Freelancing is not for everyone. Some people enjoy it like myself, and others are uncomfortable with the unpredictability of this career path. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and the ability to work 12 hours every day, including the weekend. But, if you are serious about getting into this field, I’d be happy to recommend where you can find jobs as a Jamaican freelance graphic designer.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I lived in Kingston, where I attended classes at the University of Technology, Jamaica. I was paying $20,000 per month for rent, among other expenses like food, water, electricity, and internet bills. I was spending close to JMD 40,000 per month to get by, and while it doesn’t seem like much at first, it becomes a lot harder to keep up when you’re unemployed.
Working as a freelancer is unpredictable. You may see a massive influx of new clients one month and not receive any clients the next. I would advise against beginners freelancing full-time and only pursue this as a side gig. However, due to COVID-19, many people have lost their jobs and are looking for alternative sources of income. If you are in this situation and have minimal design experience, try watching some videos covering the basics of typography, colour theory, and the principles of design. I also recently created a useful guide on 24 graphic design terms for non-designers, which you can reference.
Okay, now that we have looked at the considerations, we can move on to the real aim of this post, where to find jobs.
This one sounds obvious, but many beginners ignore this vital part of starting as a freelance graphic designer. A beginner won’t have a vast body of work that they can show a client, and even if they do, it might be personal projects and classwork. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but having real-world experience goes a long way in establishing confidence between your client and yourself.
Your family is often your biggest supporter, so try taking on some of their design projects in exchange for promotion. You will fill up your portfolio with real projects, and you can make arrangements with them to promote your work to their network. It’s a win-win regardless of how you look at it. Some designers will frown on this and say never to give out free designs. But, if you have no experience, this is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills.
If you are insistent on getting paid, you can offer a family discount in exchange for the promotion of your services. That way, you get paid and still get the advertisement from your family. Which path you choose is ultimately, up to you, of course.
You may not see instant results, but the long-term benefits may prove to be worth the wait.
I hate LinkedIn.
Well, I used to hate it until I discovered how useful it was for building a professional network of like-minded creatives and business professionals.
Linkedin is Facebook for companies, and one thing everyone knows about companies is that they have money. Sign up for a Linkedin account and add some of your classmates, teachers, friends, and reach out to other creatives on the platform. Join Linkedin groups to promote your work and get useful feedback from others more experienced than you. Establish yourself as a trusted voice in the community by sharing valuable information and interacting with others using the comment sections.
Once you’ve done this, try messaging a company that you believe you can bring value to with your talents and explain the services you offer. Some won’t reply, and others will block you, but if you keep at it, you will find someone that would love to work with you. LinkedIn doesn’t deliver results instantly, but if you have the patience, you can find a steady flow of clients through the platform.
Note: Do not be annoying with your pitches. Send the initial message and if they don’t reply instantly, follow up with them a few days later and see what they have to say. If you still don’t get a reply, cut your losses, and move on.
You can follow me on Linkedin as well 😁. I regularly post designs and blog posts there. Link
Find a graphic design mentor
A graphic design mentor is someone experienced in the field of visual communications (preferably in your design niche) that can pass on essential knowledge and best practices that will help you grow as a creative professional.
One great thing about having a mentor is that they have a steady flow of clients that need designs on the regular. If your mentor trusts you and believes in your work, they may pass on some of their projects to you. You can also take the initiative and offer to do some of the extra jobs for payment.
The benefit is that you get to earn money as a Jamaican freelance graphic designer while also learning how to run a successful design business from someone more experienced.
I’ve mentored a few graphic designers before, and whenever I got extra work, I would reach out to them. I didn’t have a mentor when I first started, so I wanted to make sure the next generation of designers got some help from others more experienced in the field.
One of my first big design projects started with a lecturer at my college, Philip Clarke. He asked me to design a poster for a 60th-anniversary celebration for the Centre For The Arts at UTech back in 2018. Fast-forward to 2020 and Philip, and I have an excellent working relationship. We even teamed up this year to promote his new Instagram show “Lights, Cameras, Real Life” on social media. You can check out some of the designs here.
If you are a Jamaican graphic designer in college, there are a few ways to find design jobs on the college campus.
- Ask your lecturers if they need keynote designs for their classes.
- Reach out to your faculty and see if they need designs for an upcoming event.
- Visit different clubs and societies around campus and offer to design logos and flyers.
- Try asking the different vendors around campus if they are looking to rebrand.
Remember, some lecturers may have a vast network of connections. If you can get recommended for your designs, that is a tremendous networking opportunity, especially on LinkedIn. However, don’t go around accepting free work in exchange for exposure as people will start to exploit you.
Pro tip: Reach out to students in other faculties and offer to help them with designs for projects. I’ve made a pretty good living off student work during my time at UTech. But, keep in mind that college students are ballin’ on a budget so I wouldn’t set my expectations too high.
Your Local Businesses
Local businesses are a great way to make money if you know where to look and how to pitch your services.
Since the start of the lockdowns, many entrepreneurs have moved away from physical shops and started online businesses using social media. This shift should be good news for Jamaican freelance graphic designers as it means new clients. You can make a decent earning just setting up social media pages and websites where clients can sell their products.
For social media, try approaching local businesses with a plan on how you can help them build an online following and convert those followers into customers. You can offer social media plans which cover interactions with followers, post designs and flyer designs for special events. The best part about this subscription method is that you can expect a steady flow of income every month.
Every serious business needs a professional website. Yet, a lot of small businesses don’t understand the value of a quality website that is actively maintained. If you have the skills, try pitching the idea of a website to several small businesses around you and the value it would bring to their operation.
For example, you could turn your sights to restaurants where people often call to find out the costs of meals. A website would work great in their case as you could show off the restaurant’s layout, your custom-designed menus and provide easily accessible information that the end-user would greatly appreciate. The combination of these elements could lead to a significant boost in revenue for the restaurant and increased brand recognition.
Don’t use Fiverr. Stay away from Fiverr, it is disgusting and it’s killing our industry as graphic designers.
I know some people will say, “What are you talking about, man, I know Fiverr people who make a lot of money, and I’m making money too.” That’s fine, that’s fine. If you’re happy there, then that’s okay. But, at the same time, Fiverr is hurting the graphic design industry, especially if you want to charge decent rates.
Imagine trying to reasonably price your work for a few hundred dollars on Fiverr, yet, some random guy from India charges $15 to create a full logo and a visual identity system. That’s just insane. You cannot compete with that, especially if you have bills to pay. However, if a business only wanted to pay 15 dollars for a logo, then they weren’t good clients, to begin with.
The biggest gripe I have with the platform is how they feature creators in the search. Most people go with whoever is on the first page or those with high ratings, and this stifles the newer members who don’t have a single client. Some people go months or even years without getting hired unless they drop their prices to be the lowest. Fiverr is just a race to the bottom, and any self-respecting graphic designer should stay far away.
Freelancing is not easy, especially for Jamaican freelancers who are often underappreciated and undervalued. This guide covers five great ways to find jobs as a Jamaican freelance graphic designer, but it can easily apply to other creative fields. I wrote these from my personal experiences, and I hope that they can help point you in the right direction. Feel free to share some of your methods in the comments below.