Autumn warms my heart like no other. As the whimsical cadence of summer gives way to the delectable pace of fall, I feel the people around me relax a little – likely to embrace the coming months of unhurried replenishment and quiet hibernation. I would imagine that there is a biological explanation to all of this – like grizzlies who hunt aggressively over the summer months only to slip helplessly into their seasonal slumbers, humans must have a similar guard that they let down each fall as their eyes soften and their tempers even out. Indeed, autumn is my favourite time of year.
Each autumn I make an effort to write down my goals and aspirations as I become slightly more grounded this time of year. Last year’s aspirations were admittedly vague and abstract, as I was finishing off my third year in university and still significantly torn between becoming a collar-wearing social activist versus a tree-hugging artist / designer / pretty much everything that the former did not entail. As you may have deduced, I’ve embraced the latter since then. It’s been a hard path to justify given my expensive tuition bill – still, I’ve discovered through my clients and working with Verily Magazine that this is where my passions lie.
Knowing What I’m About
Since launching my freelance business late last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients – from small boutiques to financial advisories to the Seattle Seahawks to entrepreneurial food bloggers – and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s this: I do not thrive in workplaces where I am expected to produce content in under 3 hours. Speed has never been my strong suit in most aspects of life, let alone design – for me, design is a slow brewing process that requires hours upon hours of fine-tuning and self-editing after the initial concept is introduced. So now that I know what I’m NOT about, I’d like to figure out what I AM about. Do I want to work more extensively with small businesses and bloggers? Or do I want to venture further into editorial design? Do I want to focus on print collateral? Or do more web-based work? Indeed, all of the above excite me to no end – but I would like to take this year to further define what The Denizen Co. means to me and my clients in the future.
Knowing What I’m Worth
Every freelancer is confronted with the age-old question: how much am I worth? In the creative industries, education is hardly an indication of quality or talent. The portfolio may reveal a designer’s aesthetic style and possibly a general design “caliber” – but it unfortunately does not generate a string of fixed numbers that you can call your pricing list. Admittedly, I’ve struggled in this arena during the past year. When I first launched my business, I had a strong incentive to take on every project that came my way – paid or not – to expand my portfolio and market my brand name. I said “yes” to every project; I said “yes” to every price. In three months time, however, I was caught up in a wave of larger projects that kept me working 12 hour days, Monday through Saturday. I was no longer able to accommodate the “student discount” prices that I had marketed so liberally before. I could no longer say “yes” to unpaid projects solely because I believed in the person or their ethos. “Friendly favours” became a great way to not only strain my work schedule but also the relationship itself. Over the past six months of first inquiries and a few inevitable “client breakups,” I’ve learned that it is important to have an unwavering sense of how much I am worth – by the dollar – not only to respect myself but also my client. This year I would like to pull back from getting enraptured in a project immediately (it will be hard – trust me!) and learn how to introduce the big shiny contract in a speedier fashion.
Diversifying My Work Day
I was never the multi-faceted child who could juggle school, team sports, music lessons and extracurriculars while maintaining a vibrant social life via copious amounts of hair-braiding and Friday night slumber parties. I wasn’t a miserable child zombie, mind you – in fact, I was a very happy child who was almost always engrossed in “the next big project” or passionate about some book I read. By succumbing to my geekish tendencies, however, I never learned how to diversify my time. This is most accurately depicted by my current work schedule: wake up at 7:30am, work straight until noon, begrudgingly eat “breakfast” at half past noon because my stomach won’t stop growling, go straight back to work until about 5 or 6 when Neil gets home, rinse and repeat. Obsessive is right. Neil has tried to leave me pre-made sandwiches in the fridge so I won’t find eating such a time drain – even so, lunch is left to chance depending on the size of my to-do list for the day. This year I would like to focus first and foremost on rounding out my work day with healthy meals and appropriate breaks.
As the spontaneity of summer winds down to a slow simmer, I invite you to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and what the coming months have in store for you.