14 Reasons to Abandon Your Dream of Becoming a Graphic Designer

Posted by John Shaver on Aug 08, 2014 in
14 Reasons to Abandon Your Dream of Becoming a Graphic Designer

There are many positive rewards to becoming a graphic designer, but for every pro there is a con (or three).

Not everyone is cut out to be a designer, and this list will open your eyes to some of the negative aspects of working in the creative industry.

1. People Expect You to Work for Free

Many people assume that graphic designers will work for free, or in exchange for "exposure", just because we love what we do. An effective rebuttal to the constant requests for free work is to ask the client for the same thing in return.

  • They run a hardware store? Ask them if you can go on an all expenses paid shopping spree.
  • They are a contractor? You might as well have them build you a free gazebo.
  • They fix toilets for a living? Ask them for a lifetime pass to unclog your drains.

You'll notice when it's their time and expertise on the line, free is not an option.

Often times the final product of a design project is a digital file, which could explain the assumption that designers work for free. What's even sadder is that aspiring new artists will actually say yes to these offers in hopes of getting future work.

Pro Tip: There is no future work.

2. Creative Block Can Strike at Any Time

You may be an overtly creative person, but sometimes the creativity just isn't flowing. What happens if your imagination goes on strike the day before a big deadline?

Hopefully you won't wait until the last minute to make any huge creative decisions, but with the last minute changes that some clients request, it's a distinct possibility.

The more experience you gain, the easier this situation is to overcome, but if you're just starting out, be prepared to make the "I need more time" call at least once in your career.

3. Your Body Starts Falling Apart

It might sound ridiculous to non-designers, but anyone that works from a chair all day knows exactly what I'm talking about. You finish a long day of work and find yourself lying in bed with sore muscles and an aching back. How is that possible?

Studies show that sitting for long periods of time is one of the worst things for the human body. It can lead to joint stress, muscle imbalance, and believe it or not, even a shortened lifespan.

If you're going to be a designer at any level, make sure you follow a quick stretching routine at least a few times throughout the day.

4. You Need Experience to Get a Job, but You Need a Job to Get Experience

Any design graduate will tell you that finding a job fresh out of school is harder than they expected. There are entry level positions out there, but somehow they all require experience.

How can a job be considered "entry level" if you need 3-5 years of experience to apply? This is usually just an employer's way of saying they want an intermediate level designer at an entry level salary.

Pro Tip: Stay far away from companies like these.

Working as an unpaid intern is an option that some new designers consider, but a lot of times people simply change careers because they don't see a future in design.

5. Someone Will Steal Your Work

It could be "borrowing" an idea or a blatant ripoff of your best design, but if you're active in the design field long enough, it's only a matter of time before someone copies your work.

Some people aren't bothered by this fact because it's very hard, and expensive, to try and fight it. Others will lose sleep knowing that someone in a far away land is making money off of their original ideas.

Plagiarism is especially rampant on stock design websites. There are millions of products online, so it's hard to know who the copycat is when there are 100 variations on the same idea.

6. You Do More Busy Work Than Creative Work

Being a graphic designer requires skills beyond the obvious, especially if you're a freelancer. You must also market your skills, keep your finances in order, manage current clients, and a lot more.

The majority of your time is spent dealing with non-creative tasks that would bore the pants off even the most dedicated pencil pushers.

If you're not ready to do the tedious tasks, you aren't ready for life as a designer.

7. People Assume You're Just Playing on the Computer All Day

Sure, the actual design part of being a designer is a blast, but many outsiders don't realize that the business side of design even exists.

Clients have an image in their head of what you do all day. They picture you finger painting puppies and rainbows and laughing it up without a care in the world. Many of them also think that design requires nothing but some software and a love of computers.

When people don't understand the effort behind your profession, they have incorrect expectations of how much your time is worth. That leaves you with empty pockets and a look of dejection on your face.

8. Clients Constantly Ask For "One More Thing"

You already designed and developed an entire ecommerce website, so why not add an extra payment method to the checkout process at no cost? You know that their request requires five more hours of coding and testing, but the client assumes you just need to check a box and hit save.

This is called "scope creep", and it's when people try to get extra work on top of what was originally agreed upon.

You won't fear scope creep once you learn to say no, but you get asked for little extras so often that sometimes you'll do the work just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

That's when the client comes back asking for even more…

9. Even When You're Right You're Wrong

You know when two fonts don't go together, when certain colors clash, or when there's way too much going on for a design to be legible. Unfortunately, you're not the one writing the check.

Many clients will take your initial mockup and give you feedback with their idea of perfection, regardless of what anybody else thinks. Usually their idea of perfection is a mangled mess of crap that is as far from being cohesive as the universe allows.

Once the project is over, the final product looks nothing like the original concept, and no matter how many times you try and educate people on good design, their bad ideas trump logic and reason.

10. Presentations Suck, and You Can't Avoid Them

As a designer, you usually report to a boss of some sort. That means having to present the work you do for approval. The worst part is that the person you're presenting to knows nothing about good design, yet the final decision rests in their hands.

Don't even get me started on presenting to a group or committee. It's a lose-lose situation.

No matter how good your work is, somebody on that panel of judges is going to disapprove for one reason or another. You'll end up making countless changes until the approved design looks more hacked together than Frankenstein's monster.

11. Other "Designers" Give You a Bad Name

There's a reason why many clients don't respect the work that designers do. Every high school grad with a laptop and pirated copy of Photoshop is claiming to be a designer.

If you ran into five people claiming to be mechanics, but caught each of them hammering on your windshield with a monkey wrench, you'd start to get the wrong idea about what a real mechanic can do.

Other times, shady people with collect 50% of a project price up front, then fail to deliver a completed project.

With so many frauds out there, you have to work extra hard to maintain a positive image.

12. The Competition Will Always Undercut Your Prices

The basis of running a design business is simple.

  1. Create designs
  2. Get paid

For every one designer that charges fair prices, there are hundreds willing to work for next to nothing. This makes the "get paid" step difficult.

It's tough enough finding clients, but even tougher finding clients who appreciate good work and are willing to pay you what you're worth.

13. Friends and Relatives Consider You Their Personal Tech Support

I don't know what fixing Yahoo email login problems has to do with design, but great aunt Edna thinks they are similar enough to enlist your services.

You have to tell people what you do in order to get referral business, but it can be a dangerous game to play as a designer.

People equate design with computers, so if you offer design services, you must do computer tech support. To top things off, you're practically brothers so you'll do it for free. Right?

14. Your Normal Friends Don't Understand Your Love of Type

A fellow designer might appreciate the perfect kerning in your favorite logo, but most of your normal friends can't tell the difference between Arial and Helvetica.

Even though you might be able to spend an entire hour appreciating every curve of your newest script font, expect your non-designer friends to give you judgmental looks when you bring up your favorite OpenType features.

Where do you fit in? Are you a design newbie or a seasoned veteran? What's your least favorite part about being a graphic designer?

Let us know in the comments.

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