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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hou

A survival Guide for junior artist/designer.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

- Meme from Pixel Shame

Have you ever felt a pang of truth seeing those memes about the struggle of artists and designers? You're not alone. That's what inspired me to wrote this article - a guide to survive as a junior, from a junior's perspective :D

I'll break this article down into 5 topics

  1. Junior Level Defined: Understanding your level.

  2. Self-Improvement: Practical way of improving yourself.

  3. Boosting Confidence: The secret to stay motivated.

  4. Landing Your First Gig: How to get your first gig if you don't have one.

  5. What's Next: Some tips on planning your career.

Feeling excited? Me too :D

But before we start, let me share a bit about myself – it might just make you feel a bit more at ease knowing we're on this journey together.

My name is John, a junior motion designer in my final year at university, with a year of freelancing under my belt. My art journey has taken me from graphic design to photography, finally landing me in the captivating world of motion design.

You might be wondering, 'Can a junior designer really offer valuable advice?' It's a fair question. Though I’m still honing my skills and carving out my career path, I've faced lots of difficulties in the art and design world. It's these experiences and the lessons learned from them that I want to share with you, especially if you're grappling with similar challenges.

So without further ado, let's dive into today's topic.

1. Junior Level Defined: Understanding your level.

Defining what exactly constitutes a 'junior' artist can be a bit nebulous, as there's no universally accepted definition. However, a common and practical measure is professional experience.

Take, for instance, the words of Vladislav Solovjov, a renowned motion designer. In a Q&A, he suggested that having 1-2 years of experience typically places you in the junior category. But what if you've been learning the software for three years? Does that automatically upgrade you to a mid-level status? I believe it's not just about the duration of software usage. The crux lies in your industry experience, whether it's in a full-time position or through freelancing.

With this perspective, we can form a more completed understanding of what a junior artist is. Now, let's explore how you can grow and improve from this stage.

  • Key takeaways : Typically, having 1-2 years of experience in the field is indicative of a junior level.

2. Self-Improvement: practical way of improving yourself.

Making a living in design or art requires continuous learning and self-improvement. The question is, how can we effectively learn and grow beyond just hoarding unwatched tutorials?

There are numerous ways to do this, but one method stands out, which surprisingly few people seem to utilize: finding a mentor.

In this rapidly evolving digital era, it's relatively easy to acquire technical skills online, especially through platforms like YouTube. However, there comes a point where these resources fall short, particularly in areas that aren't strictly technical – like understanding industry practices, gaining experiential knowledge, or receiving personalized feedback. This is where the value of having a mentor becomes evident.

I am currently being mentored by an exceptional art director and the impact on my career has been substantial. In just half a year, I've experienced significant improvements in my self-confidence, clarity in my career direction, and proficiency in technical skills, among other areas.

But how do you find a mentor? It's certainly not an easy task. My approach was straightforward: I reached out to artists, designers, and industry professionals I admired, seeking their advice or feedback. While this is just the beginning of the journey to finding a mentor, it's a crucial step. I plan to explore this topic further in a separate blog post. In the meantime, I recommend a video by Crist Do for additional insights.

  • Key takeaways : Seeking out a mentor is a highly effective method for personal and professional development.

3. Boosting Confidence: The secret to stay motivated.

We've all been there in this era of social media: you spend a week crafting something special, post it, and then... only a few likes and no comments. It's easy to start doubting your skills or wondering if anyone appreciates your work. Trust me, I face this challenge daily. But instead of the tempting route of buying followers to boost your ego, there's a more genuine and effective approach.

Take my experience, for example. I don't often like or comment on others' posts, not because I don't appreciate them, but simply because it's not my habit. However, when someone responds to my story with a compliment, I'm always eager to check their profile and return the kindness. This underscores a vital aspect of an artist's career: Networking. By actively reaching out and genuinely appreciating someone's work, you increase the likelihood of meaningful interactions and positive feedback.

So, after reading this post, I encourage you to start reaching out and initiating conversations. You'll likely find it a rewarding experience. Remember, though, that not everyone will respond, and it's important to offer compliments that are heartfelt and sincere. Let's contribute to making our community a supportive and wholesome space for all artists.

  • Key takeaways : Initiating conversations within your community is an excellent way to contribute and enhance your confidence.

4. Landing Your First Gig: How to get your first gig if you don't have one.

The crucial question for every budding artist is: How do you kickstart your career or, in other words, find your first client? There are numerous ways to secure a project these days, whether it’s through social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn, or freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork. However, these routes often involve either having a significant follower base or facing stiff competition. So, let me suggest a more traditional yet efficient method(if you do it right :D): cold emailing.

You might have heard about this approach before — sending hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails and hoping for a response. It sounds daunting, but with the right tools, it can be highly efficient and might just land you that dream gig. This method essentially breaks down into two steps: finding potential clients and sending out emails.

While it might seem like there's no central directory for companies in need of design services, such platforms do exist — they're just more client-oriented. For example, while freelancers might flock to Fiverr, advertising teams in companies often use dedicated platforms to find agencies. This translates to a plenty of potential clients for you to explore. All you need to do is visit these companies' websites and collect their contact information. And here's an useful website for that!

Once you've compiled a list of potential clients, it’s time to reach out. Instead of sending emails one by one, consider using a tool like mail merge to streamline the process. With a bit of persistence and some well-crafted emails, you just might land a response and get the opportunity to create some amazing work — that's how I got my start, after all!

  • Key takeaways : Utilizing the right strategies can make cold emailing a powerful and efficient tool for finding opportunities.

5.What's Next: Some tips on planning your career.

Before wrapping up this blog post, I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to you for reading this far. Sharing my experiences with you and potentially helping you along your journey has been truly rewarding.

Now, you might be wondering, 'I've kickstarted my career, so what’s next?' This is a question I’ve been pondering myself recently. In my opinion, it circles back to the first point we discussed: what defines a junior artist. To progress in our careers, especially with the aim of advancing to a mid-level position, accumulating experience is key. While I haven't completed this journey myself, I can share my current approach as a guide.

One effective strategy is to apply for internships or full-time positions. Although it's entirely possible to succeed as an artist or designer through freelancing alone, joining a well-established company can often propel you further. Success in design isn’t just about creating stunning works or eye-catching animations; the process and management aspects are crucial to your career development as well. So, if you're contemplating the next step in your artistic journey, I'd recommend considering a full-time role before venturing into freelancing. Remember, this depends on individual circumstances. I believe that by finding the approach that best suits you, you'll inevitably become the exceptional artist you aspire to be.

  • Key takeaways : Pursuing internships or full-time positions can significantly aid in the growth and advancement of a junior artist.

As we come to the end of this guide, I hope the insights and personal experiences I've shared have offered some clarity and encouragement for your journey as a junior artist or designer. From understanding what defines a junior level, to embracing self-improvement, boosting your confidence, landing your first gig, and planning the next steps in your career, remember that each stage is a stepping stone towards your growth and success.

The path of an artist is filled with learning, challenges, and opportunities for personal and professional development. As you keep going on your journey, keep in mind that the art and design world is ever-evolving, and staying adaptable, curious, and persistent will be your greatest assets. Don't hesitate to reach out, experiment, and push the boundaries of your creativity.

Thank you once again for joining me on this exploration. I'm excited to see where your art takes you and how your unique voice contributes to the vibrant canvas of our creative community. If you have any thought, insight or feedback, feel free to drop me a mail at the Contact page. Until next time, happy designing! :D


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