Four tips for aspiring designers and developers

Starting a career in the creative industry can be hard to begin with, here’s some handy advice get you moving

Getting a gig in the creative industry is tough. It’s a crowded market with employers looking for multi-disciplined creatives, so standing out from the crowd can be difficult. At Vivid, we actively encourage applications and enquiries from students, graduates and developers who are new to the industry. So if that’s you, here’s a few tips on how to get your foot in the door.

1. Get some kit

Having your own hardware is a great idea. If it’s a laptop, even better, as you might need to take it with you to meetings, presentations and interviews.

If you’re doing freelance work for an agency or an in-house team, it’s highly likely that a machine will be available for you. But being able bring your own gear will definitely open up a few doors at smaller agencies and businesses.

Think different

If you’re new to the game, money might be tight. It’s down to you be intelligent about your budget. For a quarter of the price of a MacBook, you could get a very powerful Windows machine.

Designing and developing on a PC is no different to working on a Mac. Yes, there was a time when Macs were more suited for designers, but those days are long gone.

The gap between the price of Apple hardware and the alternatives is well documented. The difference could leave you plenty of budget for other important things like software, wireless peripherals, business cards, travel and booze (optional).

Meeting the standard

You must have access to industry standard software. If you’re developer, you’re lucky, most code editors are reasonably priced and some like GitHub’s Atom editor are free.

Designers: a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud is essential to your future career in the industry, and this means spending some cash. A full subscription may not be necessary so it’s worth exploring the options available to you. And don’t forget, if you’re still in college or University you can take advantage of Adobe’s favourable discounted packages.

Top tip: you could grab older versions of Adobe Creative Suite from eBay for a reasonable price if you cannot stomach the monthly subscription fee for Creative Cloud.

2. Develop an online presence

It’s essential to get yourself and your work online, this is where we go to first when we receive applications. Getting online may require a small investment on your part and may seem a little daunting, but if it gets you a job it’s be worth it.

Small investments, large payoffs

Paid-for services like Squarespace and Wix can make the whole process a breeze if you’ve never written a line of code before. If you are a developer, you should absolutely develop your own site. We will see it as a weak spot if you didn’t. We will be looking at your source code so keep it clean.

It also helps to have your own professional email address. Your email address and your phone number are your two main points of contact. You can’t easily choose a nice looking phone number, but you can control the look of your email address.

An email address like [email protected] might have felt like a good idea at the time, but it isn’t a great look when applying for jobs.

Shout it from the rooftops

There are a ton of free ways to promote yourself online beyond your own website. Here’s a few for ideas:

Designers:

  • Post your work on Behance, Tumblr, Dribbble and Pinterest
  • Share your work with friends on Facebook
  • Create a PDF version of your portfolio and keep the file size low enough to email
  • Email your PDF portfolio along with all the links to your work to local agencies and companies

Developers:

  • Create prototypes and experiments on CodePen
  • Create public GitHub repo where we can see your work
  • Contribute to the web community on sites like Stack Overflow
  • Fork existing projects and try and improve them

Everybody:

  • Follow and interact with industry experts on Twitter
  • Leave constructive comments on articles and blog posts
  • Don’t be insulting - content you add to websites can be indexed on Google

3. Brand yourself

How you look is going to make an impression with clients and employers, good or bad.

If you’ve followed step #2 you will know it’s a good idea to come up with some brand assets for yourself. Paying careful attention to your public facing content and any correspondence you send to potential clients and employers is absolutely key.

Don’t forget, successfully branding yourself should be considered as a portfolio piece. You should be able to talk confidently about why and how you have branded yourself.

Things to think about:

  • Create a digital letterhead: Great for sending covering letters and proposals via emails
  • Build an email signature: Keep it simple, your name, logo, website and social media links will do
  • Be consistent - keep fonts, icons, colours, image treatments and typography consistent across all media
  • Think about investing in a webfont licence from somewhere like Typekit or fonts.com
  • Google fonts are everywhere, going the extra mile for something more considered will get you noticed

4. Focus on your strengths

Job descriptions can be daunting and comprehensive. Having written a couple myself, it’s tempting to target the perfect multi-disciplined designer who can do everything.

Agencies tend to fill up a job description with every skill in the book, but that’s not the reality in agency life.

Specialise and become an expert

If you’ve studied computer science and are looking for a career in Ruby development then focus on that. Don’t waste your time trying to level up your CSS skills. If you’re obsessed with print, inks, paper stocks and Pantone swatches then stay in that world. There will be time to develop your skill set as your career progresses, try not the be everything to everybody just yet.

If you promote yourself as an all-knowing hero we will question you on it so be ready.

Document it, or it never happened

Documenting your learning and working experiences will help you become better at what you do.

Being able to describe what you do in a clear and confident manner will make you more attractive to potential employers. There are a few ways you can do this, be it posting informative tweets, writing blog posts or creating interesting code examples on Codepen or Github. And remember, the more content you post online, the easier it will be for potential employers to find you.

Bonus tip: love what you do

We’re looking for somebody who wants a career in the industry, not just a job. You should love what you do and this should come through in your work, how your present yourself and your personality. Good luck!