Graphic Design: Routes into the industry
On the subject of qualifications, this depends, a degree will certainly help but talent is probably more important as are organisational skills, how you work as part of a team and whether you 'fit in' with the other people in the agency/department.
Proficiency in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Illustrator are a must and After Effects and InDesign will also do you a lot of good. If it's a new media agency then some kind of Flash or Dreamweaver experience will almost certainly be required. If you don't have experience in certain software packages and an agency likes you and you're really lucky, they may even send you on a training course.
If you are trying to get your foot in the door at a local agency, but lack a portfolio and/or experience, there are things you can do. Design things for your friends: posters for events, logos or even t-shirts. Offer to re-brand your Uncle's dry cleaning business; make potential employers/clients know that you understand the fundamentals; take a client brief and present your ideas in an attractive and organised way. Invent a bogus company and design a complete set of stationery and a company brochure; design a website and think up an online marketing campaign. Contact a local agency and offer yourself for work experience during the summer holidays. Ask to sit in on client/designer meetings, ask for a 'real-life' brief, go away and come back a week later and present your work to the art director and his/her team. They'd be nuts not to want someone around who is hungry for experience, who's willing to help out to get ahead.
Networking is key. Go to design conferences and talk to other designers/exhibitors/guest speakers, go to the local club/art-house cinema/gallery/bar and meet the local movers and shakers. Go and see the best local bands/DJ's in your town - chances are there'll be lots of like-minded people in the audience. Target the small to medium-sized agencies, contact them and offer to take the art director for lunch. Infiltrate the local art/music/independent film scene and follow up any good leads with a telephone call no more than three days later. After that time, people would've forgotten you. Remember that everyone started somewhere and even the top designers/art directors still need to network.
If you have lots of copies of your work and you don't mind losing a few along the way, then leaving your book isn't a bad idea. If you only have 'one-offs' then don't. It’s a great idea to create a blog or a website as a way of showcasing your work. A website can help you be found and if it’s well designed, it will show your talent and skill itself. You can also showcase your work on social media, as a freelancer having social media profiles is key. If you work in creative fields such as graphic design, you can use Instagram to create a portfolio of your work.
Your own branding
As a graphic designer, your branding needs to perfect. As you work in the creative field and will be helping businesses create their brand, yours need to be great. Your branding should reflect your skill and talent, therefore make sure you invest time and money (if required) in making it the best.
Nick Welsh - bespoke design for print and the internet Mono Industries
More on graphic designing as a freelancer.