An Open Letter to Student Designers and Writers

8 Dec

success by Jeff Hester

Dear Students,

Creativity is currently undervalued in this country now that the economy has tanked. Evidenced by the fact that businesses have cut corners like there’s no tomorrow — especially in their creative departments.

But buck up, my friends. All is not lost. You are designers and writers, first and foremost, so speak with confidence regarding the issue. Just make sure you can back up the claim.

Hold fast to the belief that your skills are worth something, and you’ll be able to find a few diamonds in the lumps of coal that are currently being dished out. You just have to be willing to look for and go after them. Here are a few bits of advice (in no particular order) to help you along the way

  1. You had to pay for college and being able to charge for your services is getting a return on your investment.
    Regardless if you’re still a student or a recent graduate, get paid for your work. Your favorite non-profit and required degree internship excluded.
  2. Don’t limit yourself to local businesses.
    Be willing to explore online for more opportunities.
  3. Don’t fall for that “It’ll be good experience” crap.
    Sure, internships are required by some degree programs and you can learn a lot, but don’t define yourself by them.When it comes down to it, is a non-paying, “good experience” internship going to cover your rent cost? Hell, no! But it sure will pay theirs when they use your free-of-charge designs or writings to sell their products. Bottom line: look for work outside of internships as well.
  4. People will try to take advantage of you, so be aware and choose your clients wisely.
    Don’t just take on any and every Tom, Dick and Harry project that comes your way. Research your prospects online and in person by simply using the phone — it’s anonymous. If you can, ask questions of friends, family or any other contact who may have some association with a prospective client.Avoid a potential pain in your ass at all costs (though sometimes it’s unavoidable as even some of the best research can yield unexpected results). You’ll be happier and less stressed if you do.
  5. ALWAYS draw up a contract.
    I don’t care if it’s your mother or best friend’s cat’s cousin … Draw up a contract. This lays all expectations on the table. Not just for your client, but — more importantly — for you.
  6. When discussing projects with clients, don’t be afraid to speak up.
    If you’ve chosen your client wisely (see bullet four above), they will expect you to partner with and guide them through the design or writing process.
  7. Be bilingual.
    I don’t mean be able to speak a foreign language, although that helps. I mean, be able to speak and translate your client’s wants and ideas as well as those of a professional designer or writer.
  8. Network. Network. Network.
    The saying, “People do business with people they know and trust,” is true. Networking is another investment in yourself. Connect with the right people and your list of potential projects can grow at a nice rate.
  9. Don’t be afraid or too full of pride to ask for help.
    You’re not in high school any more. There are a lot of veterans and young, up-and-coming designers and writers out there who are willing to help. Take them up on it.
  10. Don’t expect to be an overnight success.
    Don’t expect to be a six-month or one-year success, either. Everything takes time. You may not move at the same speed as some of your classmates, but that doesn’t mean you’re not successful in your own right.Like puberty, some of you will take a little longer to develop your stride than others … but you will eventually.
  11. You get out of life what you put in.
    Learn from your and others mistakes — preferably others, first. Just make sure you actually put into practice what you learn or you’ve wasted your time.

There are others that could fit on this list, but there’s only so much room. Besides, there are some lessons you should learn on your own.

So, my friends, I’ll leave the rest up to you. Take heed. Take heart. Take care.

Remember, you are designers and writers. Value yourself as such.


Do you have any other bits of advice that could be included on this list? Leave your suggestion in the comments below. I’ll be glad to hear from you 🙂


One Response to “An Open Letter to Student Designers and Writers”


  1. Twenty-ninth: my mother’s sentence… « From Text To Design - April 26, 2012

    […] that they had no clue what they wanted can be helpful. I think, though it was not mentioned in the readings, a designer might not be in a position to get into the client head, but is definitely in the […]

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