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Now… How Do I Get There?

1 April, 2009

For a twentysomething from a small town living in a big city, trying to figure out her place in the world, at least I know where I want to go and what I want to do in my life (which is more than I can say for many). My Five Year Plan includes the following goals: become a freelance graphic designer and web developer, buy a house within half an hour’s drive of the ocean, rescue a dog from the shelter. Now… how do I get there?

For some time now, I have been contemplating going back to school. Like most people my age with motivation and drive, I find that I know very little in comparison to what I could and possess less skills than desired. But with the economy in a recession and my student loans from a private undergraduate institution still yet to be paid off entirely, I find the concept of spending money on more education less than appealing. In addition, I work a full time job and commute about an hour each way to work, which means it would be hard to find classes that would both be affordable and convenient.

I have done a little research on taking classes online, but in doing so have found that I might as well just teach myself. The field I want to go into lends itself well to self-teaching with various media, including books, online tutorials, and trial and error process.

In college, I started off using Gimp with no instruction. I mostly learned to use it by playing with it in my own spare time. I graduated to Photoshop after a while, but again had no instruction. I learned how to use some of the program, but had never been properly instructed on how to use the software until someone spent a few hours tutoring me on it yesterday. Following Grace Smith’s blog post on Insanely Useful Photoshop Tips & Tutorials and many discussions with Grace and other designers and developers in the field via Twitter, I started to wonder… what if I could teach myself all the skills I need to become a freelance graphic designer and web developer?

In addition to the links posted on Grace Smith’s blog, there are a whole host of other links that I have now bookmarked in my del.icio.us account. Of course, this list that I have compiled thus far is nowhere near exhaustive and some tutorials and tips are better than others. However, with the wealth of information shared on the internet and with an investment in a few printed materials (books, periodicals), it seems to me to be plausible.

Are you someone who self-taught? Do you wish you had? What are the pros/cons of self-teaching in a field like graphic design and web development?

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