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Josh Sharpe smiles at the camera in a park setting

Josh
Sharpe

United Kingdom
My first and second year gave me the foundations I needed within design, but [my placement year] was the first real instance of using those tools in the real world.

More about Josh

Josh studied BA Product Design, and graduated in 2016. He is now working successfully within graphic design, including starting his own freelance business. We caught up with him to reflect on his time at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), and see what he’s up to now.

Q: Why did you choose to study at NTU?

My college recommended the university, and in particular the course. I’m also passionate about sports and the facilities at NTU were excellent. Despite being five hours away from where I lived, I felt the university and city would be the best move for me and I quickly settled in.

Q: What did you learn – both inside and outside of lectures?

Looking back, the biggest learning curve I had was my placement year. My first and second year gave me the foundations I needed within design, but this was the first real instance of using those tools in the real world. I quickly learnt how much I could get done in a full day’s work, and it was funny to think how relatively easy the workload was in my first two years compared. This understanding of myself and what I could achieve was brought into final year where I challenged myself to strive for the best I could possibly achieve.

Q: What does your current day involve?

It’s difficult to say. One day I could be working on the layout of a new platform whilst simultaneously producing promotional banners and artwork. Another day I could be spending more time on freelance projects that span across multiple industries. But boiling it down, I will receive various requests for creative assets or consultations which I then apply my expertise to complete. I manage expectations and provide feedback for ideas brought forward to me. I feel it’s important to discuss projects with clients as sometimes they might be asking for something they don’t need and missing something they do. Being able to advise and provide better solutions has allowed me to form healthy business relationships that result in repeat work; this is one of the most important things when running a freelance business.

Q: What attracted you to this field of work?

When I was younger, I wanted to be an architect. I spent some time thinking about what it was I liked about the career path. I discovered that it wasn’t designing buildings that drew me to the job, but the freedom to create and be able to physically see the work I produced. With graphic design, the turnaround on projects can vary between minutes and months, and the variety of work is what attracts me most to this field of work.

Q: What have been the highlights and biggest challenges of your career so far?

Personally, a highlight for me is when a client recommends my services to someone new. On multiple occasions I’ve had ex-colleagues reach out to me, asking if I could work on freelance project with them. The fact people who have worked with me and know the work I produce, value me so highly as to recommend me to their new employers, gives me a lot of confidence and belief in my own ability.

Starting something new, like a freelance business, is challenging and requires a lot of patience and resilience. We’re constantly seeing big success stories on social media. The reality is that these stories are few and far between, and just continuing to chase your goals is an accomplishment in itself.
I have sent hundreds of speculatory emails to businesses, but it was difficult to show my worth when starting from scratch. I began to attach small concept ideas or artwork that I could imagine producing for them. It showed that my interest in them was genuine and that my work would really benefit their company. Even if it didn’t always guarantee work, it did increase responses and generate interest in what I was doing. It’s hard to prove you can do something unless you’re given the opportunity, but sometimes you have to make the opportunity for yourself.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

I am currently in the process of deciding my permanent employment. I have had an offer to start somewhere new, but it is also my intention to accelerate my freelance business to one day becoming my main income. There are different ways to do this but the one I’m most comfortable with is slowly building up the pool of clients. Many entrepreneurs would say it’s important to never be comfortable and to take risks, but being pragmatic and analysing associated risks is fundamental when securing your future. It’s important, most of the time, to walk before you can run

Q: If you had a time machine, what would you go back and tell yourself at uni?

Other than several sporting results that’ll happen in the future, I’d say to just make the most of the time I’ve got in the bubble that is university. I was fortunate to not have to work while at NTU and there will never be a time in my life where I had as little responsibility and as much freedom. The combination of those two things gives you time and when you have time, you can make decisions on your future with a clear head and without the pressures that are yet to come.

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