I’m excited to introduce a new series on the blog today: Freelance Dispatch! (Insert hi-hat cymbals sound.)
As the name suggests, this series is going to dive into aspects of the freelance/creative life, with topics from my own experience and insights I come across from other people and places.
I might share posts on things I’ve learned through some of my client projects, or tips from creative professionals I respect and admire. I might discuss the challenges of working in ways that are both creative and efficient (hint: they don’t always go together). I might feature different kinds of creative work spaces or the rituals of famous artists and writers.
I might even share a few secrets.
Whether you are a creative professional or not, if you’re at all interested in the creative process, creative people, or creating an unconventional life or career, my hope is that this series will be filled with useful stuff that sparks or speaks to your own creative thinking and projects.
On that note, I’m kicking things off with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my new business card design.
I’d been wanting to get cards made for a long time, but put it off for a couple reasons:
*I’m super picky about aesthetics when it comes to things like layout/format/font/size/colour etc.—basically everything that would be needed in a card design. I knew the design process would require making a lot of decisions…and while I trust my taste, I can sometimes be indecisive about the details, which both exhausts and annoys me. (See, I am already telling you secrets. I’m actually a bit picky about most things. So much so that my mom nicknamed me ‘Pick’ as a kid. She still calls me that sometimes.:))
*I needed to find the right designer, which meant researching options, comparing portfolios, finding out pricing, etc. It’s time consuming and again, requires deciding on THE ONE…which, see above.
What I really wanted was a designer who I knew was talented and who I trusted would collaborate well. For me, this means understanding my vision, offering their own creative input, giving options, making changes graciously, and communicating in a way that’s friendly and professional. I wanted someone who truly cared about the design and would put in the effort to make it a successful project. I did some research, and ultimately went with my gut: I hired Shaun Kingerlee, a Vancouver, B.C.-based graphic designer who I had recently worked with (indirectly) on a website for a mutual client. I found Shaun really easy to communicate with on that project, which, along with his obvious talent, is one of the main reasons I hired him.
Fun fact: Shaun and I have known each other since 1988. We were both in Ms. Martin’s grade 5 class at Saanichton Elementary School, and I remember him often drawing in his sketchbook. Around the same time, I apparently told my mother I wanted to be an “author” when I grew up. So, the seeds of our career paths were already sprouting for both Shaun and I by the age of 10.
When I first reached out, Shaun responded within a day and said he’d be happy to take on the project. A fast first response goes a long way, in my opinion. Prospective clients are typically shopping around, and when a company gets back to them quickly, it shows they are genuinely interested (and bodes well for future communication). I make a point of responding within a day myself when someone contacts me for writing services, as I know they may also be contacting others. It’s such a missed opportunity if they go with someone else just because that person/company replied faster!
This is what I told Shaun at the outset: I don’t need a logo, so the design should be fairly straightforward…keeping in line with the clean look of my website, but perhaps with some element that makes it really stand out as well.
Looking back, ‘straightforward’ was probably a bit of a stretch, as we did A LOT of back and forth on this design, but it’s true that I didn’t have or need a logo.
Shaun then asked the following: Firstly, are you married to the fonts and colours used on your website? If so, can you tell me the names of the fonts? Also, what kind of quantities are you looking to have printed? Lastly, can you send me all the content you would like to have on your card?
And we were off! To the design collaboration races…which, in current day, means a lot of emailing back and forth. Thankfully, both of us were able to clearly articulate ourselves via email, which is NOT a skill that everyone has, I’ve learned.
I sent Shaun a document with answers to his questions, links to some card examples I liked on pinterest, and some of my ideas for design and content. These included:
*A two-sided card on a white background
*Using one or more of the accent colours from my website (teal and violet)
*My name in large font on front, list of specific services on the back (I provided all the wording)
*Using the font on my website or something similar…but I was open to font options
This is what Shaun came back with, first round:
Options! Lots of options, which I was happy about. The way my brain works is I can’t be sure what ‘s right unless I know what’s not. So seeing options, while sometimes overwhelming, helps me feel confident in my decision when making the final call. Shaun took my ideas, added his own, and produced some really creative designs. At first I was surprised to see the teal background for the front of the card, but after Shaun showed me a white option…
I realized the teal was much, much better. This is a shining example of why it’s good to be open to the process of collaboration and seeing what direction it can go, respecting the other person’s (in this case, the designer’s) skills.
I was immediately drawn to this polka dot version…
which surprised me, because I never would have thought to do polka dots on a business card. They were Shaun’s idea completely. Without having a logo, they added that extra bit of interest and really made the card pop. But I also wondered, were polka dots “professional” enough? Do they suit a writer? Are they really me?
Yes, it turns out. Writers are fun too. Also, tiny polka dots make me happy. Enough said. (Secret #2: I have since bought these white sheets with grey polka dots for our bed, and I LOVE them.)
Shaun suggested we go with polka dots on the front but keep the back dot-free, and I agreed. That decided, we still had to pin down a few details. Did I want to stick with those fonts? I liked the Voga font for my name, but, again, was it me? Shaun sent a few other font options including this one:
and I knew there was no comparison. Voga it was. He also sent additional options for the secondary font but we ended up sticking with Roboto, though he changed it from ‘regular’ to ‘condensed’. As Shaun explained: This complements Voga really well but still provides some nice contrast. It also eats up less horizontal space which is good for this design.
I requested to change the dotted lines framing the text to a straight line…
which I liked better. But in this version the text size and alignment had changed, and I thought it was a touch big, so I asked Shaun to tweak it again. By this time he had sent several proofs and I was worried I was being a bit high-maintenance. All the little changes! I didn’t want to be an annoying client, but I also wanted the card to be just right. Sorry for being tedious! I wrote. I appreciate your patience. I figure, when you know your requests mean more work for the person your collaborating with, it’s best to show you recognize that. When my clients add an extra ‘thank you’ or mention their appreciation, it means a lot to me. Simple kindness, right?
Thankfully, Shaun wrote back: Don’t worry about the little tweaks. I expect that so it’s all good! This is what I mean about making changes graciously. I appreciated SO MUCH that I was working with someone who understood that changes are just a part of the process, and didn’t make me feel bad about it.
He sent this version back:
and it was perfect.
Except for one thing.
I had realized, at the 11th hour, that I should have included ‘interviews’ in the list of my services, since I do so many of them. Ahhhh…I had to ask for this one final change. (Officially high-maintenance.) I had some angst over this, but at the end of the day, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t ask, and I knew it was probably a simple change. I requested he replace ‘bios’ and ‘book’ with ‘interviews’ and Shaun came back with this:
Project complete! Except for the printing, which I got done soon after here in Portland at Phoenix Media. There was an issue with the dots not being visible the first time around, but the printer staff coordinated with Shaun on colour codes and together they fixed it. When I picked up the final box of cards, I was so happy and relieved: they turned out exactly right.
Good design takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s so worth it when you end up with a final product you love. I can’t express enough how important it is to find the right people to work with, which also means understanding how you work best and what your needs are as a client. For me, strong communication is as important as design skills. I was lucky to find someone with both, which is not as common as you’d hope out here in freelance-land.
Other things Shaun did that I thought went the extra mile were research different printing options, explain techniques to me like embossing, foil, letterpress etc., (options we considered early on) and even look up Portland printers to see who did offset (vs. digital) printing. He cared about the final printed product, not just the design, and was always available if I had questions about printing, which I had very little knowledge of. So THANK YOU, Shaun, for being excellent all around! (I would also like to thank Joe, who listened patiently and offered his objective opinion when I agonized over things like font size.)
Shaun takes on select freelance projects, and I highly recommend him. You can check out his website here and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about you guys? Have you worked on a collaboration that required a lot of communication? What did you learn from it? Are you picky/high-maintenance like me? Do you like polka dots?
Tell me your stories, friends…and have a great week. :)