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Jacob Cass Career Insights for Aspiring Designers

April 11, 2024
min read

Choosing a career in design is one thing, but successfully navigating your career path is an entirely different thing altogether!

With trends that seem to shift from one day to the next and a landscape teeming with competition, how does an aspiring designer find their footing and get enough clients to make a decent living?

Well, aspiring designer, you’re in luck.

Today’s blog is bringing you 10 creative entrepreneurship tips from graphic design and branding expert, Jacob Cass, to help you get more clients, hone your skills, and make a successful career doing what you love best!

Who is Jacob Cass?

Jacob Cass is a highly respected figure and thought leader in the design world and the founder of JUST Creative, an award-winning branding agency and industry-leading design blog. 

Born in Australia, Jacob has built up an international reputation for his work with an impressive list of clients, including the City of San Francisco, Jerry Seinfeld, Disney, Netflix, and more!

He’s achieved quite a bit and Jacob Cass’s design principles and branding strategies are being taught to designers and small business owners around the world. But it’s important to remember, Jacob Cass was once a budding designer too! And because he’s already familiar with the challenges that come with carving out a successful career and life in the world of design, he’s got the insight to help guide you through your journey!

Jacob Cass's Career Insights for Aspiring Designers

A laptop open to an image of a color wheel

Here are 10 of Jacob Cass’s career insights every aspiring designer should hear, to help empower you, inspire you, and equip you with the knowledge to carve out a path of your own!

1. Never Settle

Design is always evolving. Trends come and go, and new tools are unveiled what seems like every other week.

And because the industry is continuously evolving, that means you, as a designer, must continuously evolve with it and adopt a “lifelong” learner mentality. Actively seek out learning opportunities, experiment with new tools, keep yourself up to date with the newest tools, and never stop pushing your creative and technical boundaries.

If you’re constantly pushing yourself, there’s no telling how far you’ll go!

“Never settle. Continually improve your skills and stay up to date with industry trends and innovations to remain competitive and attractive to potential clients.”
– Jacob Cass

2. Learn from Practiced Minds

It’s important to appreciate all of the years of experience seasoned designers have gone through and the skills and knowledge it’s given them.

Seek out the veterans of your trade, ask them questions, and learn as much as you can before rushing out to start your own business. Working closely with experienced professionals not only deepens your understanding of design but it helps you with other skills like managing projects, building relationships with clients, and navigating the industry’s ups and downs – things you just can’t be taught in school or on your own.

To find experienced professionals, you can look for workshops offered online, speaking events or webinars, or just reach out directly to designers whose work you admire through social media or professional networking sites and the design community. You’d be surprised at how willing they are to share their knowledge with you!

“Start by working at a firm or studio to learn from more practiced minds before going out on your own … I can’t underestimate how much I learned from working alongside experienced designers, art directors, creative directors, and project managers. Being part of a team is invaluable; you simply don’t get this experience from freelancing.”
– Jacob Cass

3. Consistency is Essential

If you want to build a solid reputation, then it’s crucial that you stay consistent.

Consistency in your design work is maintaining a high standard of quality across everything you do, sticking to the deadlines you set, keeping up exceptional customer service, and creating what your clients want in your own signature style.

This doesn’t mean stifling your creativity. It does mean doing everything you can to make sure that your clients always know what to expect when they choose to work with you. To do this, find a workflow and process that works for you, one that allows you to get things done quickly but without sacrificing quality. 

Also be consistent in how you present yourself to the world, whether it’s in person, online, through your creative portfolio, or during networking events. Staying professional and consistently producing high-quality design works to create a personal brand around you that your clients and colleagues know they can trust!

4. Start a Passive Income Stream

An orange stack of money, for a passive income stream!

Design is your passion, but you need to earn a living too!

To help supplement your income and keep you going even when things are slow, it’s a great idea to start a passive income stream.

If you create physical products, consider selling them online and having your designs on platforms like Etsy, Pinterest, and other sites that offer products like t-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, and more.

You can also explore the option of getting your artwork licensed. Licensing logos or other design work to companies not only generates a stream of revenue for you but gets your work out there on everything from clothing and accessories to custom frames, stationery, and other products, boosting your visibility in the market.

Digital products work too! 

Creating and selling design templates, fonts, brushes, or tutorials can also attract a wide audience of fellow creatives looking for resources to help them create!

5. Know Your Worth

One of the hardest things about being a freelancer is knowing what to charge for your work and your time.

Often, beginning freelancers undersell themselves, whether it’s due to a lack of confidence or fear that raising rates is going to lose them clients. And while that is perfectly understandable, it’s important to know your worth.

Look at all you’ve invested in your talent! College courses, online workshops, hours and hours and hours of practicing …

All of that is an investment and you must recognize the value of your hard work, your talent, and your experience. Research industry standards to see what others are charging for similar services and adjust your rates based on your skill level, experience, and the quality of work you know you’ll deliver.

And if you have to start lower initially, don’t forget to adjust your rates as you gain more experience and expand your portfolio! Your clients will see your value and, if they want high-quality work and they like what you can do, they’ll pay you what you're worth.

6. Be Patient

As with most things in life, a successful career as a designer isn’t going to happen overnight.

It’s going to take some patience.

Don’t expect to immediately have a waiting list full of clients eager for your work. Start slowly, working hard on providing an exceptional experience and using each job opportunity to learn more about the industry and showcase your talent.

Remember that setbacks are part of the journey too. Use any slow periods or disappointing experiences as a time for reflection, learning, and a chance to explore new techniques or styles.

Word of mouth will travel soon enough and, little by little, you’ll see your client base begin to expand and your pipeline begin to fill with interesting and diverse projects!

7. Create a Compelling Offer

The best way to set you apart in the crowded freelance space is to create a compelling offer.

By that, we mean to differentiate yourself and your services. Highlight the value that your specific skills and expertise can bring to a potential client. 

This goes beyond simply showcasing your online portfolio; you need to create a compelling story of just how your unique skills, creative vision, and insight can meet your clients' needs better than any other designer they might meet.

“The rapid increase in graphic designers will require creatives to differentiate their work and services from other designers and agencies. To counter this, designers must develop unique and innovative solutions that stand out from competitors and offer a range of services and expertise that appeal to specific industries and customer needs. Simply put, create a compelling offer that your defined audience finds irresistible.”
– Jacob Cass

8. Make AI Your Friend

A computer chip, for artificial intelligence.

AI is here and it’s here to stay, friends.

Instead of resisting, why not harness the power of AI instead?

Whether you use it to help you create moodboards, ideate different design concepts, or whip up quick prototypes to compare different styles, having AI tools in your toolbox is a great way to keep up to date with the latest design and tech trends as well as streamline your creative process and make yourself a more efficient designer.

“Try out DALL-E or Midjourney and see how you could bring these tools into your workflow. Try new AI tools and don’t get stuck in your ways. Adapt.”
– Jacob Cass

9. Go Beyond Design Work

Design may be your specialty, but there’s no need to box yourself into a corner.

Think about what other services your design expertise can offer your clients besides traditional design work like logos, websites, and digital ads. 

Expanding your services to include things like content creation, design training, consulting, and more can not only provide you with additional streams of income but will position you as a key player and strategic mind with services that are indispensable to your client base.

This will make you a more valuable designer and expand the services you can offer, opening you up to more clients, more learning experiences, and more opportunities.

“One way is to offer additional services which go beyond design work. You can provide training, brand consulting services, or upsell clients with other benefits.”
– Jacob Cass

10. Network and Showcase

Networking for designers is crucial. Building a strong network is often the best way to meet the right people and get your foot in the door.

So, get out there and network.

Engaging in both online and offline communities related to design and other industries you want to work for can boost your visibility and help you establish your reputation as a reliable and much sought-after designer.

This also works to help you better understand the specific needs of your target audience so that you can tailor your services specifically to their pain points and be the designer they need. 

Don’t be afraid to show your work as well. Keep your portfolio updated with your best and most diverse work and showcase it on platforms like Behance, LinkedIn, or your own professional website to highlight your skills, past projects, and – most importantly – make it all the easier for potential clients to find you.

“Network and build relationships with prospective clients, showcase your work and portfolio online, and offer services that appeal to their needs.”
– Jacob Cass

If you’re looking for more portfolio-building strategies and some great examples to learn from, check out our recent blog on how to build a stunning online portfolio!

<div class="c-blog_comp-cta cc-component-2"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-wrap"><img src="" loading="lazy" alt="" class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-img"></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-right cc-dark"><div class="c-blog_comp-content"><div class="c-text-wrapper cc-mb-32"><div class="c-title-4 cc-bold"><strong>Like to work as a freelancer with consistent income?</strong></div></div><div class="c-text-wrapper"><div class="c-text-2">Designity's collaborative model is designed to give you all of the perks of being a freelancer without the income instability.<br></div></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-wrapper"><a href="" target="_blank" class="c-button w-button"><strong>Join Our Creative Community</strong></a></div></div></div>


Looking for Another Bit of Career Advice?

If you’re looking for a place where you can learn from practiced minds, build up your experience, and enjoy a consistent workload with a variety of diverse and interesting projects from a variety of diverse and interesting clients, then perhaps you’ve already found it.

Designity is made up of the top 3% of US-based creative talent and we’re always looking to add to our creative community.

As a Designity Creative, you can enjoy consistent work with projects from a variety of industries and learn from the talented and experienced Creative Directors who lead each client account.

You’ll also enjoy competitive pay, a remote environment, the freedom to work your own hours, and the opportunity to work with a diverse and talented team from around the country.

Do you think you have what it takes to join our ranks?

Why not put your skills to the test with our one-of-a-kind application process and see how Designity can take your career to new heights?

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About the author:
Sara Lopez
Sara is a Texas-based copywriter.
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