Before finishing up design school, I was under the naive impression that I would graduate and design all day long at my dream job. Well, that didn’t happen and I’m actually grateful for it. WAIT WHAT? Yup. Grateful. When I began freelancing, there was a lot of networking, emailing, blogging and long days. I longed to design MORE and work on projects that I was passionate about. As time went on and I developed a consistent client base, I designed a little more, yes, but it wasn’t ever what I imagined while in school. The picture I painted then involved waking up, designing beautiful things all day, and then wrapping it up. Bam, done.
Contrary to whatever little old me thought, I only design for about THREE hours per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but I would say that’s a good average! The truth is, many people don’t realize how many hours per day are devoted to “business stuff” before jumping into freelance. I surely didn’t. When you are your own boss, many hats are worn – some of which you will feel totally unqualified for at first. The secret, though, is that you are not alone. We’re all just moving forward trying to figure things out as we go. It’s a constant process and evolution of learning + adapting!
I have received a lot of emails from creatives inquiring about how important a degree in their particular field is in order to start their own business. And my answer … well, it’s complicated. But since it’s such a hot topic nowadays, I figured I would open it up for discussion here on the Be Free, Lance column. I will of course give my own thoughts and opinions, but encourage you all to voice yours in the comments below as well. The more the merrier! After all, there truly are a lot of options here.
After much reflection, I can confidently say that I would NOT be where I am today without my time in design school. Throughout my four years in school, not only did we endlessly learn the basics – but our program was tailored to be very innovative as well. We were always encouraged to think outside of the box and make everything feel as “real world like” as possible. Plus, critiques came about so often that we became accustomed to giving + receiving constructive feedback on the daily. And finally, in order to receive my degree, I had to present my entire final portfolio to three chair members of the program, three times over. Without all of this, I’m honestly not sure I would have felt as confident going out on my own path like I did. Design school, in my opinion, is invaluable. But here’s the thing – my story doesn’t have to be your story.
Do you guys remember that scene in the first Harry Potter movie where the gang is on their final hunt for the Sorcerer’s Stone? Specifically, the point where all three get tangled in vines ( Devil’s Snare ) and can’t get out unless they relax. No? Okay, well you can watch it right here. This is getting nerdy isn’t it?? Oops. Anyway, Hermione tells the boys to relax and they’ll be set free, which is exactly what happened. A little while back, I was feeling the same exact way about my own business. Panicked. For really no reason at all.
This all started during the summer months ( which I spoke a little about right here ) when things were slower around the office. Before I conditioned myself to take advantage of natural work breaks and enjoy the summer, I allowed myself to let negative thoughts seep in. I worried about income instability, paying the bills, not landing the right clients, etc. etc. But the thing is, I still had enough work. The only difference was that timelines and incoming inquiries were spaced out a bit more that usual. THAT’S IT. Naturally, I was making a big deal about nothing, which does happen to the best of us every once in awhile.
Most people who freelance do so solo, meaning that they work by themselves most of the time. I am one of those people. I work from home, in my own office, and am not surrounded by co-workers or design partners during the work day. While I am an introvert at heart and love my daily work routines, I know deep down that human interaction is key. Because honestly, there is nothing like bouncing ideas with another creative to get your gears rolling.
With that said, the biggest thing I have done to increase human interaction within my workday is to utilize Skype as a communication platform. I have made a few really amazing friends online who are in the same boat as me, so it’s nice to take small breaks throughout the day and simply say hello. We talk about everything from design + collaboration to what we’re having for dinner. It almost feels like you have a little cubicle mate ( or two or three ), which is really nice when you work by yourself. Conversations with like minded individuals is always a good thing, at least in my book it is!
A few weeks back, I spoke about the initial design phase of the creative process, but haven’t yet touched on revisions. There are so many ways to go about revising a design project and I have yet to feel settled within my own process, so I look forward to discussing that part with you all in the comments section, that’s for sure! The most important thing I can tell you about this step is to create boundaries and be clear with your clients up front about how everything works.
For example, after the initial designs have been presented, I allow for two rounds of revisions*. In my case, a revision is a list of changes or edits that the client suggests and discusses with me in order to move forward with the right design direction. These can be simple things like spacial issues or more complex like composition and typography reconfiguration. Either way, the point is to make thoughtful edits that help move closer to the final design solution.