Someone at a job interview, shaking the hand of the interviewer.

4 tips to help you land a job at a design agency

By Ben Walker on 22 February 2019

Just finished studying and looking to land your first job at a design agency? Or perhaps you’re thinking of moving jobs within the industry?

Our Creative Director, Ben Walker, has cast his mind back to those hazy days when he decided to build on his experience and go freelance. Whether you’re looking for a full-time, part-time or freelance role, his tips will hopefully help you along the way…

1. Target the decision-maker

“Firstly, I would phone up an agency, introduce myself as a freelance designer based in Edinburgh and ask if they ever used freelancers. If they said yes, I would ask who the best person was to contact in regard to working with them in a freelance capacity. This meant I knew exactly who I should be addressing within my email, rather than starting with a generic introduction. If, on the other hand, their answer was no, I’d instantly know to say thanks and not waste any more of their time – or, more importantly, my time.

“Once I had the name of the Creative Director or decision maker, I’d send an email with my CV and portfolio asking if they required any freelance cover and if it was possible to arrange a meeting to take them through my portfolio. I’d normally send this email on a Tuesday, as no one wants to receive an applicant’s email on a Monday when their inbox is already full from the weekend.

“I would then follow up that email with a phone call a day or two later, asking to speak with the Creative Director to check they got my email ok, and to see if I could pin them down to a meeting to talk them through my portfolio. Sometimes I’d have to phone three or four days in a row until I eventually got to speak with them, as most Creative Directors are pretty busy.

“If you do eventually organise a face to face meeting, you’ll definitely be much more memorable than you would have been had you just sent them an email. This technique meant I built up a client base of so many agencies that I was eventually turning away work as I was already booked.”

The back of someones head looking at a board of concepts and designs.

2. Tailor your approach and do your research

“At Firefly, we get a large number of emails almost every day from applicants asking for a job. Many of these emails tend to be quite generic, with either a link to their website or with their CV and portfolio attached as a PDF.

“Having been in their position before, and after receiving no response from a number of agencies, I make a point of replying to all our applicants. The applicants that stand out to me the most are those which have clearly researched our agency, and who write a cover letter or email that touches on something unique to Firefly. It could be as simple as saying that you follow us on Instagram and you thought it looked like a great place to work. Although it’s even better if you say that you looked over our website and loved a specific piece of work we did for a client. It’s little things like this that help get a reaction and really grab our attention. If a director receives an obviously generic email, you’ll no doubt be a lot less likely to receive a response.”

3. Print your portfolio

“Another tip to help you really stand out is to send a printed portfolio of your work directly to the agency. You could send this as a brochure with a covering letter or as loose case study sheets in a folder. Either way, you will be sending them something tactile that will sit in their hands and that, as a creative themselves, they will be intrigued to open and look through. I can guarantee this will stand out more than an email which might get lost in their inbox.”

A woman at a desk working on a laptop.

4. Be persistent

“I would also recommend you follow this up with a phone call as I previously described. Sometimes you have to be persistent to actually get the opportunity to meet with someone, and this persistence will pay off in the long run.”

“These are the tips that helped me break into agencies and get that all-important experience I needed to eventually set up Firefly. Whether you’re looking to land yourself a new job or you have hopes of running your own design agency one day, hopefully these simple steps can help you too. Good luck!”

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“I have worked with Ben and his agency for many years, albeit in a paper promotional capacity. After discussions on an internal project, I was thrilled when he offered to produce work for ourselves.

Ben lead the way with concept to design and produced a great piece, Rock-Paper-Scissors. Feedback from our clients has been excellent and lovely to put a smile on faces when they identify the design. I hope to do more work with Firefly in the future.”

Elaine Scott
Key Account Manager

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