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I'm working through a free coding camp and building some nice apps as a part of their assignments.

The idea behind the assignments is to get hands on experience with code and to build a portfolio of work. There's a lot of freedom given and it's pretty enjoyable.

My issue is that, though I think I'm doing good work on the coding side and coming up with nice approaches to the projects, my design skills are pretty weak.

I just had an idea - there must be designers out there that also want to build their portfolio but aren't interested in the coding side. They design, I build, we share credit.

So are there? How would I go about finding them?

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There are a couple problems with your grand idea:

  1. Designers don't need to actually build real projects for their portfolio. While it's beneficial to them to have real world projects that are in use, it isn't required. They can create mockups for fake projects just as easily (or difficult) as real ones. It's just the same for you - if you have a product that lots of people use than that's great, but if you don't and you just have some self projects that show your abilities that will often times get you an intro level job anyway.

  2. You're not likely to share goals. Finding people to work with who are passionate about your projects is hard. This is why businesses have to invest so much time and effort into looking for people to hire. It's difficult to find skilled people who also care for the work they will be doing. Also lots of people have their own projects they want to work on, it's hard to convince them to work on your projects instead.

  3. There are likely more entry-level programmers than entry-level designers. These days it's easier to go through a coding bootcamp and call yourself a developer and start making projects than it is to get some actual design training and call yourself a designer. The development market is pretty flooded with entry-level developers right now which means that you're competing not only with designers for what they want to do, but also other developers trying to get aid from the fewer designers.


As such, I recommend doing one of the following instead:

  1. Accepting the non-perfect design you have. You're trying to be a developer; you're applying for developer positions. You know this. The business that you are applying to knows this. They don't expect you to be a great designer nor have projects that always have great designs. Of course it's a plus if you do, but again, it's a plus, not a requirement.

  2. Try to get freelance projects so you can get real work. I recommend this over the first option. By building real projects, you show that you can work with clients, get requirements done, and can work on a schedule in addition to the technical skill that it requires to build the site. It also gets you income which is very valuable as a mortal. That income could even give you enough to outsource to a designer which will get you a much better design than an entry-level designer just trying to build their portfolio if you hire in a good way.

In conclusion, get real work so that you can have real money to hire real designers.

  • Nicely put, I'll go with option 1 for now and work towards option 2 – John Behan Oct 9 '15 at 17:02
  • @JJMax Thanks! You might consider upvoting the post if you found it helpful – Zach Saucier Oct 9 '15 at 17:37
  • If the OP is targeting already the market of freelance & has no desire to be hired by a company as an employee, it's not true that design is secondary. In fact, that's the curse of many dev; they have talent but clients cannot appreciate the beauty of their code... I think @JJMax idea is good to "rebrand" apps, he will have more projects to show rather than waiting for clients; that's his portfolio. What you're suggesting has some contradictions, especially since you mention designers can have fake projects in their portfolio. Dev who want to work need these fake projects as much as designers. – go-junta Oct 9 '15 at 21:16
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    That's definitely a factor, due to location I'm looking at finding a job that allows me to work remotely, but I'm not sure how realistic that goal is given my current skill level and experience at some aspects of dev, so plan b is definitely to get client work, which is possible but if prefer plan a – John Behan Oct 10 '15 at 1:38
  • @go-meek I was addressing the situation the OP is in - that of looking to get a job. As for the "contradiction", I mention that it's the same for devs in my answer - "It's just the same for you" – Zach Saucier Oct 11 '15 at 20:53
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There are, but that's very hard to find.

The main issue is finding a designer or "partner" who has the same goals as you. The most experienced designers will want an appropriate payment for their work and usually already have a bank of clients. They often don't need a portfolio either unless they want to change industry. The youngest ones are often unreliable, are full of short term spark at the start and need a lot of training on pretty much everything, including how to write a proper response by email. And on top of this, it's hard to evaluate what's the value of the coding work that was done versus the design work; if you exchange services, it needs to be fair on both sides.

Then there's the ego; that's a problem for everyone, at different degrees!

From experience, it's easier to hire people, pay them and keep the leader role. It's also easier to fire them and keep some control (and privacy) on your clients' details. Then later when things seem to work fine, a partnership can be created. Consider your offer in a similar way as community work and with similar results; people who work without payment don't feel like they'll owe you anything and won't feel they have responsibility towards the projects, at least not as much as someone who gets paid for it. You could meet community centers managers and ask them about the volunteers rotation, and how it's hard to retain them. You will go through the "enchanted" phase the first few weeks when you'll meet candidates then all the little bugs will appear and you'll realize the person is really not a good fit and maybe even cause you losses.

In most case, when you work with other people, everybody got their own self-interest. If the plan is to share design work to build a portfolio and if there's no money involved, expect people to get what they need and to see them go. Even with a pay check, it's often hard to work with some people since they have a... welfare attitude. If they're not used to make money (eg. new designers), they'll feel rich after cashing $500 and you'll only hear from them once that money got spent (teehee!) The same often happen with part-time freelancers who also have another job; they will not put priority on your projects and you'll always be a #2. If you are alright with this, then it's fine.

How to find good candidates? Hire them, consider them as employees or business relationships and don't get too friendly. Do interviews, find them in your network, do the same process as any other businesses. Hang around places like the InkSpot chat on this Stack or Facebook groups, observe people and then make an offer if you want to work with them. Don't use the formula "free work but full of potential"; that will really turn off the real good designers as they hear that pretty much e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y!

There's tons of good designers but you need to find the ones who have passion for design, motivation (eg. wants to make money), are not idealists and have good social or at least business skills. That's why observing people in your network or infiltrating designers' circles is the best way to find them... in my opinion.

  • Good points but I am having a trouble understanding some of the later paragraphs – Zach Saucier Oct 9 '15 at 16:41
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    Good points and I understand how my request could be viewed as it happens to developers too (been working on backbend dev for a while) namely - "hey I've a great idea for an app, you build it and we'll go 50/50", also points on reliability are very true, thanks – John Behan Oct 9 '15 at 17:00
  • ZachSaucier: You'll need to ask clear question about what you don't understand or live with the confusion! @JJMax Yes indeed, and frankly, I do think the work of the developer is far more demanding than the part of the designer, but some don't see it that way. – go-junta Oct 9 '15 at 21:04
  • 100% agree, good design makes or breaks a project, I freely admit to being bad at it, but I know the attitude out there, to use another anecdote I get the following a lot and it really grinds - "hey, I've a job for you, it's easy, should only take 5 minutes for someone with skills, I'd do it myself but I don't have the time" – John Behan Oct 10 '15 at 1:44

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