If you’re a graphic designer, you’re used to working a 9-5 or at least being location dependent while working with your clients to meet with them in person to understand their vision. However, there are ways to live the nomadic lifestyle as a graphic designer. Once you hit the road, or if you haven’t taken the first leap of faith quite yet, you will inevitably run into some unknown territory.
So what skills does a digital nomad need to be a graphic designer? They are:
• Have talent plus personal and professional creativity
• Skill in creating and promoting your graphic design portfolio
• Skills with the right tools to do your work
• Be active searching for new projects
• Continuously learning new skills
This article will be a guide on how to build your nomadic graphic design freelance business. Expanding from there, we’ll outline the specific skills you will need to be a graphic designer. Once you are on your own traveling, you have some confidence to make the correct next steps.
As a designer, your work heavily relies on your personal and professional creativity. Creative work ultimately depends on inspiring experiences and sights that inform your design visions. Travel goes hand-in-hand with this need for creativity because your travel destinations can serve as inspirations for this creativity through the sights, the people, the food, or the cultural experience as a whole. Not only will you be able to enjoy the excitement of travel through your work, but you will, in turn, be improving your brain’s ability to find beauty in your surroundings. It serves as a natural creative boot camp for your career.
Your mind’s limits will expand, and you will likely learn new skills that might not be used from the point you originally started. The broader the range of what you can do is, the more likely it is you will be hired. It gives your portfolio an edge that other people don’t have.
Furthermore, the digital nomadic lifestyle is growing among other graphic designers. If you can find a community of designers on the road with you, you can team up with them and expand and multiply your creative energies and influence!
Have Talent Plus Personal and Professional Creativity
The first skill that you need as a graphic designer, digital nomad’s ability to identify your talent and define it. Forward your talent into something that you can claim and subsequently, offered to potential customers and clients. If you’re working already as a graphic designer in a 9 to 5 job, most likely the management of the company you’re working for is assembling the talents and packaging them together to offer to customers. You need to do this for your own business. Let’s take a closer look at those skills and activities that you need to do.
Get Organized on What Your Talents Are
Graphic designers can do so many things. It is a broad job category that can branch off into various specializations. Some popular things graphic designers can do are create books, magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. They can help create visual identity cues such as letterhead, business cards, brand guides, and logos. They can also help companies create marketing materials such as flyers, brochures, postcards, and posters, as well as product packaging materials and labels.
There are several mediums in which graphic designers can work, but fortunately, most of the work can be done on a computer in some design program or software. Graphic designers can be multimedia designers, web designers, brand and logo designers, creative directors, photo or video editors, artists and illustrators, user-experience designers, etc.
With the field offering so many different opportunities, it’s essential for digital nomads, especially before going abroad, to focus on the skills they want to market themselves for. You can be a jack-of-all-trades in some respects, but with graphic design, it’s essential to recognize your passions and develop a well-rounded skill-set to tap into the market for a specific need.
If you’re still figuring it out, give yourself a bit of time before you become location-independent to build confidence with what you hope to pursue full time moving forward, and what you need more practice.
Skill in Creating and Promoting Your Graphic Design Portfolio
Building a portfolio to market your talents doesn’t happen by itself. One of the skills that are important to growth is the ability to create and promote your graphic design portfolio. Make this so that it starts to work for you, kind of like a calling card or business card, that you can rely on to show people your talents and creativity. Make an effort to get this right. It may be the difference between winning the project and missing it because of the competition.
Create a Portfolio
As you are starting out, make sure you document every piece of work you have touched or seen out from start to finish. It’s crucial to build up your credibility in this way, even if you are a beginner. It is an easy way to keep track of your personal and professional growth and to show employers that you can do a lot of different pieces of work or that you do happen to have a specific area you can focus on that makes you extremely competitive.
When creating a portfolio, you can keep all your work in labeled folders on your computer and then post them to your website. Alternatively, if you are applying for something that only calls for a specific work sample, you can easily find what the employer is looking for without having to sift through an online history of your work.
Remember to work smarter and not harder. Be meticulous when tracking and creating your portfolio as you are starting off that way you don’t have to waste time in the future. It can be annoying and meticulous to track and sort all of your work but is a game-changer when you need to turn an application or sample around quickly.
Make a Website to Showcase Your Work
The best way to show off your portfolio is to advertise for yourself publically! You will need to become an expert on the art of self-marketing, which is vitally essential for the long-term success of your business. You cannot be shy, and you have to be willing to put yourself out there and perhaps brag a little too.
The best way to showcase your work is to create a website for yourself. There are many platforms you can use to create your own website that takes the guesswork out of it and is often very inexpensive. Although, you may be a web design expert already! If not, try GoDaddy.com or Wix.com to choose from already existing aesthetically pleasing formats, and you can even buy your own domain name to get you recognized as a top result on the search page.
Skills With the Right Tools to Do Your Work
As a graphic designer, you can use some incredibly powerful design tools. Make the skills that you have in using these tools one of your advantages in your work. Naturally, there may be a need for new or different software tools for various projects. However, many times if you know one multifunction graphic design tool well, you can do the bulk of the work for that project with that tool. Let’s not take a closer look at some of the tools a digital nomad graphic designer will need when working in traveling abroad.
Get the Right Tools
Make sure before you choose the digital nomad lifestyle, especially for graphic design, you have the right tools aligned to set you up for success overseas. Here is a list of the tools you should have ready to go before you hop on that flight to ease your transition.
Strong Internet Connection
Even if your mind is more relaxed and you are more aware of the importance of work/life balance, the company or client you are working for might expect you to stay very tight to your deadlines. It requires robust and reliable WiFi. A failure to complete your deadline because you were in a bad area is unfortunately not going to be a good enough excuse not to get your work done. If you know you are going to be in spotty areas, plan ahead and make sure you don’t have any major assignments that need to be completed that day. Build-in those uncertain times into your schedule where you can.
Software Applications– Graphic Design and Drawing Tools
Graphic design and drawing tools are better than they ever have been. Additionally, the rendering speeds are also faster because of technology advances. As mentioned above, choose a powerful multifunction graphic design tool that can be your go-to tool when you need to make progress on a project.
• Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
• Affinity Designer
• CorelDRAW Graphics
• Gravit Designer
Choose 2 to 3 solid tools on which you can rely. There are many to choose from, and they have varying cost levels. Some are free, and some have a monthly fee-based pricing structure. It may be a better decision to learn those 2 to 3 tools well rather than spreading your skill and money across 10. Once you have those 2 to 3 tools chosen, you can spend time taking free or paid courses to learn more about the tools you have invested.
Cloud databases have increased in ease-of-use, availability, and speed in the last five years. The technology is advancing every year. Cloud databases such as:
• Microsoft Azure
• Google Drive
• Amazon Web Services
• Apple Cloud
These cloud services give you the possibility to store and access your work on multiple devices. The benefits that this offers to a digital nomad graphic designer are many.
As with the graphic design software tools, you should choose one or maximum two cloud databases and learn to use them well. You can store your project drafts here and take them wherever you are. Cloud databases also help in organizing your projects so that you always have your project drafts at your fingertips and can share the links to the work with your customers.
Learn to use cloud databases to your advantage.
Be Active Searching for New Projects
Make sure before you decide to travel, you have enough work lined up to keep you plenty busy, even if it seems like a lot. You might have to wait to travel until you get your company or portfolio off the ground. The majorly important thing to note here, though, is that it’s vital for you to continually be searching for work, even during a current project.
Set aside some time during each week to go on job hunts and searches to make sure you keep a solid income coming in. There are various ways to do this, including joining global creative platforms. These provide communities of clients and workers looking to work with each other.
You’ll need to know some of the best websites to search for jobs on. Several graphic designers can allow you to remain competitive, even against crowdsourcing and job recruiting sites. You want to research the most credible websites, so you are filtering and vetting jobs that are not just hunting for a quick bargain but those that are genuinely looking for quality work.
Keep in mind the jobs you are hunting for and will ultimately be the right candidate for are based on your skill level. If you are a true beginner, your job hunt might look a bit different than someone with plenty of previous experiences and connections. Here is a list of great platforms to start your job search.
Flexjobs constantly has new listings every day, including various graphic design opportunities. Filter the design categories you care most about, whether that be digital design, web development, etc. They currently have popular listings for video content creators, web designer, instructional designers, digital product designers, and more.
Every single job posted on this website is location-independent if that is the main focus you are aiming for. This website also features graphic design jobs from large companies and brands such as Amazon. These types of opportunities might be better suited for a more experienced candidate who is perhaps looking for extra benefits these sized companies might be able to provide.
This website charges a small fee to start, but that often means the offerings they provide will be credible, and a broad range of opportunities that are updated consistently. Sometimes, a little money upfront is worth the investment if it propels you further in your career in the long run at a quicker, more efficient pace. Virtual Vocations allows you to filter based on job category, travel requirements, weekly hours, and even education and career levels, which saves time trying to weed out jobs for which you know you aren’t qualified.
We Work Remotely
This website is the largest remote work community in the world, meaning your ability to network is great on here! The website posts many graphic design jobs, specifically UX (user experience) design and product design. If you already specialize in these areas or are looking to focus more on these types of jobs, this could be an excellent site for you.
Fiverr is an excellent site with a plethora of graphic design focused jobs which include logo design, brand style guides, flyer design, game design, illustration, book and album covers, business cards and stationery, graphics for streamers, web and mobile design, and many more.
Continuously Learn New Skills
Your creativity and talent can be inspired easily as you are living and traveling abroad. However, as discussed above, you need to be able to transfer that inspiration into your projects and graphic designs for customers. To continue to do this an grow, you should invest in yourself and chosen field by continuously learning new skills in graphic designs. Check out new trends, follow some famous artists that resonate with you, take on a new project which forces you to learn a new way of making a design for a customer.
Continuously learning new skills is a great way also to grow your business. For instance, if you learn a new type of graphic design (style or mode), you can add this to your portfolio and website. Then you can try to bid for a specific project that wants to use this essential style or mode. Invest in yourself to grow new business.
Overall, graphic designers are in a competitive industry, but it is certainly possible to compete for projects and to do them remotely as a digital nomad. The ability to do design work on a computer makes it quite easy to become location independent, and to use the various places you travel to as inspirations for your creativity! Invest in yourself to get and continue to develop the key graphic design skills you need to compete in today’s marketplace.
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.