Volunteering as a Creative

Volunteering as a Creative

By: Nicola Sznajder
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There are many creative endeavors that an SFU student can pursue (either as professional or as a hobbyist) ranging from Graphic Design, Web Design, Photography, Film, and so forth. While personal projects are encouraged to help build experience and to add some weight to your portfolio, there is nothing like working with a client or building a project meant for a wider audience other than yourself. Volunteering your services to various individuals and pro bono groups is a great way to obtain a reputation, references, networking skills, and experience working with a range of target audiences. Here are some tips for finding volunteer work and what to keep in mind during your hours.

Where to Look

Start by looking around on any of the SFU campuses either in Symplicity or during clubs day. I was able to volunteer for two magazine clubs as their graphic designer and had my work published. If you feel like a club could use a website upgrade, some help with their logo, or a better video recording of their activities then ask or shoot them an email. If you are confident enough or want to take on a bigger project then check out Go Volunteer for volunteer positions within your city.

Be Kind and Organize Your Files

Some volunteer work will ask you for your raw files so make sure to organize them. In some cases another volunteer will be taking your position and they will look at your previous work. Being organized and labeling everything is also good practice and professional.

Keep Your Sketches

Whether it be your moodboards, storyboards, wireframes, pencil sketches, or any sticky notes it is important to keep track of your creative process and to document it well on your portfolio. Employers like to see your process and that you are a thinker verse just seeing the final product.

Ask for Permission

Remember to always ask your client on what you can or can’t use for your portfolio. Usually they say yes but it is always good to ask and figure out what is confidential.

Get a Reference or a LinkedIn Recommendation

This is something I regret not asking during my time volunteering. If it is a project that you are proud of and you know that a lot of employees will be interested, ask for a short paragraph basically talking about how awesome you are. If you are volunteering for a club or a small group, they might be uncomfortable writing a recommendation simply because they have never had to do one before. At this point, you can list a few skills that you want them to comment on or send some online resources for them to read. 

Posted on June 13, 2014