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.

How To Build An Effective Professional Network

October 18, 2016
When you’re in business (and freelancers are in business), you build reputation through social and in-person networking. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a network is a group of people who are interconnected for the purposes of exchanging information, contacts and experience for a professional or social purpose. There is a great deal of permission in networking, in that those you’re connected to want to be connected, and vice versa. While we often think of professional networking as joining organizations such as LeTip and BNI,  you can cast a much broader net and diversify your sphere of connections. Networking should be part of your marketing plan. Think beyond the usual networking organization and build your professional network using a variety of tactics. Have you added these 10 actions into your networking strategy? Join a trade association within the industry you are marketing to, and do more than attend meetings. Become involved on a committee, volunteer to help with an event, and participate in special interest groups. The more active you are, the more likely you are to gain contacts that can become clients. Participate in sub-groups and committees in your own industry trade associations. Build alliances with like-minded pros and work together for the betterment of your industry. Contribute articles to newsletters and journals of professional and trade associations. Pursue guest blogging opportunities in order to share information and expertise.  Connect with editors and other writers. Keep your ears and eyes open for relevant topics and pain points expressed by people in your industry. Stay in touch with instructors and mentors from college and and continuing education courses. Teach a class or a conference breakout session, or seek speaking engagements.  You’ll establish yourself as an expert, and people will seek you out. Enroll in courses and professional development programs to increase your skills and knowledge, but also to expand your network. Ask for recommendations and opinions from your network. Acknowledging that people in your network have information you value by asking their opinion does wonders for those relationships. Meet together regularly with a handful of contacts over coffee or a meal. Just getting together builds trust and mutuality. If your contacts don’t know each other, make introductions and help them connect. Invite your contacts to attend meetings and events with you. Hitting up a trade show or business expo together can cement mutual interests, which of course, build relationships. Be on the lookout for news of your contacts. From a work anniversary announced on LinkedIn to a book publishing or a family event, send notes of congratulations and encouragement. And always acknowledge good deeds, gifts and referrals with a written note of appreciation. Building an effective network requires strategy and action, preplanning and follow through. It’s easier to build when you are intentional about it rather than letting things happen organically. For the freelancer who works solo, a good network provides opportunities for new projects, professional growth, resources, and business support. More importantly, it allows you to be the support and resource for others. Start building your network as early as possible, and continue to grow it as your

Keeping Good Clients: 10 Ways To Build Loyalty

October 18, 2016
Most freelancers will agree that it’s easier to hold onto an established relationship than begin a new one. And it’s less work to retain a client than to pursue a new one. While it’s necessary to market to potential clients, freelancers should make every effort to keep the good clients they have. Why? Profitability! They will spend far more time and money marketing to new clients than to maintaining their existing ones. When clients keep calling you, it’s gold! Begin by creating good work. Keeping clients is not automatic. You need to be the kind of creative services provider they want to work with. You are responsible for your working relationships. Your first responsibility is to do good work. The quality of what you create for your clients should be excellent, but that is only the beginning. There is more you should do to motivate your clients to come back over and over again. Ideas for client retention. Be reliable. Show up on time or early. Return phone calls and emails in a timely manner. Deliver on what you promise. Meet deadlines or get things done early. And when you mess up, own it, and fix it. Don’t cover it up or blame someone else. Most clients will forgive a mistake or oversight if your track record of reliability is consistent. Be easy to work with. A pleasant attitude and cheerful words go a long way in relationships. When a client likes you personally as well as professionally, they are more likely to seek your opinion and regard you as a resource. They are also more likely to give you more creative freedom. Take the lead. Clients what to trust that you know what you’re doing. They want to put their project into capable hands. The more you appear to be leading the project and they start seeing good outcomes, the more likely they will come to trust your judgement and will relax about your process, pricing and ideas. Acknowledge uncertainty. Especially with new clients, you will need to explain what you do, how you do it, and when you will do it. Think about the project from the client side. What are their questions. What do they need to know about their role in the project? Keep your clients informed of changes, of hiccups, and when things are going smoothly, provide a status update. When you have a question, pick up the phone or send an email. Every client is different. Learn what each of your clients’ strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Talk their language. Your client won’t understand terms like value contrast, compositional structure and implied line. While unfamiliar vocabulary might impress them that you know what you’re talking about, they will appreciate more when you explain and use simple words. They do understand words like return on investment, psychographics, and brand promise. Learn and use their language back to them. Understand their industry and their pain points. Get to know your client’s mission, vision and position in their field. What problems are they struggling with?

5 Ways To Create A Focal Point

October 11, 2016
here are, of course, more than 5 ways to create a focal point in an image or design. The big picture idea behind creating a focal point is that you’re emphasizing something by using a contrast with what’s going on in the surrounding area. Contrast is difference. The focal point of a design or image is the main thing that you want the viewer to see or understand. Everything else becomes a supporting character visually. You can create more than one focal point in a design and, depending on what your intention is, those focal points can either compete with each other or one can be greater in importance and the other secondary. It’s all in what your purpose is — what you’re trying to communicate. What I’ve included below are five of the methods for creating a focal point. These are fairly simple and should be obvious as you look at the examples. Focal Point By Color Just by using one of Itten’s 7 color contrasts you can easily bring attention to one or more elements in your design. If everything is fairly light in color, introduce a darker color. The darker color will stand out from the lightness. If you’re working mostly with neutral colors accents, add an element or two with a brighter, more saturated color to draw attention and create visual interest. If your color palette is dominantly cool hues, introduce an element in a warm hue and it will separate visually from the rest. Focal Point By Scale If everything is fairly small create something larger, and the viewers eye will land on that because it is different in scale. Conversely, if everything is large in the design by adding in something that’s quite small as a focal point you will bring attention to it. When all elements in a design are the same size even if they’re different in color and in shape you have to use a different means of creating a focal point. Focal Point By Isolation This method relies on the gestalt principle of proximity. We tend to group things that are positioned to close to each other into a single unit.  We will treat a group of things as one thing. (We do with with spoken and written language as well. In English, we speak of several things (plural) combined into a group (singular). Isolating something from the rest of the crowd will bring attention to it and away from the crowd. This is how headlines and pull quotes work on blogs and in magazine articles. Focal Point By Pointing You can arrange things so that they line up along an implied line and create a path of movement. Position the element you want to emphasize at the end of that movement, or in a way so that it interrupts that movement. The viewers eye will be directed along that path to that thing you want to focus on. Focal Point By Framing Frames create a boundary or border around something. We use frames all the time. We put margins or whitespace

What’s In Your Swipe File?

October 11, 2016
What is a swipe file? Also known as a scrap file or morgue file, a swipe file is used by creatives of all types to collect, sort and store bits of inspiration. A swipe file is where you collect ideas, notes, and images to ignite your creativity. It is an immediate source for research and idea generation. Why keep a swipe file? Creators should be collectors. Because as creators we need to think bigger than ourselves, we must make use of the ideas of others to fuel our own vision. Swipe files are just the thing to help you generate ideas. They are especially useful because they are full of content you’ve already curated, so you know what you have on hand. You organize your swipe file in a way that works for you, so that you can locate items quickly. You can defeat creative block by rummaging through a swipe file. Marelisa Fabrega of recommends visiting your swipe file every day, not just when you’re woking on a project. When you’re tired or are simply having trouble coming up with amazing ideas, a search through your swipe file primes your thinking and creative problem-solving. Curation leads to creation. Curation is the act of selecting, organizing and managing items in a collection. Curation is not adding things to a junk drawer, but involves deliberately classifying and organizing things. When you curate, you collect things that are meaningful to you, and which, potentially, you can share with others as relevant content and inspiration. You curate with the intention of pooling ideas you can combine and you improve upon in your own work. Keeping a swipe file is curating. You collect visuals, tips, examples, notes, headlines, photos, etc., and organize them in some way so that you can easily look up a topic or subject. Ideas spark more ideas. The more mature your collection is, the more ideas and inspiration sources you have to draw from. I began my swipe file while I was still in school. It was a practice that was encouraged by all my instructors and required by some, and was considered invaluable for idea generation. At that time I kept my file in two 2-drawer metal cabinets and was constantly pulling images from magazines, newspapers and junk mail to add to my collection. For one class assignment we were asked to bring in several unrelated images and create an illustration during class using all the images as a source. Be choosy about what you swipe. In other words, don’t acquire just to acquire. Swipe with a purpose. Everything you collect should have a reason why you’re collecting it. What you swipe will be different from what others swipe. When you see something that gets your attention, for whatever reason, add it to your file. Creation is the process of bringing something into being. To create anything, we need ideas to generate ideas. There really is nothing new under the sun. But there are new combinations and surprising takes on what already exists. A swipe file contains the

Pricing Strategies for Creative Freelancers

October 4, 2016
ricing your creative services is one of the most-discussed topics among freelancers. There is no one right way to price your creative services — there is no industry standard. There are many factors involved in pricing, and many pricing strategies. It’s best to choose one method — what you’re most comfortable with — and stay with it. Utilizing a variety of pricing structures is confusing for you and your clients. To price correctly, the idea is to understand what it’s all about. Pricing is meant to be a value-for-value exchange. From the client’s point of view, pricing is about cost and expenses. They need a piece of visual communication and are paying for its creation. From the freelancer’s point of view, pricing is about lifestyle. How many hours in a day or month do I want to work? How do I charge enough to sustain my business and my household yet not be working all the time? How do I charge what’s right so that I don’t under-price but also don’t over-price? The 5 most popular pricing strategies Time-based. Whether by the day or by the hour, time-based pricing is where most freelancers start out. It makes sense, since most employees are compensated based on number of hours worked. We’re used to it, and the business world is used to it. The key here is to charge appropriately. You may start out in the $20.00/hour range and, as you grow in experience, increase your rate. If you position yourself as a consultant rather than an entry-level, mid-level or senior-level creative, you generally will be able to charge more per hour, and be able to work less hours each week. With time-based pricing, you increase your revenue either by increasing your rate or the number of hours you work. Project-based (per project). Another common pricing method is to charge by the type of project. For instance, the design of a 6-panel, letter-sized brochure is set at a standard price. A 6-page non-commercial web site is set at a standard price. This means you’re charging for the type of work, not the time you spend on it. Clients like this, especially when you offer a menu of projects. They also like it because you’re not charging extra for add-ons or changes. Unless you get very detailed in what’s included in the price, you can end up with less revenue and a lot more work than you expected. Example of a detailed project pricing description: Logo design: includes 3 initial concepts, 1 refinement and 1 final design. Package-based or bundled. When working on a number of related projects, packaging or bundling may be right for you. Package-based pricing is popular with web designers and some portrait photographers. An example of package-based pricing is creating a web site plus a specified number of branded social media graphics and an email newsletter template as a package deal. Package deals are often used to attract new projects and clients. They provide the client with an array of related visual communications pieces for one low price.

How To Attract Your Ideal Clients

October 4, 2016
First of all, let’s define who your ideal clients are. An ideal client is one for whom you do the kind of work you want to do, and who pays you to do it for them. You cannot market your work effectively to everyone. Not everyone needs what you do. That means you will need to identify specific prospects within the larger business population that have problems you can solve. To be ideal, those prospects need creative services like yours and will also make the investment. Once you have identified your ideal client type, the next step is to attract them to you. I use the idea of attraction rather than pursuit, because it’s better to be attractive than to run after people. Being attractive takes a bit of work up front, but it pays off in the long run as clients seek you out because they know that you can solve their problems and meet their needs. What follow are not specific how-tos or tips. I’m suggesting a point of view or mindset in thinking about your work and how you serve others through it. As a freelancer you are less likely than an employee to be selected for your capabilities than for the benefits you provide. You will not build your reputation because your vectorizing skills are incomparable, or because you can draw a photorealistic rendering of a celebrity. Client will work with you because they trust you. Here are some things to consider if you want to attract ideal clients to you: Decide what you do. Whether you specialize or generalize, you’re creating a niche for yourself — your ideal role or position in your own marketplace. Are you a photographer? What do you shoot? Eileen Escarda is an architectural photographer with a specific niche within that category: hotel resorts. Are you an illustrator? James Gurney paints animals and dinosaurs in landscapes. A designer? Danny Yount creates motion graphic titles for film and television. And if you provide a diverse set of skills (for example, you are a photographer and graphic designer), make diversity your niche. Whatever your niche is, you will become known for it. So make a choice and stick with it for awhile. You can add on or change focus down the road, but establish your reputation in one or two areas first. Do good work. This means that you continually develop your craft. You will never truly arrive and stay put in developing your artistry, skill, and creative thinking. If you are not growing and developing, you are not maturing in your work. Study, reading, research and practice are the 4 pillars of becoming a master designer, illustrator or photographer. You should never stop learning. And, you should never send anything out the door that is not of the highest quality in creative problem-solving and craftsmanship. By creating excellent work you will attract excellent clients. Do mediocre work, and you will attract clients of that quality. Solve real problems. Be the solution-provider your client want to work with. The clients you want to work with have issues that you should be
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5 Inconvenient Truths About Freelancing

September 20, 2016
Freelancing can be regarded as a great adventure in which you go from project to project following your dreams and pursuing your passions exactly as you want to. You have total freedom. You can work wherever and whenever you want to. These are very real rewards of working independently. Every coin has two sides. On the flip side of this romantic vision we find the less desirable aspects of freelancing. Other than the obvious concern of not drawing a steady paycheck, there are things about freelancing, especially as a creative, that are inconvenient. We don’t always notice these until we’re made the leap into independence, and they surprise us. Even so, the reward of flexibility, freedom and self-determination balances or exceeds these difficulties, making the inconveniences more than worth it: 1) You’re on your own. That’s a given. But we don’t often consider what that means and how it plays out day to day. You have no fallback position. There is no one who will cover for you. Your mistakes are all your own. Creatives who love teamwork and collaboration may find themselves isolated and cut off. There is no one to bounce ideas with. One way to address this inconvenience is to build a network of peers. Join a professional organization or meet-up group and get together regularly for mutual support. Be sure to connect with people who are further down the road than you are. Anyone who’s ahead of you on the freelance journey and is experiencing success can share their experiences and how they solved problems you’re facing. Seek wise counsel for important decisions (wise being the operative word there.) 2) You are self-determined. This means you are entirely responsible for the actions you take, the goals you set, and how you manage your time and money. You need to be self-motived and self-disciplined. This may present a problem for you if you are used to team leaders, art directors or managers telling them what to work on, when to work, and how to work. Moving directly from school to freelance work is a huge change. Solve this problem by taking a look at your life goals, personally and professionally. Write them down and give them a timeline. Identify your values and write them down. Decide what kind of work you want to create, who needs it, and who is willing to pay for it. Look at what successful freelancers do who serve the same markets you want to serve. Consider them as resources to learn from, not as your competition. Being self-determined means, among other things, that you determine how your freelance business operates and who you want to serve with the work you create. 3) You may not be respected as a legitimate business owner. This is a tough one, and it’s not about clients respecting you as a professional peer. It’s more about how you’re regarded and treated by banks, landlords, credit card companies and insurance companies. When you are self-employed, it is not that easy to acquire necessary funding
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Which is Better for Self-Promotion: Email or Mailers?

September 20, 2016
Self-promotion is an ordinary and necessary aspect of doing business as an independent creative professional. Unlike social media marketing, self-promotion campaigns are targeted to contacts who have either opted in to your email list or are art buyers with businesses and agencies. Self promotion is generally done via email or direct mail using a physical mailer. So, which is the best distribution channel to get the word out about what you offer? What is the purpose of self-promotion? You promote your work for the following reasons: To introduce yourself; To stay in touch; To show you’re still around and working; To showcase new work; To enter a new category; To ask for an assignment. Self-promotion is not advertising in that it is not paid placement. While you will need to allocate a budget for it, your recipients should be people who have given permission to be added to your list, or who are regularly engaged in handling freelance talent. First, lets talk about who you are targeting. For illustrators, photographers and designers, you will want to target art buyers, for the most part. Art buyers, art producers and photo editors are different titles for the same role. They act as the liaisions between art directors and freelance talent. They collect and curate self promotion materials for the purpose of matching the right talent to a project. They will search through their files (digital and physical) and pull promotion pieces that fit the need of the assignment and make recommendations to the art director. They screen portfolios and negotiate contracts with the freelancers or their reps. They handle all the business aspects of a creative assignment. Art producers are very busy people. They can receive more than 100 emails a day from illustrators and photographers, not to mention postcards and other printed promotions. Being assigned a project relies on getting your promotion in the right place at the right time. There may not be an immediate need for your work, but there may be in 2 years. You might not be the right illustrator for a current project, but you might be the right one for two projects down the road. If you are a designer, you may target art buyers, but you may also promote your work to heads of departments, business owners, marketing directors, and others who are potential clients. Your first take-away on that is that you need to be consistent with your self-promotion efforts. You can’t send something just once and stop. Create a campaign of 4-6 related pieces sent at regular intervals throughout the year. Your promotions should reflect the kind of work you want to get. You won’t be assigned something that you offer no visual proof of. Your second take-away is that your promotions need to be appropriate for the agency or publisher. If you want to illustrate children’s books, do not waste time or money sending promotions to buyers who focus on adult trade books. If you shoot product, do not promote to agencies or companies that create lifestyle

Decoding Hexadecimal Color Notation

September 13, 2016
My color theory students have asked me to explain hexadecimal color notation. Their most often-asked question is “What is it?” I will break it down for you in the simplest terms I can. Hexadecimal is a 6-position numeric identifier used to define color in html, css and other code. Each color is designated by 3 pairs of characters. The system is based the binary numbering system. Hexadecimal includes 16,777,216 unique color code combinations. It is an additive system understanding, meaning it represents colors in the Red-Green-Blue (RGB) environment, not the Red-Yellow-Blue (subtractive) color system, which is also known as the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow system. Hexadecimal is used for the additive color system Let’s begin with why white light is the blend of 256 red, 256 green and 256 blue — the full amount or amplitude of each of these primaries. Each primary is at its most present at full saturation, or the amount of 256.  How do we get the 256? In digital images of 8-bit color density, the amount of the 3 additive primaries varies between 0 and 256. There are therefore 256 intensity levels for each primary: R, for G and for B. When you combine all 3 additive primaries equally at their full saturation, the result is 256 x 256 x 256, or 16,777,216. That’s white light. The hexadecimal notation is 6 characters preceded by a hashtag. The 6 characters are a combination of 10 numerals, 0-9, and 6 letters, A-F. The hashtag ( # ) indicates that what’s coming next in a line of code is a hex color notation. The Hex String #000000 There are 3 pairs of binaries in a hex string. Each pair indicates the amount of an additive primary. As the numerals increase, chroma and/or amplitude increase(s). #000000 The first pair indicates the amount of red #000000 The second pair indicates the amount of green #000000 The third pair indicates the amount of blue #000000 This notation indicates zero amount of each primary. Pixels are all OFF. There is no light, so it’s black, which is the absence of light in the additive color model. Achromatic grays are identified with numbers alone, from 1-9. The higher the numbers are, the lighter the gray is:   Since numerals aren’t adequate to notate the full range of color possibility, letters are used to designate higher numbers so that we can create a full range of colors: A=10   B=11   C=12   D=13   E=14   F=15   Colors that appear lighter (tints) have more luminance and less intensity. Their hexadecimal notations are indicated with higher numbers, which shows that they are closer to white light (#ffffff). You can think of it this way: the more Fs there are in the notation, the lighter the color is.   Hexadecimal and RGB Since hexadecimal is a short form expression of RGB amounts, here is a hexadecimal notation compared to an RGB notation: #FF33CC = 255/51/204 The amount of red is FF or 255, the amount of green is 33 or 51, and the amount of blue is  CC or 204. Here is a screen shot of my Adobe Photoshop

How to Draw Hands Using Basic Shapes

September 13, 2016
n addition to the face, a person’s hands are the most expressive part of the human anatomy. Movements, positions and gestures help us to communicate and express emotion. A dissatisfying quick sketch experience in a cafe sent me on a few days of study recently to recapture the joy and technique of drawing hands. Hands are not something you can ignore or be lazy about, both due to their complex structure and expressive nature. There is as much personality in a person’s hands as there is in his or her face. So being able to draw hands with some accuracy is important if we want to communicate well when drawing the human form and likenesses. The hand has a very complex structure, With all its joints, planes and landmarks, drawing them is as intimidating as drawing the entire body. It becomes easier if we look beyond all the details to the structure and basic shapes involved. The idea is to reduce complex elements to their simplest shapes. When you do this, you are able to draw even the most complex forms with ease. I was drawing during lunch at a cafe, and picked out a gentleman across the room as my subject.  Since he was also eating lunch, he was moving a lot, and was partially hidden behind the person seated beside him. As I drew, I had to improvise pose and features a bit, including his hands. In drawing the hand, I realized I had lost sight of its structure. What I had drawn wasn’t communicating well. Because of that, I studied up on hands, relearning what I already knew and reinforcing it by drawing a number of hand studies. Begin with simple shapes Since the fingers are attached to and supported by the hand, begin by blocking in that basic shape. The shape of the palm is a square. The fingers extend from one side — each one anchored in its knuckle. Think of each knuckle as an oval, and the fingers as a set of cylinders or rectangles. The thumb extends from the opposite corner, aided by a triangular wedge of flesh. The fleshy base of the thumb is oval or even teardrop shaped, and the pad at the tip of the thumb is an oval.   Draw Through The hand has volume. The palm and fingers all have front, side, top, bottom, and back planes. Obviously, we can’t see them all from the same point of view, but we need to understand that they exist and think “through the form” to depict the volume. Overlap Forms to Depict Volume Overlapped shapes, where one is in front or or on top of another, immediately creates a sense of depth. When one thing is behind another they cannot both be on the same visual plane. Therefore, look for places where forms overlap, where exterior contours continue into the interior of the form. Capture the gesture Look for directional lines that unite hand to wrist and fingers to palm. Either the thumb or the index finger will take the lead when the hand is in motion. Look for those
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The Freelancer As Business Owner

September 6, 2016
When you start freelancing you become a business owner and are responsible for the success or failure of your enterprise. Honestly, it can go either way, depending on what you do. Yes, it’s pretty much all on you. Whether you jump into freelancing from school or from employment, you’ll quickly come to the realization that you’ve taken on responsibility for your own business and accepted the role of an owner. Owners are very different from employees. While an employee can be all in with their employer’s business, he will never be an owner. He will spend a good deal of time on creating things, and almost no time on business things. He can easily quit. He has little stake in the enterprise. He can pass accountability to his upline or sideways to his coworkers without consequence. Owners have no upline. They act in the best interests of their business or they will not be in business very long. To build a successful freelance business, the creative professional must do the creative (the fun work) and the business (the obligatory work) well. Doing the right things for your business will support your creative work, you will spend more time doing business things than creative things. You should expect to spend close to 80% of your time in building and managing your business, and the other 20% will be on the actual work you do for clients. That’s just the reality of it. If you’re a freelancer and your business skills are weak, do something about it. How do you get good business skills? You acquire them, either through a course, through a mentor, through an organization or through online searches. Successful business owners take care of things. They prioritize, establish systems, communicate, perform customer service, market, pay their bills and keep their books. They integrate their business and personal lives, and operate from a solid foundation that they have systematized to make it repeatable. Your foundation begins with your BHAGs – those big, hairy, audacious goals you set for yourself. These goals are not necessarily business-related, but are purpose-driven ideas you want to accomplish or be known for. These BHAGs drive your business and your personal life, and center around the things you value. Everyone has BHAGs. Few people actually map them out to make them tangible enough to achieve. Here are 6 things that creative freelancers should know about ownership. Owners take action. They don’t sit around until they are told what to do. They commit to the long, hard work of building a successful business. Owners strategize, plan and follow through. When they fail at something — and they do fail — they use it as an opportunity to learn. Owners honor their commitments. That means they meet the deadlines they set. They pay their contractors. They follow through on what they promise, even in the small things like responding to email and answering questions. And the first commitment an owner makes is to herself. Owners develop the discipline to do the non-creative
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How to Design Your Day

September 6, 2016
Creative freelancers spend a lot of time designing stuff. Good design is structured, organized and unified. When you juggle multiple projects, the ability to focus on your work without getting distracted becomes vital to your ability to create. Design your time in the same way as you design a web site, with structure, organization and unity, and you will be able to do great work. One effective technique for designing your day is  time blocking. Time Blocking is Time Budgeting Time blocking is the process of assigning certain hours in each day to the projects and tasks you need to get done that day. You divide each day into several large chunks, and give each chunk an assignment. During those assigned times, you work on what you’ve assigned for that duration, and turn off distractions. Time blocking allows you to burrow in and focus solely on that particular project. Here’s an example of my time blocking for a typical Wednesday using iCal. On Wednesdays, client projects are my priority, and I budget the bulk of my creative time for them. Since I know that I do my best creative work in the morning hours and later in the evening, I schedule appointments, meetings and errands in the afternoon. Then I have another peak creative time in the later evening. My work day is split, and it works for me.   Notice that I do not schedule every single minute in a day, and I include margin — unscheduled time. Your schedule and priorities are best served when you keep things flexible. If you don’t, you allow your schedule to control you. Use a time blocking tool that is right for you To block your time, you need a calendar. You can use Google Calendar, iCal, Excel, Numbers, another scheduling app, or a paper calendar. The tool doesn’t matter, but it needs to be visual so that you can see your entire day at a glance, and something you can edit.  I use both paper and iCal. These are the tactics I use to block my time: Schedule priorities, not tasks. Time blocking should be based on your big picture — what you need to get done that day and that week. Your big projects, client projects, taking care of business, time for family and friends, time for reflection and taking care of yourself should all be included in your time blocking. You are budgeting time, not making another task list. Schedule the big items (your priorities) first. If you have to fit a bunch of rocks and sand into a Mason jar, put in the big stuff — the rocks — first, and then the sand fills in around it. If you put the sand in first, there won’t be enough room to add all the large rocks. The same is true with time. Time is like the Mason jar, and your projects and tasks are the rocks and sand. The little stuff — the sand — is easy to deal with, since it doesn’t usually

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
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