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Design contest as a career stepping stone
Dear Budi: "How did you started your career? I'm interested in switching career but I have no portfolio at all, so it's really hard to land a job."
It’s really hard to land a design job without a portfolio.
I started my career by joining design contests.
In 2009, I majored in accounting at the university. I never work as an accountant, thankfully. While studying, I stumbled upon websites like 99designs, crowdspring.com, and designcrowd.com. On this website, you can join design contests, submit your work, and potentially get the money as a price.
Companies that need design work start the contests.
Imagine you want to open a restaurant, and you need a logo. You will go to those websites and explain what you need. People will submit their work, and you choose the best one.
A stepping stone.
I spend hours submitting 300+ works on those websites. There are three benefits: 1) Craft benefit—because there’s a real brief, I have a reason to start to learn the tools and the design principles. 2) Financial benefit—I get money if I win the price. 3) Experience benefit—I get to experience making something. Plus, I can use my work in my portfolio.
T-shirt, logo, website, and newsletter design,
On this platform, you can explore and practice different design work. If you want to design a website, join a website design contest. It’s a great way to practice. Too many beginners spend their time watching and reading but never practice it.
It’s a stepping stone, not a long-term career.
I spend hours designing and submitting work. In DesignCrowd alone, I had 274 submissions. I got $4238. Pretty decent money for a student back then. But this is not a long-term career. It’s not sustainable. Here’s the secret: Win the contest, then contact the client. Some clients reached out to work on the longer-term project.
Executor, not designer
You’ll be an executor. The client asks you to do the thing, and you do it. This is not a great way to learn how to build the product. This is not a great way to learn how to build a business. But it’s a good way to learn the basics. I spent my time around 2 years on this platform.
Better and better portfolio
Over time, I got to work on more complex and better projects. I charge more. I build a better portfolio. I get better projects. This cycle repeats.
If you're a student. If you want to be a designer. Try it. Spend a few minutes browsing the contest you like, designing for 3-4 hours, and submitting it. Repeat. One day, you’ll be great at the crafts. For me, this system and platform trained me to produce a lot of design alternatives.
Each month, I answer a few questions from my readers. I leverage my experience as Head of Design and Principal Product Manager. Subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest post in your inbox.
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