Visual Evangelism

Illustration, Graphic Design, Web Design, Identity and Branding

Alvalyn Lundgren is an independent, multi-disciplinary designer and narrative illustrator.  She has 35+ years of experience in creating unparalleled, effective design  solutions and illustration for businesses, organizations, publishers and authors. 

Her clients range from small businesses to corporations and government agencies, representing a wide range of industry sectors throughout the USA, and magazines and independent authors.



Narrative, Historical, Sports, Botanical, Likeness


Designing Influence. Drawing Attention.

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Graphic Design

Identity, Visual Branding, Web Design

Alvalyn exceeded our expectations and assisted us in developing products that we are proud to share and has helped us step away from the crowd by assisting us in telling the story about our methodology.

— Dave Johnson, ITG Consultants, LLC —

Are you ready to take your visual communications to the next level?


Creative Services

You can entrust your design or illustration project to me. I offer total project oversight, from concept through completion.

Web Design

Fully responsive, built on the WordPress framework: for business, non-profits, magazine, portfolio, shopping cart, donations, blogging, and more.

Graphic Design

One-offs or campaigns, print or web, for advertising, editorial, direct mail, social media, web sites, signage, trade shows, events.

Brand Strategy

From a graphic audit to a branding plan that fits your goals, strategy is offered along with a design project.

Logo & Identity Design

Your logo is the foundation of your brand strategy. Everything else emanates from it, and it’s applied to everything, from your business cards to your social media. It needs to be unique and specifically tailored for your business or organization and work for a breadth of platforms and media.

Narrative Illustration

Storytelling in visual form for picture books, story books, trade and nonfiction books., in a fresh, realistic style.

Editorial Illustration

Narrative scenes and environmental portraits for magazines, newspapers and journals.


Original photographs in a photo-journalistic style — sports, concerts, events, street, documentary, landscapes. Subjects include locations, people, product and objects, using natural or available light. Available as part of a contracted design project.

Editing and Writing

Technical, narrative and descriptive copy based on your talk points, and editing of existing copy. Offered as part of a larger design project.

Total Project Management

I take care of all the non-creative aspects of a project, including art direction, print management, web site management and set up, mailing services, and more.


My blog, Eye Level, is where I write visual notes and verbal sketches about what I know: design, illustration, drawing, freelancing, copyright.

What Is the Bezold Effect?

August 9, 2016
Even if you’ve worked with it for years — on screen or on paper — you will always be in a learning mode when it comes to color. It was about 15 years after I had completed my basic and advanced color theory courses that I first became aware of a visual principle known as the Bezold Effect. Now, this perception is part of seeing things. We encounter this and other visual effects every waking hour. It’s in defining the many principles and elements of design that we can begin to work with them effectively. What is the Bezold Effect? The premise behind the Bezold Effect is similar to Josef Albers‘ color relativity principle, which describes how our perception of a color is affected by its surrounding colors. The Bezold Effect is similar, in that it also is a visual perception. Albers described it in his book, The Interaction of Color: There is a special kind of optical mixture, the Bezold Effect, named after its discoverer, Wilhelm von Bezold (1837–1907). He recognized this effect when searching for a method through which he could change the color combinations of his rug designs entirely by adding or changing 1 color only. Apparently, there is so far no clear recognition of the optical-perceptual conditions involved. In fact, Albers’ theory of color relativity can be considered an expansion on the Bezold Effect principle. And Albers’ colleague, Johannes Itten, reframed the principle in identifying simultaneous contrast. The Behold Effect is simply the fact that the substitution of a single color causes every other color in the design to shift in relationships. Changing just one color in a design changes the entire design in composition, personality, spatial perception and weight. When one color is changed, relationships between all colors in the design are altered. It is important to understand that the color relationships do not change evenly. Some colors will appear slightly lighter, or slightly darker, while others will appear significantly darker or lighter, or more saturated, or desaturated. Design Analysis Here is an example of this change by one of my students. The warm yellow in the left design has been changed to a brown (a mixture of red and green). The only change made was the color change. So let’s take a look at how the design differs  due to the color change. Meet Pattern A and Pattern B:     Intensity: Pattern A has a more obvious spatial depth. The saturated yellow is thrown forward by the olive green background. The desaturated blue also advances toward us, and competes for our attention with the yellow. Value: In Pattern A, the blue and the yellow are about equal in value (the same degree of lightness), so both colors advance to the same degree in front of the dark background. In Pattern B, the brown is not much lighter in value than the olive background, and so sits in front of the background but does not come forward very far. The blue shapes come forward on their own because they are much lighter than the other 2 colors in the design. The first color

Creative Freelancer Q&A: What Do You Do About Scope Creep?

August 3, 2016
What do you do about scope creep? Should you avoid it? Should you agree to it? The affect of scope creep — when a scope of work is increased or otherwise altered after you have started a job — on your bottom line is either positive or negative, depending on what you decide to do, and when you decide to do it. Here is a real-life scope creep scenario. What would you have done if you were the freelancer? I did a job that started out as a 12-page booklet. My client had tight deadline, and I told him I could only accept the job if there were no changes to the copy. I also told him that if I didn’t have to handle the printing it would save him some time. He said he had a printer all lined up. Right after I started the project, he added 4 pages, but informed me he was authorized only for the initial $1,050 fee. He had also made changes to the copy 3 times. I had assumed he would understand that, by adding 4 pages, my fee would increase. He didn’t agree. I could have stopped the work but I felt this was too harsh. He was one of my biggest customers. So I finished the project and sent him the final art file. He then came back with more copy changes and also informed me that I needed to handle the printing. Although he claimed several times that he could pay only $1,050 for this project, should I charge him the actual amount anyway?  You should charge him the actual amount. But you may not be able to because of the decisions you made along the way, and what you allowed to happen. How you do business and how you value  your work and experience have a direct affect on your profitability and on your reputation. Scope creep is very common, and uninformed freelancers often panic and fear losing the client when more work is requested. Don’t be one of those. Instead, establish policies and put systems in place that enable you to respond well and create a mutually beneficial outcome. In this case, the mutual benefit is that the client receives a quality finished work and you are compensated appropriately for doing the work. That’s good business. Never assume anything! Ever! Communicate with your client immediately when they change the project. Pick up the phone if  you need to, and then follow up in writing. Tell him or her that you certainly can and will do the add-on work, and it will cost this much in addition to the initially agreed-upon amount, and it will impact the production schedule by adding this number of days. I embrace scope creep, because it means more income for me! When a client adds things to the project, I do a happy dance. I communicate the details of the additions and the additions fees and time in a written change order. I do nothing until the change order is approved. In fact, I stop all work on the

12 Steps To A More Secure WordPress Web Site

August 2, 2016
Every independent creative professional should have a web site. Hands down, is the most popular self-hosted content management web site framework. Over 50% of self-hosted web sites are built with the software. CMS software in general is a common target for hackers and spammers because of its popularity. So, if you have a self-hosted WordPress web site (meaning you’re not setup on but are using the software downloaded from on a hosting service of your choice) web site, you should take steps to harden your web site against hacking. No web site is completely hack-proof. Although you may think your site or blog is so insignificant that no one will attempt to breach it, every web site is a target. Think of your web site as your online home where  you keep the front and back doors locked and install extra protection to keep your stuff safe. Whether you have valuable stuff internet thieves want to acquire, or squatters come along and want to set up a base camp, your site is never out of danger. That’s just the way it is. So you want to do all you can to deter and discourage hack attempts. Take these 12 steps to strengthen your web site security. 1. Host your site on a platform that specializes in WordPress. Why? They will understand the software’s idiosyncracies and will have knowledgeable support to help you when you need it. Here is a solid list of the top 10 hosts for WordPress. My own sites, and my clients’ sites, are hosted on SiteGround.* 2. Use a https site. An SSL certificate is a bit of data that encrypts (hides) information about a web site.  It ensures personal information is kept safe during transmission, and increases visitor trust for your web site whether or not you run an online store, a membership site, or just collect emails for your newsletter. Be sure your WP login page is also https. 3. Use a security plugin to monitor activity on your site, scan for malicious files and block or throttle suspicious activity.  Securi is effective and popular. I use WordFence. Look here for a host of other options. 4. Install a WordPress firewall. A firewall is a blockade that sits between your WP installation on your hosting server and the rest of the internet. You will want to use a firewall that does not muck up your .htaccess file and that shuts down brute force attacks on XML-RPC. 5. Use long, complex passwords, and require them for anyone else with admin access, and any member/subscriber. Secure passwords include uppercase, lowercase, symbols and numerals. WordPress allows the use of very long passwords. It will never limit you to “between 7-12 characters in length”. 6. Use strong passwords for your database. 7. Limit login attempts. You can do this through a security plugin or through a separate plugin that offers this function. Basically, you want to block anyone attempting to log in more that X number of times (X is an amount you specify in the plugin’s settings.) 8. Visit your site often, even though you’re not adding new content.

Risk and Reward: How Taking Risks Helps Your Freelance Career

August 2, 2016
Risk. It’s a small word with big impact. Taking risks involves change and the unknown. We’re not all that comfortable with either concept. I was in conversation with a few other solo creatives talking about life as a freelancer. Inevitably, we came around to discussing the risks we take. We agreed that we risk on a daily basis, simply because we are independent creatives. How we think about risk affects how well we do in business and in life. I think it’s a great topic to share with you, because risk is large perceived as negative. What is risk? Risk is both a noun and a verb. The Oxford Dictionary defines risk as exposure to danger. Risk is what we do when we consider doing something where a good outcome is not guaranteed. Risk can be understood as a barrier to entry. It’s where we weigh the pros and cons of making a move. To take a risk is to make a change, and any change is disruptive. Things will not be the same going forward. Fear of risk creates that barrier. We entertain all sorts of “what ifs”. Do we really want to change, even when we know we need to? For some, just thinking about making a change is risky. When we risk we sacrifice one thing to obtain something else. If you think about it, we do this many times over in a day, freelancer or not. Risk Is Neutral Risk is, in fact, a neutral concept. Whether it’s thought of as positive or negative depends on the person doing the thinking. What’s risky for you is not automatically risky for me. One thing is certain: in order to achieve our goals, we need to take risks. As freelancers, risks can be huge. We hold onto bad clients because we don’t want to risk losing income. When we recognize the need for change, we calculate the potential loss the change will create compared to the potential gain. We risk nothing in making that comparison. We take the risk only when we make the move. The calculated assessment is this: What will I give up to gain something better? When we ask ourselves, What’s the worst that could happen?, we are assessing risk. Risk As A Barrier If taking a risk is taking a chance, there are a number of reasons we avoid it. Each barrier is about being safe and secure. Do any of these sound familiar? Fear of letting others down. Whenever we make a change, we are likely to stop meeting people’s expectations. One example of this from my own experience is when I decided — for good reason — to change the focus and the name of this blog. I originally started my blog to educate clients about design and branding. I noticed that when I wrote about design principles, or offered tips for improving drawing skills, or advice about freelancing, I got more interest from people beyond my circle of clients, So I made a calculated shift in what I wrote about, and started offering tips and tutorials for

12 Questions You Need to Ask Every Client BEFORE You Accept Their Project

July 19, 2016
Have you ever gotten involved on a project and then realized that neither the project nor the client is ideal? The project that was going to be so great for you turns into a nightmare, and you’re stuck. We’ve all been there. We’ve each had these experiences as freelancers, if we been freelancing for any length of time. How can you avoid the trauma and the drama? By asking these 12 questions before your client signs your contract! When you do a little homework and investigation up front, you can reduce the risk of taking on a client who turns sour on you once the project has begun. When you can make an assessment in advance of signing the contract, you have the information you need and freedom (and freelancing is about freedom, remember) to walk away before you’ve made any commitments. Working with a client means you are in a relationship with that client. Client relationships are more like marriages than they are like dating. You have made a commitment and you have to make it work. You need to see it through. It’s a bad idea for a freelancer to simply walk away from a project out of exasperation with the client. The best thing is to not get to that point in the first place. No matter how great a prospect appears to be, doing some strategic on-boarding can ensure you are working with the best kind of client. Ask your prospects these 12 questions before you agree to work with them: Have you ever worked with a designer (copywriter, photographer, illustrator) before? In asking this, you want to know what the client will expect from you in the way of  a working relationship. You do not want to work with enterprises that have not experienced working with an independent creative. Don’t make yourself the guinea pig they cut their teeth on. If the prospect has worked with a designer in the past, ask 2 follow-up questions: How did it go? Why are you making a change? You really do want to know the reason the prospect is talking with you about their upcoming project and not their previous designer. You also want to look for clues about how they regard that person. Are they speaking respectfully or dissing the person? You can also check with their previous designer, if you know who that is, about how things went with the client. This may be tricky if they have not actually moved on from that designer, but it can be helpful to you. Consider is as checking a reference. When did you establish your business (or organization)? Do not work with start-ups. Let other independent creatives work with start-ups. Again, you do not want to do work with an enterprise that has little knowledge of its market, does not know the viability of its product or service, or does not have history and culture you can draw from for your creative solutions. The one exception is if the start-up is a new venture by an already successful business owner. You can look at the owner’s

How to Create a Color Scheme

July 12, 2016
With all the options we have available to us for selecting colors, how to create the right color scheme for a situation is still a common dilemma. While we work with color as designers and artists, the need to make a color decision can stop us in our tracks and keep us pondering. We cannot simply use colors that appeal to us personally. This is the issue when working with clients who are going to use your creations to build their businesses. Color choices need to be appropriate for their customers. Appropriate colors work for the purpose of the design or artwork, and are meaningful to the end user. They should not be based on the style preferences of the client or the designer. Here are a few ways to approach color scheme selection as a designer, web designer or illustrator: Use color theory While color theory is a complex topic, understanding the properties of color and how we see color is vital to using it well. Color theory includes a logical, systematic study of color character, interaction, psychology and scheme constructions using the 12-hue and other systems. This makes color selection very practical because it’s based on a system in which colors are harmonious and balanced. An analogous scheme is made up of related hues with various colors created by tinting, shading and toning hues. This example includes orange, red and red-orange hue families: A complementary scheme uses 2 opposite hues with tints, shades and tone variations. Here are blue and orange working together: Choose from existing color schemes Successful color schemes are all around you. “Steal” and modify. One technique I often use is to pick colors from a photograph and create a scheme from them. Adobe Capture is an app you use to collect and share “hidden” color palettes in your immediate surroundings or in photos stored in your cloud library. Borrow color schemes There are a number of online creative communities where you can create and share color palettes.  Color Hunter lets you upload a photo and extract color schemes from it. On Colour Lovers you can create, share and discuss palettes, patterns and more. Consider the purpose of your project Who is the audience? What do you want to communicate? Do you want an active scheme that evokes excitement and vitality? Select colors from contrasting hue families and include wide variations in value among the colors: If you want a scheme that is quiet and peaceful, reduce the range of value contrast: Note that both schemes above use the same hue families, but manipulate value and saturation levels to create very different personalities. Do you need an ominous,  heavy scheme? Select colors that are high value (low luminance) and reduce the range of value contrast. Do you need something that has a nostalgic, old-time feel? Select hues from the warm side of the 12-hue circle and neutralize them a bit to subdue the color. Consider additive and subtractive color Color on your computer and devices is light (direct light), and color printing, paint, ink, pencil, and dyes are pigment. Light involves the additive color

7 Pointers to Rock Your Social Media Marketing

June 30, 2016
o begin with, social media is not about selling, but about conversations and providing value. Be knowable, likable and trustworthy. To make the most of social media for yourself and your followers, schedule time each week to work on it. Social media needs to be part of your marketing mix. 1. Pick your platforms. It is not possible to be fully present on all platforms. Don’t get wrapped up in the frenzy of what’s trending. For instance, Snapchat is trending. But it may not be right for your business. Where is your ideal customer? Where do you have the time and resources to serve your ideal client? You can totally rock ONE social platform. If your time is very limited, pick the one where you will reach your ideal customer most effectively. If you have multiple brands and some significant time (say, 2-3 hours each week to spend on social marketing), pick no more than 3 platforms for each brand. I have multiple brands: illustrator, designer, instructor and mentor. Here is how I spread things out over my platforms: Illustrator: Instagram, Facebook Page — I post new work, old work, work in progress and related content. Designer: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — I post new work, blog articles, events, information about working with clients. Mentor: Twitter, Facebook Page — I post content about freelancing, copyright, contracts, working with clients, and such. Instructor: YouTube — I post tutorials and short critiques. I am still looking at Periscope, meaning that I’m not sure what I want to do with it yet. As for Snapchat, I have decided it’s not my best place to be. 2. Decide on a primary message for each platform and stay on topic. Each platform is different, so your approach on each should be different. Instagram is a wonderful platform to show work-in-progress stills and videos. Twitter is not the best for that. If you’re a writer, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are optimal for posting original articles and curated content.  Your Facebook Fan Page is not the place to discuss politics, or anything else that is off-topic, unless your fan page is about politics. 3. Share valuable content that your readers will appreciate. Where you’ve created or curated it, you want to post content that benefits your readers and followers. Who are your influencers? Follow them, re-Tweet their content, promote their work. Eventually you will start getting their attention, which is valuable to you. It’s the give 4. Incorporate live video. Whether or not you’re comfortable with live streaming or creating videos, they are the preferred form of content on social media. Live video is most likely to build your following, especially if you are again, offering value and include a call to action (join my list, buy my ebook, sign up for my training…). Using live video saves time, and it’s authentic. You don’t edit it, you don’t write it, and that’s okay. Periscope, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook all feature live streaming options. If you commit to streaming daily

Who Hires Creative Freelancers?

June 28, 2016
he current mantra for creative freelancers, and for any independent business owner, is to create or define a niche and aggressively market to that niche. Deciding on what niche you should serve begins with knowing who hires creative freelancers. You will want to have a good idea of the freelance marketplace before figuring out where you fit into it. In my experience, it is a good idea to understand the general landscape of freelancing opportunities and the kind of enterprises that commonly work with freelancers. Why? This knowledge establishes a foundation for targeting prospective clients. By surveying the larger landscape, you are casting a broad net and identifying specific opportunities on which to focus, and also eliminating others. Note: I’ve used the word, Hire in the article title not because freelancers are hired as an employee, but because it is a word commonly used when referring to working relationships. Freelancers are not employees and do not work for their clients, but with them. Clients, Not Customers Freelancers fall into the business-to-business (B2B) sector of the creative marketplace. You are not making things to sell to consumers, which is known as business-to-consumer or B2C. Instead, you are providing professional services. Although you may have an Etsy shop, or sell goods on your own web site, your focus as a freelancer is to deploy your skills, experience and talent in the service of something or someone who is engaged in promoting goods or services to their customers and clients. By surveying the larger landscape, you are casting a broad net and identifying specific opportunities on which to focus A client is someone who uses the services of another. They commission or contract for these services. They communicate their needs, goals and market position to the independent professional, who then creates solutions specifically for the client. A customer is someone who buys goods or services from a retailer or a business. Customers look for bargains, become loyal to brands, and may purchase from a store regularly, but do not enter into contracted relationships to obtain those good and services. Another difference between client and customer is that a client receives a customized solution, while a customer receives something that is offered to everyone in the same form and manner to everyone else who buys it. Customers buy things that already exist. Clients contract for things that don’t yet exist to be brought into existence. Freelancers have clients, not customers. A client is an individual, company or organization who contracts directly with the independent creative. When you work client-direct, there is no agency or firm acting as a middleman. You are not sub-contracted by another creative professional. The client comes directly to you with a specific need or problem, and you create the solution for them. Depending upon the size and type of the client’s enterprise, you will work with an owner, executive director, partner, marketing director, president or vice president. An agent is a middleman, intermediary or representative. Freelancers often work with agencies that place them in short term jobs — part-time or full-time — with the agents’ clients. Depending

Design Fundamentals: Understanding Shape Relationships

June 14, 2016
is one of the formal elements of 2-dimensional design. By formal we are referring to something that is form-based. Form is the visual appearance of something. In addition to shape, the formal elements of design are point, line, plane, space, color and texture. Designs, and all visual art, are built using these elements. Line, shape, color and texture are arranged in a defined space, positioned at various points within the visual plane in relationship to each other and to the entire design space. Much of what designers deal with involves placing shapes in relationship to each other (a design space) in a meaningful way. These shape relationships help us create and understand space. They are the building blocks of form, and can be combined in limitless ways. These shape relationships are very closely related to the Pathfinder Palette options in Adobe Illustrator. The shape relationships are: Detached Shapes are positioned side by side. They are separated by negative space. Touching The edges of the shapes meet, and there is no interval negative space between them. Overlapped A shape sits in front of or on top of another, hiding part of the shape underneath it. Interpenetration A shape is overlapping another, and is transparent, so that the shape underneath it is visible. United The overlapping shapes combine into a single new shape. Subtraction The shape sitting in front overlaps and removes part of shape underneath. Intersection Only the common area of overlapping shapes is visible. Division Shapes overlap and subdivide or fragment into multiple shapes. Each one is filled separately with a different color. The number of shapes is multiplied.

Using LinkedIn Profinder To Find Freelance Gigs

June 7, 2016
Being always on the lookout for new client opportunities, I thought I’d give LinkedIn Profinder a try. It’s a recent addition to LinkedIn and is being rolled out area by area. It is set up specifically for prospective clients and freelancers to connect on projects. LinkedIn has long been geared toward employed professionals, so anything that caters to the self-employed is worth it to me to check out. What is LinkedIn Profinder? LinkedIn Profinder calls itself a curated resource and concierge service for people in need of professional services. A prospective client describes his needs and Profinder matches prospective freelancers to their projects based on information contained in LinkedIn profiles. How does LinkedIn Profinder work? The freelancer registers with Profinder, which is (currently) free. All you need is a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn Profinder vets the freelancer via their profile. What does it look for? A profile photo, a background photo, LinkedIn Pulse articles, recommendations, and relevant experience related to the services you want to provide. LinkedIn Profinder notifies the freelancer by email of incoming project requests that match their areas of expertise. Profinder states that it also attempts to evenly distribute proposal requests among pros in order to give everyone an opportunity. It allows the freelancer to log on and see all the requests, not just those they received by email. The requests are brief in format, and include a location, time frame, and short description. The freelancer reviews the proposal request and, if it looks like a good fit, sends an initial proposal. The proposal is a fillable form that includes a fee amount, a phone number and a text field where you can write your proposal. LinkedIn Profinder emails a notification that your proposal has been received. Then it’s up to the requesting prospect to follow up. If they don’t, you will hear nothing more. Freelancers can choose not to respond to a request. The prospective client receives up to 5 proposals with links to the freelancers’ LinkedIn profiles, and pursues what they think are good fits. It’s also notable that the proposal request expires in 24 hours. When you log on to LinkedIn Profinder you will see a list of what’s available to respond to, what is “in conversation”, what has been passed on, what has expired. Initial communications take place in Profinder (they’re “in conversation”) until a direct connection is made via phone or email. All transactions occur directly between the client and the freelancer. Nothing is paid to Profinder. The Downside of LinkedIn Profinder The freelancer does not have access to the requestors’s name or LinkedIn profile. This may be in order to protect the requestor from unwanted solicitations. But it does not allow the freelancer to vet the prospective client before responding. The freelancer cannot follow up with the prospect to inquire about the status of the proposal when all they get is silence on the other end. Another concern I note with this service is that the client projects are not outlined in detail, so there is no way to

Why Freelancers Should Not Pitch

May 17, 2016
As an independent creative, you get to decide how you will attract clients and projects. One option is via Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Whether or not you respond to RFPs is a choice, and I recommend that you make your decision a business policy. Having policies is simply good business. They act as your compass, keeping you on course. I decided years ago and made it a policy to not respond to RFPs or engage in pitching (essentially the same thing) for new clients. I receive a number of RFPs every year. In 2015 I decided to go ahead and respond to one RFP because it was from a former client. I spent more than a day preparing a multi-page response to the agency’s request. It got me an interview with their current marketing director, who inferred that she was happy with the current designer and was only going through the RFP process because the agency mandated it. They weren’t going to make any changes. Okay, then. Thank you for wasting my time. RFPs and pitching is common when large, long-term projects are on the line. If you’ve seen Mad Men or The Pitch on AMC, you’ll have a good idea of what a creative team goes through to win business by pitching. For smaller projects and clients, it’s becoming more prevalent, especially online. LinkedIn ProFinder, for example, allows smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to propose projects on which freelancers submit an initial bid based on minimal information. Since the proposal/pitch process is so prevalent, why did I make it a policy to not participate? I share a number of reasons here, in hope that you will find them helpful in deciding on your own policies. My purpose is not to deter you from pitching if you choose to, but to explain why I believe it’s not the best means to acquire clients. It omits the careful development of targeted prospects that you can uniquely serve, and requires that you give away your creativity – the reason you are in business — for nothing. Pitching is not good for business. In the pitching process creatives are expected to do their best work for an uncertain prospect with no compensation. Pitching is a huge expense in terms of time and effort, and is entirely speculative. It’s an “If I like it, I’ll pay for it.” scenario, which is speculative. If you win the business, that’s great. But f you don’t win, you are, in fact, working for free, and that is just bad for business. Pitching robs us of time, money and creative energy.  You have to decide: Do I want to compete for my clients or attract them? Do I want to give away my ideas? Pitching is a competition in which a prospective client assesses a number of creative firms by testing them with the same design project guidelines — the RFP. The prospect sets forth the parameters and sends it to many recipients. The recipients then scramble to develop creative concept on an unrealistic deadline and present it to the prospect in a

No-Money Marketing Tips for Creative Freelancers

April 19, 2016
We are always marketing. From the quality of our work to how we talk about ourselves, we are constantly sending messages into the public square, positioning ourselves, and attracting or repelling clients. While we’re hard at work on a client project, we’re marketing through everything we do with that project, and setting the stage for acquiring future work. With that understanding, we can see that marketing and self-promotion do not require a big budget. They can be accomplished with a good degree of effectiveness with little or no money. Here are some suggestions for you based on my experiences: Word of Mouth My business took off  when clients began referring me to their colleagues. My best clients have all been referrals. One successful business relationship is the seed of many more. When clients start referring you it means you’ve served them well, met and exceeded expectations, were easy to work with and created effective work. When you create real value for a client, others will know about it without you needing to do much. One successful business relationship is the seed of many more. Word of mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing because you’re not doing it directly. You’re creating reasons for your clients to spread the word about you. It’s passive. It’s no-cost. It’s highly effective. Your role in the word-of-mouth effort is to ask for referrals. When you’re starting out, ask people you know and ask people who own businesses to refer their colleagues. After you have worked with a few clients, ask them for testimonials for your web site and for referrals. Two long-term client relationships began on the pool deck at high school water polo meets. In chatting with other parents, people learned about what I do. One parent became my client and we’re still working together. Another recommended me to someone else I ended up working with for several years. Return on word-of-mouth is not immediate. You never know who is talking about you at any given time, and what that conversation will turn into. In 2010 I developed a branding system for a client that was referred by one of my students.  Three years later, in 2013, I received an inquiry from a prospect and learned that the 2010 client had enthusiastically recommended me. Cold Calling No one I know likes cold-calling. I certainly don’t enjoy it, but it can work if you have a purpose, a plan and a script to follow. Scripts keep you from becoming tongue-tied, which is part of the awkwardness of cold-calling. As one who vehemently does not like making calls to strangers, I found that once I wrote out a script and made one or two calls with it, the activity got easier. Cold calling is almost no-money. There are no direct costs to it, just your phone bill. To do cold-calling effectively, you should first compile a list of prospects. Determine the number of calls you will make per hour, per day, per week – however

Creating Freelance Road Trip

April 12, 2016
Filling the Gap Between School and Career So you’ve gone through school and developed a creative portfolio. You’ve tweaked it up one side down the other until it perfectly represents your capabilities. You’ve developed a body of work and accomplished a lot during your student career. Now it’s time to launch yourself into the world of professional design. So what do you do now? There is a gap between what you’re taught in school and what you need to know as a design professional. School does not teach you how to market yourself, how to get a job, or how to create a freelance business. >What school is excels in is developing that portfolio. My intention is not to demean the role of a formal creative education. Education will make you a better designer, illustrator or photographer. If you have the opportunity to do so, invest in a formal education. Where the Gap Is Schools tend to focus on grooming students to get hired by creative firms. Hiring rates help schools market their programs. There’s no problem with this. But not every student wants to be a staff designer somewhere. Some want to launch their own businesses. And that’s where the gap is. I experienced this gap myself when I graduated from Art Center. I had my portfolio and my degree and no idea what to do next. My desire was to be self-determined. I ended up a learning how to freelance from experience, but it took a long time — years. I had to piece things together, seek out my own sources, and devise my own plans of action. The bottom line was, I couldn’t go back to school because there was nothing there to help me. I went through a lot of trial and error. A few non-paying clients, a few projects where I tragically under-charged,  and I gradually became knowledgable in how to run a freelance business. It’s 35 years later, and I’m still in business. That gap between school and work still exists and it’s looking bigger than ever. One thing that’s different nowadays from when I graduated is that the economy has changed. There is no real security in landing a full-time design job. There is a strong push toward entrepreneurship and self-determination. Yet independent creatives find themselves competing in a global marketplace with few business skills that will create longevity.  So what is the creative, who has invested so much in a quality creative education, to do? And if you didn’t go to art school? Even if you didn’t go to school, you still need to learn. Your task is even bigger. In addition to learning the principles of visual and verbal communication and the necessary technical skills on your own, you need to learn how to do business well if you want to be successful. This is why I am standing in the gap by creating Freelance Road Trip. What I have learned through experience, I share with you so that you can enjoy a smoother road to success than I did. Sure, there are other great resources and courses available. Freelance
branding design

Making the Invisible Visible

April 8, 2016
There is a phrase: ex nihilo nihil fit. It roughly translates from the Latin as from nothing, nothing comes. Generally, this is a true statement; you can’t create something from nothing. Unless, that is, you happen to be a designer*. We designers are in the business of creating something from nothing. A client has the need for something that does not yet exist. They have an idea of where they want to be (they want to introduce themselves to the world, they want to grow, they want to expand into a new market, they have a new product or service) but they aren’t there yet. It’s so far only an idea. I take hold of that idea and begin drawing ideas. I call this process thinking out loud. Doodles and quick sketches cover many pages until they start to look like the something that does not yet exist, but is starting to. The seed of an idea has been planted and it’s taking root on paper or a tablet. It’s becoming tangible. I translate it onto my computer, bring it to maturity, and send it off as a completed design. My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client will be in due time and design to that end. It’s similar to faith in that faith is confidence in something that is not yet visible. I know it’s there. I believe in it. I do the work of fleshing it out until it is fully formed. I take ideas that cannot be seen and make them visible. It takes no faith to see what already exists. My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client will be in due time and design to that end. I get to imagine what is possible for my clients. I see them not as they are now but as they will be in 3, 5 and 10 years. I invest my time, thinking, imagination and creative effort in what does not yet exist. If I look only at where my client is positioned now, my work is futile. Because success is best measured over the long term, I anticipate a realistic future for them that is bigger than they are now. And they should expect to grow to fulfill the intention of the designs I create for them. Think of it this way: if the client is currently a single cup of coffee but wants to be a full carafe, the design has to accommodate the capacity of the carafe, not the cup. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions.” If he was correct, it can follow that an organization or business, once stretched by effective design, will never return to its former state. *We can expand the title, designer, to include all visual artists who create original work. Where will your business or organization be in 3 years? How about in 10? Are your current design assets able to accommodate your goals? If not, we
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