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A Freelancer’s Guide To Retainer Agreements

March 16, 2017
When you work project-to-project, you can experience inconsistencies in your schedule and revenue flow. One way to mitigate those gaps is with retainer agreements. These agreements are being used more and more by independent creatives seeking regular revenue. A retainer is simply a contractual relationship in which you, the freelancer, guarantee a certain number of hours per month to a client at a specified rate for a predetermined amount of time. Retainers allow you to schedule your work in advance. They provide consistent income as long as the retainer is in effect. They create stability for you in an unstable economy. For me, having a few good clients on retainer means I don’t need to have as many clients. I need only half a dozen or so in order to pay my bills and invest for the future. I have more time for teaching gigs and special projects. Retainer agreements can be time-based, project based or type-of-work based, and are used when providing creative services for a prolonged period of time. When a project involves months of work, a retainer can be a better option than hourly or progressive (milestone or date-driven) billing. Retainers are paid in advance of performance. This guarantees that you get paid, but it also means you must follow through with the work. Because retainers are paid in advance and they are paid consistently, you should provide a cost benefit to the client in the form of value and guaranteed availability. Otherwise, why would they agree to a retainer? Having clients on retainer also means that you don’t need to spend as much time on marketing and promotion. You won’t need to be constantly looking for new clients. Don’t scrap your marketing altogether, however. Doing so would be suicide for your business. You simply change your marketing strategy to pursue better quality clients. The nature of retainer agreements puts you in more of a consulting role. You will be fully away of your client’s needs and services, and you will provide them with preferential attention. The relationship is clearly and equally reciprocal. You invest in the client’s success and the client invests in yours. To make retainer arrangements work, you need to be strategic in who you work with. Not every client is is right for a retainer relationship. They need to be people you want to work with for a long time. You need to choose clients who will not expect you to provide services beyond your normal scope of work (for example, writing press releases or walking their dog), who will pay you up front, and who will provide meaningful work. Retainer agreements are ideal for the following types of ongoing creative and support services: Social media marketing Newsletter design Email marketing Web site updates and maintenance Visual branding programs Marketing and branding strategy Content creation Recurring work Complex, long-term projects. Retainers require good stewardship You will want to keep track of the hours you spend for each client so that you’re not overworking and losing money on the deal. If you

Blue Steel: Anatomy Of A Portrait

March 10, 2017
In my article, Show Your Work, I talk about how showing your creative process increases your value to clients. If you are selling your creations to customers and collectors, sharing your “creation” stories will increase your value in their eyes. When I begin any illustration, I have a good idea of how I want it to turn out. During my creative process, that idea usually changes to some degree. You see, the process itself will suggest other options. Consider these suggestions in light of what you want to accomplish with the work, and accept, table or reject as appropriate. In the case of Blue Steel, my original quest was to design an illustrated portrait of the actor, Clint Eastwood. Since I like Westerns, I chose to represent one of his outlaw/cowboy characters rather than his police characters. My original idea was to include a realist background in a light (low value) color palette so that the silhouette of the figure would be the first read. That idea was scrapped fairly early in my process as I began laying in the background underpainting — a wash of neutralized reds. I made the decision to create the areas of greatest contrast not between the figure and the background but between the face and the hat. So when viewing the final work, we look past the gun to his eyes and the steely expression on his face. The first-read focus was shifted. These photos are presented in order as the painting was developed. You should note that it requires a deliberate decision to pause at strategic points during your process in order to document and evaluate your work with a few photographs. This deliberateness is necessary to do if you want to show your work and tell the backstory of your approach, creative vision and technique. Shooting video as you work adds additional authority and credibility.   Technical notes: WinsorNewton transparent watercolor, WinsorNewton gouache, Prismacolor pencils and Derwent Inktense pencils on Fabriano Artistico 100lb paper.  All images are © by Alvalyn Lundgren. To order giclée fine art prints or purchase a license, please contact Alvalyn Lundgren. Related Reading: Light and Shadow In Skin Tones Using Color Zones In Portraits  

Using Visual Planes in Design and Art

March 10, 2017
Planes are probably one of the least known formal elements of design outside of the classroom, but understanding what they are and how they’re used is crucial for anyone engaged in creating visual art and design. Anything that we see and use that has 2-dimensions, whether it’s a page in a notebook, a TV screen or a browser window is 2-dimensional. Some background on formal design elements Among the formal elements of visual art and design (which covers graphic design, illustration, photography and fine art among other disciplines) are these 4 conceptual elements: Point — a position in space; Line — a point in motion or a series of points; Plane — a line in motion or a series of lines; Volume — a series of planes or a plane in motion. By formal we mean that something is related to form, which is the total outward appearance of a thing. By conceptual we mean that the element does not physically exist but we understand it as being present. In other words, we perceive it but don’t actually see it. It’s implied. Shape is a visually defined or designated area that has two dimensions height and width. That means it is a plane with a defined edge. It is a formal element of design but it’s not conceptual. Form is a visually defined area that has three dimensions. Form has volume, and is the 3-dimensional expression of shape. A form is the total of all its shapes. A cube is the 3-dimensional expression of the square. A cube has 6 sides — each one square or rectangular (compressed from a square). A sphere is the volume that relates to the circle, and a pyramid is the volumetric expression of the triangle — a flat shape. Any form can be sliced up in any direction into a series of planes. With the exception of the sphere — which has no planes — the shape of the form changes depending upon our point of view. Planes In Real Space So what is a plane? It is a conceptual area having both length and width but no depth. So even in three dimensions planes are two-dimensional. The depth of a plane is so minimal in relation to the length and the width that we consider it to not exist. Plane is the same concept in 2-dimensional and three dimensional space. Planes function in both 2 dimensions and 3 dimensions. When you draw or paint, you’re working 2-dimensionally on a plane — the paper, board, tablet or canvas surface. To create the illusion of volume in 2 dimensions you need to create the understanding of conceptual planes: foreground, midground and background. A three dimensional volume is made of a series of planes. One of the easiest ways we can understand the idea of a plane in three dimensions is with a traditional book. Each page in the book is a plane. The page has length and width, and is easily measured in those two dimensions. Sheets of paper are planar forms. The multiplication and repetition of these planar forms creates the volume of the book. Each sheet of paper in the book sits on a different
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Contracts Protect the Freelancer and the Client

March 1, 2017
As I write this article I’m in the middle of a contract negotiation involving copyright and licensing of one of my character designs. I worked with a local organization for a number of years to produce a community event. As a member of the organizing team I received a small sum in most years as compensation for my work. Most of my time spent was pro bono. At no time did we have a written contract. I resigned from the organizing team six months ago but since discovered that the event was continuing to use my visual designs for certain promotions. So I sent the owner an invoice for a license fee and he balked at paying it. The issue that the event owner had was that because he paid me he thought owned my work. Ownership is a common assumption among clients, especially when there is no contractual relationship. It is one of the best reasons why freelancers should always use contracts while working with clients. Learn from my experience so that you don’t have to learn from your own. A contract puts everything in writing so that everyone knows the expectations, the terms, what rights transfer, when they transfer, and when they revert. A contract protects the client from wrong assumptions and protects the freelancer from being assumed upon. Section 204 of the United States copyright law specifies that copyright does not transfer unless it’s in writing, and it has to be the copyright owner who is making the transfer. There is only one other way to transfer a copyright and that is via a legal judgement. Here is the law as stated at 204. Execution of transfers of copyright ownership (a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent. (b) A certificate of acknowledgment is not required for the validity of a transfer, but is prima facie evidence of the execution of the transfer if— (1) in the case of a transfer executed in the United States, the certificate is issued by a person authorized to administer oaths within the United States; or (2) in the case of a transfer executed in a foreign country, the certificate is issued by a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States, or by a person authorized to administer oaths whose authority is proved by a certificate of such an officer. So while I worked with this event for the better part of a decade and received a percentage of proceeds most of the time in exchange for my time and visual designs, at no point did the rights to my work ever transfer to the client. Why not? We had no written contract. >Because the owner of the event is also part of a local cover band, I put it to him like this: Just because you cover the song does not mean you wrote the song.  So, fellow freelancers, first of all never work
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Taxing Topics: A 9-Point Q&A For Your Schedule C

March 1, 2017
The first 3 1/2 months of the year are known in the US as tax season. If  you are an independent creative professional, that means you get to fill out your Schedule C once again, or for the first time. But creative freelancers and tax forms are sometimes a difficult mix. These are some common deductible questions I receive from students and coaching clients. I provide short, concise answers to them with this disclaimer: Talk with your accountant, tax preparer or tax attorney to confirm what deductions are available to you. I am not an attorney and I am not offering legal or financial advice. Should I fill out my own return? You certainly can and a lot of people do. The choice of doing it yourself or paying someone else  is up to you. Do you prefer to use a paid service? Would you rather do it yourself? About 80% of small business owners use the services of tax professionals. If you self-prepare your return, be sure to first read up on how to do it. Software such as Turbo Tax® walks you step-by-step through the return and schedules. If you use a professional tax preparer or service, you may deduct the cost as a business expense. My 1099 shows the total of creative fees and expense reimbursements. What do I do about that? Include the entire amount shown on the 1099. Deduct the expense costs on your Schedule C. They will even each other out. I got a 1099 from a side gig and a W2 from my employer. What do I do? Report 1099 income (non-employee compensation) on your Schedule C. Report wage income shown on your W2 on your Form 1040. How do I deduct business mileage? Include business mileage on your Schedule C. If you deduct mileage, be sure to differentiate between business and personal mileage, and deduct only what you have kept written records of. There are some good mileage and car expense tracking apps which send you cvs or html files of your mileage and car expenses. I advise that if you don’t keep records of something, you can’t deduct it. If I work from home, will I get audited if I deduct for my home office deduction? I can’t say. I don’t know if audit risk increases simply because someone claims a home office deduction. My understanding is that the deduction for the home office requires that it’s your only place of business, and that it’s used exclusively for business. You can’t rent a co-working space or office somewhere else and also deduct your home office expenses. You can’t deduct for a home office if it’s part of your kitchen or master suite. Can I pay myself a salary and deduct it as a business expense? You can take profits from your business as a salary or as a draw, and don’t need to do any withholding. You will pay self-employment taxes based on the net profit shown on your Schedule C. Are my art supplies a Cost-of-Goods or Office Expense

5 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Color

February 10, 2017
Although we see in color, have favorite colors, and use color for practical reasons every day, we aren’t necessarily aware of what color is, how we see it, and how we use it. I pulled these 5 principles from my complete course in color theory, because they are stunning aspects that dumbfound many people. 1] Color does not physically exist. That red ballcap is not really red, grass is not colored green, and the sky is not filled with blue.  Color is a perception caused by light waves received by our photoreceptor cells and stimulating our optic nerves to tell our brains that we’re seeing red, green and blue. Nothing is actually colored. We see color on an object because the object contains pigment that reflects and absorbs light waves. What is reflected by the pigment is the color we perceive. 2] Color is energy. Color is a property of light. White light, aka visible light, is that part of the energy spectrum that we can see (rather than hear). White light is a blend of various wavelengths from red on one end to violet on the other. 3] Color is dynamic. Because color is a property of light and is measured like sound in amplitude and wavelength frequency, some colors advance, meaning they are seen more quickly, and others recede. Reds are longer in wavelength than greens or blues, which is why we see red so quickly at a distance. Red is used in highway signage systems to catch our attention when we need to do something immediately, such as STOP! 4] Black and white are colors. Black, white and grays are colors but are in a different category of color than the 12 hues. Black, white and gray are not hues because they lack chroma, and they’re not browns (chromatic neutrals) for the same reason. Black, white and gray are achromatic (without color). But, in order to perceive them, we need pigment to reflect and absorb light waves. For example, black is perceived when the entire white light spectrum is mostly absorbed by a pigment. Very little light (although there is always some light) is reflected by the pigment. With pigment, we can always make black darker by casting a shadow on it. White is the result of the entire visible light spectrum being reflected back at high amplitude.   5] RGB and RYB are both correct. There are 2 kinds of light. Direct light is created by a source, such as the sun and stars, fire, light bulbs, electronic devices, and bioluminescent critters. Indirect light is reflected from the surfaces of objects. Direct light is required before indirect light can happen. Direct light is known as the additive color system, where mixing its 3 primaries, red, green and blue, together creates white light. This is the RGB system which covers all your lighting and digital devices. Indirect light is known as the subtractive color system and pertains to anything that contains pigment. Its primaries, red, yellow and blue (specifically, cyan (blue), yellow and magenta (red) combine to create

How To Show 3D Volume in 2D Space Using Spatial Devices

February 10, 2017
  How to create space… specifically, how to create the illusion of volume in 2-dimensional art and design. In this tutorial I present 3 spatial devices, or methods, for creating spatial depth. The methods for creating spatial depth — the illusion of volumetric (plastic) space — you can use in your designs and art are: Open form: the image “bleeds” off the edges of the design, giving the viewer the impression that what they are seeing is part of a larger scene; Vertical position: Things that are positioned lower in the picture plane are understood as being closer to the viewer if they are below eye level, and higher in the picture plane if they are above eye level; Diminishment: Things that are smaller in scale are understood as being farther from the viewer. Extreme foreshortening pushes the limits of diminishment to create depth; Linear perspective: Uses the principle of diminishment in relationship to eye level and how we organize information in our visual field; Atmospheric perspective: Things that are closer to the viewer are more detailed and saturated in color; Value: light colors advance on a dark background, dark colors advance on a light background, light colors on a light background recede and are not distinct, dark colors on a dark background recede. Manipulating value contrast creates the illusion of depth; Overlapping forms: When a form is understood to be in front of another, we automatically assume spatial depth. Proportion: objects are depicted in accurate proportions based on how they appear in reality.  

Drawing Basics: Portrait Drawing Tutorial

February 10, 2017
A demonstration tutorial from my sketchbook using a bearded man as the subject.  
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3 Reasons Why Creative Freelancers Should Go Bold Or Go Home

February 3, 2017
A long time ago in a faraway place called Pasadena, CA, I sat in a classroom and heard my instructor say, “You can’t sit around waiting for someone to hire you. The phone’s not going to ring simply because you’re an amazing artist or designer. It’s not going to ring just because you graduated from Art Center and have a stunning portfolio.” The difficult truth is that he was right. No one will call you. No one will “discover” you. No one will find you. And no one will just show up on your website and hire you just like that. Well, maybe occasionally that one will happen. But really, no one is looking for you. Whenever I express my frustration with not getting enough clients (it happens, freelancers!) someone always says “You should be on Behance.” or “Are you on Creative Hotlist?” or “You should advertise in the Workbook” or something similar. The thing with that is, I’m already on those platforms. And despite what their sales reps say, they are not all that effective on an on-going basis for luring clients to you. You can post your work on Behance, Tumblr and Instagram. You can build your website. You can use the latest platforms and marketing channels. But the reality is, no one’s going to find you. Unless you… Do the work of being found The key to being found is not in the platform you use. It is in identifying and engaging with people who can use what you offer. In order to bring people “home” to your web site you have to go out and grab them and bring them in. You need to introduce yourself and invite them in, and give them a reason to accept. In short, you need to go looking for them. Go ahead and set yourself up on various platforms. But don’t rely alone on being there. No platform is going to promote your work for you. That’s your job. From my own experience, we need to move beyond our doubts and fears and take the risk of exposing ourselves in the marketplace. We need to do this frequently. We must be willing to make a few phone calls. We must be willing to network and walk up to total strangers. We must be willing to send a personalized email. We must be courageous to ask for referrals. We need to boldly request appointments, advice and testimonials. We must be determined to ask for the sale.  We need to make a plan and follow through. If you want to work with a certain organization, how will they know you exist unless you reach out and introduce yourself? And when you reach out, you need to know who in the organization to connect with. That requires some sleuthing. Once you know who that person is, how do you craft your introduction so that they will want to know more, recognize that you’re a good fit and are compelled to “hire” you? This also takes some research. It also requires some deep introspection on your part, because you
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10 Items On My Don’t-Do List

February 2, 2017
I keep a Don’t-Do list. I spend most of my efforts on my to-do lists, agendas, and getting things done,  but a few years ago I began a list of things I don’t want to do. Managing my time and being effective in my work and personal life lies as much in what I decide NOT to do as in what I decide to do. Keeping Yourself Accountable There is a statement in the Bible about not allowing the little foxes to overrun the vineyard. I think this is good advice for creative solopreneurs. We are each accountable to manage our own time. Allowing small, insignificant things to distract and take over is not good for my business, and probably not for yours. I started my list to remind myself to avoid certain actions, behaviors and attitudes that get in my way. Things that distract me from my destination, that take time or that don’t fit, are added to the list. These are 10 business-related items on my Don’t Do list, not in any particular order. Don’t answer incoming calls from 800 numbers or numbers not in my contact list. I either decline or let the call go to voicemail. Then I decide whether to call back or not. Don’t respond to clients’ emails, texts or phone calls outside of my business hours. This guards my time and supports my productivity. There are no design “emergencies.” Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or sales pitches. Like you, I find myself added to all sorts of email lists I didn’t sign up for. I regularly click the unsubscribe link and then clear the email from my inbox. It’s similar to voicemail. I use folders to sort, bulk-delete irrelevant email without reading it, and aim to zero out my inbox every day. Don’t obsess over mistakes, problems or negative feedback. Worry slows me down, wastes time, and crams my head with unproductive thinking. Don’t keep my email open all the time. I set 2 times each day to read, sort and respond to emails. I try to keep these sessions to 10 minutes. By controlling when I manage email, I get more work done because I’m not being interrupted. Don’t pursue tactics or spend money that do not build income or influence. For this reason, I no longer submit to design awards competitions, join certain groups or promote my work on certain platforms. Don’t discount my fees. Reduce the scope of work instead. Don’t accept a new client if there’s even the slightest hint of trouble ahead. Spotting trouble becomes easier the more experience you gain with problem clients, unfortunately. I’ve had my share of those. If, in preliminary conversation with a client something is said, a direct question is not answered directly, or a tone of voice changes in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I politely decline the project. Don’t continue in a conversation where an ad hominem comment has been launched. Quickly end the discussion. Don’t be concerned about appearing weak by not responding.
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Leads and Referrals — What’s the Difference?

January 19, 2017
Early in my freelance journey I joined a business networking group through my chamber of commerce. Networking groups consist of members of different industries, with no duplication. There is only one mechanic allowed, only 1 web designer allowed, only one veterinarian, etc. Passing on leads to fellow group members was a requirement of group participation, and for this group it meant 2-3 leads each week. Regular attendance and lead exchange was a requirement. I got work from the group members directly, but few leads panned out for me. I also found myself distracted from marketing my own business because of the requirement of seeking leads to give to other businesses. I resigned from the group within a year because I just didn’t feel effective. So a recent question from a colleague prompted me to recall my experiences, and to consider the differences between a lead and a referral.   Leads vs. referrals Referrals are pre-qualified. A referral is where someone directs or commends one person who has a particular expertise to another who needs that expertise. There is the idea the the referral has been qualified to some extent, before their information is passed along. We can think of a referral as a qualified sales opportunity where the two parties are introduced to each other and both have agreed to be introduced. Consent is a prime aspect in successful referrals. Leads are a type of referral. They are reasons or motives to contact someone.When you’re given a prospect lead, you reach out to make the connection. A lead is unqualified. It’s a chance opportunity with potential. Leads are not personal introductions made by a third party for the mutual benefit of both. A person who is given a lead has no assurance that things will pan out. The lead had not given permission to be contacted, so it’s a basic cold call. Unlike leads, referrals are targeted. A referral is someone who needs what you do, who fits your client profile. There is greater potential for work from referrals than from leads. Referrals generally come to you, while leads are something you chase after. Here are 2 examples from my own experience: A colleague gave me the name of a portrait and wedding photographer, and passed on my name to her, with the idea that we could do business together. But I do not work with wedding photographers, and she was not in need of design work. There was no basis to connect, despite the good intentions of the referring colleague. For me, it was an unqualified lead. In another instance, a colleague thought I might be able to advise her friend about starting a freelance business. She asked if her friend could contact me, and I agreed. That was a qualified referral. The upside of leads is that you can gather a lot and build a huge list. But then do some homework to filter out those that don’t fit your ideal client profile. Unsolicited leads may not be a good fit, or the person sharing the lead may not have permission from the lead and may not be actually recommending the

Drawing Tip: The Ears Are Pivotal

January 13, 2017
These 2 drawing tips from my sketchbook are all about ear position and human head proportions. First, let’s look at the head in profile (side view): The Position of the Ears in Profile (Side) View As you can see, the ear is the pivot point and anchors the head to the neck column. Whether the head rotates upward or downward, the ear with remain in the same location and appears as the center of the rotation. My notes on the page are: The distance from the forehead to the back of the head is the same as the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin. The head, in side view, sits within a square. It’s also important to note that the hairline is lower than the top of the head. Hairlines vary from person to person. The top of the ear attaches at the level of the brow. The top of the helix, which is the outermost rim of the ear, may sit higher than the brow line, depending on the individual. The eyes are positioned halfway between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. As a general rule, position the eyes based on the vertical center (equator) of the eye ball. The attachment point of the ear lobe is level with the base of the nose. The jaw ends at the base of the ear. The head sits forward of the shoulders because the neck is angled. This is really important to note if you’re a beginner at drawing people. Most beginners tend to draw the neck as a vertical column, and also make it too thin.   Vertical Position of the Ears in Front View Shows Rotation On this page I’ve sketched examples of what the ears do when the head is rotated or tilted. Here are the notes: The axis of the ears is always perpendicular to the center axis of the face. When the head is tilted to the side, the ears remain aligned with each other but one is higher than the other. As the head rotates upward and downward, the ears are clues to what the head is doing. If the person is looking straight, the ears are centered with the upper attachment at the brow line and the lower attachment at the base of the nose. When the person looks up, the ears and chin align. The ears are lower than the face. Looking downward, the ears are higher than the face. When drawing likenesses, individuals vary. The idea for you as artist or illustrator is to compare the features of the person to the theory of anatomical proportions, and observe the differences between what you observe and what you know. In knowing where things are positioned and how they’re scaled in general, you are able to recognize the specific landmarks on the face and head you are drawing. Since the head “leads” the rest of the body in movement and direction, it’s essential to develop strong skills here when drawing

A Guide to Drawing Pencils

January 13, 2017
Pencils are so common that we use them without thinking much about them. When it comes to drawing, we become much more aware of the pencil as a creative tool, and we have a lot more choices for drawing than for writing. Selecting a wooden drawing pencil is an important and sometimes confusing task. What should you use when precision is needed, and what do you use to create broad tonal strokes? Pencil selection is easier when you understand the numbering and grading systems in use. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on wooden graphite pencils. The lead in a pencil is called that due to its lead-like color. Pencil leads are actually a mixture of graphite, which is a form of carbon, and clay. Pure graphite is brittle, so clay is added to reduce breakage. Graphite has been in use since the 1500s. Pencil Grades There are two grading systems used to classify graphite (lead) pencils: the Numerical and the HB. Both scales indicate the degree of hardness or softness of the lead. What makes the graphite soft or hard is the amount of clay that is added. More clay creates a harder material. The hardness or softness of the pencil lead affects its feel — rough or smooth — as you pull it across the paper, its appearance, and its smudge-resistance. Softer leads will feel smoother, appear darker and smudge more easily. Smudging is a desirable quality for many artists and illustrators. Numerical (American) Graphite System In the Numerical Scale, the graphite is designated by hardness of the lead. A Number 1 pencil is softer than a Number 4 pencil. The grade we use most often in the USA for general writing is the Number 2.  Hard lead creates a light mark with a low smudge factor, while soft leads create a darker mark that is much easier to smudge. Pencils using the Numerical scale will often have a ferule (a crimped metal ring) and a rubber eraser on the non-writing end, and are used most often for writing. HB (European) Graphite System Graphite drawing pencils use the HB system. This system describes the hardness (H) or softness (B) of the graphite. An HB pencil is approximately the same hardness as a Number 2 in the Numerical System. Increasing the number of the H factor increases the hardness of the lead. Increasing the number on the B side increases the softness. A 5B pencil is softer than a 2B, and a BBB is the softest and blackest of all. There is no industry-wide standard for graphite systems. A 6B Derwent may feel differently than a 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph. Be adventurous in trying out a variety of manufacturers before deciding which is best for you. It’s a personal choice Any pencil will make darker and lighter strokes depending upon the amount of pressure you exert. The harder the lead, the less range of pressure difference. You’ll discover that you can use a very light touch with a 6B pencil and draw a line as light as one made with a 6H with heavy pressure. The question of which pencils to
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Should Freelancers List With Online Business Directories?

January 6, 2017
Q: As a freelancer, is it worth having business listings like Yelp and YP? A: It depends upon what directories you choose and why you choose them. There are advantages and disadvantages to being listed. Reasons for listing a business include: to increase exposure to potential clients to communicate your presence and what you offer to acquire more clients. Online business listings can increase inbound traffic to your web site, establish your presence in your local community, and provide leads on which to follow up. If you focus on finding clients in your own locale, local business listings may help. Because it’s a local business listing, your presence in an online business directory will assist you in being regarded as a legitimate business and creative professional. That’s important for a variety of reasons. List for the right reasons You want to be intentional about creating a listing on Yelp, YP, Manta, and any local business directory. If the clients you want to work with are looking on those platforms for service providers such as yourself, it will be worth setting up at least a free listing. The use of online business directories should not be your primary means of finding clients. Make it part of your marketing mix, but don’t rely on it as a major source of client acquisition. There are downsides to listing that are not always apparent when you sign-up. My Experience With Yelp On the advice of a trusted colleague, I set up a listing for my freelance business on Yelp and a few other online directories. At that time I was expecting to increase my exposure to potential clients near me. I chose the no-cost level on each of them. Fairly soon after I set up my listings, I noticed a marked increase in spam emails, telemarketing calls, and requests from offshore enterprises. I received email requests from individuals outside the USA asking me to hire them so that they could come to the States on a work visa. I began receiving a higher percentage of Nigerian-type money scams. And I received a series of project requests from scammers asking me to create their web sites. I have no evidence to directly correlate my presence on online directories with the increase in junk and spam emails, but I don’t believe that the increase was merely coincidental. Since I listed on Yelp, I’ve received 3 legitimate project inquiries. I received 4 from, and zero from the other 2 directories. None of the inquiries were gigs I wanted to accept, whether due to budget, type of work, or caliber of client. Yelp representatives call and email several times each year to ask me to upgrade to a paid listing and to create special offers that will entice Yelp visitors to go to my web site. Since I don’t offer discounts and I don’t have walk-in customer traffic, I am not interested in upgrading. Although I have not paid to be listed in online directories, being listed has not helped me reach my goals. Inbound traffic to my web site from Yelp is minimal. I have cancelled my other director listings, and would like to remove my Yelp listing, but cannot. Once
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Profit Motive and the Freelancer: You May Be Running A Business If…

December 22, 2016
A photographer is still in school full time but is already establishing connections for professional work. She is purchasing cameras, lenses and equipment she will use in her career. She paid a professional designer to create her logo, business card and web site. She has had one small paid job so far and is scheduled to shoot an event in a month for which she will invoice and be paid for her work. Can she deduct the costs of marketing (web site, logo, business card) and equipment on her income taxes? It depends upon if she is demonstrating a profit motive. Profit motive is the intention of making a profit. Motive is the reason behind one’s actions. If you are in business, it is assumed you want to make a profit. With creative freelancers, the issue as to whether someone is running a business or doing a hobby can be a concern. Art, design and photography can easily be considered hobbies, not businesses. In fact, many clients would prefer that we do our work for the love of it alone and don’t care about being paid. However, we have the right to earn revenue and make a living via our talents, and if we choose to do so, we need to go about it correctly so that we can earn a living. If you have a profit motive, you must show intent to make a profit. This does not mean you must make a profit in order to claim deductible expenses. It is for this reason that, in Freelance Road Trip, I walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your business and the putting necessary legal frameworks into place. The frameworks help to protect your livelihood from hobby-loss designation in case of a tax audit. These are some ways that demonstrate you are seriously running a business: If you obtain a business license, you may be engaged in business. If you have a business plan, you may be engaged in a business. If you have business checking, savings and credit lines, you may be doing business. If you file a DBA, you may be setting up a business. If you join (by paying dues) a chamber of commerce, you may be engaged in business. If you pay self-employment taxes, you may be running a freelance business. If you set up accounting and bookkeeping software with income and expense categories that relate to the Schedule C, you may be creating a business. If you distribute business cards, you may be promoting a business. If you receive money in exchange for your creative services, you may be running a business. If you are spending time regularly marketing, networking and pursuing client leads, you may be building a business. If you collect and remit sales taxes on tangible goods, you may be running a business. If you set fees for your work, write contracts, and register copyrights, you may be engaged in business. If you have a marketing plan, you may be creating a business. If you have a web site that says “Hire me
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What’s the Difference Between Pro Bono and Spec Work?

December 22, 2016
Is there a difference between pro bono and spec work? If so, what’s the difference? First, let’s compare them. With both, you work for free, providing your creative services at no charge. Neither is income-generating. And that’s where the comparison ends. The difference is in why you work for free, and also in who initiates the project.   What is pro bono work? Pro bono work is for the good, to take up a cause or to help out a client. The freelancer is practicing generosity and putting the needs of others above their own. In contrast, spec work is at minimum a test, and may be a ploy by the client to acquire creative work without paying for it. A big difference is that pro bono work is something a freelancer chooses to do. Services are offered in support of a worthy cause. I encourage freelancers to take up a cause, but to also be strategic in how they go about it. Pro bono work should not replace paid projects. Freelancers need to generate revenue, and donating their services does not help their bottom line. It’s a really good idea to devise a pro bono policy and even require an application process. Another common factor in pro bono work is that the freelancer often initiates the project. She recognizes a need and wants to help, and approaches the organization with an offer of services to support the cause. Freelancers are not required to do pro bono work, and should not do it unless their heart is in it and it’s for a cause they really care about. When pro bono work is required or demanded by a client, it becomes spec work.   When pro bono work is required or demanded by a client, it becomes spec work.   When considering pro bono work, ask  yourself, “What will it lead to?” Will you gain paying clients? Will you be able to use the work for self-promotion? Does it fit with your values and life goals? Will it offer a great amount of creative freedom? Decide on a set of criteria to guide you in whether a project is worth it.   When you engage in pro bono work, you should: Use a contract as if it’s a paid project, and do not begin work until the client has signed the contract and you’ve answered all their questions. It’s a real project even if unpaid, and should be treated like any paid project. The contract should be specific about deliverables, deadlines, rights transferred and when they transfer and for how long, and the total value of the work. It should include whether or not the freelancer is to receive name credit and will be using the work for their self-promotion campaigns. If the pro bono work is in exchange for an in-kind sponsorship, the exchange opportunities (ad space, social media takeover, for example) should be clearly stated. The client needs to follow through on their end with what they promised. Provide the client with an invoice that shows the full value of the work performed and the discount being

Applying the Gutenberg Principle in Print and Web Design

December 16, 2016
The Gutenberg Principle is a lesser-known design principle that describes the general movement of the eyes when looking at a design in which elements are evenly distributed. It’s also known as the Gutenberg Rule or the Z pattern of processing. Visual designers should understand that the viewer’s eye does not remain static but is constantly traveling across the design surface, looking for visual pathways, landmarks and resting points. It is up to the designer to control the path of travel and therefore the order information is received, by strategically positioning elements (shapes, lines, colors, textures, etc.) The more trained the eye of the viewer, the more of these elements will be found and the more engagement happens. So designers need to present a path of travel if they want the viewer to linger within the design. This is true for print, web, motion and UX. The Gutenberg principle assumes a design space is divided into 4 equal quadrants. Active quadrants are the top left and bottom right. The passive quadrants are bottom left and top right. The top quadrants are primary over their corresponding bottom quadrants. Left-to-right readers (English, Spanish, etc.) naturally enter the design space at the top left and flow diagonally down to the bottom right before exiting the design. This is a natural path of travel for the eyes. It may be mirrored in right-to-left readers (Hebrew).   The designer can choose to lead the eye in this natural Z pattern, or he may choose to present other entry and exit points. If he chooses to follow the Z pattern, he is working with the flow of reading gravity, moving from top to bottom. He will place key elements and focal points — the most important information — along this path of travel. This results in more comfortable reading and may increase comprehension. Disrupting this natural pattern leads the eye around the design in different ways. If a very large element is placed at the bottom center, the eye will enter the design at that point, and move to other landmarks from there. Visual designers, photographers and illustrators should be aware of how the viewer will see their finished work, and plan accordingly. It’s up to the creator to lead the eye on the right path in order to make the most of the information contained in a design.

Using Color Zones In Portraits

December 16, 2016
A color zone is an area where one color influences all colors in that area. This is known as color dominance, and it occurs constantly. It is especially noticeable in the human face, which has 3 distinct color zones. We’re used to seeing these color zones, but most people don’t recognize them. The zones are easier to notice on light-skinned people, but all people have them no matter their ethnicity. When painting a portrait in traditional media, or doing digital retouching or painting, working with color zones adds realism and makes for a convincing result. It is also important to note that color is influence by surrounding colors, lighting conditions and reflected light. Color perception is relative. The same color will appear differently depending upon what’s around it. This is discussed by Josef Albers in his theory of color relativity: The Interaction of Color. Facial skin tones are broken into zones. In general, skin tones in the face create 3 distinct color zones: yellow/white, red and blue/blue-green. These areas are clearly depicted in these self-portraits by Alfonse Mucha (more subtly) and Rembrandt Peale: Top of the head, forehead and brow area are yellow or even white. The skin is thinner in this area and contains less capillaries. Cheeks and nose are red. This is the fleshiest part of the face and contains more blood supply which results in those rosy tones. Mouth, chin and jaw are blue or blue-green. This is the zone that’s most often affected by reflected light and will be influenced by color that bouncing off clothing and other surfaces. In men, because of the beard area on the jawline, the jock in this area can appear quite blue. And in women it’s an area that will cool and neutralize. Since men don’t wear make-up, these zones are easier to notice. On bearded men, you can incorporate the coolness into the beard, applying the color zones to the face and hair that frame it. You don’t have to use highly saturated colors when “zoning” a portrait. Be subtle with your mixing. Color in light and shadow areas Another consideration when mixing color for flesh tones is the quality of light. Under a warm light, shadows will appear cool. In cool light, they appear warm. It’s a complementary relationship. If you depict your subject underneath the cool light, the light areas of the face will tweak cooler and the shadows warmer. So instead of mixing yellow ochre and cadmium red for a flesh tone in light under cool light you might want to mix a cooler yellow, perhaps a raw sienna, and use warmer earth tones (browns) and in the shadow areas. Color is a property of light. Our perception of colors on surfaces is always affected by what the light is doing. Color temperature — warm or cool — is relative to the overall color palette. The very suggestion of coolness in a shadow placed next to a warm color in a direct light area is all that’s necessary. You do not need to force the issue or go overboard with over-saturation.  Very often, you can create a shadow by using a cooler color in the same hue

Designing a Successful Year

December 9, 2016
Each December I take a couple weeks off to celebrate the holidays and go through a visioning and goal-setting process in preparation for the new year. It’s a comfortable and convenient time for me to review the past 12 months and decide how to move forward with new goals and renewed purpose. My approach to this planning is holistic: I look at my WHY, read through my BHAGs, and revise my plans based on what worked in the current year and what didn’t. I include personal and professional goals, because I consider life as an integration rather than a balancing act. I also note the areas where I didn’t accomplish things because of my own shortcomings: did I waste time here, did I fail to follow through on something there, was I unprepared for the unexpected? I want to be honest in assessing my successes and failures. What can I carry forward without change, and what did I learn from my  failures? My answers to these questions form the foundation for my planning. Planning is design. Anytime we plan, we are designing (not visually, of course, except in how we map, chart and record our plans). In a sense, I am designing my year. Most of us go through a planning process without making the connection to design, creativity and problem-solving. To get anywhere, to accomplish anything, we first have to make a plan. Accomplishing goals is very much about solving problems. I think it’s crucial for creative freelancers who want to succeed to plan well. Here are 5 key areas areas which I believe should consider in their year-end planning: Review your vision and mission, personally and professionally. Your reasons for freelancing relate to your life goals. It’s a good idea to have a vision for your life and to live intentionally. If you create a vision statement for yourself (your WHY), and you write it down, you can tie everything — professionally and personally — to it. When you anchor your goals and actions to your WHY, you are more likely to accomplish your goals because they become meaningful. Not sure how to discover your why, create a vision for your life and set meaningful goals? Wondering if you can really design your life? I participated in Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever in back in 2015 and it truly changed how I approach visioning, planning, and living on purpose. I came away inspired and made significant changes to how I design my life. I recommend it to you. Check out Michael Hyatt’s free webinar! Update your business plan. Begin by reviewing your existing plan. Ask what worked, what you need to do more consistently, and what didn’t work. In adjusting your plan, consider what things in the previous plan were not feasible or that need to put onto your “someday” list. Look at the deadlines you set in your existing plan. Were they reasonable? In revising your business plan, consider working with a mentor to advise you. Is there a mastermind group or Facebook group you can

Create A Better Portfolio

December 7, 2016
Whether online or in hand, your portfolio is the primary means of landing a job or finding clients. Art school graduates have focused on developing and fine-tuning their portfolios during the last terms of their educational career, but even for those who are self-taught or have been professional for years, the “book” remains the primary thing for promoting your work. In reality it does more than a resume in determining whether a creative is the right fit for a particular design position or project. You cannot get by as a creative professional without one. I’ve been managing my own portfolio and advising students and working pros on their portfolio for awhile now, and I wanted to share with you some tips and insights about managing your own portfolio. Use physical and digital portfolios Styles of physical portfolios have changed over the years. When I started out, I had large format transparencies made of my work and presented them sandwiched between acetate and bound in hand-made black mattes. Currently, hard-cover post binders are popular environments. Format aside, you need both physical and digital versions. While many creatives use Behance, Creative Hotlist, Design Taxi, and other online portfolio sites to present their work, I cannot stress enough the importance of having your own web site. Whether you run with a done-for-you  option such as Squarespace or a self-hosted WordPress  site, an online presence is a requirement for doing business. For go-sees, portfolio reviews and in-person meetings with prospective clients, a physical book is necessary. While showing work on your tablet is an option, it’s useful only when wifi is available. The binder or box portfolio allows clients to interact with your work in a tactile sense. In an agency setting where you drop off your book and are not present during the review, the art buyer is able to flip through at her leisure and also compare it directly with another book to determine the best creative for their project. If web design is your sole focus, a printed portfolio is still a good idea. It allows you to present your work in a broader context, and when wifi is not available, it’s a reliable showcase of  your design talent and thinking ability. Printed portfolios are not subject to the whims of technology. And, as pointed out here, walking into an appointment with your book under your arm gives you a certain authority and command in the meeting. You have something to show that’s worth looking at. You present a credible bearing. Digital, remember, is virtual. Print is real. A recommended portfolio strategy Once you have your portfolio, what do you do with it? You need a strategy for management and distribution. Include portfolio updates in your annual marketing plan and be sure to schedule them on your calendar.  A well-managed portfolio goes a long way in convincing prospective clients that you’re the person for the project. I wanted to offer some tweaks and tips for managing your portfolio: Your portfolio is never a finished work. You will always be updating with new work, and your book is constantly evolving. This means you need

Working Late: 5 Essential Boundaries for Freelancers

November 17, 2016
From time to time I’ll fire off an email to a client during the late evening or early morning hours. Occasionally, an immediate response comes back expressing surprise that I’m working so late.  Often the client will follow with another or several emails, expect me to respond right then. The thing is, I’m not actually available to clients in the wee hours of the morning. If I send an email at 1:23am I do it for my convenience, not the client’s. Freelancers set their own hours. I happen to work a split schedule. I work in the morning and then again at night. In between, during the afternoon, I schedule meetings and run errands. I go play or take the dogs for a walk. Although it’s a somewhat unusual time block, I create great work for my clients. But I am not available to my clients outside of my stated business hours which are the usual daytime, weekday hours, even if send a midnight email. So I won’t respond to the up-all-night client until the next afternoon. In this way I enforce my boundaries. Design is a service industry. We independent creatives are in service to our clients. As a whole, we enjoy helping people achieve their goals. A good many of us often help to the degree that we forget about setting boundaries, or, if we’ve set them, we neglect to enforce them. The  problem with this is that we allow the wrong things to take up our time and become our focus. Time is not a renewable resource. Our time is threatened on a daily basis by the expectations and demands of others. So many of us get out of bed and check email or pop on the television first thing, and move into our day based on what others want to make of it. 5 tactics to maintain boundaries When clients and designers work together, it’s a collaboration. Every collaboration requires boundaries to make it work. These are a few boundaries I’ve established which help me serve you to the best of my ability. Business hours. Publish official business hours in your contract and on your web site. Although you may not adhere to them behind the scenes and, as I do, function on an entirely different schedule, letting people know when you are available to them and when you are not helps protect your creative time. When a client thinks she can converse with you on Sunday evening, she will. Some of my clients actually work weekends (event producers, for example) but I cannot conform to their business hours. Even if you send a midnight email it should not mean you’re open for business or available 24/7. Ignore emails, phone calls and text messages until the next business day, and then be prompt to reply. NOTHING is a creative emergency needing your immediate attention at 2:00am. Share your process. I begin every project with a research and inquiry phase. This means that, immediately after the project contract is signed, I am burrowed in for

Light and Shadow in Skin Tones

November 10, 2016
In this tutorial I begin with some color theory about skin tones and how we perceive light and shadow. Then I move into how to mix flesh tones using the 3 subtractive primaries, and why you are better off not using black to create shadow areas. Use complements instead. I end by creating a color sketch. Materials and tools used in this tutorial: Moleskine® sketchbook Winsor and Newton® watercolor: Purple Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Primary Blue (cyan) and Naples Yellow Winsor and Newton® gouache: Ivory Black M. Graham® gouache: Yellow Ochre   Disclaimer: I use my own materials and tools in this tutorial.  

30-Day Draw-What-You-See Drawing Challenge

November 9, 2016
In order to form a habit of drawing daily, you can participate in or create your own drawing challenge. The thing is, you will never get better at something unless you do something about getting better. In drawing, you can build skill and confidence just by drawing. No matter how good you become, you can always mature in your craft. Many artists and illustrators challenge themselves with a series of daily assignments. My colleague, Duane Eells, finished up a year of drawing figures and immediately launched another  365-day project of drawing a face everyday. You can see his Instagram posts here. And, even if you already draw every day, participating in a challenge (like Inktober or The Big Draw LA) will push you to explore new approaches and subject matter. What’s different about my Draw-What-You-See challenge I’m launching my first-ever 30-day drawing challenge. I plan to post a new drawing challenge a couple times each year, both for myself to level up my skills, and to encourage you, my readers and students, as well. What you’ll find that might be different about my approach is that I’m focusing this challenge on direct observation. Rather than drawing from your imagination, which is a viable and popular option, I have made a list of objects you should already have around the house or in your community. Tips for completing this challenge Add it to your daily calendar and then follow through on the “appointment”. You can begin this challenge any time. The key is to stay with it for the full 30 days, doing some drawing every day. So schedule your drawing time at the same time every day — during your lunch hour, first thing in the morning, during an afternoon break, or after your evening meal. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off and keep going. Spend 15-30 minutes on each drawing. You can always go back and add details later. Use a sketchbook. If you make a journal or sketchbook, you’ll have all your challenge drawings in sequential order and in 1 place. You can observe your progress.   Don’t be too concerned about being perfect, being expressive, or developing a style. Just draw what you see, and allow yourself to make mistakes. Correct your angles and proportions, but don’t try to make a perfect drawing each time. Relax and enjoy the process of looking, analyzing and mark-making. I’ve included a variety of subjects — living, non-living, small to large, to give you a variety of forms. I’ve included some opportunities to include hand-lettering as well. Use whatever medium you’re comfortable with or that’s convenient. Use a sketchbook. Draw from direct observation, not out of your head. When you finish, you can review your work, and hopefully take up a new drawing project! The 30-day Draw What You See List: 1. Paper bag 2. Round fruit (apple, tomato, peach, pear, olive, for example) 3. Coffee mug 4. Tea cup and saucer 5. Water/hydration bottle 6. Hardcover book(s) – open and

Show Your Work: How Sharing Your Process Increases Your Value

November 2, 2016
When a client is looking for a creative firm, process and procedures are not obvious priorities in evaluating performance. The prospect is going to look for the quality of the final work and its results. And he or she will be concerned about time and budget. That’s where many initial conversations between the prospect and the creative talent start and stop. But there are 2 facts about getting paid for doing creative work that we cannot ignore: 1. People don’t value what they can’t see. 2. People don’t pay for what they don’t value. Occasionally, however, the prospect will ask about how you work — how you came up with an idea, and how you got to the final result. Good creative work is the result of a good creative process. The client who asks you how you arrived at a creative solution is asking about your process. If you hesitate in this conversation, you may lose the client. Creative Process No design is brought into being without going through a series of steps. Creative processes vary and are unique to the individual designer, illustrator or photographer, but there are common elements in every process. Generally, the following 5 steps will be undertaken: Identify the purpose of the created work. Is it going to tell a story? If so, what story? Is it going to persuade? Who, and in what way? Is it going to teach? If so, what, and to whom? Investigate This is the discovery, research and inspiration phase. If there is nothing new under the sun, we do not create out of nothing. Every creative work is influenced by the creator’s life experience, education, knowledge and world view. First, look for what is already created. Are there similar solutions out there already? If so, can they be improved upon? Then, look for what catches your eye. What makes something attractive to you? Ideate: get things down on paper. Sketch out concepts and ideas. Evaluate and test them against the purpose of the design. Will it work? Develop ideas into a semi-finished state and look at them. Test them out. Implement the final design. Create necessary variations. Publish and launch. Evaluate: how well did the design achieve its purpose? What are its strengths? Where can it be improved? Promote your process Turn your creative process into a marketing tool. If you want to attract high-caliber, high budget clients, show how you arrive at your creative solutions. Add your process to your web site, Behance profile, Etsy shop and social media. Share your notes, sketches and thoughts on Instagram and your technique YouTube. How? Simply answer these questions as the basis for your presentation: How did you define the problem to meet the client’s needs? What criteria did you use to guide your discovery? How did your insights inspire your idea development? How did you stay on course in your design process? How was the work implemented into the marketplace by the client? What were the results? Form a habit There are 2 things you

A Key to Productivity: Do the Right Things

November 2, 2016
roductivity is a popular and expansive topic, and it’s also big business. From apps and books on the subject to courses and mastermind groups, tools and techniques for overseeing tasks and projects both personally and professionally are proliferating. As creative freelancers, we live by deadlines. Being able to manage time on a project is necessary for our livelihood. So often, a project takes longer than we planned for and time seems to get away from us. How do we manage it? My purpose in writing this is not to offer another system or list of how-tos. Rather, I hope to offer a few insights that you can consider for maintaining your own schedule. I am making no promises or guarantees, but sharing the approach that has worked for me and others who I’ve shared it with over the years. So allow me to being with 4 premises: First, we cannot actually manage time. Time is the one resource that we all have the same amount of. There is no way we can save time or make time. When it’s gone, we cannot get it back again. What we manage are the things — projects and actions — we allow to occupy our time. That alone is the most fundamental insight I can offer, and the foundation for how I steward my projects and to-do list. Second, everyone’s system is unique. Considering everything from Getting Things Done to 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Deep Work, to bullet journals, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need a system that is comfortable and intelligent for you. Third, it’s not how much you do that makes you productive, it’s what you do. The idea is to do the right things every day that will move you forward on the road to accomplishing your goals, whether they involve meeting your client deadlines or buying a home. Fourth, do the right things for the right reasons. When your heart is in something, you have more enthusiasm and creative entry for it, which makes it easier to remain focused through trial and error, and other setbacks. So let’s look at some ways you might seriously consider to improve your productivity: The Weekly Brain Dump Session If you’re like me, you have a lot of ideas coursing through your brain. I’ve learned that getting them all down on paper removes the stress of having to remember them. The paper remembers them for me. (I only need to remember where I put the paper). So I do a sort of brain dump every week on a page in my planner. My planner is old-school, but it works for me, because the action of writing instead of typing helps me process and sort my list. I make a list of everything I can think of, personal and professional. It’s important to think about your life as a whole when you brain dump. I don’t spend too long in making my list — 10-15 minutes is usual. I borrowed this process

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