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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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Accomplished

What a great day! Work went great! And now I’m prepping for my 1 yr wedding anniversary with a trip to Savannah, GA. I’m feeling more comfortable as a someone in charge of production. I get to use all of my skills.

I have a new chance at being me. I can work digitally and physically. It’s not 3D printing or anything, but stores need window decals right? Company cars need logos on them. Truck drivers need to comply with DOT regulations and have their business license information on their trucks. Little girls need copies of their favorite shirt that accidentally got stained and ruined. Schools need branded uniforms. There’s a lot I get to see and do. Most graphic designers never work physically with printers and produce what they are designing. It’s an asset to my skills that I know how logos are used in the real world.

Trust me. If you need a logo get it in vector format as well as .jpg or .png. It will save you money down the road to have a vectors file that can be made as big or as small as you want! You could hire me – shameless plug- to make your logo because my pricing comes with any and all formats you could ever need. If you’ve read my blog you know what my qualifications are. 😉

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Be Positive (Sometimes)

It was brought to my attention that perhaps I’ve made my experiences sound like I have a nightmare job. I didn’t mean it that way at all. I’ve had more good weeks than bad ones, but sometimes the good weeks go by the wayside because I’m too busy to try about them. If I hated my job, I wouldn’t stay. I’ve learned a lot and I have a positive future outlook overall. 

I’m also trying to focus more on my own creative work. You’ve  probably noticed a little of it. More “ads” and a new banner and brand. I’ve learned tons about branding at my day job. I think it’s made me a better designer for it. That’s ultimately why I agreed to work there in the first place, and why I stay despite some of what I’ve experienced. 

These are my experiences. I’ve learned from it. Maybe others will too. There is no blame here. If anything my job has gotten better and it means I can dedicate more time to my personal pursuits.

I finally got around to entering a contest on 99designs. Yay! I’ll share that design soon. My concept of a good logo has changed. I think it’s for the better too! 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Unnatural Disaster 

This past week has been bad. Everything that could go wrong did. Too many projects due at once, printer screw-ups, and difficult to weed designs made my work schedule horrible. Due dates had to be flexible whether or not they actually were. 

I survived it. My employer even gave my coworker and I a $50 bonus for getting through it mostly. We did save a couple of due dates! Ok, so it wasn’t a disaster, but it was stressful and changed my schedule to accommodate it. It felt worse than it was I think. And this was a pay week. Silver linings…

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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Le Sigh

I feel stupid a LOT these days. Maybe I needed a lesson in humility. I don’t think I know everything, but I don’t like discovering I’ve done something wrong that could have been prevented by better training or or own creativity in problem solving. Some days, though, I feel like an ignorant child. 

I want to learn new things. That’s the good part of all this. New skills means more marketable when I’m ready to find a new job. I’m not goo any everything. I’ll never been a jack of all trades. But I can try my best and do what I can. I don’t think I ever want to run my own print shop, but working in one shows me how my work might someday be used so I can avoid designs that won’t look good after printing. 

As for the things I feel stupid about, it’s not as bad as I make it sounds. How I feel is true, but it’s not like these are Earth-shattering mistakes. The business isn’t going to fold because of it or anything. I don’t think I’m that important! With a little luck and hard work I’ll be able to teach someone else to do what I do so no one will ever have to go through what I did!
Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Holding Two Jobs

Anyone who has had to work two jobs knows it’s unpleasant unless it’s 2 strictly part time jobs. I, of course, don’t fall into that category. I don’t even get paid time off since I’m an independent contractor and self-employed. There’s a real freedom to that. 

There’s also the problem that I don’t make nearly as much as I used to in a corporate job. I’m not complaining here. It is what it is. Having to be full time is a time-sink that doesn’t, yet, pay enough for the long run. I think that will get better soon. I also think I need to stop crashing at the end of the day and do design work! I feel awful about it. No more! Starting next week I take it seriously. I start treating my own freelancing as a second job that needs part-time dedication, at least 10 hours per week. 

This is it! Do or die! There is no try, only do! Where’s that from? Anyway, I’m still determined to get myself established in the freelancing world. I’ve been submitting proposals, at least one every couple of days. I can show that I’m actively trying. What I need to do is still look up a contest or two in the meantime to work on. That gets me practice even if I never win. 

Red. Yellow. Green. GO!

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Work Work Play

My first complete week of work is almost over. It’s only 30hrs this week, but I feel good about being full-time starting Monday, July 24, 2017. I’ve made mistakes but learned from them. I want to do more but I’m limited by how the shop is set up with three people working and only one computer with access to the printer.

My coworker used that computer to set up files for printing all day. I’m not sure what took so long for two files. I want to think she knows better than I do, but nothing I’ve learned so far would take that long. Unless my coworker seriously undertrained me, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to send one file to print. Of course, that’s a distinct possibility. I don’t claim to be all-knowing by any stretch. In fact, I often think I’m the biggest idiot ever when it comes to learning new things. It bothers me that from what I’ve seen and been told, there’s nothing here that’s totally new to me. There are quirks that I need to learn, but my perception is telling me there are things I haven’t been told, and probably not by malice. Youth is a tough thing when it comes to hiring workers. I think I wasn’t told things because my two co-workers, younger than I, intuit things because they are still young and in school or fresh out of college in the last two years. I’ve been in the workforce for a decade, but I seem to have picked up skills and an understanding of Illustrator these two don’t have. I don’t know why that should be since college is the best place to learn Adobe Creative Cloud programs given students’ discounts. 

I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens. Stick to my guns and try to be understanding. I’m the newcomer, but I’m also an independent contractor and I’m not an idiot. I can learn new things and I intend to do it! I’m glad I can subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud thanks to this job. I need this job to keep moving towards freelancing. It will be hard to do both. It’s already hard. Maybe when I feel less in the dark I won’t be as drained from energy at the end of the day. I would have done some projects yesterday, but my computer was downloading and installing all of the Adobe programs. So it will be much better after today! 

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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Good Clients

It’s no secret that the world of design is full of bad, naughty, impatient, mean…

2 days later

…awful, terrible clients. The nit-pickers want perfection, but refuse to negotiate payment when the project goes over budget due to time wasted on endless revisions. Vague-ists expect mind reading levels of understanding from a brief only 10 words long that says they want a logo.  Worst of all are the clients who give you detailed instructions on what they want, decide to completely change their mind half way through the design process, and finally at the end refuse to pay you anything because you were not able to finish the project in time.

We all know people like those described above as friends and family in addition to total strangers who want to pay for work they can’t do themselves, but don’t want to pay for work they can’t do themselves. Did I just confuse you, dear reader? Sorry. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that’s its bad. 😉

But I want to talk about the good clients I’ve encountered in the last week. Two of them to be precise.

The first is, of course, the client who hired me for my first design job. Justin went above and beyond by telling me there was a problem with his payment and he had already fixed it. That job should clear with Upwork sometime this week and enter the mandatory 1 week security hold. It’s ok, just par for the course here in designer-land. I can’t withdraw the money until I have $100 in my Upwork account. That’s fine with me too if it avoids fees or ther pitfalls on Upwork’s side and keeps the service free to people like me (not counting the service fees since I set my own rate and the system charges the client the fee, not the designer.)

Good client number two is a repeat contest holder over on Freelancer.com. He held a contest back at the end of May which I won. It was only $25 after fees, but that was enough to set me up with a year’s paid intro membership on the site. I needed it! A week and a half ago the same client requested my entry on another, similar, contest. I read over the brief and decided it was something I could do for him so I submitted an entry. Yesterday, I received a message from him stating he decided not to use any of the submissions, but since he had solicited my entry he was awarding me with the prize. I gave him the files anyway since from my point of view it’s required to get paid and because if he’s paying then the work is his anyway. Maybe he will change his mind or use the illustration for something else. This was beyond my expectations! If you foster a good relationship with a client sometimes they will give you a break. The winnings will be $40 after fees. Again, not that much, but work is work and pay is pay. Repeat clients count for a lot and show that you do quality work at any price.

Two doves perch on the antlers of a deer skull
The winning design that starting it all

Take it easy and remember to smile!