How Even Non-Creative Types Can Work From Home and Make Great Money as a Freelance Direct Mail Graphic Designer
By Valerie Young
The following article originally appeared in The Changing Course Newsletter.
My first introduction to the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) was through their Six Figure Copywriting course. Since then, I’ve become somewhat of an evangelist about the opportunities available in the copywriting and direct marketing field as well as the marketing necessity of using professional copywriters to promote a new or existing business.
Now AWAI has come out with a new course I’m equally excited about. The name of the course is Graphic Design Success.
I’ll be perfectly honest. When Lori Appling called to tell me they’d launched a graphic design course that teaches people design skills specific to the direct mail industry, my first thought was, how different can designing for direct mail be from other kinds of design work like websites or corporate brochures? As I soon learned, not only are the differences very real, but if you work for yourself like I do, these skills can make the difference between making money… or not.
In planning last summer’s Making Dreams Happen workshop, the one expense I knew I wasn’t going to scrimp on was the marketing copy. So I hired one of the best, Jennifer Stevens. Jen’s not only a freelance copywriter but as the brains behind the AWAI’s Travel Writing course, I knew she was experienced at promoting events.
Jen did a great job doing what copywriters do — using words to sell a product or service — in this case, a four-day workshop and retreat. When it came time to have Jen’s words laid out in a four page mailer, she recommended a direct mail designer named Catherine who lives and works out of her home in Ireland. At this point I was trying to save wherever I could, so I found a local designer named Tom (not his real name) who offered to do the job for less. What a mistake.
Don’t get me wrong. Tom is clearly a talented designer. But the fact that he knew so little about direct marketing made the whole process take twice as long. Worse, if it hadn’t been for Jen’s astute eye, Tom’s design would have ended up costing me sales. Why?
If I learned anything during my corporate marketing days, it’s that most designers think of themselves as graphic “artists” first and marketers second. Being creative types, most designers are concerned with one thing — how the piece looks. Many never consider whether the design will help or hinder the sales process. One of the designers on staff came up with a brochure filled with text that was not only light gray but a barely readable 9 point type size. “But it’s so hard to read,” I said. “Yes,” she cooed, “but doesn’t it LOOK fabulous?!”
Tom was no exception. Despite very clear instructions from Jen that the mailer was to be laid out letter form, his first design came out looking more like a corporate brochure. Given the whole point of the workshop was to help people escape world of cubicles and commuting, this wasn’t at all the look I was going for.
But when I really got the difference between a graphic artist and a direct mail graphic designer was when Tom was laying out the order page. Jen had told Tom to put the special early bird registration price inside of a red star burst. The artist in him balked, insisting that “star bursts look so… tacky.”
What Jen — and anyone knowledgeable about what works (and doesn’t) in direct marketing — understood that Tom clearly didn’t, was that star bursts do exactly what they’re intended to do — draw the reader’s eye to an offer that will entice them to buy. I don’t know about you, but as someone who makes their living as an entrepreneur, I’ll take selling something over artistry any day.
That very week I called Lori to get a copy of their graphic design course so I could see it for myself. I was really impressed with what I saw. I could go on and on, but instead let me tell you the eight reasons why I like the Graphic Design Success course:
- It’s good. The course was put together by some of the best minds in the industry. Two key course advisors were Ray Holland and Roger C. Parker. Ray used to be the art director for a huge direct marketing company. Roger has written over 30 books including Looking Good in Print, One Minute Designer, and Design for Dummies. Over a million and a half copies of Roger’s books are in print in 37 languages.
- The course teaches practical — and in demand — skills. According to the course designers, “the goal of direct marketing graphic design is to have every design feature do a specific job. For your design to help sell any product or service, you’ll need to know two things: First, who you’re trying to sell to. Second, how design affects the selling process.” Direct response advertising, or direct marketing, is a $1.86 trillion industry. People who know how to design for this growing industry are in demand.
- Anyone can do it. You don’t need to be gifted in either art or graphic design. All you need is a computer with Microsoft Word and a willingness to learn what’s “good” and “bad” design from a sales perspective.
- It’s literally a “business in a box.” In addition to getting all the design skills you need, the course dedicates an entire section to how to sell your services and get your first client. It’s one of the few businesses I know of that can start generating income in as little as six weeks.
- It’s highly affordable. Not only that, but if you can’t pay it all upfront, you can pay in installments starting at $39/month.
- You can work from home. Do you remember Catherine from Ireland? Turns out she works part-time from home for clients in Ireland as well as the US. She says: “I work overlooking my tulip and lily beds. I am reminded of my freedom every time the breeze blows through the window.” Catherine receives all of her work by fax and email. She cuts and pastes it on her computer, and then changes it around to make it readable. Then she emails the completed job back to her client.
- You can learn at your own pace. Since the course is broken up into 11 installments, it can fit into your busy schedule allowing you to learn at your own pace without getting overwhelmed.
- Last, but not least, you can make an excellent income. Top designers earn over $200,000 a year. At $60 to $85 an hour, even a beginner can make very good money even part-time.
I endorse this course whole heartedly. Learn more about the Graphic Design Success course itself, as well as the very real earnings potential of becoming a direct mail graphic designer.