The internet is riddled with advice on what to do once you’ve graduated and are looking for a job. LinkedIn is overflowing with inspirational articles directed toward graduates of 2013, but graphic art majors face the daunting hurdle of having their work previewed and weighed against other applicants.
So you’ve read the articles, and you’ve gone through the motions of applying for jobs. Your resumes are out; your cover letters are impeccable; your portfolio site is up to date, and you’re waiting for calls. Now what?
The whole myth that the only thing applicants should be doing is applying has been shattered already. A lot of advice seems to point toward doing anything from volunteering as a resume builder, to getting out and having fun with the free time you have during unemployment.
I’m someone who doesn’t want to be idle when I could be sharpening my competitive edge. The advice I got from a professor was to start producing freelance work as a portfolio builder. I’m trying it now, and I’m finding that freelance work is much more accessible than it always seemed. I talked it over with a few people, and their initial responses were, “Don’t you need a reputation to do that?”
The easy answer is, “No.” Online freelancing comes in two flavors (at least as far as I can tell), and neither of them necessarily requires you to be established already. There’s regular freelancing, which acts like outsourcing and there is crowdsourced freelancing which is apparently a new idea (2006 to be precise).
Most sites act like job boards where freelancers take the jobs and then produce the work. These are sites like FreeLanceSwitch, and odesk. I know what you’re thinking; if you already know what crowdsourcing is, you may say these sites are technically crowdsourced. However, their platform still operates on the principle of designers submitting portfolios and interviewing to get jobs, so they more closely resemble classic freelancing.
I’ve been told that the best way to begin on these sites is by undercutting other freelancers or working for free to build a portfolio first. Apparently this is how some people get a boost before they advance into being paid.
Crowdsourced freelancing on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like. Multiple people submit designs to a single job and the winner leaves with the cash. These sites might include ones like DesignCrowd, or freelancer. The advantage of crowdsourced freelancing is that an artist can submit work without even going through an application process or waiting on a client before working. All of the instructions are already on the site. This can be helpful for designers who are just starting, because their success is measured solely upon the quality of their work instead of the girth of their portfolio.
This leaves the freelancer with several disadvantages, but the most glaringly obvious one is that there’s a high likelihood their work will be wasted. Ever hear the saying, “time is money?” Some sites see hundreds of submissions for a single project, and when only one winner is selected, the other hundred are left to dry.
A forum I saw, could not have put it better when the original poster said, “Lack of respect for the design industry becomes endemic.” A little bit farther down the post, a designer goes on a rant about how terrible crowdsourced freelancing really can be. Some artists steal designs from professionals, and others steal designs for portfolio work.
So is starting off by freelancing really worth it?
I don’t know, but I’ll find out. I’m starting on a crowdsourced freelancing site and paying particular attention to the detail and quality of my work in the hopes of my talent speaking for itself.
What do you think about crowdsourced freelancing? Leave a comment if you have some experience with this subject.