Posted in Attitude, Design, freelance life

Remembering Good Work Habits

For the past couple months, I’ve been in transition mode during my family’s move from Maryland to Alabama. I didn’t all the way stop working, though I tried for a minute. I put most projects on hold until I got settled again, and that time is almost here!

I had developed a reliable routine before things descended into chaos. I want to make it easy to fall back into the good work habits, so here’s a few I’m focusing on.

1. Visual reminders
My mind tends to get stuck in a loop of things I need to do. The more important the thing is, the more it repeats in a loop.
This can be really irritating and annoying especially if I can’t actually start on it yet, the only way I’ve found to kick it out of the loop is to write it down in multiple places.
I can’t wait to set up my new office and put my marker board back up!
This tremendously helped me stay on task. My physical planner is helping me stay grounded in the mean time. I also use index cards to write down ideas I have on projects while I’m working on other projects. So much of my work is done on the computer, I think that’s why having other physical mediums helps.

2. Start Early
Nothing can buy the feeling of waking up naturally without an alarm at 6 or 7AM and looking forward to the day! I noticed this was easier to do when I could get outside for a walk the day prior. It’s GORGEOUS where I am in Alabama and I’m looking forward to seeing some sunrises before work.

3. Epic Instrumental Music
On particularly difficult projects, I have to turn on some epic instrumental to get in ‘the zone’. This may seem trivial, but finding anything that helps you focus is gold.

4. Mindful Organization
Every so often, a client I worked with when I first started will come back to me for a quick project.
Every time I open that folder of projects it’s painful.
Last year, I started working with a teacher on her game. Then that relationship evolved into making t-shirt designs for her Amazon Merch store. …I was lazy with file organization in the beginning and I’m still paying for it. The reason why this is important is if you have any non-embedded images (say images for reference), moving the file around to a different folders will mess all that up, so you can’t just go willy-nilly moving things around. So, lesson learned.
Be mindful with file organization even on ‘quick’ projects.

5. Be Aware of Time

I care about the work I produce. A lot. Sometimes too much putting too much pressure on myself.
Caring is time-consuming.
I started working under some time restrictions and my work actually got better faster because I was more focused.

Me and Time haven’t always got along, there’s been lots of misunderstandings. But I think we’ve both finally reached a point where we can appreciate our differences and work together.

So, there you go. Hopefully, this will help any other independent worker out there as well. Even though this post is mainly for me. ūüôā Now I can refer back to this when I feel confused (which happens more than I care to admit) or want to ‘improve’ with the latest idea I found on the internet. Speaking of…

Niching didn’t work out so much.
And also kind of did.
Almost instantly after I changed my logo everywhere and announced I was niching down into card/board game design, a bunch of previous reliable clients contacted me for work. As a freelancer, the feeling that someone WANTS to work with you and not just because you’re there in the moment is invaluable. So, I couldn’t turn them down.

I’m keeping my Hello Holly Design as my main identity (modified a bit to compliment the game branch..and because I can’t leave things alone), but also starting out a sister site of “Multi-Player Digital Design” for the games because, …I want to have fun with it. I also got a couple new projects in that area so I think it warrants it’s own thing. Stay tuned for more on that!

Posted in Attitude, Design, freelance life, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Shoelaces

There’s a lot – I mean *a Lot* – of information about graphic design out there.

It’s overwhelming if you’re thinking about getting into anything design related or learning anything new in general. It helps to break it down to it’s most simple parts when you’re starting to get inundated with information and look at it as something you’ve already done. It’s important to take in all kinds of information. And it’s also important to…

Just not think about it at all and go for it.

It took me forever to learn how to tie my shoes. I sat for what felt like hours, trying to remember the ‘bunny’ rhyme and how it at all made sense with tieing shoes. For those not familiar with this rhyme that supposedly helps kids tie their shoes, here it is:

“Bunny ears, Bunny ears, playing by a tree. Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me. Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole, Popped out the other side beautiful and bold.”

And no, I didn’t remember it.

I had to look it up.

Most of us probably learn best by trial and error…and trial and error. That’s certainly the case for me. One day, it just ‘clicks’ and I do it. …then I have to try, fail again a couple more times so I can figure out what I did. Some of us learn best by experience – and repeat experiences – until we can see what we did and understand what we did.

I was pretty proud of learning how to tie my shoes, until I got lazy and just tied them once to slip them on (which is kind of like passive income if you think about it). … I don’t remember the last time I tied a pair of shoes.

Sometimes the things that stress you out when you’re learning them, you won’t even use later. (But learning the information is still important. A part of creativity is applying information in different ways.) But if you didn’t learn them, you might not have the confidence to keep trying when things don’t make sense.

You can binge on all the information you want, but until you get your hands in there and start doing it, you won’t know what you can really do.

Posted in Attitude, freelance life, Game Design, Uncategorized

Card & Board Game Design Niche

When I started studying graphic design back in 2010, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. But it consistently pulled me in and made me curious about all the different facets of design : composition, typography, color theory, working with people, and the thought process that happens behind great graphic art. I figured that was a good sign.
Here I sit, almost ten years later, still doing it! In that time, I’ve worked on tons of logo designs, single graphics, pamphlets, catalogs, books, social media graphics, complete branding, package design, merch design, large scale print designs, and a bunch of on-off projects like powerpoint decks (YUCK – Never again). Every single project I’ve worked on has taught me something and helped me develop my skills as a designer. But the projects that constantly stick out in my mind that were the most enjoyable (not the same thing as easy!) were the game design projects.

Come to think of it, I completed a board game design the first year I started taking on¬†projects. But, there was still so much I wanted to learn, I wasn’t ready to commit to one thing. So I ‘played the field’ taking on a bunch of random projects doing anything and everything.

Niching down feels a lot like getting married. I feel a sense of commitment to sticking to my new brand, and the other work I’ve been doing feel like they’ve been “Friend Zoned”. I think this is a good thing. I feel like this is a new level of love and authenticity for what I create.

And I already have some milestones I’d like to reach. Here’s a few projects I want to work on:
Games for the Elderly
Learning Games
Memory Games
Tarot Cards
A Spider Tarot 

I’m excited to dive into the logistics of how to make different games. We’ll see how this ‘plays‘ out! (oh, forewarning, there will be lots of gaming puns as I level up.)¬†

Some resources I’m using to learn more about Game Design, elements that are in demand, and strategies behind making games:
thegamecrafter.com
boardgamedesignlab.com
boardgamegeek.com
boardgamedesigncourse.com

I’m going to be a bit more selective about who I choose as clients than I was when I worked as a generic designer, but am actively looking for projects. If you or someone you know is looking for someone to design and market a card or board game, send me a message!

Posted in Attitude, freelance life, Psychology, Uncategorized

Fear of Success

There can be an strong urge pull back when you see yourself getting closer to your goals.
Call it self-sabotage or fear of success or fear of the unknown, but it’s a real thing.

Created by You. 

Sometimes that thing we say we want to have, or do, or be is terrifying. Especially in this business.Do you want to grow? Then that means you’ll have more work, responsibilities and pressure.

We have to inch towards it so it’s not overwhelming and at the same time we want to dive in to get rid of our anxiety.

But there’s also the amazing things that happen – why we want it in the first place.
Whether it be something we always thought would be fulfilling to do or a real milestone to fulfill our life’s purpose.The best cure for anxiety is action.
The flying blind kind of action and hoping we won’t completely botch it.
Sometimes I have the urge to deliberately mess up just to confront that feeling to see what happens.
<Rambley>
I rebooted my facebook business page and made an instagram dedicated to my business last year, and I was nervous about it for whatever reason. I knew I had to take a new photo to help with my brand (people love to see faces). I marked a day down in my planner (I really didn’t want to do it) and took some photos. None of them were great – but, a couple were passable and I just wanted it finished.
So I took it as the opportunity to ‘fail’ up front and posted it anyway to get me going. And it worked! Not only that, but I was eager to post something else to get that off the top of my feed.
Of course, the next day, I flippantly took a selfie to show off a product I’d worked on and the picture looked great.¬† …Probably because I was able to be natural and more focused on showing off this thing I was proud of creating.
</Rambley>
When this feeling comes, we’re focused on ourselves. “How am *I* going to react?” “What can *I* do to prepare myself?” “Do *I* really want this?” “What’s wrong with *me*?” And not-so-slowly we shut the entire world out and feel completely alone and overwhelmed.

You’re not alone. Especially not with all the resources we have at our fingertips. Go through your emails, find that one that says, “You nailed it!” “I love working with you!” and ruminate on that¬†instead of all the what-ifs. Go make one of those comments to someone you admire and aspire to be like. The important thing is to act, get out from under your own weight and feel connected to someone else and something bigger.

Just get started somewhere. Don’t admit defeat before you even try. You might surprise yourself! And that’s one of the best feelings in the world.

After you accomplish that ‘big thing’, it will start to seem small, and, guess what? You’ll look for more mountains to climb. Fast forward in your mind to that moment to when you’ve done that thing and you see it was never really as big of a deal as you thought.
Posted in Attitude, Design, freelance life, Personal Life, Psychology

Managing Expectations as a Freelance Graphic Designer (or Humans in General)

All of us have an internal expectation of ourselves and others. It’s really important to not only be aware of our expectations of ourselves and others – but to manage those expectations.¬†We have to compare that to the reality of the situation and also leave room for grace, because we’re all just human with the best intentions (usually). I believe the benefit of the doubt can go a long way. People tend to live up (or down) to our expectations of them.

When I first start working with someone, I try to be very clear of what I’m expecting of them and ask questions to find out what their expectations are of me.¬†Usually it goes something like, “Since the logo is the most important thing to you and what we’ll use to build everything else off of, I’ll start working on that first and send you a draft of a couple options by Tuesday.” They know what they’ll get, why they’re getting it first, and when they’ll get it. That also leaves room for them to correct me if that isn’t the most important element or if they need it sooner or later.

Following the ‘take care of the customer first’ rule, after I let them know what their part is, I let them know what I need from them. I need very honest and specific feedback. I tell them what kind of feedback I need and how to give it. Feedback in person, video, or over the phone is best since I work intuitively and it’s easy for me to pick up subtle cues that way.¬†If they don’t like a concept, just say, “I don’t like #4” and move on. When I hear too many details about something they don’t like, I start focusing on those details rather than on what they do want – especially if there’s more details about that one than the one they like. When they like something, I want to know everything. The colors, the shape, the feel, as many details as possible so that I can build on that to make something greater.

I set a foundation of work habits in the beginning. I protect my weekends so I can take a break or work on my personal projects. Letting people know the foundation of my schedule up front (No weekends, Calls and interaction Monday – Friday 8AM – 4PM EST unless we schedule something specifically outside those hours) makes things run a lot smoother in the long run.

This has been a pretty painful process to learn. In the beginning, I gave all my power away to the client and left it completely open. That really shuts down the dialogue and instantly gives off the message of “I am your slave and have nothing else important going on.” It’s also a huge cop out of responsibility. If you’re freelancing and in charge of your own business, YOU have to be in charge of it. Letting a client determine your hours is a huge responsibility for them. Not to mention, really unfair since when you start feeling taken advantage of (and you will) you will start to blame them even though you put them in that position.

Once I realized this a few years ago (and am continually working on it), I was VERY clunky about how to voice my boundaries with people.

***Personal Experience Rambley Time —¬†
My first guinea pig was with a client I had been working with for 2 years or so. I had been feeling ‘off’ about our work relationship since the beginning – The work wasn’t my style, I didn’t enjoy it in the slightest and wasn’t proud of the work I was producing, it took forever for things to go through committees but he paid extremely well and I had some knowledge of his products. I eventually couldn’t take it anymore and we had a phone conversation. I ended up telling him I just didn’t feel right about the work I was doing and it made me feel … icky. <- Yes, I actually said that to a client. No ragrets.

He was actually far more understanding than I ever imagined.  I finished the part of the project we were working on and handed off the work I had done and all the source files so the next designer he found would have what they needed.  No bridges were burned and and he still referred me to people afterwards. <- I was most surprised about that! He sincerely liked my work and liked working with me.
I learned two things from this experience : 1. Give people room to be understanding. and 2. People will respect you more when you respect yourself.
End Ramble—***

I was so afraid I was going to say the wrong thing, completely burn bridges, destroy my reputation, cause the other person to have a lot of trouble, and in general be the villain in the story.¬† But the reality was, when I had that conversation with people I had already been working with – they were completely understanding, empathetic, and even encouraging. In general, I believe people don’t want to take advantage of you. They care just as much about their reputation as you do yours – they just need your input to let them know what you’re expecting of them. Nobody can read minds! Until you learn how to voice your own standards, you’ll continue to feel used and abused. If you’re too afraid to do that, accept the responsibility and realize that’s what you have to put up with until you’re ready to face your own insecurity.

The same philosophy applies to all relationships. If you don’t set clear boundaries in the beginning, it can really come back to bite you later on. Even if you realize this later on in the relationship, it’s still possible to start setting boundaries ASAP. It’s just much more difficult since you and the other person both have preconceived ideas of the interactions – that means you need to be extremely consistent, which is a lot of pressure.¬† But in the end, it’s the same concept. It’s enough work for one person to take responsibility of their own actions, it’s not fair to expect others to ‘just know’ what you need and how to interact with you.

Once you’re aware, it’s up to you to tell them what you’re thinking (because no, they don’t “just know”), you have two choices. A.) Choose to keep feeling like the victim (which means you’re giving up your right to complain about it since you know how to fix it!) or B.) speak up and risk being all those horror stories you’re telling yourself coming true (usually they won’t, but if they did – is it really the end of the world?).¬†¬†It’s very uncomfortable if you’re not used to standing up for yourself, but very temporary.

This small change can catapult you into an entire new mindset about your beliefs of yourself and other people. It’s well worth building your character to get out of that victim state of mind. Take your power back!¬†