Well, a little over a year. And what a little over a year it has been. I started out questioning if design and illustration is even where I should be and ended up designing and illustrating for multiple American City Business Journals and having my book sculpture illustrations published in TIME Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post’s The Lily.
I’ve been stretching myself in new ways. I’ve designed pitch decks for investors, maps for hospitals and, for the first time, I was the photographer behind my book sculptures.
My biggest takeaway from all of this? Everything is connected. Plant seeds.
Let’s unpack that.
Last year we uprooted from Hawaii and landed in Savannah. I was doing a little freelance work, but wasn’t sure if it would be able to replace a salaried position. There was a lot of self doubt and plenty of time to wallow in it. “Can I do this? Am I even good? Have I been tricking people my whole life!?” Irrational fears came out to play.
When I, and my husband, had heard enough, I began planting seeds and facing fears. I add my husband in because he is the most supportive of my work and he also pushed me to plant the first seed. He asked a question: “Do people in the industry even know you’re full-time freelancing?” I assumed … but actually … I really didn’t know. I was so consumed in fear and self doubt that I didn’t ask the obvious questions.
So, I got busy sending postcards to creative directors I follow in the industry. I wanted the cards to be something they would want to keep or hang up in their office, rather than file (or most likely throw) away. I printed a high quality matte card. One side had a professional photo of a book sculpture. The other side had my info. I tucked them into envelopes and sent them out along with an email. I figured that way I would get a double look - two-prong attack! It worked. I landed 2 jobs pretty quickly - one for The Lily and one for New York Times.
Next, I reached out to friends who are currently freelancing and my mentors and asked a lot of questions. If any of you are reading this THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of the advice and encouragement.
One friend suggested I sign up for the freelancing site UpWork. It landed me a big job with a hospital two weeks ago - that seed took a year! Turns out UpWork makes you searchable by location. So when the hospital googled “Graphic designer in Savannah,” my name popped up. They googled my name and emailed me through my website.
There were hard choices along this journey. I turned down 3 part-time and 1 full-time publication positions. On one hand - it was very enticing to have a sure thing (especially the times when work was slow). On the other - I wanted (and still want) something new and challenging and to know my full potential as a freelancer. I’ve always been the really-hard-working optimist; so more than once I have turned down the sure thing for the exciting (sometimes scary) unknown.
Seeds I’ve planted and things I’ve learned this year:
Doing good business grows even more business.
Reach out to people you may have never met but admire their work.
When things get hard or scary - reach out to your friends/peers/mentors in the industry. It helps more than anything. I am ALWAYS available for this. Just give me a shout!
Go to a conference. If you’re on a budget - find out how you can volunteer and get free admission.
Sign up for a freelance site like UpWork. You never know what could come of it.
Never turn down the job because it is out of your comfort zone. Work harder to figure it out.
Best advice I’ve been given:
Be confident and honest.
You have to stretch yourself in new, uncomfortable ways to get to the next level.
You can do this.