Carly Kewley, Graphic Designer

Carly Kewley

Career Snapshot

Carly Kewley is the artistic owner of ArtByCarly. She describes her business as a one-stop creative shop for anyone who needs some help with the creative side of their business. Carly is able to run her business from home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Most of her workload is graphic design jobs that range from large companies to small businesses.

Her favorite part of the job is helping a business to brand itself. A strong brand is essential for any business. According to Carly, helping to build a brand is almost like watching a kid grow up. Carly has a sense of pride in the brand images she creates at an affordable price for every business.

As a self-employed graphic designer, Carly has the freedom to set her own schedule. Her skills as a graphic designer have been built with experience and a four-year degree. However, she assured me that you likely do not need a four-year degree to be successful in this field. A two-year degree from a community college or technical school might be all you need to achieve great things as a graphic designer. The skills you will need to be successful include mastering various software programs depending on your specialty. Carly also recommended learning some web design skills to enhance your resume.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When Carly was younger, she wanted to be an artist. In some ways, she became what she wanted to be. A graphic designer is truly just an artist in new kind of medium.

The idea of graphic design was initially presented to Carly by her parents in high school, but she wasn’t sure if that sounded like a good idea to her. In college, she started out with some classic art classes and then transitioned into graphic design. To her surprise, she actually liked it!

After getting her degree in graphic design, she had a long string of jobs starting with a movie ticket attendant and leading to a graphic design job at an advertising and marketing firm. (Most of us will have a few less-than-perfect jobs along the way, but that is okay because it’s part of the journey!) Even though she was able to use her graphic design skills at that advertising firm, it was her least favorite job so far. So when life presented an opportunity to move out of town, she took it. In a new city, she attempted to be an artist while working as a barista until a graphic design job showed up on Craigslist and changed everything.

Through a combination of luck and opportunity, the Craigslist gig led to a full-time graphic design job at a real estate company. The story does not end there!

After a short time of working as a graphic designer for the real estate company, she had to leave town again. Since she actually liked this job, she thought of an out-of-the-block solution. She asked her boss at the real estate company to have her work as a contracted third party instead of an employee. And they said yes!

A simple conversation led to the transformation of Carly’s role as a graphic designer. The change allowed her to work as her own boss from a new home and build a thriving business.  


As a self-employed individual, some people assume that your job is easy. Carly can assure you it is not easy. It requires hard work and dedication. Finding and keeping clients does not come easily to everyone. If you think it is possible to switch your job responsibilities over to a remote or contract position, then it might be a new opportunity. Before you ask, make sure that the self-employed lifestyle is right for you. Next, just ask your boss politely. You never know what they are going to say, so it never hurts to ask.

If you want to become a graphic designer, then build your portfolio! It doesn’t matter how you build it; just find a way. It can be as easy as helping a nonprofit with their needs, assisting a friend with branding their new business, or just creating your own projects. Just start building because the better your portfolio, the easier it will be to find a job or land clients for your own business.

Carly’s biggest piece of advice to everyone trying to decide on a career path is valuable: “If you want to have your passion be your job, then find a way to make money at it. You need to be able to pay your bills. If you decide you want your passion to be your job, then remember that it will indeed become your job and may start to feel like work one day.”

Interview & Written By Sarah Sharkey

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