Making Money with your Adobe Skills: A Pep Talk for Students

by Maksim Starubinskiy

posted on 07-20-2018

When you’re a student, the thought of making money with your skills can feel light-years away. We know because literally every top designer at Adobe was once exactly where you are now. (And at risk of sounding like your parents, we’ve been around for a minute.)

But we have really good news: you’re probably more ready than you think.

Over the last month, we talked with current students from around the world who are making money doing creative work that they love (more on their stories later). And the gist of what we learned from them is staggering in its simplicity:

You have a creative skill.

There are people who want to pay money for your skill.

You should let them pay you money.

Could it really be that simple? Actually, yeah, it can. The secret is getting out of your own way first.

Here’s what we mean: because you’re in school and still honing your craft, it’s easy to buy into a laundry list of reasons why you shouldn’t pursue a side hustle (or even a main hustle) with your Adobe skills.

Between real students’ stories and our own meandering experience, we’re going to debunk some of the common things that are holding students back. If some of these are a little triggering, trust us, you’re not alone.

“My portfolio isn’t done!”****

Here’s a pro trip that’s as maddening as it is true: your portfolio is never done. And as long as you are a creative person, you will always be a work in progress. So if you’re waiting for a permission slip, know that you’ll be waiting forever.

“What’s-their-name on IG is already killin’ it.”

There’s a lame idea floating around that if someone else is already successful at the thing you want to do, then you can’t do it, too. We just Googled it and there are 7.6 billion people on this planet. The idea that there’s only room for one successful photographer/illustrator/designer/filmmaker is completely bonkers. The math just doesn’t check out. So, what should you do about successful-seeming IG person? Learn from them if you can, but unfollow if you must.

“I don’t know how to find clients.”** **

If the prospect of finding a paying client seems intimidating, take comfort in the fact that small is the only way to start (like “mom’s best friend’s son’s girlfriend is selling candles on Etsy and has 100 bucks to spend on a new logo” kind of small). Once you get one in the bag, you have something even more valuable than another portfolio piece — you have something to talk about. Once you have that, you’ll feel the gravitational pull of the universe doing its thing, and you’ll be on your way to the next paying client — like a snowball that gets bigger as it rolls down a hill.

“I don’t have much experience, so I should always work for free.”

Eager student connects with a potential client in need of their creative skills. Portfolios are shared. Projects and timeline are discussed. Everything seems to be going great. The student is psyched, until suddenly, it’s not great, and they’re less psyched.

What happened? Money happened. Or rather, money didn’t happen.

The client asked if the student would do it for free, to get more experience, and reluctantly, the student obliged. Sound familiar?

At the beginning of your career, experience is crucial. But that doesn’t mean you’re less deserving of being paid for your work. Regardless of the opportunity, always lead with the expectation that you will be compensated. If it turns out the client has other plans, take a hard look at how much of your time the job will take, how valuable the experience is, and decide accordingly.

“Yeah, but negotiating my rate seems awkward.”

Ah, money. We all need it. We all want it. But everyone hates talking about it. The sooner you learn how to take the awkwardness out of negotiating, the better off you’ll be in the long run. There’s no delicate way to say this: you just have to start doing it. We found that once we ripped the Band-Aid off, it’s really not so bad. And as you get more practice, it actually feels really good.

So there you have it, a good old-fashioned pep talk. But wait — there’s more. All summer long we’ll be posting Q&A’s from students who are making money with their Adobe skills right now, so stay tuned for more inspo from your peers. But in the meantime, the world is already waiting for your talent, so get out there. You’re worth it.

Topics: Creativity