Yearbook can feel like a thankless job. Once the yearbook is distributed, there are always people who want to point out typos, or complain about colour choices and other minor objections. No one knows that you spent, on average, what feels like two light-years creating and editing one spread. People who haven’t worked on a yearbook staff don’t realize the number of style guide and publishing rules and details you need to keep track of to do your job.
For fleeting moments, especially surrounding deadlines, you might question what makes yearbooking worthwhile. Some schools can afford to let yearbook staff buy their books at half price, some let staff members get a free book, some yearbook staff get pizza and snacks. So, there’s that.
Pizza and yearbook discounts are great. But one of the best benefits from being on a yearbook staff is not obvious: Since it’s human nature to undercut ourselves and our abilities, you may not realize all the cool skillz you’re now packing… that you could be monetizing!
1. Exclusive InDesign Skill
Most of FutureBook’s schools use InDesign to make their yearbooks because InDesign is the professional industry standard for making graphic stuff and things. If you use our online program, you’ll still learn design principles, photography and journalism—which is great. But, in addition to these, if you know how to use InDesign, you also know how to make business cards, marketing brochures, graphics for websites, posters, invitations and more.
In addition to what you have learned in yearbook, all you really need in order to be a designer of print materials is an account with The Noun Project, InkScape (which turns any illustration into a vector graphic, and it’s a free program), and Adobe Illustrator Draw on an iPad can be helpful, is super-fun, and easy to use. Want to make watercolour graphics? Just use the amazing Waterlogue app. Anything left that you can’t do, you can subcontract out, finding someone on Craigslist or Fivrr.
With every design piece that you make, you have one more item to add to your portfolio. Each of these items can eventually be compiled into a website of your own or into a Dribbble account to which you link from your About.me profile. There are always businesses just starting out, or people getting married or throwing an event on a budget. These people would love to hire a student who is just starting to build a design portfolio for themselves. Build that portfolio and you could be freelancing your way through college or university, instead of working in the service industry (if that’s not your cup of tea). Freelancing is uncertain—you’re always having to find gigs and can easily go through dry spells—but you can work from anywhere, on your own time, at your own rates. Freelancing is empowering as you pursue gigs—gigs available all around the world!—and make your own destiny. (Or at least your own coffee fund.)
How do you get gigs?
Post profiles on oDesk, eLance, and Fiverr. Include examples of things you have made. Make calling cards for friends, make marketing materials for businesses for free and then either stop by to give them the samples or mail the materials to them. Say that you are trying to establish a design portfolio and you’re looking for support within your community. You love X and Y about their business/organization and you want to offer some freebie marketing materials to them in the hopes that they will either want to use it now or that they’ll consider you for another job in the future. If they say that they don’t have the money and don’t anticipate having it in the future, ask them if they would at least take a few of your (awesomely designed) amazing business cards, and rave about you to their friends and customers. Who doesn’t want to help out an earnest, hardworking young person trying to become independent and successful? Unconscious people in hospital beds. I can’t think of anyone else.
2. Ahead of the Curve in Job Application
Even if you don’t end up using your yearbook knowledge and the skills you’ve learned to do freelance design work, you are learning how to use programs that intimidate most people. If you ever get an office job, especially at a non-profit organization or a new business, knowing how to use InDesign and PhotoShop will give you an advantage over other job applicants. Every office and business needs someone who knows how to use these programs.
So, if deadlines are stressful right now, and if you’re debating joining yearbook again next year, we hope you’ll stick with it. Not because we would love to work with you again (which we would!) and not because your advisor is really hoping that you’ll bring that knowledge and experience back for the benefit of next year’s book, but as an investment into your own future. Good luck!
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