One Designer’s Journey to Build a Creative Career in a Recession

One Designer’s Journey to Build a Creative Career in a Recession

Feature Image Source:

When the global market crashed to a halt in 2007-2008, creative folks all over the world lost their jobs and struggled to find work. As crazy as it sounds, Cheryl Laidlaw decided that she would quit her in-house position at a small firm to begin her chapter as a graphic design and web developer freelancer. Through perseverance and networking, Cheryl’s agency Reyl Design Group stood tall on a strong foundation and is entering her sixth year running.

Passion and developing new skills after university fuels the design industry, and Cheryl is no exception- her ambition to work as a freelancer was a dream she strived to make happen. Cheryl decided she would work at a small firm first to gain valuable experience before she sought beginning her freelance career.

Challenges after graduation

Realistically, you will find it difficult to grab a job right out of school, but Cheryl did. After mass mailing several small agencies, she landed her first position.

Graduates in England entering the creative arts and design sector now are expected to know and demonstrate the following:

  • demonstrate a practical creative talent or to show a passion for art
  • a higher than average likelihood of being self-employed or freelance
  • lower salaries, an unsteady income and lack of job security
  • working hours vary enormously, from regular office hours to working evenings and weekends, to the flexibility of choosing your hours as a freelancer
  • to need to be independent, proactive and resilient

Learning after university

Explore internship opportunities in your own area or work with a smaller firm as they will give you valuable all-round experience to boost your skills on your resume.  However, you must do  your research to find the agency that works best for your career goals such digital graphic design, social media, web design, and media. Once you find a few agencies you like, your goal is to stand out and present a portfolio that entices them to bring you in for an interview.

According to the 2012 Creative and Cultural Industries report in 2012, 85% of companies employ fewer than four people, 14% employ 5 to 50 people and only 1% employs more than 50 people.

Networking in England

Cheryl’s agency is in London, but she sought networking opportunities all over England to spread her network and gain new clients. London, although the hub of main creative agencies, is not the only city in the country where there are fantastic design agencies. Travel around to different events, conferences, and Meetups to meet people from agencies of all sizes.

There are hundreds of creative agencies that survived the market crash, but I credit that to the amount of talent that can be found in those smaller firms and freelancers. As we enter into 2016, the numbers have suggested that the design industry is bouncing back from the economic troubles that plagued it in the past as both the United States and the United Kingdom design agencies are rising into billion dollar industries.

What do you feel is the reason for the recent monetary boom in creative agency industry?

Cheryl Laidlaw on her freelance creative career during the Great Recession

Podcast Outline

0:19 – Tell me about yourself.

0:34 – Cheryl’s experience about university and what she studied.

1:30 – The trials by fire when learning after school ends.

2:49 – When did you decide to start your own business?

3:47 – Tell me more about your company and what it was like in the beginning.

5:09 – What challenges you faced marketing your business in a recession?

6:51 – What types of networking did you do to spread the word about your new business?

7:30 – What is the most challenging aspect about a freelance career?

9:14 – Avoiding creative burnout and knowing when to put the laptop down.

10:37 – Is there anything exclusive about working in the UK that separates them?

13:13 – Design predictions for 2016 and what you think will grow bigger.

Kathleen is a New Jersey blogger with an interest in brand design and a passion for graphic design, illustration, and social media. She loves to deliver inspiration to others to give them the means to achieve their branding and design goals.

One thought on “One Designer’s Journey to Build a Creative Career in a Recession

Leave a Reply