I've been designing and teaching in the craft industry for over 10 years! I can't even believe it has been that long and then on the other hand, I feel like I have been teaching and creating for my entire life. In that time I have been through the school of hard knocks, learned a few good tips from mentors, and been working on the manufacturer and retailer side of the industry as a design team coordinator. These tips are for any of you who are aspiring Designers or good reminders or perspective enhancing tips that I have gathered from things I have experienced, things I have seen online from other designers, and a few funny stories along the way too. And please, share your own tips on being a good designer.
31. Never offer to do work that you don't think you are getting fair compensation for. I have seen far too many people volunteer to do freebies all the time and then they get resentful that the company doesn't do extra favors for them in the future. The transaction has to be made on the values at the time – if the company offers you to do an extra free blog post and you do it, knowing you weren't going to get paid, then you have to be okay with that or find some other current value in doing that project (i.e. more face time on the company blog).
32. Just because a company doesn't have a call out for a team doesn't mean they might not have opportunities to work with you. If you really want to work with a company, seek them out.
33. If you find an email address for a company, do not send them an unsolicited email with your “craft resume” asking for work. You need to develop a relationship first.
34. Go to the trade shows with your own badge for your own business. You will get more work this way and be viewed as a professional.
35. If you go to a trade show with a company and your badge has that company's name on it, do not enter other company's booths. This is usually a no-no in the trade show world. Hence, #34.
36. If you do go to a trade show with a company and have a badge with them, if you are expected to work in their booth during the show, make sure you get compensation. It might be an hourly wage, travel, hotel, per Diem food coverage….you need to discuss this with them BEFORE the show and before you agree to come to the show on their behalf. You don't want to spend money to work for someone else (like buy a plane ticket if the whole time you are working in their booth and not working for yourself). Also, they don't know what you need unless you ask.
37. Set limits. You need to have frank discussions with the companies you work with about what you can and can't do for them. For example, I don't do booth building or tear down at trade shows. I have physical limitations but besides that, it just isn't a service I can provide.
38. If you are going to a trade show with your own badge, try to meet with your company reps if they will be there as well. Face-to-face networking is invaluable!
39. Bring a portfolio of your work to the show – if you have it on an ipad or tablet, even better! Show your work to potential clients.
40. Get business cards – you are a business. They should have your name, business name, phone number, email address, and website/blog address. Make it easy for people to get a hold of you.
41. List your company links on your blog if you want them to list your links on their site. Most times a company will provide you with a badge to put on your blog.
42. Meet with a CPA or tax adviser about how to handle taxes as a designer. You might be considered a sole proprietor or receive 1099s at the end of the year and you need to know how to handle them.
43. “In kind” compensation is still taxable compensation – make sure you keep records of product you receive for payment. This is handy come tax time.
44. If you need a business license in your city, get one. I have a home office/studio so I have a business license even though the public doesn't come here. It protects me in case people wonder why UPS is coming here every day or if code enforcement comes knocking on my door.
45. A business license also gives your business legitimacy. You may need to show one to get into trade shows or associations to help your business.
46. Keep your business finances separate from your personal finances. Again – consult a CPA or tax adviser to get the best advice for how to handle your business finances.
47. If you create original art or have an invention, get a good intellectual property lawyer before you start showing people your product. You need to protect yourself and your intellectual property.
48. Don't put anything online that you don't want other people to share, save, pin to Pinterest, or copy. It WILL happen. Hence, watermark everything as I have said before.
49. If you want to license your art, find a good mentor or coach. Go to shows to make relationships, ask others if they know of someone who can give you advice. Don't go it alone.
50. Support other designers. If you scratch their back, they will scratch yours. Share their work over social media as long as you think it will benefit your followers.
51. Join groups of designers and artists online. You will learn a lot and make relationships that can help you in your career and vice versa.
52. If an opportunity comes your way that you are not a good fit for, pass it on to another designer who is a good fit. Pay it forward.
53. Join groups of bloggers or others with skills that you want to develop.
54. If you want to learn a new craft or skill, take classes or search for resources online.
55. Don't teach if you don't want to share your techniques with others. They will copy your techniques and reteach them.
56. Ask lots of questions if you want to learn about something. The worst that can happen is someone says, “no”.
57. Clean your work surface before taking step outs or video. I now have a separate mat I use in my videos and then a messy one I use for painting and such. This way I have a prety backdrop. It makes it easier for viewers to see what I am doing. Very important if your vid is going on a company website.
58. Do not edit your photos with a haze around them. At least for me, as a coordinator, I want crisp, clear, bright, focused photos that people can see easily.
59. Minimize props when taking photos. If anything, stage the product in the shot with your project (like an ink pad with a card) but all kinds of pearls and seashells and stuff in the background is distracting.
60. Never take your photos with carpet as a background. This is a pet peeve of mine. We all know it is carpet.
61. Get a manicure before shooting videos or including hand shots. People will notice your jagged cuticles over the project.
62. Wash your hands – inky painty hands may be a cute “artist” touch but in vids and stuff, unless the paint came from the product you are showing right then in the vid or photo, it just makes your hands look grimy.
63. Well lit photos are a must for all design work.
64. Have someone else proofread your posts. I make so many mistakes it is nuts — your eyes know what you wrote, even if you typed gobbledygook.
65. Use spell check on your blog posts. I need a good spell check plugin for wordpress! LOL
I hope this helps you in your design work and quest to be a great designer. If you ever want to chat about being a Designer, just leave me a comment!
Thanks for stopping by!