As a busy graphic designer, what is your opinion about working outside of the box? I got a request to do a few marketing posters for a church and it is possibly with no pay. Should I extend outside of my focus to gain more practice or do I say no and not take it on?

Tough question! I know there’s a large group of designers who would say never do work for free! But I know for myself, this was a great way when I was starting out to build my portfolio, increase my skill set, and network with others. I don’t think this question has one definite answer but when I am approached with a project like this, I start by asking myself a couple questions…

Do I need more work for my portfolio? Would this project round out my portfolio?

For projects with no compensation, those are the first questions I ask myself. Don’t do work just to produce work. Will the work keep you fresh and current? Will it enhance your skill set? Most importantly, will you use the end result in your portfolio? If the answers are no, especially relating to that last question, I usually don’t do it.

Does taking on the project get me closer to my end goal?

For example, if a designer’s goal is starting a wedding stationary business, a project like this may not fit within that goal. That being said, a lot of designers don’t know what their specialty will be yet so experimenting with different projects to find out what they like best is a good idea. I am just now refining what types projects I enjoy and which I want to avoid. It has taken me a couple years to find out I love branding businesses and working with brides on custom wedding stationary!

Could this be a ministry opportunity?

If the project is for a non-profit or church, I might look at the project as a way to use my talents to help others and glorify God! There are so many projects and efforts that you could pour yourself into so make sure the project is something you really believe in.

How much time do I have to commit to this?

Seems like a no-brainer but for highly-motivated designers, this is hard. I am definitely guilty of taking on projects I don’t have time for and I am always underestimating the time it takes to do a project. I heard once from a fellow designer to estimate the time you think it will take you and then double it. Kind of eye-opening!

What does my gut instinct say?

This question has revealed to be of paramount importance when selecting projects. I learned the hard way. I have taken on projects that I felt something just didn’t seem right; either with the client’s expectations, communication styles, or fundamental differences in style and preferences. Take on projects that you believe in, are excited about, and like the client!

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