From Grad to Gig: Earning Money and Respect
Graduating students throwing their grad caps up in the air

Image c/o Hero Images, RGD Sponsor

With insights from Creative Directions, this series aims to help new graduates navigate this transition and move from student to staff.


As you start your career in the industry, you might start to feel more confident and begin taking on freelance work. So in this series' instalment, we're discussing two key things for succeeding when you're freelancing: gaining respect and making money.


Cultivate your connections because they might lead to job opportunities.


I prioritized keeping up my connections with potential employers when I was in school. And it worked: when I graduated, there was an option on the table for me. So stay in touch with people and go to events and portfolio reviews. It keeps you top of mind and shows people that you're interested.

— Charmaine Cheng Prov. RGD, Art Director & Designer at Rethink in Vancouver


Don't give out estimates before finding out all the details.


When someone emails me and asks for a quote, I always tell them that every project is different and I ask for a discovery meeting. I need to find out what they're looking for before I can give a ballpark.
— Tanya Duffy, Creative Director / Owner at The Details Design and Branding in Fredericton


Freelance trades stability for flexibility, and that can be a good thing.


What you give up in stability, you can gain in flexibility. I think that's a goal for a lot of people who like to do solo or freelance work. As long as it's sustainable and you're making money, then that flexibility can help you with work-life balance.
— Jordan Jackson Prov. RGD, Designer at Puncture Design in Toronto


You're likely to make more if you start your estimates high.


If you charge high, you have room to negotiate with the potential client and maybe move your price down. If you start your estimate low, you aren't really able to move your prices up. So I always give a high estimate and I let them know that we can discuss it.
Dzung Tran RGD, Designer + Branding Consultant in Toronto


Always, always be nice.


I've listened to a lot of fantastic speakers and it's amazing how so many of them say that they've gotten to where they are partially by luck, but mainly by building bridges and being nice. It's true. No one wants to work with someone difficult.

— Julian Brown RGD, Owner, Creative Director of ON THE CHASE! Motion Design in Toronto



Make sure you're caught up! We've also discussed what to remember when you begin your post-grad design journey and how you can get your foot in the door in the industry.


Looking for more post-grad advice? RGD Members have access to all of the recordings from Creative Directions and other professional development resources through the RGD's Video Archive.