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Potential part-time ventures into graphic design?

Hi all,

I am currently working part-time due to child care arrangements, and whilst it is great currently, looking ahead I will start to gain more of my life back and have time to either return to a more full time work commitment, or diversify and use any additional hours I get (due to pre-school/school, etc) to study and develop skills, etc.

I work in an administrative role in the education industry in which we tend to have a requirement for consultants in various technical areas - part of this has a graphical design aspect to it, be it developing infographics, or managing textbook layout/templates and presenting this in an innovative way. I thought it would be a useful string to my bow to develop skills in the area of graphic design (with a focus on educational resources) as it would allow me to diversify my work, and also potentially open up future opportunities to me.

I have seen the rates of pay on offer for graphic designers starting out, and this is another reason why I was thinking that it should be something I could test the waters with initially, rather than leaving and attempting something from scratch.

As I have worked full-time and had childcare responsibilities for some years now, I don't have a portfolio as such, or previous experiences that I could use as a starting point therefore I was wondering if there were suitable online courses that could go someway to giving me a strong grounding in the basics, any recommended reference books that I should be looking at adding to my library, and also if you thought that a part-time approach was going to be worthwhile, or if it really requires an 'all-or-nothing' approach.

I was thinking that, once I had a grounding and the start of a portfolio, I could look to do some volunteer work as a way to gain further exposure and experience?