I’ve lately been drawn to the semi-uniformity in these images above. I love how there is still fluidity amongst the rigid harsh lines. It’s such a beautiful juxtaposition. Perhaps unconsciously my mind has been drawn to such busy-ness because I’m currently blogging from the hustling bustling city of sky scrapers, Hong Kong!
All image found via pinterest @belindalovelee
So for the last Freelance 101, I thought it’d be helpful to give you quick pointers to live by. Here are a couple of things not to do, and a couple of things to do in order to survive this lifestyle of freelance.
1. Don’t Do Spec Work
Don’t even dip your toes into the world of spec work.
What’s spec work you might ask? It’s short for speculative work. It’s that kind of work often masked in the words of ‘competitions’, ‘contests’ or the scenario when a client asks you for ‘free pitching’, basically asking for drafts prior to hiring you to test and see if your designs are on par to their thoughts. Essentially, it’s an excuse for the clients to get work for free. This video explains it really clearly here,nospec.com is another great site that explains and breaks down why spec work is so bad.
Your work has value, so don’t sell yourself short. Site like 99 designs, minted, etc. make spec work look all innocent- you submitting your design along with the numerous other contestants, they selected one artwork as the ‘winner’, and if you win you get money. It’s total bullshit! What about the other 99 designers who worked for free? They deserve their pay too simply for pitching their ideas.
2. Don’t Plagiarize
To plagiarize means to take someone else’s work or idea and pass it off as your own. Surprisingly this happens much more in the design world then you’d expect especially with the internet. I’ve seen it happen to my design friends, where their designs are literally mimic the next day on instagram.
Be careful when your researching for ‘inspiration’ on pinterest etc. It’s easy to see someone’s work, have it influence your style and the next thing you know you’ve designed a replica of their work. I understand that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that trends play a heavy part in the design industry, but if your design looks almost identical to your inspiration source, be it an illustration, photo, artwork, etc. it’s most likely that you’ve plagiarized them. Not cool.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
This is age old problem that long started before the internet existed- comparison, jealous and envy. But with the internet it’s only heightened the very insecurity in ourselves and the successes of others. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Instagram and any social media platforms alike makes it easy to create a façade of a perfect life. Just because someone else is getting ‘that’ gig, or has more number of likes, or followers, doesn’t make you “less” of a person. A person’s number of followers doesn’t define them and shouldn’t define you. Life is more than your popularity online. We’ve all struggled with this, and personally far too many times have I gotten down on myself because I felt “less than”. Over this year though, I’ve consciously been working on not letting someone else’s success define the way I feel and see myself. The more you get to know yourself and become more confident in who who you are and what you uniquely have to offer- the less will you base your self identity on something so transient as numbers.
1. Have Healthy Boundaries with Social Media
Know when to shut everything off! Especially in a field where social media plays such a big part of my work and life, it’s easy to never be ‘physically’ present. When I find myself getting too obsessed with the internet or my number of ‘likes’ or stupid virtual things like that, I just drop off the face of the internet. I’ve learnt to take breaks away from the internet, whether it be just for a day, weekend or longer. Learn to recharge, clear your mind and keep your boundaries healthy with the internet. I promise, being internet free once in a while will benefit your physical relationships with your husband/wife, children, friends, family and perhaps even your dog.
2. Make Friends with Other Designers
Make friends with the ones in your industry that you look up to! You might be like, “but they’re my competition.” Yes they are, but when you make someone a friend instead of an enemy you learn to rejoice in their successes, instead of being jealous or envious of them. Not only that, but soon you realize that honestly competition is so petty and useless. There’s more than enough space in the world for both of you to do well and succeed. Also making designer/freelancer friends, keeps you inspired, broadens your likes of collabs, and is a great form of networking.
3. Be Yourself
Above all, I would say that the key to keeping your race strong, is simply be being yourself. You are individualistic and what you have to offer the world is completely unique to who you’ve been created to be. The more you stay true to yourself and what you enjoy designing, the more you’ll find your own voice and design style. Realize the potential invested in you, and you alone!
Hope this series have been helpful in ways you’ve needed it to be. It’s be a pleasure being able to help you all out on your journeys. The response and emails I’ve gotten in appreciation has just been the most encouraging, so thank you.
Here’s to your journey, I wish you all the best on your future freelance endeavours!
An overview of all the Freelance 101’s
Gather and Build is a limited edition series of 100 necklaces designed and hand made by Michelle Oh for the Tree Council to raise awareness for the ‘Seed Gathering Season’ and the ‘National Tree Week’. Our aim is to help conserve and plant trees across the UK. 10% of profits gathered from this collection will go directly to the Tree Council to aid in their continued efforts of planting trees. Along with the necklace, a limited edition postcard designed by yours truly, will come with it to help us spread the message even further. See the postcard designs here!
A little bit about Michelle Oh, she’s an independent jewellery designer based in London, who specialises in creating delicately whimsical, alternative, one-off pieces. She was actually the one that designed the necklace I wore on my wedding day! So if you like dainty, minimal, edgy pieces just like me, you most definitely need to check out her jewellery.
I got all four pieces, both gather & build designs in gold and silver, honestly the photo doesn’t even do it justice to how beautiful they are in person. These necklaces are limited editions so make sure to get them before they run out, and help plant some new trees too while you’re at it. A little guilt free treat! See the full collection here.
More of Michelle Oh
More of the Tree Council
For the month of September, I…
1. Hurt my pinky from to repetitive strain and due to my lack of first aid supplies at home, all I had was my grlue washi tape to keep it in place. It sure makes an injury look pretty!
2. Reminisced over the beautiful grlue buildings in the Bahamas.
3. Went for a beach walk with my love. The weather in the UK has surprisingly been amazing this summer!
4. Celebrated my mother in law’s 50th with a some patterned wrapping.
5. Took a photo of my grlue art roll.
6. Got sent a little care package from instagram with the coolest maps, which had instagrammer’s favourite locations to take photos of.
7. Got watercolor pencils as a present from my mom.
8. Went past this house and dreamed of living in it, simply because of the color.
Hope your September has been amazing too. I can’t believe theres only 3 more months till the end of the year. I feel like I just did last year’s 2013 overall snippets, and now here we are almost at the end of 2014. My gosh!
The Power of Personal Projects
You might be asking, “But what do I do if I don’t have any client work at all, or if I just don’t like the projects I’ve done previously?”
That’s where the power of personal projects come in! A personal project is something completely directed by yourself. Dream up a pretend client and start designing for them in mind. Just start somewhere, anywhere, and if that means designing work for yourself, in your style, then do it! Or if you don’t mind doing work for free to build your portfolio, start designing for your friends. Ask around to see if anyone needs wedding invites designed, logos etc. Think about what kind of future project you want to be involved in, take the perimeters and adapt them to your personal projects.
If it’s hand lettering you want to get into, maybe you can do a series of hand lettering projects? For example, Noel Shiveley is legendary for having started off on his own through his personal project: 365 lettering project. His portfolio, though heavily self directed doesn’t deter him or make him seem less of an ‘artist’ because it’s not client based projects. If anything I give him even more credit for having so much direction and motivation without the driving force of a client behind him. The benefits of his self initiated projects has definitely paid off because from it he has build up quite the reputation and following online. Who’s to say you can’t get recognized online first, then start having clients flood in because of your personal project?
You can start building a portfolio and having a strong body of work, even without having a client.
Put it Online
The reason why it’s so key to have your work online is so that others can find and see your potential! There’s no good of having your work kept to yourself because firstly, it’s harder to convince someone to work with you simple by words- showing them visually is much stronger of an impact. Secondly- in this day and age, if you don’t exist online that means your unsearchable, therefore are pretty much non existent. Why cut out a huge potential to find your clients from online? Personally, 95% of my clients come through the power of the internet!
Check out which one fits your needs best, and just start posting. Key thought to remember: quality over quantity and consistency.
For the Fame of it
My two cents before I end this post is that fame and recognition doesn’t come overnight. It’ll take weeks, months, years of hard work and dedication before building a strong following, becoming internet famous etc. It’s the myth of the overnight success, as Austin Kleon puts it “"Overnight success" is a lot like "originality" — dig deep enough and you find out it’s a myth." Behind every internet famous designer, portfolio, success, anything really- it’s taken them years to build and become the person they are today. So don’t go comparing their highlighted reel to your behind the scenes. Work hard at building a strong portfolio for the sole purpose of satisfying yourself, and eventually it’ll pay off in some way or another.
Read Less, Curate More
Get online already and become even more searchable!I look forward to hearing your thoughts about today’s blog post. Also I believe we coming close to the end for these “Freelance 101” posts, I can’t think of any more topics to cover. Though if I’m wrong make sure to send me your questions! Next week we’ll talk about the do’s and don’t for freelance and I think that will round off the series fairly nicely.
Till then, x. Bee
I’ve never done a currently coveting only featuring one brand, but honestly I just can’t resist how beautiful and innovative these pieces look from Katamaku. I want all of them!!! I love how often Japanese designs blend minimalism with practical of everyday, eg. Muji. These beauties from Katamaku are made out of tent fabric, then folded to it’s form. I could really do with them, but sadly they only do shipping in Japan. (Seriously, sad face over here) From top left to bottom right; 1. credit card case, 2. pencil case, 3. document folder, 4. clutch purse
Drool! Either I need to make a friend in Japan to get them to ship them to me, or either they have to start shipping internationally, ugh!
Found via pinterest! @belindalovelee
So now that you’ve gotten your business plan down, and you’ve even got your contract template all prepped for your first few clients, you’re so close to almost being a legit freelance designer. Your next key task would be to get a damn good online portfolio together. It’s time to show the world what you’re made of!
Tailor it to your Best
When I first started putting my work online I was so embarrassed and incredibly nervous. I felt so very vulnerable, as if I was putting my heart on the line for the world to judge me; perhaps it’s because I see my design work as an extension to my very being. Over dramatic much?!
Though, it is kind of daunting to begin anything you’re passionate about, whether you’re starting your own finance business, or making your own line of clothing, I guess we all experience that feeling of being vulnerable. When you’re starting a business from scratch there’s always some kind of risk to it- be it money investments or your own ego(!). Putting your self out there is extremely hard, and so very nerve racking but let me say, from experience so far, it is so very worth it!
Start by looking over the work you’ve done in the past and ask yourself some questions. Which of them are your favourites? Is there a theme or style of some sort that pulls your work together? What aspect of graphic design do you love most? Who would be your dream client?
Let’s take my work for example. Even before I began designing, I knew I loved three things, 1. Branding and Identity, 2. Quality paper goods, 3. Quirky yet minimal designs. I then took these three loves and started producing work that fit within my vision and liking. The design style and cliental I want to draw to myself is the very work I put online for others to see. I only feature the work I produce which suits my design style best, meaning that I don’t put every client project up online.
Or if you don’t want to hone in on a particular style of design, perhaps you could focus on a niche cliental. It could be designing for small business, or doing web design for photographers in specific, or designing corporate branding. I think it’s important to know your style/target cliental, because that is what will set you apart from other designers. With this focus in mind, tailor your work for your online portfolio, so that it’s can be it’s very best.
Pointers for a Strong Portfolio
A couple of pointers to what makes a good portfolio:
1. Consider your target client- Have in mind who you want to design for and tailor your body of work with that person in mind.
2. Be selective with pieces to form a strong body of work- show your capabilities to design for different scenarios.
3. Have good photos- good lighting makes all the difference.
4. Have 6-12 photos per project- show different aspects of the project and it’s unique design elements.
5. Update it regularly- keep it fresh to draw new attention!
Read Less, Curate More
This time it’s the opposite. Put that book down, get your ass into action and start putting your work online! Don’t be shy. The important factor is to be searchable!
What are your thoughts of what makes a good portfolio? For part 2 of “A Good Portfolio” check in next week!