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, 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! 

Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology

Information Overload

The internet is too big sometimes.

There’s about a million articles on how to grow your business, how to market yourself, what to do and how to do it and when to do it and who to do it for or with and why you should do it a certain way.

It’s a bit overwhelming to say the least! Not to mention developing the actual craft of doing whatever it is you’re doing, especially anything digital. There’s  updates and changing trends, tips and trips, and just plain ol’ honing your craft.

Maybe it’s because everyone around me is in ‘Spring Cleaning’ mode, but I feel like I need to de-clutter my mind. And in the future, be more mindful of the information I pay attention to and trust.
Lately, I feel like my mind is too crowded with so much ‘guidance’, it’s difficult to hear my own thoughts and ideas. This is NOT a good place to be in as a designer since the goal is to create new things, new ideas and are expected to make unique connections.  It’s pretty much impossible to do that if those new thoughts and ideas always have to pass through a checkpoint of what the ‘rules’ say about it or what am I ‘supposed’ to do.

I’m pretty fed up with it.

So, I’ve decided to devote the month of April to tuning out all the chatter and tuning in to my own inner voice. How you ask? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not going to post a bulleted list out of pure spite and rebellion. 

Already, I can hear the inner protest:
“But the only way you can learn is to do what others do!”
“You need to seek out, hear and take advice all the advice you can get! Otherwise you’ll grow arrogant and egotistical!”
“Why don’t you think you need guidance? Do you know everything already?!” 

There’s a time and a place, friend. Only doing what others have done, doing what you’re told, doing what you have to, and following other’s advice only gets you so far. And, if that’s all you do, you become hollow with no real substance. Right now, I feel like a hollow shell lined with should do’s and need to’s without a real reliable inner source to connect everything.

I guess you just have to start somewhere and run with it until you can hear yourself again. 

The terrible irony about this post is it was inspired by The Honest Designer’s Show podcast hahahaha One of the hosts threw out the phrase, “Upgrade Yourself.” and my mind couldn’t let go of that thought. It’s time I upgrade myself – which means getting rid of the stuff holding me back.
Maybe that’s the trick – pay attention to the information that inspires you, not the kind that scolds you.
Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology

March: Momentum

It’s hard to maneuver a slow moving bicycle. 

For a while now, I’ve felt like I’ve been peddling very slowly and cautiously in my business. Along the way, trying to avoid any foreseeable pitfalls or getting myself in too deep.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to gain any momentum at all that way.

At the beginning of this year, I made a goal to not say “I’m busy” or use “I’m busy” as an excuse not to do things, not to connect with people, and not to take on projects. …I’ve definitely still said, “I’m busy” but, less often and that’s progress.
And it’s been a bit of a red flag every time those words come out of my mouth that I need to step back and take an honest look at what I’m doing at that very moment. Not will be doing. Not thinking about doing  or hoping to do or, my favorite, maybe might be doing at some point.
I’ve been busier and more productive this year than ever.  And it’s been easier.

Back when I first started designing, I had a client who pushed me beyond what I thought I could do. I would get frustrated,  feel like my work wasn’t good enough, feel like I couldn’t do the work he was asking me for, and I wanted to give up. But instead, I compulsively said yes or “I’ve never done that before, but I’ll give it a shot!”
Several days ended in frustration, but that didn’t compare to the days that ended in – “Holy cow, how did I do that?” “I didn’t know I could do so much in one day!” or the even more rare “I’m really, really proud of what I did here.” 

That feeling of relief, pride, and success can’t be bought or manufactured artificially. It happens spontaneously without even hoping for it and that’s what so great about it. You can’t force it. It only happens when you’re completely focused on the job at hand, pour everything you have into it, and then let it go.

The stranger thing about this is, looking back on the work I did, it’s not that good! haha Which means I’m still pushing, growing, and developing as an artist. And that’s a good thing.

I’ve had quite a few clients that push me to do more, be better, and do things I don’t think I can do. A whole slurry of them in the beginning and I think that was a foreshadowing.

But, back to momentum.
I haven’t miraculously gotten more time, but I’ve become a TON better at managing my time and more important, my energy.

At the beginning of the year I posted a sort of resolution list. To be honest, I’ve looked at this list a handful of times since I wrote it, but I guess it’s been somewhere in the back of my mind because I’ve pretty much conquered one of the hardest things I’ve struggled with : setting and sticking to work hours.
I’ve been working diligently Monday – Friday 8am-4pm and have gotten my mind in a nice routine where, this is just what I do. Even the partial month hiatus in January didn’t mess things up too much because I have the momentum to keep things going.
Coincidentally enough, I have a ton more energy now, too.

Also on that list was pumping up my Patreon. I just posted my first coloring page and I feel like it’s time for Spiderluf to really come alive. Feel free to poke around there from time to time.
This is a bit tied to my Drawing goal which I’ve been working on and posting things on instagram.

Another thing that’s really been nagging me for the past month or so is the live feeds or videos of some type. I posted a video on Youtube, let it sit for about a day and promptly took it down because it was just embarrassing. 😃 For all those people that say, “Set a date to accomplish your goals!”
Well, sometimes that works. This time it Very much did Not work.
But it’s nagging at me so I have a feeling the time will be soon for that.

And with all this momentum, the time may be sooner than I think. 

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

February already?! + Kolbe A Report Review

January absolutely flew by! I took a good portion of the month off to focus on my husband’s Retirement ceremony and to spend time friends and family who flew in to visit.

But man, as soon as the last guest was on the plane on Tuesday, things have already taken off and – somehow – I already have multiple projects in the works.

One of the friends who came to visit is a business whiz. He introduced sent me an assessment test he gives to his representatives called the Kolbe Test. The purpose of the test is to determine your MO (Modus Operandi) and figure out the natural way you work to accomplish things.

I can’t say my results were surprising, since I like to think I know myself pretty well – but it did help me understand that I should just stop trying certain methods because they’re just never going to work for me!

One of the first sentences in my results is, “You’ll say ‘yes’ before you even know the end of the question – then turn it into a productive adventure.”
I always was told this was a negative thing because “you should know what you’re getting into before you say yes.” But, looking back, all of these en devours have been profitable for me in some way – either by learning what to do and what not to do, pushing myself further, or the *best* result of it turning out even more successful than I thought.
Since I’m highly innovative and adaptable according to the test, I deal with risk and uncertainty extremely well.

Another thing I found extremely helpful was the “Do’s and Don’t” lists.
kolbe_dosdonts
So, there, I have it in writing. I work better the way everyone says not to work. 

This month I’m going full force Maximum Effort into testing out these results.
I’m not going to get immersed in complexities, re-read all the fine print (that’s a bad habit of mine, re-reading something until it doesn’t make any sense), avoid overly scheduling myself, stop second guessing myself.
I’m going to find shortcuts, actively pursue multiple projects, race the clock, and use props or photos for presenting information, and experiment!

My first experiment is going to be with my YouTube channel – I’m actually going to use it. I’ve read and research tons of ways to monetize on youtube, practiced my speaking and engagement abilities, I’ve just put it off because … video editing. Yuck.
But, no one says they *have* to be edited, so… they might just be raw and uncut.

I’ve been watching fellow ENFP-er Dan Johnson, Dreams Around the World and his videos have totally inspired me to give it a go and not look back. I’ll have my first video up by Monday, Feb 5th.

If there’s nothing up by then – feel free to yell at me in the comments!

**All images in this post are property of Koble Corp and I didn’t make any of them – but I think they’re pretty awesome.

Posted in Attitude, Personal Life, Uncategorized

2018 Goals

I feel like it’s a good start to stick to my word on things I say about 2018 – So, here I am. Outlining my goals for 2018 just like I said I would do on Tuesday.
Yep, that’s definitely a good start. 

2018 GOALS 

  • Dive into Passive Income Streams 

My store has just been sitting there collecting dust since I signed up I don’t even know how long ago. I see people making and selling Really cool stuff on this site all the time for other designers and non-designers all the time – I want to be one of those people!
Focus: Patterns, Textures, Objects, Business Card, Greeting Cards, Resumes, Stationary, Social Media, & Presentations …and Photography. …Maybe.
– Independent Artist Market sites (Zazzle, DBU, TeePublic
I’ve already become pretty active in a few of these,… actually, a few more than I listed, with very little success.
After investigating further, I see being interactive in the community makes a big difference. And I can’t be super active if I’m on like 12 different sites. 😃 I chose my favorites to be active in so I’m not spread too thin.
Focus: Tshirts, Stickers, Mugs, Notebooks, Cards, Packaging, Gifts

  • Keep Working Out my drawing, writing, and crafting skills

  • Set actual “Work Hours” 

– I hate saying, “I’m busy” when my family or friends want to do something. This year I constantly felt like I should be in another place, if I was outside my office, I felt like I should be in my office and vice versa. It’s a terrible feeling that I’d rather get rid of entirely.
Setting work hours would help me focus more on what I need to do because I’d have a limited amount of time to do it in (I.E. *Really Working* and not surfing facebook or watching Oxhorn’s Fallout 4 walkthroughs. I use this same technique with exercise – exercising “until I’m done” isn’t nearly as effective as “AAAAHHH I ONLY HAVE 30 MIN!

I’ve had a Patreon account for some time now (I’m a boss at signing up for accounts, setting up my banner and avatar, and then letting them sit there until the end of time), it’s only been until recently when I saw how my sister was using hers that I finally thought, “Oooh, so THAT’S how it works!” And it’s pretty awesome. AND I can actually use it to help keep me on top of the first two goals among other things.

  • Go Live 

My facebook live feed did a lot of great things for myself and others. It gave me more confidence, made things more ‘real’, and inspired some pretty great conversations. It even motivated one of my friends into pursuing her thought of opening her own store! It’s also possible to go live on Patreon. …which would be better in my opinion, because facebook is a black hole of distraction.

And that’s all I’m going to commit to because it’s 11:59 right now which means it will *technically* be Saturday when I post this.
One of my biggest obstacles with keeping to a time table is being legalistic about it. The Second biggest obstacle is the “all or nothing” mentality.
At least I know what I’m up against. Speaking of…

Goal Crushers to Fight/Ignore: 

  • Procrastination
  • Perfectionism
  • Comparison
  • Confusion
Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

A Long Road Ahead

It’s all too easy to forget how far we’ve come when we’re striving for something.
It’s even EASIER to do that when there’s no hard and steady target at the end.

I’m a big believer in the milestone and accumulative goal strategy. Like a lot of people, it’s very difficult for me to visualize what my ‘ultimate goal’ looks like, or even to verbalize. How in the world do you visualize something that doesn’t exist yet? 

I’ve never been the first in my class in anything. In fact, I was much more likely to be the kid who had to stay in on lunch, afterschool, and staying up late trying to finish a project so I could get a barely passing grade. I’m very familiar with failure and all the disillusion it brings. 
And I’m somewhat grateful for it. It’s the reason why I’m experience oriented and can appreciate the lows just as much as the highs. I always have fun along the way.

With the New Year fast approaching and resolutions spreading like wild-fire, I feel pressured to nail down some goals and reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far. I started thinking about this a few days ago when I read this post from a very insightful blog I read. Up until very recently, I haven’t been results driven at all. A results driven mindset is something I’m aiming for in 2018. I’m not thinking of it as a ‘new’ mindset, more like a complimentary one to my experience driven mind.

A Results mind is a puzzle – An Experience Mind is a freehand drawing.

When drawing or learning any new craft (or really anywhere in life) – the best way to learn is to be curious, try different things, copy, and make lots and lots of mistakes along the way. This is where I feel like I’ve been for the past several years – and now it feels like the time to put those pieces together. ...and still keep the curiosity alive.

I usually takes the slow route to something, inspecting and dissecting a thing from every angle before putting it to use. I love processing an idea until it’s mush. In a way, I almost dread actually achieving a goal because that’s the end of analysis – what if I’ve overlooked something? What if I didn’t understand something thoroughly enough? What if I missed a connection? These are the haunting thoughts I have to fight with faith that I’ll be enlightened along the way even after it’s over.

I’ve progressed quite a ways in design since the beginning – definitely not any where close to being at the ‘top of the class’, but enough so that I’m proud of myself and confident in my skills and even more than that – my ability to learn and keep learning. 

Lessons of 2017: 
  • Dedicated more time into hard skills like drawing and writing
  • Better organized myself and my projects using Trello and Wunderlist
  • Strengthened my skills in InDesign (aka – my ‘spider’ of design software)
  • Strengthened my speaking skills by doing a slew of Live Streams on facebook
  • Teamed up with a webdesigner friend to develop my website
  • Explored being a Project Manager for a Print Company 
  • Earned Around $8,000 via UpWork, LinkedIn, and Personal Outreach
  • Developed a personal fun project to keep myself motivated for all the boring projects that pay bills
  • Connected (and kept connections) with more people in my field
  • Developed stronger connection with family and friends thanks to my live streams, Glide, and reaching out

Goals for 2018: 
  • Adopt schedules and set/meet deadlines
  • More TBA on Friday 😉
Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology, Uncategorized

The Inside vs The Outside

I recently took some ‘glamour shots’ for my professional profiles thinking it was no big deal – but the feedback was really interesting and spurred on this analysis:

It wasn’t until I was around 25ish I started to come in to my own look and just go with it. I realized it was much less dramatic than I thought it would be – actually, downright boring. I was addicted to the struggle, the fear, the anxiety of trying too hard. In a morose way, I liked the drama of obsessing. When I decided to say, “Okay, I’m just going to do this and trust the process.” No beating myself, no self loathing, no constant comparison to other people, no standing in the mirror over analyzing every bit of extra flesh. Just cause and effect. I toned up, extra weight fell off, and there was nothing left to do.

The most anti-climactic win Ever. 

Then what? I’ve always gotten compliments because I smile all the time, so compliments were nothing new. I felt better in my own skin, but after about a week I was over it. It was Extremely disappointing to not have habitual goal to think about all the time. I knew I didn’t want to lose more weight or build muscle because I had done that before and didn’t like it. Chest bones are not pretty. And then you go from compliments to people openly saying rude things like, “Eat a sandwich.” So I had found my happy medium. But now what? I missed the drama, the obsession about a process.

Success is less dramatic than the journey there – and sometimes, even the journey there is boring. I believe this is part of why so many people don’t achieve their goals – especially physical goals. It can be highly disappointing when you get to the top and find there’s no where else to go, but down the other side.

About the age of 30, I decided beauty wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All you really get with being beautiful is compliments from the outside world and being confident in yourself (okay, so, that last one does help quite a bit!). I realized that unless I was going to be a model or something where I’m in the spotlight, good looks is really inconsequential. And I want to be more than just a pretty face. 

The process is the real treasure. Developing attributes like Patience, Will-Power, Focus, Resilience, and Determination. These ideals are easy to transfer in to any area of life once you have an area to relate.

Coincidentally, around the time I was having this epiphany- I took a challenge to do 2 weeks of live videos on Facebook saying one thing I’m thankful for. And I realized, I do Quite enjoy being in the spotlight! I don’t believe looks are completely under our control, a lot of it is the genetic lottery – so I can’t take credit for most of it. But I also don’t believe in squandering gifts, so I’m working on ways to incorporate where I already have my confidence to other places I’m working on building up. 

Turns out, looks do matter in this world despite how unimportant it can seem, so it’s good to be wise about it. And just like how you dress and look can attract/repel certain people in your personal life, the same is true when making a portfolio. I realized the “Look” of my portfolio doesn’t appeal to those projects I really want to work on. So, I’ve decided to re-design my portfolio. And no, the irony isn’t lost on me that my mind is still focused on the look of things. I’ve just re-routed the means and the end goal to be a marketable skill.
In creative fields (and other fields that use the mind as the main tool), there’s no ‘top’ to reach because imagination is endless and always growing.

A few years ago, I would have thought that would be disheartening, but now, it’s encouraging to know there’s no disappointment at the top and the journey will never end. 

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. – Robert Browning

Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Psychology

NOTEvember 14: Aiming for Anything

Thanks to Inktober, I have a good bit of artwork to use for my tshirt shop! Two uploaded today and they look pretty dang good if I do say so myself. I already have plans for the second round which will feature watercolor elements to these designs.

I’ve noticed that when I’m trying to get one thing done, a whole lot of other things get done in the wake of anticipating that one thing.

Today, I opened my UpWork profile up for proposals again and within 5 hours, received 7 invites for projects. Business wise, it was a pretty good day all around. … despite me not making my 5 Design Goal of the day. 

This is what happens when I set my sights on something – I feel like I should be busy doing Something at any given moment – even if it’s not what I originally intended, I still get interesting things done.

This is probably how serendipity finds me.

And tomorrow I’ll try again to reach my goal.

Posted in Attitude, Design, Personal Life, Uncategorized

NOTEvember 13 : 01 Spiderlove

There are a Lot of online shop platforms out there.

And I have at least 6 accounts that I can remember : Zazzle, Society6, Design By Humans, Threadless, RedBubble, StoreEnvy, and Etsy.

There’s a lot of questions to ask when publishing to any of these: “What kind of quality is it?” “What’s the community like?” “What’s most popular in these stores?”  “What percentage do I receive?” “What seems to be most requested?” 

I chose to go with Design by Humans for my upload today because the marketplace is more ‘my style’…or the style I’m going for, at least.

Society6 is a close second favorite of mine – neither of these give very good pay outs… but, the ones that give better percentages either a.) are crappy quality or b.) terrible buyer/customer interface or c.) all of the above (Here’s looking at you Zazzle and Threadless!).

So…aiming for 5 designs uploaded was a bit ambitious when I hadn’t made my mind up about which store to go with… But I did get one up! The idea is to do a series of ‘Spiderlove’ featuring some of the artwork I made during Inktober. Check it out!

Let’s see if I can get 5 designs up tomorrow. …I’m not very good at setting ‘easily attainable’ goals apparently. But I’ll keep trying!

Which one of the online stores I mentioned have you heard of? Ever bought anything from an online independent artist shop? I’d love to have your input! Comment below!