One of the challenges faced by many new UX/UI designers is not having industry experience in their field. Industry experience is one of the things that employers or clients look for in a designer. This should not be a problem if you are already working in the field for a few years. But if you are just starting out, then this certainly poses a challenge. Some may even think that this is a seemingly impossible challenge. After all, how can you get the experience if they don’t allow you to work which will bring you the experience they’re looking for?
Luckily, there are a few ways to get industry experience even if you are totally new to UX/UI design. In fact, we can even say that you can get a UX/UI job without having any prior experience – but that’s for another article. For now, let’s talk about some ways you can do to earn experience that you can eventually add up to your design portfolio.
Here are some of the ways that you can do to earn some experience for your portfolio:
- Work for free
- Take freelancing projects
- Work on a side project
- Find a mentor
1) Work for free
One of the ways to get your career started in UX/UI design is by working for free. When you offer free work, it’s easier to convince a potential client or employer because they have nothing to lose, at least money-wise. Since they know that they are not going to spend some money, they are more likely to take on your free offer.
Some may think that working for free is not good. After all, we have bills to pay and we need to put food on our table. Well, of course, that’s true. But you won’t work forever for free – and you shouldn’t begin with. Working for free is just a very temporary strategy. The only purpose of working for free is to get experience as quickly as possible. Once you gain industry experience which you can add to your portfolio, it’s time to look for a paying job.
Important note: never do free work on freelancing websites as they generally discourage and penalize anyone who does so. You can find free work opportunities on websites such as LinkedIn or you can find one in your local community.
2) Take freelancing projects
Another way to gain experience is by taking freelancing projects. Clients who need help in their project are generally willing to hire someone with no experience – sometimes, even if they post in their job ad that they’re looking for someone with experience!
Aside from gaining experience, the beauty of taking freelancing projects is that you’ll learn how to sell yourself and negotiate with potential clients. It will be a great skill which you can apply once you look for jobs in companies. Freelancing also allows you to contemplate whether you’d want to go freelance in the long run or be part of a design team – or do both.
3) Work on a side project
If you can’t find someone to work with, why not consider working for yourself? If you cannot find a project to work on, then you may consider starting your own project/s and adding them to your portfolio once they are complete.
If you have a small project in mind that you wanted to start but cannot find the time to do so, then it’s time to get working on it. If you have friends who are working on their projects (or are interested in starting one), consider teaming up and working with them.
4) Find a mentor
Having a mentor is great for building your UX/UI design career. Not only can they help you earn experience by putting you through real-life projects (as opposed to coursework), but they can also guide you in growing your knowledge and skills in UX/UI design. But how can you find a mentor?
Typically, you can find a mentor once you’ve undergone formal UX/UI training. This is because you simply get to know people as you take the program – very much the same when you study college, where you get to meet friends and possibly even mentors who can help you in your career once you’ve stepped outside the university walls.
The bigger challenge is when you are self-taught. If you learned UX/UI design by yourself, then you can find a mentor by going out there and meeting new people. LinkedIn is one of the best places to meet like-minded people.
Gaining experience and building your UX/UI design portfolio can seem like a challenge especially if you are just starting out in the field. But in reality, there are plenty of ways to gain industry experience in UX/UI design. The ones mentioned above are just some of the ways you can do to gain experience and build up your portfolio.