Dennis Rome Proves You Can Really Make a Living in Graphic Design
Can you REALLY make a living as an AWAI-trained graphic designer?
Yes you can – and there's probably nobody better to tell you how than Dennis Rome.
IFD: Dennis, tell us about what attracted you to graphic design.
DR: I'm a native of southern Louisiana – right in the middle of Cajun country near Baton Rouge – where I've run a successful computer consulting business for 15 years.
I've been interested in design and layout for a long time, but aside from personal projects I didn't have any real experience. Before starting the AWAI course, I did a Christmas newsletter every year and I always looked forward to that! Back in 2003, I was looking for a way to expand my skills. So when I got the DM piece about AWAI's Graphic Design course, I jumped at the opportunity.
IFD: How long did it take you to go through the course?
DR: About 5 months. It didn't take long, because I was very motivated to get going professionally.
IFD: What was the most important thing you took away from the course?
DR: Other than the core information,it was discovering that there's a real need for direct-marketing designers – and that there's no better place to get started than with AWAI. The staff was very helpful. I really appreciate their recommending the Design Bootcamp and mentoring programs to me. Both made a huge difference in my career.
IFD: You started working professionally before you finished the course. Tell us about that.
DR: As I was approaching the end of the course, I knew I needed to learn how to promote myself. Bob Bly had a "Selling Yourself as a Copywriter" course, so I contacted him and asked if I could use the same principles to promote my graphic design business. Most of my questions revolved around how to market myself, what to charge, and the like – so, of course, the answer was “yes.”
Bob could see that I was ambitious and wanted to get my business going. So one day, out of the blue, he called me. He asked if I'd be interested in doing a few small projects for him. The first was a special report he wanted as a premium.
After I sent the final design to Bob, he called and told me he liked it and had seven more projects for me. I was on my way! Those projects turned into several more, which turned into referrals to other people he knows … and a great testimonial from Bob.
IFD: What projects are you working on now?
DR: Several: A full direct-mail package. A paperback book & cover design. 3D e-book covers for another client. And several premiums for a vitamin supplement company.
IFD: Are you designing full-time now?
DR: My design business brings in about 75% of my income now. The other 25% comes from computer work. But I plan to go into design full-time very soon. It pays a lot better … and designing is far more fun than dealing with computer woes.
IFD: What have you done to get clients?
DR: Most come through referrals from satisfied clients. I recommend that students use the self-promo strategies discussed in the Graphic Design course and that Bob reveals in his teleconferences. Do a stellar job early on. Word gets out about the caliber of your work.
IFD: What's the most exciting thing that has happened in your design career so far?
DR: Working with a mentor –in my case, one of the top pros in the world! And getting a printed copy of a 228-page paperback book and cover that I designed. I even got an autographed copy for my portfolio. That was really exciting!
IFD: Before we go, any other words of advice for our students?
DR: That's pretty simple. The best way to get your design career off to a fast start is to give the course assignments your very best effort.
I still have my AWAI assignments as part of my portfolio. Just last week, a very experienced copywriter asked about an 8-page sales letter in my samples. I had to confess that it was a class assignment. He liked it and said it was great work!
IFD: Students and potential clients can learn more about your work at www.romegraphics.com. Thank you very much for your time.
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