Saturday, February 23, 2008

TASSIE HERE WE COME!

Well, I made it! Managed to get through all of the work and am off to Tassie today for two glorious weeks! Am so tired, but it was worth it! Looking forward to catching up with you all when I return! Take care and see you in two weeks!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT


I am sure that my work dominated ramblings are getting monotonous now, so I thought I'd spice things up a bit, by bringing forward an announcement that I was saving until the day before we left to go to Tassie:

I AM GOING BACK TO FULL-TIME WORK! And I am REALLY excited about it!

How? When?!What? Why? Where? Where does this leave my blogging, my freelancing....?
Ok, Ok - one question at a time!

Click below for some answers to these questions!

Q. HOW?
A. Those of you who have read my self promotional write up will know that I have always kept my eye on the job market, and I would have to say that this particular ad was the first one that has really caught my attention enough to consider applying for the full-time position. I was excited just from reading the ad! (Always a pretty good sign!)

Q. WHEN?
A. Regular readers may also recall the quick mention of me attending the interview back in my first posts about this crazy busy period for me, here!...and you may also have noticed that I have not really mentioned much about it since attending the first interview! (Did not want to jinx anything or get my hopes up too much until it was all confirmed!)

Q. WHAT?
A. It's a Product Developer position in a new industry for me, which is another reason I am so excited and inspired! I just love the learning process and being challenged in new areas!

Q.WHY?
A. Many reasons! One of the things that I miss the most about freelancing, is being involved in the whole product life cycle! This has been a big learning curve for me over the last 12 months or so of freelancing. Most of my freelance projects just involve the design side of the process. It's just not enough for me! I want to get involved in the planning, development and analysis side of things as well! I was not prepared for how much I would miss this side of product design!

Strangely, I just had a great feeling from the minute I read the job ad. This feeling was strengthened following the very first interview, when I discovered how great the people in the business were. I came away with a feeling that I could really make a strong contribution to this team, but also that I could learn alot from them too!

I am delighted that they seemed to get this feeling too, and after a few days of me seriously contemplating a move out of what my ex-work collegues have always called my "semi-retirement" (ie. freelance!!? - clearly they have no understanding of the demands of the freelance market!!), and following a second interview, I knew what I wanted! So I was just delighted when I received the phone call offering me the position!

Q. WHERE?
A. Well, it's on the other side of town for me, and it will take a while to get there, but I have ALWAYS travelled long distances to my work and when I love what I am doing, then it's not a drama. It's actually also good wind "up" or "down" time in the car with the radio going!

Q. WHEN DO I START?
A. As soon as I get back from my trip to Tasmania!

Q. WILL I STILL BE BLOGGING?
A. YOU BET! I am loving this whole process, but I will of course, be a bit restricted with how much I can share about my day job!

I am excited now about having a bit more time to really decorate and develop our lovely new house, so I plan on sharing all of these details with you! I have some "mural" plans (eeek - I don't mean to freak out my husband who has actually given me the OK on this front!) and I plan to finally create some of my own art and craft to hang on the walls, and dress things up a bit.

Q. WILL I STILL BE FREELANCING?
A. A BIT! One of things that I love about the business philosophy of my new work place is the work /life balance that they promote! You even get a day off on your birthday! How cool is that?!! I am really at a stage in my career when I am looking for that balance of work/life, so I don't really want to overload myself again with working every weekend and evening!

However,I still have an unfulfilled goal (like many of you!) to write and illustrate my own kids book, so I plan to focus on this goal in my "down" time, (and to share this journey with you here too)so will keeping up my book freelance work on some level.

Q. WILL I STILL BE DOING MY INSPIRATION MONDAYS?
A. OF COURSE! I really enjoying putting together these features, and I love all of the great feedback from all of you too!

So - that's it in a nutshell! ....Ok, so another LOOOONG nutshell!!! I have informed all of my freelance clients, and have officially signed the documents for my new job. I am really excited and have already started a sketch book of ideas for the new job (I confess that I had to start this after the first interview as my mind was just spinning with ideas!!....just as well I got the job!)

Thank you to everyone who has been reading along whether you leave comments or not! I look forward to sharing this next new phase with you all!.....hhhmmm, I guess I had better update my blogger profile soon too!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

WORK WORK WORK


This image is a sneak peak from the pyjama ranges that I was working on at the end of last year. They are out in store now, and I am really pleased with how they have all come up. The factories always seem to do a great job with the winter ranges. The quality is lovely!

It's another weekend of work for me this weekend, but given that this time next week I will be on a ferry heading towards two glorious weeks away with the love of my life, then I think it's worth the sacrifice!

Click below to check out my "To Do" List for the weekend!


My "TO DO" list for the weekend looks like this:

SATURDAY:
1. X2 logo concepts for the apparel branding project. (Have done x1 already, but I need to give them a couple of other options to pick from.

2. Work on the look of the presentation, including how the garments may look in store, on hangers, and with supporting Point Of Sale Material. (Using one of the logos as an example.)These need to be ready for Monday.

SUNDAY:
1. Invoicing (for a couple of those "quick" jobs I squeezed in last week.)

2. BAS statement. (This is some tax paperwork that I am required to lodge every quarter with the Tax Office! It's boring stuff, but all part of the joys of freelancing!)

3. Style File Submission. I want to update the images on my page over at The Style File. If you are interested in applying to contribute to this site they are currently accepting submissions until the February the 29th - or if you are already on it, it's a great chance to refresh and update the images. All details are here.

4. Illustrator Biography: I have been asked for a photo and a short biography on myself for the website of one of my book publishers! I find this a little scary, but maybe it will help me feel like a "real" illustrator?! Anyway, as part of my "seize every opportunity" philosophy I thought I'd better take up this offer! Gawd - where am I going to find a half decent photo? I wonder if they will accept an "artists interpretation sketch" instead?!

IF I get through this list over the weekend, (and yes it IS a big ask!) then I can focus on the two new Front Covers for those books I am working on, and I have also had some feedback on the internal book illustrations for the other book project, so there's not a lot of down time this week!

Monday, February 11, 2008

BUSY BEE


This is image is from some baby ranges that I designed a couple of years ago for the Woolworths /Safeway supermarket stores. It's only been out in stores a few months though (as it was part of an 18mth range cycle that we created) and when I spotted it over the weekend it reminded me of these busy weeks!

Infact, this weekend would have to be one of the most productive weekends of work that I have had in a long time. It's a nice feeling to head into this week with a bit of a head start on things. I managed to get half of the internal book illustrations done, and have done all of the fine tuning on the apparel ranges. I also managed to squeeze in a "quick" logo alteration for someone which I have already sent off this morning.

While I wait for feedback on the apparel ranges, I will work on the rest of the internal book illustrations today.

At this stage the mascot project is on hold. Phew - am a bit relieved about that given all of the other projects I have on the go!

I will need to complete the two front covers for the new books in the 6 part series I started last year, before I go away, and the second part to the apparel project will need to be completed - which will involve, developing a logo and presenting a branding concept to support the apparel ranges. This will be a big job, so I need to stay on top of my other projects.

I have also had to say "no" to a job for the first time, as it will be physically impossible for me to fit it into the required timeline!

And so begins another busy week!



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Thursday, February 7, 2008

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR


Last night was a great excuse to have an evening off. We took advantage of Chinese New Year celebrations to get out and share it with the local community! We were out early to enjoy the festival, which included lots of rides and side shows, as well as new and amazing Vietnamese food and drink to try out! It was great fun and nice to be a "local" for these celebrations!We managed to make it home before the downpour, and were kept awake with firecrackers and fireworks ALL night - good fun but glad it's just once a year!

It was pretty spectacular, but I am really tired today! I had to get up pretty early to be prepared for a day of meetings - all of which went well.

I came home to squeeze in a last minute "quick illustration" job for a friend who needed a couple of things done on the spot. I am too tired to be productively creative tonight, so have decided that I am better off getting a good night sleep so that I can be more efficient tomorrow. I need to work the whole weekend to get through these deadlines, so it's worth pacing myself a bit.

Thank you to all of you who have left comments and shared thoughts throughout this busy process, as well as those who nominated me for the "you make my day awards!" It's a lovely gesture and I really do appreciate it! I am missing reading all of your blogs at the moment, as I focus on the job at hand, so am looking forward to visiting again soon! Good night!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

IN THE THICK OF THINGS


I have another cafe meeting tomorrow morning to present the apparel ranges. I must admit that dispite the MASSIVE amount of work involved I am loving it! I have spent WAY too long on this project, but I can't help it! I am just not satisfied with "that will do!" I could have stopped yesterday, having done enough to fill the brief, but I could not help but push it a little further and am just thrilled with how it's come together.

I can not wait to show my client, (which is always a really good sign) and not a feeling that you get from every assignment. I know that there will be many hours of this project that I will not be able to charge for (a topic for another discussion at some point!) but sometimes I feel that it's worth the extra effort and investment to get such a great result, and if the customer is as happy as I am and it results in strong sales, then of course this increases my chances of more work, and contributes to my professional reputation.

I am of course, also jumping the gun here, as there is never any guarantee that my client will love it as much as I do - especially when it's a new client that I am still building a relationship with, but will know more tomorrow!

I still have quite a bit to do though, as I am really trying to get strong balance in the product mix at the moment, and am trying to make sure that the graphics mix is different enough between the stories, but that they are also age appropriate.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

EEEK!

OK - I am trying not to panic! Yesterday I recieved the brief for the next DOUBLE book in the series I have been working on for most of last year, and the illustrations are due next week. I have also just had word from my other publisher, that the next two books in my NEW full colour, six series contract have now become urgent! Oh well, this is what it's all about hey?!

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Monday, February 4, 2008

DAY WHATEVER OF MISSION IMPOSSIBLE


Here's a bit of a sneak peak at my "reject" pile of sketching for the younger ranges, in the apparel project I am working on. Some of these are perhaps a little more appropriate for illustrations, rather than garment graphics, but I got on a bit of a roll, so I just went with it! The final design was a little more visually appealing, and I also went with a more commercial choice of character. The final design combined more graphical elements such as text and applique fabric, from other garments in the range.

I have almost completed the first boys story in the range, and today am moving onto the second one. I need to have the bulk of it done today in preparation for another progress meeting in the next couple of days.

Tomorrow I will go back and look at both stories together to see how they work under the one brand/label and to see if the product balance is right. I need to consider how both stories will look when presented together in store, and will also need to think about how the customer might buy items in the ranges to ensure that they are getting the best offering - and to encourage multiple purchases.


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INVITATION TO SHARE SELF PROMOTIONAL IDEAS


Tamsin Ainslie recently posed an interesting question to me in the comments on one of my previous posts, and I have been mulling over an answer since:

“What do you find is the best way to promote yourself as a designer/illustrator?”

I am not sure that I am the best one to ask here, as I am still working this out for myself too, but I am happy to share what has and has not worked for me so far.

Then it got me thinking and wondering what others do to get out there and promote themselves - to get the work flowing in.

So if you are keen to share, then please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments, or I am happy to post links if you want to write about it on your own blogs. It’s always good to share this stuff!

Like most creative people that I speak to, I am really uncomfortable about this side of my business, but I also know that if I am to survive in this game, then I need to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. I read that somewhere once and it’s always stayed in my head!

Anyway – if you can endure this crazy phase I am going through to share everything I can about my life as a freelancer (and you actually DO want to know more), then please click on the link below. And thank you Tamsin for sparking this discussion.



SELF PROMOTION / MARKETING:
FOLIO:
I feel like I am still establishing myself as a freelance artist and my goal in self promotional activities, is always to get my folio in front of the right person.

As a graphic designer I understand the function of creating flyers, brochures and a host of other materials to promote what I do, (and I have some of these sort of things to leave with clients) but at this stage of my career I am finding that the best way to get jobs is to get out there and meet with the right people and to get my folio seen.
This usually means good old-fashioned knocking on doors, and picking up the phone!

RESUME:
After all of these years, I finally have quite an established track record of fulltime employment, working with some great businesses and on some wonderful projects. This has helped me gain some credibility, and I am sure that it has played a big part in some of the opportunities I have had to get my folio in front of the right people.
If I am sending samples of my work to anyone I always back it up with a resume as well.
I know this can seem a bit old fashioned as a self promotional tool and many of you will no doubt have much of this information on your websites, or blogs anyway, but sometimes it can save people effort of searching if you just present everything up front.

MAIL OUTS
“RANDOM” mail outs have NEVER worked for me. I have never had anyone contact me when I have sent out self-promotional packages to businesses – WITHOUT MAKING ANY CONTACT WITH THEM FIRST – and I really do think that this makes the difference.

I have read about artists who got noticed by sending clever calendars of their art, or other unique self-promotional items, but I have not really explored this option –YET!

I think that I will use self promotional printed materials such as stickers, calendars etc to remind clients I have already worked with (and who I may not have heard from for a while) what I can do for them, and to keep them updated with my latest work.


THE PHONE:
I am astounded to have realised that one of the most effective marketing tools I have used in self promotion has been the phone!
This amazes me because I hate the phone and don’t really use it much, even with my family and friends – I’d much rather chat in person. I am also REALLY REALLY uncomfortable in “cold calling” in relation to potential jobs.

However, that said, I have also realised how necessary it is if it means I get to continue doing what I love.

Yes, I have literally gone through the phone book and picked out businesses I would like to target, and called to speak to the product manager! It’s terrifying, and not always encouraging, but it does actually work!

I have found that most people who do use freelancers (at least in the product industry) are keen and willing to see more folios. It’s tougher in the publishing industry as I guess they see so many folios and hopefuls (but check out the section on “Using Industry Recognised Resources” further below, for more advice on this one!)

If they don’t have the time to see me, or seem a little hesitant, then I usually ask if I can at least send some samples of my work and a resume, which once again, I find most people will be open to.

BLOG v’s WEBSITE…OR BOTH?
I feel like my blogging is all about me as an artist and illustrator, and have deliberately kept it as a self-promotional tool that shows my unique and individual style.
You may have noticed that while I talk (seemingly endlessly!) about projects that I am working on, I rarely reveal much of my product/design work here.
This is partly because of copyright requirements, but also because much of it is in a style and handwriting that many of you who are familiar with my blog will not recognise as mine.

I get quite a lot of work from the variety I have in my style and I really value maintaining my links through the various industries that I have worked for, by continuing to adapt my style to suit their requirements.

I am aiming to build up the recognition and market for my own unique style and I guess this is part of the reason for me starting a blog.

This split skill base is also part of the reason that I don’t have a website yet. I have not yet worked out which side of my skills to promote and am unsure whether showing all would just be confusing? What are your thoughts?

Without a website, I rely on setting up meetings and getting my folio in front of people.

NETWORKING:
Without doubt the best marketing tool for my design/product work has simply been my networking. Many of my freelance design/product opportunities have come from people I have worked with over the years. I think that you need to work harder at this if you don’t have that background of experience, but that is where things like blogging and the internet can be so great too!

TELLING EVERYONE I KNOW!
The first thing that I did when I left my fulltime work was to contact most of the people I used to work with over the years to let them know that I was available for freelance work. Much of my work in this area has resulted from these contacts, and as people change jobs and move into new businesses they tend to take you with them as a recommendation.

SAYING YES TO EVERY INVITATION!
In relation to my book illustration work, once I got that foot in the door (recommended by a fellow freelancer that I used to use when I was a product manager- networking at it’s best!) then I promised myself that I would make the most of every invitation to network that became available to me.

I can be quite shy at times, so this has been quite an effort for me, but when I was invited to going away parties of people leaving the business, I went. When invited to Christmas parties. I went. Drinks? I went.

I had only been working with one of my publishers for a few weeks when the Christmas party invitation came along, and even then I had not met any of them – just talked on the phone and emailed, but I went - and had ball! I met several other artists and authors who all work with various other publishers and swapped phone numbers with some of them. I did not even think to bring business cards, (maybe because I still don’t have any!!) but we just put phone numbers and emails straight into our mobile phones!

USING INDUSTRY RECOGNISED RESOURCES:
One of the first things I did when starting out was to get my folio assessed by an industry professional. Not only did this result in some wonderful feedback, but it gave me a great chance to learn a little about the industry, as well as potential markets to target my work to.

Perhaps more importantly, I also walked away with a list of 8-10 contact names of editors and publishers who I could contact directly to try to organise a meeting/folio showing with. I was even invited to use the industry professionals name as a reference! I am not sure that all folio assessments work this way, but I have had some great meetings result from this opportunity, and I still have only contact 3-4 names on that list!

This folio assessment meeting also encouraged me to apply for inclusion on one of the publishing industries most recognised illustrators websites “The Style File”. Participation on this site has also resulted in work for me, and is how I got my first contract for illustrating a children’s book – which resulted in a 6 book series!

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE JOB MARKET:
I have always kept my eye on the FULL TIME job market as it’s amazing how much information you can learn about various companies, in terms of who uses freelancers or how a particular company may be experiencing growth or need extra hands!

I have even taken advantage of opportunities to show my folio to businesses who may not necessarily be looking for freelancers, but who are obviously currently going through the processes of looking at folios at that moment anyway. I am always very clear if I am only offering my services as a freelancer (despite the ad requiring a full timer) and some have agreed to meet with me anyway.

I even had one person who contacted me to say that while they did not use freelancers, her husband actually worked for a children’s clothing company who did need freelancers, and could she pass my details onto him. We set up a meeting and before I knew it, we had several jobs underway!

WHAT HAS WORKED FOR YOU?
I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with self-promotion and I obviously have some work to do on developing my own strategies, but I guess this is a bit of an overview on what I have done to get to this stage in my freelancing.

No doubt everyone has their own approach and ideas depending on the type of work that they are looking for. I guess the best advice I would have would be: to be persistent, and to do what works for you. What are your thoughts and experiences?