Category Archives: Freelance Graphic Design

Traveling via iPhone and Social Media

So I just got back from a day trip to Phoenix for a Adobe CS5.5 workshop. It was a last minute decision to go, but I’m glad I did. Not only was it a great workshop and a good networking experience but it was also a Social Media experience in traveling with an iPhone.

Going down to Phoenix, Arizona, a two hour drive from Flagstaff in Northern Arizona is a necessity when living in a small town and trying to maintain a big city career as a graphic designer. If you want to stay up on current trends and fresh on the current software and technologies you need to participate in all the events you can. Webinars are great but you sacrifice face time and valuable networking. I have found maintaining contacts in Phoenix a valuable resource and refreshing source of inspiration. Plus you can’t beat the real life exposure to the city. It is alive with networks of communication that speak to you the moment you enter; roadway signs, city transport advertising, architecture, radio airwaves and fashion trends all seek to get your attention and inspire or motivate a mind in need of new motivation.

Twitter Converstation between Mikerdzign and Mountain_O

With my iPhone prepared I planned ahead the night before and asked on twitter for the best app to use as a navigation tool. I go to phoenix a few times a year and typically get lost or thrown off course at least once or twice. Thanks to @Mountain_O, a friend in the Flagstaff community of tweeps, I was referred to Mapquest, I’ve heard of it before but had not used it until now. So I tried it, plugged in my destination, along with a destination to a nearby lunch venue and lastly to a friends house from the event so that I would leave no room for error. Mapquest turned out to be a great tool and friend; the soothing female voice giving directions became quite comforting. Even though I’ve been to Phoenix a thousand times I never fail to take the wrong off ramp or get detoured by construction and end up in some undesirable neighborhood off the freeway where I feel like I need to lock the doors and not make eye contact for fear of starting a gang riot. Upon reaching my destination, a half hour early, I found I had time to do the necessary Foursquare checkin with an added photo of the brilliant architecture of the ASU Building of Design and Architecture where the event took place.

In addition to planning my route the night before I also purchased tickets online the night before via Eventbrite and was able to use my iPhone as a ticket at the registration table. The workshop itself was put on by AIGA Arizona and featured Brian Wood, an Adobe Certified Instructor. The course audience was mostly AIGA members from what I could tell but a few others had made it from the outskirts with one person from Winslow and another from Tucson. Upon entering and taking a seat I immediately went to my twitter account to find where the discussion would be taking place online. All I could find is the comments from various AIGA members using the @aigaarizona twitter handle. The first thing I look for in a seminar like this is a hashtag so that I can follow along with my iPhone too see what others are saying about the instruction, it also helps to push out quotes and thoughts to my friends back home and to network before and after the event is over. Twitter in defense to those who think “it’s a distraction during meetings or rude”, is in my opinion a great way to become even more a part of the discussion and for an outsider to learn a little about those sitting around you. As the discussion began I kept an eye on my twitter account but there was not really a lot being said, and if it was I was missing it because I was not a part of the networks within the room who most likely knew each other so I decided to tweet: “This #adobe workshop needs a hashtag @aigaarizona #justsaying.” Immediately I got a response from @MarkDudlik well known for writing an open letter to the Phoenix design community, calling for unity and forward thinking and thus inspiring Phoenix Design Week. Mark put out a suggestion that we use the hashtag #adobeaigaaz which seemed good enough to me. At the end of the event I thanked Mark even though no one had really used it besides us, however he did say they would continue to use it for all the following workshops. So in a way I felt I had contributed in a small way to the groups’ presence on twitter and hope it will become a future resource to keep all tweets in one unifying stream so outsiders like me can participate while attending, or if we can’t attend but want to know what’s going on.

Foursquare tip of nearby restaurant.

The next phase of my iPhone enhanced day would be to find my next destinations via Mapquest which I did seamlessly and of course to foursquare each stop. The amazing part of foursquare is that you are able to see what and where your friends are while out and about and I came across several Phoenix friends’ trusted spots along with tips and recomendations. It was quite a cool experience going into a restaurant and getting a tip on what to order from a familiar face. It was also cool to see that many of my Flagstaff friends were also in town that day and as a matter of fact some were nearby, given more time I would have chatted them up via twitter, but I was in a rush to get to my buddy’s house where I would be able to recharge my battery sucking device and visit “IRL” (in real life) without digital intervention for a while (unless you count that we watched the new Star Trek on his Blue Ray T.V.)

My last endeavor of the day would be on my way out of town where it became necessary at the oncoming sunset to find the nearest Starbucks. This usually does not require a digital device as there is one on every corner, but when you find yourself scouring parking lots and hitting every red light and every store front people-crossing you decide that an immediate source of information is better than endless searching, so I downloaded the Starbucks app and sure enough there was one just down the street from where I was. Upon leaving, Mocha-Coconut Frapucchino in hand, I Foursquared: “Time to head back up the hill. (@ Starbucks)” and received yet another tip of a nearby restaurant from a foursquare friend as well as a message from a twitter friend @Azdurawrap, to have a “safe trip”.

All in all it was a great day participating in virtual and real life experiences where I was never for a moment alone. The voice of my trusty Mapquest companion kept me on the right path. I received tips and suggestions of my Foursquare friends. I helped provide a place to stream tweets about the future AIGA Arizona events and oh yeah I attended a great workshop via @AskBrianWood and @aigaarizona.

Jim Nissen president of AIGA Arizona

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Social Media In Travel: Over-Hyped, Under-Hyped, Or Who Knows

Phoenix Design Culture

Proud to know Mark Dudlik


Beware the Quickie Job

Recently I was asked by a client if I could do a “quickie” design project. This is a common question from clients, friends and family. This was not an official meeting that I was prepared for. Often clients will expect that something in the digital world takes less time and because graphic designers have the software and equipment they can just push a button and “poof!” In a lot of cases that may well be the case, but it’s not always the case and graphic designers should be aware of being lured in to this simplification of our industry. Just like anyone else we should be compensated for our time, services and overhead. Graphic designers as business owners like any other professional have to pay overhead. Just like repair services charge service call fees regardless if the problem is fixed, or the bank who has fees for every small little task, just like the medical specialist who charge for their time and the use of expensive medical equipment, we too have to treat our profession with the same respect. While I may freelance out of my home I still have to pay for utilities, upgrades, training, supplies and the list goes on as it does for any business. Equal or greater compensation must provide for that to make my business sustainable. So back to the quickie edit question if you ever find yourself in the same place; be sure to consider all factors before you give an estimate. Consider all processes involved and give an accurate estimate rather than giving into a simplified guesstimate.  Have a minimum amount of billable time, for instance I charge by the hour but I bill in 15 minute increments as the lowest time interval. Finally don’t sell yourself short, your time is valuable, your software and hardware is valuable and your expertise is valuable, though it may be a “quickie” project, the client is relying on your expertise, your software which they may not have or be able to afford and your time.

Related articles:

Self-Employed Freelancers & Home-Based Small Businesses: Estimate Projects with a Little Less Precision

Setting Your Rates and How Much for Freelancers to Charge – The Ultimate Guide

Getting paid: A designer’s two-minute guide to invoicing

The Contract Proposal

I got a great project recently and felt overwhelmed that I wanted to do everything right. So I needed to re-invest into the contract/proposal, the first step every designer should take in preparing for a job. The contract/proposal is the first and last word in client relations and should be handled very carefully.

Graphic Artist GuildMy original contract is based of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. I took snippets of what made sence to me and my business and created a one page contract that covers me in case of a project gone bad. You can also look into AIGA, the American Institute of the Graphic Arts. Their site’s section on Design & Business has a set of useful forms, and contract examples.

After I feel I have the legalities established I create the proposal, which is similar to a cover letter on a resume. Basically I layout the terms of the project and specifics: here is the project Joe-business has requested of my firm, here is how I/we will proceed, this is how much time it will take. I have learned to be careful not to put myself in a hole on time. I layout that a project will follow in phases, and bill accordingly to each phase of a project. This way if I quote x amount of $ on providing three comps of a logo design, and the client decides he wants to go in an entirely different direction, I can charge him/her for a different phase.

I also include a creative brief to gather any information I can on the project. This is something that can be established in a prior meeting and then reinforced in writing with a pdf form. I make one page of questions and leave room for explanations. All in all I try to keep the contract/proposal very short: one page for the cover letter, one to cover price and time estimates, one for the creative brief and one for the actual contract terms.

In my research I came upon several related articles on the contract:

Using freelance graphic design contracts.

BoDo (Business of Design Online) kindly allow you to download their own information in PDF format: Download free forms, from BoDo.

What to include in your design contracts.

Brian Hoff is a self-employed graphic designer living in Philadel­phia and known to many in the design industry as the founder of the popular design blog, The Design Cubicle.

Happy belated Halloween

Halloween Avatar

Halloween Miker

I created a halloween avatar and was quite proud of it, however didn’t feel like I got much life out of it as it was only up for one day. So being the visual narcissist that I am I thought I would post it on my blog to get an extended amount of non-gratuitous exposure.

Actually I got some great feedback. So for WordPress here’s to a belated Happy Halloween!


Creative Introvert and Social Media.

There are two types of creatives in my experience. The typical extrovert, who we all know and love. They are the rock stars, the life of the party that we all hope to, by osmosis, absorb our own creative side from. Clients flock to these creative guru’s as if they were doctors who could heal their creative crisis with their own personal style of enigmatic flare. They may be prima donna’s but they get the job done no matter how much attention they may require. On the other side of creative expression is the introvert, more closely related to the studio artist who does his greatest work from the private confines of his own studio. Society at large does not quite know what to do with this type. They tend to need space to work out their creativity and may not inspire the same pizzaz, but are cool cats nonetheless.

In society in general extroverts tend to outweigh the introvert population by 3 – 1 putting “innie’s” at a disadvantage. Trying to get noticed and bring attention to yourself as an introvert is difficult in a sea of extroverts who have made the loud and vibrant persona the standard. When it comes to social media, perhaps the introvert finally has a shot. The misconception about introverts is that they  are antisocial and prefer to be left alone, which is not typically the case. Introverts need to challenge themselves with social interaction or else they can end up in isolation.

Social media may be a beam of hope for introverts for it has created celebrity out of mediocrity worldwide. Everything we do is posted for all to see no matter who we are. For those of us who tend to not embellish on everything we do and live seemingly non-eventful life’s, it would appear that this was just another chance to be out-shined. It has been said of introverts that they access their information from long term memory storage, while extroverts have info on demand in short term memory. This explains why introverts don’t do well in social situations. However social media is perfectly suited for heavy thinkers who don’t always have a quick reply, but take more time to think and analyze their response. On Social Media platforms you write about things that are real, and reflect on them in a somewhat quick tempoed way. It’s quick snippets of reality that can can be thought out and filtered. On Facebook and Twitter one can reply with every bit of cleverness as the next quick-witted extrovert, from the confines of their own comfortable world.

Since my interaction with a growing community I have found that my career as a graphic designer, who rarely sees the light of day, has changed significantly. People in my community who never had a chance to get to know me, now know the deepest insights of my day-to-day life. The transparency that I reveal in my postings becomes subject matter for conversation or just a recognized “hello” from someone who before wouldn’t be so sure to say “hi” given what might come across as an intimidating or, as a percieved antisocial exterior. With Facebook my avatar is always smiling and open for comment, and my posts are typically upbeat. I can’t say how much I enjoy corresponding with my local and extended communities and sharing a since of connection by simply posting what I had for lunch, what the weather’s like or the funny thing my kid said. Opponents to social media will criticize the lunch comments or the simplicity of 140 characters and how nothing can be truly gained. However aren’t these the fundamentals of everyday conversation. “Hey Bob what about that game last night.” “So Jill have you been to that new restaurant.” Or, “guess what movie I saw last night.” This is how extroverts do it right? They start small and lead up to in-depth conversations, thus the blog or the link to the site and the eventual friend status. For this I thank the masterminds behind these applications and the new world communication they have allowed for.

Some related blogs in research of this subject:

Creative innie By Mary McCauley-Stiff

Introvert and social media by Ladunkin

Don’t Reduce Your Designers And Developers To Stereotypes by Rob Borley

Holiday Card

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

2008-09 Holiday Card to my Clients: I’d been thinking of putting a card like this together for awhile. When I got my full time job I retained many of my clients from my once previous full-time freelance business. (I say full-time but really I was doing diaper duty with my youngest.) My goal was to send a message that even though my client time had been reduced to late evenings and weekends with my new full time job, I still am there for my clients and feel pretty good about it. I love my freelance business. The majority of my clients I consider friends and enjoy continued work with them. I also love my Mac and feel empowered by it, as represented above. The other half of the card is pretty much how my office looks, behind me a long cubicle wall and in front a PC. I’ve successfully adapted to the 40 hr week and to the PC and the benefits are great. All in all I consider myself pretty lucky to have sustained in my industry in a small town, and have two jobs doing pretty much the same thing, something that I love. How sweet it is.