March 21, 2016No Comments

A mistake I’ve made in year one

Being too hard on myself.

When I moved to New York City in the winter of 2006, I didn’t have a job lined up. It was the first time that I was responsible for myself, no safety net, and not much savings on hand. My parents told me if I didn’t find a job in three months, I would need to go back home in California.

Fuck No.

I did everything to get a job and started paying for living expenses. I had to weave my own safety net and I was very risk adverse. Before I jumped into any new job opportunity or moved to a new area, I always stayed conservative. Having a steady paycheck and the stability of going to a job every day is something that I valued greatly.

Through years of working in design, I would jump from job to job. I found that I was being more and more risky with my job choices because I wanted to do work that I would be proud of.

As an independent designer and working for yourself, one of the major downsides is the lack of stability in pay. You pay your own health insurance and pay both sides of the taxes (~35–40% tax rate). You have no retirement savings account, no additional benefits, and have to wait 30–45 days on client payments.

This instability stressed me out a lot and I had to make a lot of lifestyle choices. The first six months felt like I was walking in the dark about how much rolling capital I needed to make this work. I held myself accountable for every working hour in the week. I stressed about not meeting my projected billable hours weekly. In the back of my mind, I always felt that I needed a plan B, C, D and E. Always building my mental safety net.

When I had my ducks in a row. I didn’t know how to stop. My thoughts were like a runaway train. When I had enough financial cushion for to be unemployed for a year, I pretended I didn’t. I felt the anxiety to constantly prevent “a rug being pulled from under me.” This kept me up at night, worrying about financial stability and how to make sense of everything.

One day, I looked in the mirror and I saw I had about ten strands of white hairs from my scalp. That’s when I knew I had to stop.

I spent way too much time worrying about impending risks that never really happened. You can say that I played this very safe and I am financially responsible. This time wasted could have been better spent on projects, social support from friends, or furthering a skillset.

I think this experience could not have been any different if I turned back time. It was an invaluable learning experience that allowed me to be braver and more clear headed with my target direction. I realize that being confident in your own skillset plays a great role in being successful.

Don’t waste time dwelling on bulletproof plans that you have in place. Always look back and self-evaluate, but also learn to change directions and move forward in a positive fashion. Spending time worrying about things will not improve any situation, only actionable plans do.

March 14, 2016No Comments

What clients say vs. what they mean

The Mystics

Client: “Make it pop”
AKA: “Something about this page does not feel exciting. How can we make this more dynamic?”
What it means: It’s kinda boring. Are there other graphics we can explore or different design treatments to the typography or layout that can make the page look less contained? What about the colors, are they high contrast or muted?

Client: “Make the logo bigger”
AKA: “Do you think this design allows my customers to see my brand vision?”
What it means: I don’t see my brand vision, typography, color, or elemental hierarchy that puts my product to the forefront. Should my product or service be designed in a more minimal way, so that the elements can be more focused?

Client: “Can you make it look like Facebook and Twitter had a baby and this is what I want the social feed to look like?”
AKA: “I really like the way Facebook and Twitter handles their design for their feed, I’m not sure how I can describe what I am looking for. Can you help”
What it means: The client is crazy. Start asking questions on their internal process of what elements of Facebook or Twitter they are referring to. Is it the idea that there’s a live “stream of activities” that encourages a sense of community? Does this idea make sense?

The best client and designer relationship is when both parties trust each other and understand their roles. Clear communication and education of how each others preferred method of working will guarantee a successful relationship.

March 2, 2016No Comments

Launch yourself into a new adventure

Today marks my one year anniversary working with MartianCraft, a 100% remote workplace that’s a recognized influencer in the world of mobile & desktop application design, development, staff, and training. I’ve been an independent designer since Sept 2014, which puts me at this for a year and a half. I wanted to share how I got started, and how you can launch yourself into a new adventure.

Why become an independent designer?

There are many reasons why people want to be their own boss, work on their ideas, or have the freedom to choose their clients. For me, it started as a daydream and became a reality.

I’ve been working in design for the last ten years in New York City, and I felt bored and unfulfilled with the projects at my full-time job. I craved variety, challenge and working with people that tirelessly strive to perfect their craft. Day-to-day tasks became mundane, and I daydreamed about the freedoms from not being at an office doing projects that I couldn’t put in my portfolio.

I never freelanced full time before, I didn’t know how it’s going to be, or even how it’ll work. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and I’m scared.

All I told myself was “just give it a try.” If I don’t try, I’ll never know. If I don’t even attempt, I fail automatically. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Get another full-time job? That doesn’t sound all that bad.

Simply put. I became an independent designer to seek the opportunity to be happy and proud of my design work. I want the validation of being an excellent designer, and becoming ♪ better ♫ faster ♪ stronger ♬.

Three things you’ll need

1. Money

You probably should save money because usually it takes six months to get the ball rolling on projects and be comfortable with the routines of sales, design, and payments. Saving money to do something uncomfortable takes a lot of discipline. It’s much easier to save money to go on a vacation or buy something nice for yourself. The drive and discipline of investing in your goal will set you apart from everyone else. Becoming an independent means that you don’t have a steady paycheck every month, make sure you buffer and make changes in your lifestyle because you will encounter non-payment or late paying clients.

2. Focus

Don’t read too many articles on Medium or lists about what you should be doing. The more you read, the more you can get overwhelmed. Reading is not acting. Create a plan of what you need to do every day and hold yourself accountable (I don’t sleep until it’s done). Write a list of things you have to do a day and accomplish them all. Let small tasks snowball into big accomplishments.

When I first started freelancing, I created this in my google calendar. I only allowed client phone calls at a particular time of the day, so that I could have blocks of focused, uninterrupted time to work on projects. Needless to say, I kept to this calendar for a good eight months before I didn’t need these reminders. It became a routine that I break often.

My friend said I forgot to block out poop breaks. Obviously, I don’t poop or sleep.

3. Resilience

If I could sum up one word to becoming a success in anything, it will be resilience. Develop and hone your personal Titanium Level Resilience.

  • Increase your capacity for making realistic plans and carry them out.

  • Have a positive view and confidence in yourself in your abilities.

  • Improve your skill set in problem-solving and communication.

  • Management of your own personal voice, feeling, and impulses.

Develop the ability to service clients by providing accurate timelines. Be able to communicate effectively, and make the client feel happy and confident with the work performed. Sell and guide clients through the weeds of a project are all important management skills displaying resilience. Being your own boss is tough, and having confidence in your own abilities will help you win clients.

Make the leap with blinders on. Nurture your ideas and allow yourself to fail, because only through this process you can become a stronger version of yourself. Keep going and be resilient. Surround yourself with people who cheer you on, and let people go if they don’t.