I talk with James Silverwell about opportunities working as a newbie designer and being freelance

How did you find the role, what brought you to working in UI and UX?

For me I started off being interested in art and design then graphic design. Design is all about communication so I had to learn basic principles of user experience as an interactive web designer, learning the rules to break and challenge them. My aim is always to make something aesthetically pleasing with a logical and usable approach.

What does a standard work day entail for you, how does this change depending on whether you’re a junior or a senior in your field?

If you’re a junior in a full time position you’ll be trying to gain as much experience as possible, that might mean watching how to construct a piece of design, understanding rules of typography and grids, basic colour theory, creating an impact in your work wherever possible. As a senior you’ll have fine tuned your experience and know how to deliver and communicate your work to clients, be commercially aware and share your knowledge by mentoring others.

How computer based are you and how much interaction do you have with people?

When I was working full time I was in a team which had advantages because you can bounce ideas, rationalise your thoughts and integrate as a team member, especially at a junior level. I’m a full time freelancer, business owner and self taught designer and I do collaborate with clients face to face over a video call these days, but there is a lot of face to face collaboration where you sell your ideas back to clients and integrate with other team members on specific projects.

How often do you work in a team on the same project?

A lot of the time I get approached by companies for expertise of which they may have a team of developers / designers. I get to work with them but for me the key difference is that most of the time I will lead on projects, give direction and communicate with developers for hand off of work.

Is this a role which allows perks such as flexible working, hybrid working and maybe even a shorter working week?

Absolutely, being a UX UI designer, or whatever title you choose to brand yourself as, gives you the flexibility to work where and when you want, especially as a freelancer. The main aspect that gives you freedom is being the expert and having the experience to attract clients for a variety of work and being in control of your time, if you get a good work-life balance and know how to be in control of a budget, I’d class that as being successful.

Is it a job that allows for working abroad, are there any opportunities in demand in other countries?

Yeah, you could gain a client base in the UK and take things abroad if you wish, I get enquiries via my site, but you also can use job boards like Upwork to get started. The thing I find with that approach is that you’re in competition with a lot of other designers that would be willing to undercut you, try and create your own brand, get good at SEO and get clients to come to you.

I’m looking at a career change and want to start developing my skills, what would you recommend I do and in what order – events, courses, tutorials, work placements?

Firstly, understand what you want to be good at and choose the thing that you enjoy the most. If it’s design, get on YouTube and watch some tutorials and start using software like Figma (it’s free). Start designing a mock up of an app, create a pretend brief and start to build your own website. Use it to make opportunities come to you or use what you create as a platform to apply for your first job.

What qualifications do I need from my current position in order to be competitive in the job market for this role?

I did an Art and design degree years ago, but Google some courses and build or design something from what you learn. Employers or clients need to see evidence that you have experience, so you need to spend some time learning about UX, Art, Design or Web development before you can move forward.

What software and tools will I need to get started? Is it costly?

For design Figma is free and probably the best tool on the market for UX UI design. I’ve no real development experience.

Is there an element of ‘natural ability’ required for this?

If it’s design, it can be self taught but I’ve always liked drawing from an early age and been a visual person, which is what led me into the design field.

Once I’ve got some studying under the belt and I’m ready to start looking for work, what kind of roles should I be looking for, are there junior / freelance opportunities?

You need experience before becoming a freelance designer. Freelance is about knowing how to articulate a problem and delivering the best solution, how to market yourself, understanding budgets and being good with communication, it’s the full package and only experience can help you make the right decisions.

Lastly, Pay! What are the scales working in the UK? What variables are there I need to look out for?

As a junior you could be on £20k, mid weight £40-50K, senior £70k+, freelance £100k+



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