums: To build your portfolio up you can get some small paying jobs (between $15 to $200) on Digital Point Forums.

Job Board Sites: Check out job boards such as the 28 ones listed here.

More Sites To Find Graphic Design Jobs:

  • Coroflot
  • Behance Job Board
  • Authentic Jobs
  • AIGA Design Jobs
  • Krop
  • Fresh Web Jobs
  • Design:Related
  • Smashing Magazine
  • Simply Hired
  • Web Design Jobs

4. No Knowledge About Clients Or Time-Management

Nearly all graphic design graduates lack client and time management skills: This is where experience is the key and there is no way to get better experience than to gain work experience at your local design/print store –   just drop in and ask – you will be surprised how happy they are to hear from you.   Just mention you’re a graphic design student and you’re wishing to learn some new things. By working there you will learn all about dealing with clients, time management and the design industry… the big picture.

This was an actual reply I received from a reader – it does work!

Hi Jacob. You’re a legend. I followed your advice about just asking a local studio and was shocked when they said I could go in one day a week! I always thought they’d be miserable or ‘have no time for silly young students’, but true, THEY had to start somewhere as well! It maybe be ‘pro bono work’ but its vital experience that will set me apart from other students when applying for a full time job.

5. Getting The Clients Or Jobs

Tieing into point three is that of getting clients. After you feel confident enough to go out freelancing or working at a design studio during University, you should start looking for clients. I wrote an article on how to get your first job which will also help you out. Also get your profile out there, on such places asHubStaff Talent, Upwork, Guru or Freelancer.