When we asked Minted artists to share their advice for recent college graduates aiming for a creative or artistic career, we received a range of insights. Here you’ll find common themes and differing opinions alike — in other words, there is no one-size, fits-all approach. 

“Palm Reader” notebook by Baumbirdy

Be open but also tenacious
Carol Fazio of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

There are so many facets to the design industry, but there are also many candidates vying for the same positions. Be open to possibilities in other areas. I’ve designed everything from trade-show environments to wine labels. Create a good LinkedIn profile, a clean portfolio site that’s easy to navigate, and strong branding for yourself. Join the AIGA or other organizations where you can meet other creatives and find leads — networking is still a great way to find work!

Keep your skill set up to date and make yourself available to freelance for temp agencies that often recruit temp-to-hire designers, which means you have to become a good business person too. Most of all, do not design in a vacuum. Get out to galleries, museums, local First Fridays, or even design-forward boutiques and see what’s on-trend. Subscribe to industry publications like Print, How, Communication Arts, and Ad Age to stay on top of what’s hot in design. The more marketable you are, the more work you will get. And stay positive. There is a lot of feast or famine in this business.

Believe in yourself and your passion
Belia Simm of Fishkill, New York

This is a very competitive and subjective career where you need to showcase your skill set and passion as best as possible. One key step to achieve this is building your portfolio, preferably an online version or website, making sure to pick your best six to 10 pieces. It can include pieces that you’ve produced during internships, school projects, commission work, or personal projects. This will be the base of your career and the door to many opportunities to come.

Develop and refine your skills
Annie Seaton of Sherman Oaks, California

Take as many courses as you can to get skills in the design field in all computer tools and software. The more skills you have, the more marketable and the more career options you will have in the future. Continue this education into your 30s and 40s even if it’s one night course while you’re raising children. Flex those muscle skills and get jobs.

Focus on a particular industry
Katie Danger Zimpel of Middleton, Wisconsin

Once I picked which industry I wanted to work in, my art career took off. I made all of my artwork for that particular industry and had gained a skill set and portfolio that clients were interested in. Now that I’ve reached some success, I can start dabbling in other projects, but when starting out, I think it’s important to narrow down your career options, learn what’s expected of you, and try to offer something unique.

Be as well-rounded as possible
Alison Jerry of Dallas, Texas

No matter your age, single or married, your first career or second, go for it. Be passionate about what you do and like. Practice, take classes, ask questions, find a mentor, keep learning, observe, discover painting, photography, hand-lettering, and mixed media. Continue to take classes at your college, community, or Skillshare.

Humble yourself
Jennifer Yermasek Partrite of Novato, California

I remember telling my parents I was going to get a degree in art, and they gasped! They told me to follow my dreams, explore my talents, and to remember you also have to pay the bills. Getting a job to pay the bills allowed for me to discover that I was also talented in business. I learned no job was too good for me. Humbling myself, working hard, nonstop learning, accepting no, never giving up, being passionate, giving back, all of this has allowed for the flexibility to explore options in the art world and to become a working artist.

Don’t undervalue yourself
Jamie Kennedy of Seattle, Washington

Your creativity makes you unique in this world. Don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur, but most importantly, before you do anything, make sure you are pricing your services so that you not only feel valued in your day-to-day work but, also so that you can truly make a living. Many creatives and artists start off just hoping for anyone anywhere to buy their services, and often price their services far too low. Charge what is needed to make your services viable, and the right customers will show up.

Find a mentor
Mary Cecelia of Gainesville, Florida

Discover a design “mentor” — someone whose work you respect and admire. Study their work and learn all you can about their methodology and how they made their way in the field.

Be authentic
Tresa Meyer-Clark of Miami, Florida

I wish I could go back in time to give my 22-year-old artistic self some advice. I would say, “Try not to be too ‘judgy.’” As artists, we strive to do our best, but at times, form a habit of judging ourselves too harshly. Do your best and the rest will fall into place.

Also, trends have their place, which brings to mind authenticity. It is important to love what you do, and in the process of experimenting — find what inspires you to “be you” — be authentic and the desire to create from your own ideas will come easier.


More advice from Minted Artists
8 Tips for Getting Started in the Design World
How to Overcome a Total Creative Void

About the Author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.

Published April 19, 2017

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