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Back to the Proposal Grind

I know I should be treating freelancing as a second job, working 10-20hrs per week to make ends meet. But I admit I forget about that a lot. It’s time once again to make that better.

My husband recently fell near his work and has been unable to work regular hours for the past month. Luckily, his workplace is covering him for much of the work time lost and subsequent surgery. However, January has been slow enough that my position is a drain on the store where I work. I have to drop to part time at best. I’m not complaining. It’s not my employer’s fault that January is slow. It simply renews the need to find bigger and better things for myself.

So I’ve been applying to jobs and spitting out proposals to the freelance winds. Mostly it comes back and splatters in my face. C’est la vie! I am proud of myself for taking it in stride and learning from past mistakes that it’s not personal. It takes a while to get established. I came late to the game somewhat and that’s my own cross to bear.

I love designing and I keep being a creative person no matter where I go from here.

Take it easy and remember to smile.

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Network with Me!

Find me on Upwork.com/fl/meganpawlak and Freelancer.com/U/meganpawlak twitter.com/MeganPawlak84 Facebook.com/meganpawlak84 instagram.com/meganpawlak meganpawlak84@gmail.com

Now that the shameless self-promotion is out of the way…

This post is all about what I’ve learned about promoting myself online. Well, ok, I can’t really say everything because much of it I learned from my current job. However, I’ve finally swallowed my pride and make an account on all the major networks. As you can see above, I have accounts on not only freelancer websites, but also Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not included in this particular ad is Google+ and LinkedIn and of course WordPress. Frankly, the text portion was getting too long so I chose the three most popular over the other three.

This is my invitation, officially, to like, +, follow, subscribe, and email me about design, small business, work and questions you might have about my services.

Please visit behance.net/MeganPawlak for a formal portfolio.

I’ve begun working with Adobe Muse to hopefully make more pages for this blog or else where. I do have a premium subscription with WordPress, but I’m not sure if it allows me to upload webpages designed outside of WordPress.

Always learning.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Machine Embroidery is Kryptonite

I’m in production. That’s my job. In this case it means I make stuff. I run a printer, embroidery machine, and a hot iron press. Car decals and custom t-shirts are most popular, and thankfully the most straightforward to make. Embroidery, now that’s another issue. 

My mom is a sewer. She likes sewing doll clothing mostly. I’ve been familiar with how a sewing machgine works since I was much younger, but this embroidery machine boggles my mind. So many more things can go wrong with it than on a sewing machine. Also, it’s never clear whether I’ve done something wrong to it or it’s just plain malfunctioning. In one case, I had a pattern that would sew fine until it got to this one area, then it would say the thread broke even though it clearly hadn’t.  I have no idea who to troubleshoot that. You see what I mean!?

Sometimes the backing material is too light. Sometimes the thread randomly messes up when it was fine a few seconds ago. It’s very frustrating to work with a complex machine like this. It’s not that I don’t have help, but I need to be able to diagnose these problems on my own so I can ask for the solution instead of floundering like an amateur. I am an amateur. What I don’t want is for customers to think that about the store! 

I’m learning new things all the time. I actually like my job most of the time. However, I don’t want to ever run a store like this. I’m confused all the time about pricing and products and what we can and can’t do. I can tell you how long it takes me in production, but not how much that time and materials are worth. 

When I think about pricing, I usually try to make it easy on both myself and the customer. Set pricing for certain services or products. If you read my blog when I post, then you’ve seen I’ve posted a couple of ads for my services at Guru.com. You’ll probably see more like them in the future. Design, I think is best represented by a per-hour rate, while a specific product would be a flat minimum budget. For example, another product that might be a flat rate would be image editing: $1/photo with a minim price of $25 for light balancing, basic spot removal, and background removal. Given that photos like that take minutes, it’s actually less time to turn around 25 images for one client since they will likely all be similar. Thus it makes sense to change the $25 even if it’s only one image because there would be a lot of “empty time” before and after to turn the job around in production. On the other hand, if a client wants beauty editing for their products, those images would take hours per image, and vary too greatly to charge a flat fee, so charging $15/hr makes more sense. 

Did I lose you? Sorry. Talking about pricing is one of the trickiest parts of any business. I struggle with it all time. This probably won’t be the last time. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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First Day Jitters

It’s no surprise that nerves are part of the first day at any new job. Mine started with needing to use the toilet only to find out there was a problem. The pipes leaked black stinky water on top of my smelly deposits. Perfect. Just what I wanted on the first day at a new job. At least it can’t get worse! I’m asking to use the toilet at the company next door. I told them I’d be back. 

So far so good. It’s a lot to do. I’m not alone right now so that’s the really good news. I’m sure that will be me in a year. The processes are common sense for the most part. They comply with what I already know about printing. The embroidery machine is new to me but also is similar to a normal sewing machine. I’m not as completely in the dark as I could have been.  Yay!

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Design and Other Conundrenigmas

I want to be good at design. But am I good at design? It’s an odd question. Design has no right or wrong. A designer follows the whims of the client even when they want something ugly. We designers solve visual problems, but we generally don’t decide what gets the stamp of approval in the eye of a client. A better question: do I provide work that clients want.

I’ve pleased a few clients and I’m eager to please more. Sometimes I doubt that I can, but I’m not giving up! Have a degree! Despite recent history I have a good work ethic!

I interviewed for a job on July 11, 2017. I was nervous because I have to take the job if they want me. I have to try. It would mean less time for freelancing too. But if I turn them down I lose my unemployment benefits. That’s my biggest worry. That I’m too short or not strong enough for the job but I have to do it anyway. I’m afraid of what having a full time job will mean for me. I have to to try. I have to repeat that to myself.

So what to do? I’d love to learn more about how a print-shop makes car decals and logo products. This job would teach me a lot about how files are formatted and sent to the printer. In turn, that would give me a perspective on doing graphic design work and what’s going on in the world of large-scale work. I have to try.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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The Spaghetti Toss

Okay, what am I doing writing about food? It’s not real food, of course. I’m talking about the “throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks” technique of problem-solving. I’m not throwing spaghetti because I want to. I can’t control whether clients respond to my proposals. It’s rough calling them proposals too.

When I write my proposals I think about 4 things:introduce

  1. introduce myself and make a statement so the client knows I read their brief
  2. describe an idea I have for their project
  3. explain my work hours
  4. what images I’ll include with the proposal (a cool feature at Upwork.com)

My proposals are rarely more than a few sentences. Sometimes, I skip item 2 and tell them that I’ve included a sketch. As I said previously, I started including sketches with my proposals. Sometimes item 2 is replaced by a list of questions I have about the project. Many clients don’t include basic information such as what their business does, what they want the project to convey to customers, or the form and colors of the project preferred. It’s on me to ask those questions!

Let me get back to the spaghetti throwing. I’m basically applying for everything worth more than $30. I want to maximize my potential of finding clients. At this point, clients are not knocking on my door; I have to go to them. I don’t yet understand the type of client I should be targeting. Until that day comes, I will apply to everything and see what comes back.

This sucks.

This is the downside of freelancing. The work comes and goes in spurts. The idea, ultimately, is for the income to average out over the course of the year. The challenge is to manage money in savings to average out the money available at any given time. That’s usually what kills freelancers who are just starting: bad clients who don’t pay and spending it all at the moment of income.

I have a leg up because I came to the freelance market late in the game. There are services like Upwork.com to manage the bad clients for me. They guarantee I’ll get paid and act as a middle man so I’m never one on one alone without help.  If the job is a fixed amount – not hourly, – then Upwork requires the client to deposit the funds ahead of time before the work can begin. This guarantees I will get paid as long as I use Upwork’s time tracker to prove I did the work.

I wish I had understood all of this in college. I never would have wasted over 9 years of my life in a job that wasn’t what I wanted to do. C’est la vie, mes amis!

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Freelancing and Learning

I’ve been at this freelance thing for a month. I won a logo design contest on Freelancer.com and earned a legit job on Upwork.com. Winning the Upwork.com job taught me something valuable: giving a sketch during a proposal to a prospective client helps boost the likelihood that they will seriously consider me as the freelancer for the work. Maybe it’s stupid in the long run and I’ll stop doing it later on. Right now I can’t afford to buy in to the the fancy accounts on these sites so giving a little helps.

One  frustration with Freelancer.com is that I’m American, the website is Australian, and most of the freelancers on the site are in southern Europe and Aisa – what we Americans would call the Middle East. Why is that such a big deal? Someone from Pakistan or India – to name the two I see most often – can afford to charge half or less than what I do to earn a decent payoff. I don’t begrudge those designers their work at all. On the contrary, I hope they are having more success than I am! However, the truth of the matter is that I can’t compete with such low rates. Freelancers who are willing to work for $3-$5USD/hr are always going to win out for entry level work compared to the $15USD/hr I charge. Competition is tighter than ever in the world of art! I usually stick to contests on that website since there’s no accounting for wage in a contest.

An interesting site I like to work on, but haven’t managed to win anything on, is 99designs.com. I have the impression from hearing about it over the years that this is a great place to start as a designer. It’s entirely contest based, although the site does allow clients to hire you for 1-on-1 projects whether or not you’ve won anything. I like how it’s set up and how responsive clients are using the rating system and rejecting or declining designs that simply aren’t in the right style. I’ve come close a couple of times to winning. In one contest I made it to the semi-finals before being eliminated – the contest was for an apple brand logo. They ended up going with a design that was more anthropomorphic than realistic the way mine was. Another contest I entered I was told by the contest holder that they would have picked my design, but they thought it might look too similar to a competitor’s brand in their country. Sadly, they didn’t give me any direction to change my design so I wasn’t able to enter a winning design and was eliminated after the qualifying round. I’ll keep trying since I have had some interest even though I haven’t won yet!

Upwork.com sits somewhere in the middle of the interest scale in my mind. I didn’t originally plan to use it heavily, but when I discovered that you could restrict your job search to ones available to U.S. freelancers only, I became more hooked. Americans will understand the $15/hr fee a lot better than someone from elsewhere in the world who is used to dealing with people who charge much less for the same work. I landed my first professional contract there, after all. I’m hoping it wasn’t a fluke!

I have some profiles on other freelance sites too, but I’m not as diligent with them. I created profiles there to boost my exposure. You never know where the clients are most comfortable. I don’t expect work to come my way from sites I only visit every so often. They are there if someone wants them, that’s all.

That’s everything for now. Expect future posts to be shorter. 😉

Take it easy and remember to smile!