Due to the state of affairs – rampant capitalism and an environmental catastrophe – there is an ever growing need for public bodies and people to organise to effect greater change. Be this unionisation or co-ops, volunteer work or community representation. I would like to throw my two pence in to the mix about how a designer can help, as a designer – not a body on the ground.

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In this post I would like to speak a bit about why you should volunteer some of your time, but not necessarily all of the time. A lot of the bigger charities and public bodies have budgets for designers – which is why you should always help the little guy.

Help The Little Guy

Help the little group, the little charitable body, for free – if it is you passion. The bigger charities (Greenpeace, Oxfam, British Heart Foundation) have ample scope to pay their in-house designers. Do not pitch to them unless you are applying for an advertised job.

I recommend you should help out at the local dog sanctuary, your church, the homeless hostel in town, the group of mates trying to change the world, the charity just down the street. Not the big guys.

But, there comes the question “Why should I give my time and skill for nothing?”

“Why Should I Give My Time & Skill For Nothing?”

Fallow tools blunt quick.

If you have a designer’s mind and a designer’s toolset – use them before you lose them. There will be plenty of time in the day to help with the design of someone’s website who will pay for it.

But, how will the potential paying clients who approach you know your ethics and your capabilities? By volunteering your time for small charities, you have a portfolio to show prospective clients. You have all of this amazing charity work behind you that has helped the town that you live in.

Working for the smaller charities in town means that they will receive a professional job that they did not have the budget for – and, it means you will have a portfolio (and references – always ask them to give a reference at the end of the work) to stand you in a good light to potential paying clients.

Harrogate Community Radio

I volunteer my time with Harrogate Community Radio. It is a grassroots enterprise that needed a web presence and a logo – I have just finished building the second version of the Harrogate Community Radio website and you can see it HERE.

The site has a couple of hundred pages – it is one of the bigger websites that I have built.

Because of the size of the website, the station would have been priced out of existence and had to close down. The first incarnation of their website was a cheap, shop-built theme that did not last very long before issues crept in. I helped with that.

Andy Dennis

Andy Dennis is a charity fundraiser working on behalf of MSF (Doctors without Borders). He has a web presence and, whilst I can’t say I designed the site, I do maintain it for him. You can see Andy’s site at www.andy4msf.com.

Word Gets Around

Word gets around – people have contacted me off the back of the charity work I have done enquiring about paid work. I have a portfolio of work that I can show potential clients – I am already doing the jobs the paying clients want me to do. They have the proof I am capable.

It shows you in a good light. If you are giving your time to local charitable bodies, people think the better of you – that is standard. And, you are practicing your trade as you go about it.

If you are just starting out as a graphic designer, or if you are just starting out as a web designer or similar freelancer – reach out to a local charity and start the conversation about volunteer work; you have nothing to lose.

Summing Up

I would say it is a very healthy thing to do; to reach out to charitable bodies and see how you can help them. It helps the body and it helps paying customers see what you are capable of. I will say, treat your volunteer work how you would treat any job – get a contract signed that means they will give you a reference in exchange for the work and that they will let people know you are the person doing the work. Thanks for reading.

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Andrew Backhouse, a skilled independent designer based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, assists small and medium-sized enterprises, well-established brands, and dedicated creative professionals with their website design needs. Have a look at his portfolio and reach out for collaboration.

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