People often ask about the best way to get started in a graphic design career. In many cases, they don’t have formal design training, professional experience or a client base. This, however, does not mean you cannot get started in design. Like any profession, you have to start somewhere and it’s never too late.
One of the best ways to get started in graphic design is to take on personal projects. Whether you are trying to figure out if design is the right career for you, or if you have already decided you love it and want to build a portfolio, personal projects are a great starting point. A personal project can be something you do just for yourself... a website design on a favorite topic, an invitation to an event or really anything for which you are your own client. Such work is a great way to practice design techniques and to learn design software without the pressure of a paying client. Additionally, personal work is just as impressive as client work in a portfolio, especially when starting out. Many design students’ portfolios consist of primarily personal work and school projects.
Work for friends and family can also be considered personal projects. Whether or not you charge from this work and what you charge is a personal decision, though it can’t hurt to do a few free jobs when trying to get your feet wet. Offer to design a friend’s wedding save-the-date, baby announcement, poster for their band’s show, or anything else that will give you experience and visibility. From there, word-of-mouth can spread as people see your credit line on the work and ask about the designer. As you build up a portfolio of work, you can start taking on paying clients and applying for design positions.