5 Ways Graphic Design School Changed My Life
5 Ways Graphic Design School Changed My Life
From entrepreneurship to life security, to making 3x the income I made in my corporate job. This is my story…
On November 28th, 2012, I sat in our home office with a freshly printed Orientation Schedule from Sessions College for Professional Design. Stationed in Illinois at the time, I was 31 years old with three small kids (ages five months old, two and a half, and four years old). I knew going back to school again would require a lot of time management skills. And coffee.
I had been blogging for about a year at that point, just as a hobby. But I wanted to re-design my blog and move it to WordPress, so I started looking around for a designer with a fee I could afford. And there were several, but they were ALL booked! I knew that I enjoyed the design aspect and I also knew a decent amount of HTML (or enough to be dangerous anyway). So I ended up moving my whole blog and all the old posts over by myself and then doing all the design parts too. It got me thinking that maybe it’s something I can get into on a more “legit” level because I enjoyed it. How nice would it be to do something I enjoy and earn a real paycheck again? If these designers were all booked up, with waiting lists, then business must be good!
Since I had already obtained my Bachelors in English and my MBA (in HR Management) and we were (and still are) paying my off my grad school student loan, I was hesitant to say, “Honey, I know we have three kids, and I can barely keep up with the laundry or get dressed most days, but I want to go back to school again”. The problem is, my degrees don’t allow for a mobile career and we move every 1-3 years. To my surprise, if he thought I was crazy, he wisely keeps it to himself. Or maybe he only heard the “paycheck again” part.
So I looked into Graphic and Web Design programs. After much research, I settled on Sessions College for Professional Design. With three small kids, I needed a flexible online program as well as one that was military friendly. Since money was so tight on one income for our young family of 5, we decided I’d use part of my husband’s military Post-911 GI Bill to fund going back to school. I can’t speak highly enough of how awesome Sessions was from the first email I sent, to the enrollment process, to graduation, so it’s a pleasure to continue working with them to share my story.
I received an Advanced Certificate in Graphic Design with Branding Concentration. I went part-time (all online). Staying true to my remarkably punctual personality type, I finished the program several months early.
And that’s when blogging started to go from a hobby to a business for me.
Here are 5 Ways Graphic Design School Changed My Life…
OH, YOU BLOG? THAT’S CUTE.
I’m a military spouse who works full-time from home as a blogger and graphic designer. This is how most conversations about what I do go:
Person: “Oh you work? I had no idea! What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a blogger and designer.”
Person: Cocks head to one site and smiles awkwardly while saying “Oh! That’s cool.”
What I’m hearing is more of an “Oh, you blog? That’s cute.” kind of vibe.
I’m not offended by it in the slightest and, in fact, in some ways, it amuses me. Most people do not know that “Professional Blogging” is a legit job. Once they hear it is, they’re super curious about how you make money doing it. (Spoiler: I make way more income now than I ever made in a corporate HR job…more on that part later.)
For me, blogging and graphic design go hand in hand. Instead of having to pay someone else to do my graphic design work (namely website and marketing graphics, eBook covers/design, printables, etc.), I can do it all myself. That saves me a ton of time and money!
I CAN WORK FROM ANYWHERE
One of the most amazing parts about being a blogger and freelance graphic designer is that I can work from anywhere. Literally. I’ve worked from the beach, the air, coffee shops, my couch, a hotel in Germany on the Baltic Seas, during our overseas move from the States to Germany this past Summer…you get the idea!
Since we are a military family, I need a mobile career. Blogging and freelance design work allow me to follow my creative passions despite the fact that we move every 1-3 years.
Listen, y’all. Let’s get real for a moment and talk about the hard parts of life.
I love my husband to pieces, and I’m so thankful he has a good job that could provide for our family without my working (albeit with some sacrifices we’d need to make to live on one income like we did during the “baby years”). But that wasn’t easy. We often had to dip into our retirement money and sell things on eBay to make ends meet during those years.
The reality is that anything can happen in life. God forbid, I could lose my husband tomorrow for any numbers of reasons. And then I’d have three kids that depend solely on me to provide for them. The security having a career of my own provides is PRICELESS.
I lost my dad to cancer and my uncle to a motorcycle accident in my early twenties. I watched my mom and Aunt have to struggle with their grief all while having to go back to work unexpectedly to take care of their kids. Most people don’t want to believe these kinds of tragedies can happen to them. No one intends to plan for disasters because it’s sad and morbid. But life happens.
If I suddenly found myself to be a single mom, I’d still be able to provide for my kids. I’d also have the flexibility to take them to school, doc appointments, soccer games, etc.
My life experiences have undoubtedly shaped my world view. But that doesn’t take away from the peace of mind that having my own business provides. Knowing that I can take care of myself and my kids if life as I currently know it should fall apart? That’s an awesome feeling!
TOO LEGIT TO QUIT
Sure, there are self-taught graphic designers (and most hand letterers, myself included, are self-taught). Despite that, there are three big reasons I opted to go to design school.
- To Learn the Adobe Creative Cloud Programs. The Adobe Creative Programs (like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro to name a few) are all kinds of awesome. These programs are juggernauts with so many capabilities. Learning to use them in a classroom setting from the pros that my course instructors at Sessions are is a major, major “Pro” on my list of reasons to go to Design School.
- Two words: Student Discount. The Adobe Creative Suite isn’t cheap. Getting them at the student rate is a massive saving.
- It looks legit on my résumé. As a former HR Manager and résumé writer, I can tell you first-hand that the companies and brands I work with like to see an official degree(s). It helps establish you as an expert in your field.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Let’s talk about the taboo subject people want to hear about most. Money. At the height of my corporate job, I made about $45k a year. This year I more than tripled that. Working from home. Often in my cliché mom uniform: yoga pants and a messy bun.
I loved being able to be a stay-at-home mom while my kids were babies. But now that they’re all almost school aged (my youngest starts Kindergarten next Fall), I’m so thankful I have something for myself.
And let’s be real, life is a heck of a lot easier on two incomes. Feeding and clothing three kids isn’t cheap. I’m loving being able to go shopping just for fun again (one of my favorite pre-baby life pastimes). And now that we’re living in Germany for a few years, we’re taking full advantage of the opportunity to indulge our wanderlust list and travel this side of the world!
I even started a SEP IRA (That’s a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement). A fancy way of saying I’m saving for retirement. I think that almost makes me a real adult, doesn’t it?
Bottom line: I get paid to be Creative. And pin things on Pinterest. I mean, really, how cool is that?
Make no mistake, every job has its pros and cons and owning your own business is a lot of work (like A LOT). At the end of the day, it’s amazing to be able to say that I really, really love my job.
NEW FOR FALL 2018!
In an ongoing promo with Sessions College for Professional Design, my readers can get a 5% Tuition Discount for All Vocational Programs. Just visit the promo page here and scroll down to enter your info and promo code DAWNNICOLE in the section that looks like this:
- Graphic Design
- Web Design
- Digital Media
- Advertising Design
- Digital Photography
- Fine Arts
READ MY TIPS FOR GROWING A 6-FIGURE BLOG HERE.
I was compensated to write this post on behalf of my design school, Sessions College for Professional Design. I graduated from the school in 2013 and have since stayed in touch and began working with them to share my story. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.
Do you have questions I didn’t answer? Sound off in the comments below!