Being a professional graphic designer as a non-native English speaker
Five years ago I was so afraid to even order food in English. Today, I am making money doing graphic design as a freelancer, and I have to talk to clients every day. From my experience on Upwork, I can tell you for sure that there are jobs you will not be able to get because you do not speak English as a native speaker, but you can if you are A GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
It was a slow five year process with many setbacks and many challenges, but now I am writing, speaking and reading in English, almost like a native. Of course, there are times when I misunderstand things, and I make grammar mistakes, but that's ok, I am not perfect! However, I found some ways to help me correct those things so I can be the professional I genuinely am.
I will give you some advice on how I made it where I am, how I am writing blogs.
FIRST OF ALL, LEARN ENGLISH AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. WHAT I DID WAS PICK UP GRAMMAR ENGLISH BOOKS TO HELP ME FIGURE OUT HOW THE BASE WORKS. PICK UP EVERYTHING IN ENGLISH.
Read books, newspapers, and magazines in English. I picked up some books I thought I might enjoy and I read it. I liked reading them on Kobo or iPad because I could easily select a word I didn't know and check its definition.
Watch movies in English without subtitles: At first it will feel so weird and you will probably miss the point many times. If you feel discouraged, you can add English subtitles. I find that I understand better when I read rather than when I listen, mostly because of different accents and voices.
Nobody is expecting a Non-Native English speaker to speak perfect English, but it is necessary to be able to communicate and understand what clients needs are.
Studying for IELTS is very helpful because they offer many studying materials for listening, writing, reading, and speaking.
LEARN THE TERMINOLOGY OF YOUR JOB- MEANING YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO SPEAK GRAPHIC DESIGN.
Learn how to name the tools in English and other terms like a brief, draft, concepts, ideation, vector, raster, etc.
You can do so by reading graphic design articles, watching tutorials, or even reading specialty books.
ASK FOR HELP
If you feel like you can not do it alone and learn English by yourself, ask for help. You can get a tutor online to help prepare for a career that needs a little bit of English. I think it is essential to have somebody to talk in English with. My husband, who is a native English speaker helped me immensely. Just having someone around who I can imitate and who can correct me when I make mistakes helped me improve my English.
It can be pretty expensive, but if you feel like you can not do it by yourself, it is worth the price.
MAKE SURE YOUR PROFESSIONAL TOOLS (SUCH AS RESUME, BLOG AND LINKEDIN PROFILE) ARE ERROR FREE
I struggled so much with this. It was kind of annoying to ask my husband to take a look at everything I wrote (articles, Linkedin profile, resume, portfolio, website) so I just went ahead and posted it, but then I realized that I made some mistakes that only made me look unprofessional.
So, I decided to get somebody to help me with proofreading- a native English speaker of course.
See, there are some jobs you can only hire somebody if they speak English as their first language, proofreading is one. I found somebody in Nova Scotia who will take a look at my written content to make sure that everything looks good.
If you think about it, every respectful magazine and newspaper has its editors and proofreaders, right? Why wouldn't I get this kind of help?
Some would argue that I am deceiving my clients, but I disagree. I make sure I mention up front that I am not a native English speaker and I do not take responsibility for any copywriting or misspellings that might occur during the design process. I only once lost a client because something was misspelled and since then I make sure to make it clear that I am not going to proofread and make sure the text is error-free.
There is nothing wrong with asking somebody to make sure your Upwork profile is error-free or your resume looks perfect. It is wrong to pretend you speak English very well and take responsibility for something you are not capable of doing. A tool I am using is Grammarly- it helps correct any misspelled words, some grammar mistakes but it can sometimes misunderstand a word and its purpose in the phrase. Although it is not perfect, it helps getting done almost 90% of your text.
This post was proofread by Grammarly
ASK MANY QUESTIONS IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND SOMETHING.
I struggled with this. I didn't want to look dumb but trust me, asking questions will only assure success. Ask questions, don't be shy.
I believe that asking questions makes you smarter or at least makes you look smarter. I would, instead, ask dumb questions that would screw up something or make me work double time.
Well, it still happens. It just happened to me last week. I misunderstood the end goal of a project, and I quoted for way less. I offered a compromise, and we will see if the client is willing to meet halfway.
I have been most successful when the clients I work with are very well organized and clear in their end goals. It is crucial for me to work with clients who have a final copy or have an end goal. However, these clients are hard to find.
You must acknowledge it will be harder, but not impossible for you to make a career as a non-native English speaker. You also must celebrate the fact that there are so many resources to learn from and your ability to learn something that is foreign to you.
We both know we will always struggle with English, but that's ok! I’ve heard native English speakers speak broken English and I’ve heard non-natives talk perfect English, so I suggest you give yourself a break and appreciate the fact you were able to learn a second language. That is amazing already!
English is my third language so I am perfectly happy with the way I speak it!