10 People Every Aspiring Designer Should Follow on Twitter

When you’re learning design skills, one of the most important things you can do is to surround yourself with inspiration on daily basis. Sometimes that means going down a never-ending hole of YouTube tutorial videos or taking a walk around your city, but one of the easiest ways to see a diverse set of design styles every day is by curating your social media feeds. The creative world in particular is incredibly active on Twitter, so if you want to become a part of the design community, Twitter is a great place to start. We’ve put together a list of 10 awesome people that everyone aspiring designer should follow on Twitter, so that every time you subconsciously click the Twitter button on your phone, you’ll be engulfed in a world of inspiration and new ideas.

Jessica Hische

Jessica is an acclaimed lettering artist whose work you’ve probably seen all over the place, even if you didn’t realize it was hers. Her style spans from typefaces to postcards to logos. If you’re curious about the business of lettering and want to see how one of the greats got to where she is now, definitely add her to your list. She also has an amazing course on Skillshare if you’re hungry for more!

Meg Lewis

Meg is a designer and the founder of Ghostly Ferns, a Brooklyn-based creative studio. Her work is friendly and diverse, and she’s an amazing person to follow if your dream is working for yourself or opening up your own studio (or if you want to catch her infectious positive vibes). She also happens to have some amazing intro Skillshare classes for new designers.


Alright, this isn’t actually one person but is instead an amazing list of HUNDREDS of incredible women in the design community. The brainchild of Jules Forrest, a designer at Sequoia, WomenWhoDesign is an incredible filterable site showcasing the most inspiring women in the creative community, from Founders to Illustrators to Art Directors.

Fabio Sasso

Fabio is a multi-faceted creative who brings new meaning to the phrase ‘multi-tasker’. He simultaneously runs the gorgeous design inspiration site Abduzeedo while also serving as a design lead for Google Play. His Twitter feed is an inspiring wall of constant design inspiration as he features the work of dozens of designers and illustrators every week.

Jared Erondu

Jared is the Head of Design at Lattice and an unstoppable force in the design community. Despite a busy work life, he is constantly releasing a steady stream of exciting new projects like Playbook and the High Resolution podcast for the creative community. If you’re a new or aspiring designer looking to draw inspiration from someone who’s accomplished so much so quickly, Jared is the perfect person to add to your follow list!

Hayden Aube

Hayden is a vector illustrator and designer who has worked for a number of clients around the world and now devotes a large portion of his time to teaching aspiring designers the basics, from Vector Design to Adobe Illustrator to Character Design. He puts out weekly “Creative Nibbles” on his Twitter feed designed to teach basic digital design skills in a short period of time. You can also chat with Hayden via his RookieUp mentor page if you want some personal feedback or advice!

Rogie King

Rogie’s work really speaks for itself. Just take a quick glance at his design work for AI social media scheduling tool Yalabot or the wildly unique design of his personal portfolio site, and you’ll be hooked. His “collaborative funhouse” project Super Team Deluxe is the cherry on top of an amazing repertoire of work every young designer should check out!

Dann Petty

Dann is a freelance designer who spends as much time giving back to the community as he does designing! His impressive career has taken him to companies like Google, Airbnb, and Medium, and he recently launched Freelance.TV, a project where he traveled 10,000 miles across the United States interviewing freelancers about their experiences. Dann is a must-follow for any aspiring freelancer!

Kristy Tillman

Kristy is the Head of Communication Design at Slack and the creator of TomorrowLooksBright, a creative resource and newsletter for Black women around the world. Somehow she still has time to volunteer on the Steering Committee of Code2040, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing access and opportunities in the tech industry for women of color everywhere. Kristy’s Twitter feed is a nonstop tour de force of design thinking and ideas, and is an awesome source of inspiration for anyone looking to break into tech!

Evan Eckard

Evan is a freelance digital designer and illustrator with over 20 years of experience creating amazing design work for clients around the world. Evan runs Adobe’s weekly livestream on YouTube and devotes a huge amount of his time to helping young designers improve their work. He also offers 1-on-1 mentorship if you want to schedule individual video chats with him to get feedback on your work and boost your design game.

Tina Roth Eisenberg

Tina has done it all. From running the highly successful design blog Swiss Miss to starting the designy temporary tattoo company Tattly and building Creative Mornings into a global creative event community, looking at her list of accomplishments can be downright exhausting! Which is why she’s an absolutely essential person for anyone looking to build a career in the creative industry to follow. Her story is hugely inspirational and she’s a constant source of inspiration, especially if you’re interested in building a creative business from scratch!

Dan Mall

Dan is a creative director and entrepreneur whose list of accomplishments ranges from co-founding SuperBooked, a tool that helps you find gigs from people in your network, to SuperFriendly, a unique creative agency focused on helping global brands connect with their customers through beautiful design. Dan is constantly being interviewed by podcasts, YouTube shows, and more, so if you’re looking for design tips from one of the greats, check out his feed for a never-ending sea of inspiration.

Daniel Howells

Daniel is a web designer + developer who has designed gorgeous web experiences for clients like YCN. He’s also the creator and curator of web design inspiration site Site Inspire. If you’re an aspiring web designer interested in the intersection of design and development, or just want to have your feed filled with gorgeous websites every day, Daniel is a great guy to follow!

Nick Kennedy

Nick is background painter and designer who works at Disney Interactive and has spent the better part of a decade as an illustrator in the entertainment industry. Nick’s whimsical style will inspire even the most grid-focused of designers and probably make you want to go watch Moana again. He’s also an active participant in the illustration community on Twitter, so his page is a gateway to work by dozens of other amazing artists. You can also schedule 1-on-1 mentor chats with Nick here!


Okay, who are we kidding? We couldn’t stop at just 10 (if you were counting, there are actually 13 amazing creatives in this list)! Twitter is a treasure trove for aspiring designers, and it’s easy to get lost for hours discovering incredible artists and creators around the world. If you’re looking to follow even more awesome people on Twitter, just do a quick search on the site for titles like “Illustrator” or “Designer” and filter by ‘People’ and you’ll be greeted by a never-ending list of the awesome creatives who make Twitter their main destination online. If you’re an aspiring designer looking to get some personalized help, check out the Design Mentors on RookieUp, a platform we built to make it easy for you to chat with successful creatives who can help you achieve your creative goals!

How to Choose the Perfect Design Mentor for Your Creative Career

Choosing a professional mentor can be one of the most impactful decisions you’ll make in your career, but it can also be one of the most difficult. In a lot of ways, finding a mentor is like choosing a new home — there are a ton of factors that should go into your decision process, you’ll probably evaluate a lot of different options before finding the perfect fit, and making the right decision can have a pretty strong impact on your life. Whether you want to find an online mentor or an in-person mentor, there’s a lot to think about.

Like finding a new home, it’s also important to remember that the more time you spend figuring out what traits in a mentor are most important for you, the more quickly you’ll be able to find someone who is the perfect fit to help you achieve your creative goals. However, unlike finding a new home, choosing the wrong mentor can also be a huge waste of time to your mentor. So let’s look at a few of the qualities you should be evaluating when looking for a mentor, so that when you find your mentor you’ll be set up for success.

What are your mentorship goals?

One of the first things you should consider when thinking about your ideal mentor is pretty simple: what do you want to get out of it? Are you very early in your creative career and want a mentor to help you learn the concepts and technical skills you’ll need to progress, or are you a bit more settled and are looking for someone to help you plan your next 5 years? Write down a list of your 3-5 top goals before reaching out to any potential mentors. A few main goals could be:

  • Find a new job or figure out your career path
  • Get feedback on your recent work or portfolio
  • Master technical skills or understand basic design concepts
  • Improve your portfolio and prep for interviews
  • Learn from someone on-the-job via apprenticeship
  • Understand a new industry / career path
  • Learn about freelancing and how you can transition to a full-time freelancer
  • Share frustration and get advice for moving past issues at work


After figuring out your main goals, you’ll want to decide what seniority you want your mentor to have in their industry. Depending on where you are in your career and what you want to achieve, a more junior mentor might be more beneficial than a more senior mentor.

  • Junior Mentors – If you’re just getting started in your career and are looking to improve your basic skillset, understand design concepts and fundamentals better, or understand the best way to get your foot in the door, a mentor with just a few years of experience might be perfect.
  • Mid-level Mentors – If you’ve been working as a creative for a short amount of time or are graduating from design school and want to find a mentor who can guide you through your first few years on the job, a more mid-level mentor might be ideal. Someone who was in your shoes a few years ago and can help you navigate the potential pitfalls young designers make early in their careers. A mid-level mentor might also be perfect if you’re looking to move into freelancing or launch your own creative business, as they’ve likely had to work very hard to build their own independent careers and can help with lesser-known tricks and strategies.
  • Senior Mentors – If you’ve been working in the field for more than a few years and are looking to get to the next level, you should likely try to find a senior mentor with 10+ years experience in the industry. Similarly, if you’re a younger creative looking for someone who has extensive experience reviewing portfolios and doing interviews, speaking with a senior mentor as you get ready to look for jobs could be hugely impactful.


Finding a mentor in your industry, or the industry you want to enter, is one of the most important things to think about. Figure out what type of career you’re interested in and structure your mentor search around that.

  • Freelancing – Finding freelance design mentors might seem daunting since they don’t work for a single company and therefore are a bit harder to track down, but luckily, Twitter is an amazing tool for finding freelancers around the world.
  • Agency – If you want to work for a design agency or studio, check out resources like Biddlist for lists of the top agencies. Find an agency whose work you like and reach out to a few employees there!
  • In-house – You might want to work in-house for the design team at a larger brand or company. For more traditional companies, LinkedIn is the golden standard for finding employees by company name and job title.
  • Startups – If you’re trying to get into the startup game, check out sites like Angel where you can filter and search by industry and then find employees who work there.


One of the most important similarities you and your mentor should have is a common background. Finding someone who has been in your exact shoes before and already gone through the process of launching their career is tantamount to having a super power. They’ve already made mistakes and can help ensure you don’t make the same ones. A few things to look for in terms of mentor background:

  • Did they switch industries? If you’re trying to switch into a totally new industry, finding someone who understands how to get their foot in the door can be hugely beneficial
  • Did they previously work in the same industry as you? If so, they probably know how to position your existing skillset to help you get a job and they can help you figure out which of your existing skills will be most beneficial in your new career
  • Did you go to the same school? If you went to the same school, they likely know at least a few folks in their field who also went to your school. As antiquated as the college network can feel in the modern world, it is still useful since people love social proof.


Depending on what industry you’re trying to break into, location can be a very important factor to consider. Think about your goals and decide whether you need an in-person mentor or whether a digital relationship is enough!

  • Mentors who live in your city: There’s no denying that finding a mentor who lives near you makes things a lot easier. Not only is it easier to feel connected to your mentor when you actually see them in person, but they’re also more likely to have connections to companies and other professionals in your city, which is important if you’re looking for a full-time job
  • Remote mentors: The benefits of remote mentors are also pretty strong. It’s generally easier and less burdensome for a mentor to dial into a quick video that than it is for them to meet for coffee for an hour. Additionally, if you’re looking for a remote or freelancing job, having a mentor in your city isn’t necessary at all.

How do you actually find your mentor?

After narrowing down your criteria for the perfect mentor, what next? Luckily there are a huge number of ways to find your mentor, whether you want an in-person mentor in your city or are looking for a digital mentor. At a high-level, here are the best ways to find your mentor:

In-person mentors

  • First of all, leverage your networks! Look on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and every other network you have to find people already working in the roles and companies that you’d kill to work for.
  • Go to meetups in your city and become an active contributor in the creative community around you.
  • Apply to mentorship programs like those organized by AIGA.

Digital mentors

  • Engage in online communities. Check out groups like The Designers League, which have very active communities of amazing designers around the world.
  • Post your work on dribbble and Behance
  • Follow designers you like on Twitter and Instagram and engage with them. After a while, shoot them a private note to ask if they’d be open to a quick Skype chat.
  • Check out online mentorship platforms like RookieUp, where you can easily set up video mentor sessions with a community of experienced designers.

So now write down your goals based on the criteria above. After that, if you’re looking for more detailed tips on the best way to find your mentor, check out this article on finding a mentor! Then get out there and start testing the mentorship waters. It can be a lot of work, but we promise that the benefits are worth it.

How to Get Your First Freelance Design Clients

So, you’ve spent months (or years) honing your design skills with the goal of building a new creative career you love. Now that you’ve mastered every technique, taken every class, and built a nice portfolio of sample projects, you’re ready to turn your skill into a sustainable freelancing career and get your first freelance design clients.

But now what? How do you find your first paying clients with no actual client work to show? How do you convince people you don’t know to hire you and pay you for your work? We chatted with a few of the design mentors at on-demand mentorship service RookieUp for their tips on how to find your first freelance clients and grow a freelancing career. Hayden Aube is an illustrator and designer who’s worked for clients around the world, and Rich Armstrong is a UX Designer who runs his own freelance studio in Amsterdam. Both of these awesome designers have amazing experience starting from nothing and building full-time freelance careers.

Put together a portfolio of projects you’ve worked on. Don’t have enough projects? Create some more!

One of the most important things in your arsenal is a portfolio. Not only is this likely to be a potential client’s first impression of you, but it’s an easy way to showcase your strengths and let clients know what type of work you’re most interested in. If you’re just getting started, you likely won’t have much client work to showcase in a portfolio, which is fine. Hayden recommends that “while you’re looking for those real projects, make up some of your own. Not only will this improve your abilities and bolster your portfolio, but it will have you ready to go once the projects do come in.”

To figure out the best sorts of projects to work on when you’re building up your portfolio, think about what aspects of design interest you the most and focus your projects around this. After all, the work you showcase on your portfolio is likely the work you’ll have the easiest time selling to new clients. Rich confirms this approach, suggesting to “include only work you want to do more of in your portfolio.” After all, if a client is going to hire you, they want to know you’ve done similar work before, even if it is just from personal projects.

Whether or not you should provide in-depth written explanations of your process for each portfolio piece is hotly-debated in the design community. If you’re a visual designer, your work should speak for itself and should do the work of hooking people on its own. However, if you’re a UX designer, a case study might be more important. Regardless, focus on surfacing your best work as quickly as possible and don’t showcase anything that isn’t up to your highest standards.

If you need some additional project inspiration, check out these articles on Skillcrush and HOW Design for some unique project ideas.

Buy your domain, build your portfolio, and choose a social strategy

The first thing most freelancing clients will see after you reach out to them is your portfolio, so make it amazing!

  • Buy your personal domain. Owning an easy-to-remember domain based on your name is crucial so that anyone searching for you can find you easily.
  • Choose a portfolio platform and build your site
    • SquarespaceWebydo, and Webflow are three platforms that are designed specifically for creatives looking to create a beautiful online home.
    • Dribbble and Behance are a few other active online communities where designers post their work and receive feedback from others
  • Pick a few relevant social channels to focus on. A big mistake is creating accounts on 10 different social networks and not giving any of them a significant amount of energy. Instead, pick 2 or 3 that fit with your goals. For example, if you love creating infographics, Pinterest can be a great way to build an audience, whereas Instagram is great if you’ve got a unique illustration or visual design style.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your personal networks, specifically family and friends

If you ask pretty much any designer, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you that their first clients came from personal referrals. This makes sense – early in your career when you don’t have a lot of client work to showcase, social validation via a personal connection is a great way to build a sense of trust.

For Hayden, “[his] very first clients, as I believe with many young designers, came through family and friends. They were not the most glamorous or high-paying jobs but I was grateful to have them.” If none of your personal connections own businesses in need of design services, reach out to friends and family to ask if they’d be willing to pass your name and portfolio on to their connections with potential design work available.

When you’re meeting potential clients via referrals, come prepared and be casual. Rich recommends to “set up a meeting or meetings – the more face time the better. See if you click, and when work is available it will come, or just continue coming. Treat meeting potential clients as dates – the more the better, and the better chance of meeting the right fit.” Based on the type of project they’re hiring for, do some research and come to the meeting with feedback and initial concepts or ideas.

Whenever you finish a project that your client is happy with, let them know you’re available for more freelance work in the future. If they’re happy with your work, ask if they’re comfortable referring you to other partners of theirs as they need design work done as well. Many freelancers build their entire careers off of the snowball effect of their first few referrals, so take advantage of this whenever possible!

Join in-person and online communities to build new relationships

Hayden “[has] found the very best approach for meeting new clients is to look at it as making friends. No one wants to be sold to and not many of us want to sell to people, so don’t even think about it. Just go to events, join chat groups and attend meetups that are focused on things you are already interested in. When making friends, what you do will come up naturally and if they have work for you at any point they will gladly send it your way. If not, you’re still having fun.” Meetup is one of the best ways to find local events, both in the design space and in industries you’d like to work in.

Reach out directly to companies you love

Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to companies whose work you like. The worst thing they can say is no. When you reach out to them, always write a personalized message that shows you’re not blindly copying a pitch email template. If you have a particular industry focus, search for the companies in this field (Manta has a great search tool to find small businesses) to get for the best companies to reach out to. To stand out even more, Rich suggests “sending the cool things you make to brands and people you want to work with.” A beautiful piece of design can catch someone’s interest much better than a multi-paragraph email message!

Do your best work on every project, no matter how small

Hayden says “it sounds simple but great work is the number one catalyst for getting more. An easy mistake designers make is to put in minimal effort if a job does not pay very well. Regardless of what you’re being compensated, you must make every project amazing. Even if you decide you don’t want to work with that client after, doing great work means they are likely to share you with their friends and you have something you’re proud to show in your portfolio.”

So go forth and find your first freelance design clients! If you want to chat with someone who’s already built a successful career in the freelance space, check out the design mentors on RookieUp. We built RookieUp to provide on-demand access to a community of high quality design professionals, so you can get personalized answers to all your freelancing questions from people who have been in your shoes before.