Building up my portfolio
During my year of working with Harry and a handful of other clients I found on Upwork and through my network, I began developing my portfolio. I filled it with personal projects and client work. The more work I did, the more it snowballed and more opportunities were presented to me. People would discover my work online and ask if I could design their app or software for them. I quickly realized that clients didn’t care what formal education I had, they could see for themselves from work in my portfolio if I could provide what they were looking for.
As my portfolio grew, I saw improvements in my work and began removing older designs to make way for new and improved creations of mine.
Feel free to check out my current portfolio on Behance (I still have a ton of room to grow) — https://www.behance.net/trikzdesigns
Landing the job
After over a year of watching Youtube videos, trial and error, and learning on the job doing freelance gigs, I decided that if I really wanted to take my product design career seriously then I needed mentorship and new challenges. The problem with freelance was that it was difficult to get hired to do challenging new tasks that I didn’t already have expertise in. It was much easier to get hired for something that I’d already done which pigeon-holed my growth to some degree.
About a month after moving to Denver I started applying for internships. The reason I wanted an internship was that as I mentioned, I didn’t really have a ton of knowledge on the best practices. I could have been hired right away but I would have been brought on at a lower level than I wanted to be at. I estimated that in a 3-month internship I could learn everything I needed to position myself to be better suited for a role at the company I interned or use my learnings to get hired somewhere else.
An internship is a relatively low risk investment for the company because there’s no commitment and interns are usually cheaper than employees because they don’t receive employee benefits. All of this was fine for me because as a 21 year old I technically should have still been in university, so investing 3 months in my career growth was a good investment in my future. I knew that if I could get my foot in the door, be friendly and show that I was ready to learn then I’d be golden.
After a brief coffee meeting with my now manager, I was offered a 3-month paid internship at my top choice for prospective companies that I applied for.
When my internship started I was brought onto the design team and given challenges tasks to gauge my skillset. After a week or so of learning how to use Sketch, Invision, Principle, and Abstract I was given some work. My initial projects were aspirational improvement ideas to existing client engagements. My design ideas were used to sell new work to existing clients.
In the third month of my internship, I was put on an actual client project. This was the company’s way of telling me that I’d done well enough throughout the internship that they felt I was equipped to start working on actual projects. My first client engagement was creating an aspirational chatbot prototype.
I wrote an article about that process if you’re interested…
At the conclusion of my 3-month internship, I was given a generous offer and accepted. I was officially a full-time member of the team — it was an awesome feeling!
I’ve now been working full time for over 2 months and feel great about the progress that I’ve made. I could write an entire article about the perks and social benefits for me of working for a company compared to freelancing. I enjoy the dynamic much better and like the collaboration aspect of being part of a team.
Serendipity may have played a role in the onset of my product design path but hard work and genuine interest fueled my current and future success. I’m optimistic about my future as a product designer and am excited to keep growing and expanding my skillset in my role