What Are You Aiming For?

What is the end goal?

Where do you want to be 10 years from now.

We are not good at planning. Designers I mean. We live in the now. That’s good, but why are you here? Why are you designing.

I hope it’s more than money.

What am I saying… it can’t be money. Designers get paid peanuts.

So why then?

I hope that you are not here simply because you “have to be somewhere”.

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Dear Client

Dear Client,

1. Please understand that we cannot work for the promise of later remuneration. The fact that you have four companies that all need new web sites is great, but that does not enable me to give you 75% off on your logo design project.  Most designers are happy to offer volume discounts, but let’s complete a couple of projects first.

2. Please understand that we need design input. It’s not that we are lazy. If you want a mascot, we’d need to know what type of mascot would work for you. Age? Gender? Pose? Expression? Human or animal? If you are happy to leave it all up to us, then be happy with what we come up with.

3. We do not always follow client instructions. Our job is to find creative solutions to design problems. We have to translate your instructions into a workable design.

4. We try hard to treat you like you are our only client, but you are not. We have a schedule to stick to. Other clients may be ahead of you in the queue. A quick change to a design can take only 10 minutes, but if you’re at the back of the queue it is going to take longer.

5. There is no good or bad in graphic design, only subjective opinions. Your feedback should be more constructive than simply “I like it” or “I don’t like it”.

6. Designers will go above and beyond for clients they like. It’s just how it is – and it is as simple as being friendly. We all have clients who shout and who demand and who threaten. We try hard to treat them well, but it is tempting to say “screw that” and to do only the minimum to get them out of our hair. If you want spectacular results in less time, be nice.

7. “I’ll know it when I see it” (IKIWISI) does not count as feedback.

8. If you needed it yesterday, you should have ordered it last week.


Thanks for reading!

If you can expand on this list, please do so in the comments.

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It’s The Little Mistakes

If you are selling graphic design services via a web site, this one is for you.

It’s not the big mistakes that kill sales. If your order form doesn’t work, you’ll notice it quickly and most likely fix it immediately.

The little mistakes kill sales. That typo on the order page. Nobody bothers to report little errors like that, but they erode your shopper’s confidence.

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Working Hours

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, how much should you work?

Twenty hours a week? Forty?

I suppose if you work smart, you could get away with less than forty. For me it is different. For the first four years after I started my graphic design company I worked about seventy hours a week. Of course there is not enough work coming in to keep you busy seventy hours a week, so you work on your own web sites, do research, learn new skills. Find out how to market yourself on the Net and continually improve.

Once my business was established I slipped back to about 25 hours a week – and my business suffered because of it. I did too. It’s no fun when your employees do everything and there are certain functions that employees can never completely take over. Nowadays I work between 50 and 60 hours a week.

Keep a balance though. Living only for work will make you miserable. I have two hours a day “family time”. No work is allowed to interfere.

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Sorry, We Want Someone With Experience

I deal with résumés and interviews from time to time.

Hopeful graphic designers, fresh out of design school.

They don’t stand a chance.

I’ve hired enough newbies to know it’s very risky. Chances are you’ll have trouble dealing with the workload. If that doesn’t get you, the deadlines will. Can you be creative eight hours a day, 5 days a week? Have you tried it? It’s tougher than you think. Will you break down in tears if I dump 4 hours worth of work on your desk at 4PM on a Friday?

Your degree does not impress me either. I lectured at a design school for long enough to know how out of touch those guys are. All schools are not the same, but I am yet to find one that truly prepares its students for the reality of design work.

No, I want experience. A designer who’s been there, done that and who came out the other side wanting more.

But how do you gain experience if experience is a standard job requirement in graphic design?

Look, I know it seems unfair to you, but the design firm needs to turn a profit. I have a responsibility towards myself, my family and my employees. I feel sorry for you. I would like to hire you, but hiring you might sink the ship. If you can’t carry your load, everyone around you will feel it. We’re all at capacity already. I’m not risking it.

What’s that? You can carry your load?

You’ll prove it if someone will give you a shot?

No, see, we all start out thinking that. You need to prove it first.

On your own time.

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Graphic Design CV’s (How To)

Your CV or resumé will be one of between 20 and 100 that the lady in human resources have to wade through today. And let’s be honest, it’s a terribly boring job, looking at CV after CV. You studied this, worked there, you live for graphic design, yada yada. They’re all the same.

The lady in human resources is tempted to open, scan for something interesting and drop your CV on the “no” pile.

In fact, that is exactly what she is doing. Half of the CV’s on the “no” pile were not read.

Is that unfair to the applicants?

Maybe it is, but maybe graphic design companies rightly expect more from applicants who claim that they have creativity wired into their DNA.

This probably applies to creatives applying for any job, but I’ll stick to graphic design.

Given your proficiency with graphic design software, why do you send your CV in Word format? You can design, right? You can use awesome graphics to sell stuff? Show the lady in human resources that you are not a CV sending drone intent on adding to her misery. Make her smile. Make her remember your CV. And, for the love of Pete, send it in PDF format!

A word of caution: Don’t go ape either. You’re a designer, but also a professional. Keep it light.

While we are on the topic…

I occasionally receive email applications like this one:

“hi andre. attachjed please find my cv and sum examples of my sum of my designs. thanks. julie.”

Dear Julie,

Did you fall on your head as a child?

Is this a temporary impairment or will the emails that you send to my clients also come out of your arse? I’m sure that you are a wonderful person, but the home for the criminally incompetent is further down the street, on the left. If you have any trouble finding it, just ask the bum with the crazy eyes. He also is a really wonderful person, once you get to know him.

Spend time crafting your intro email. It is at least as important as your CV. It’s my glimpse at the person behind the qualifications – behind the formal face of the CV. Julie wasted a perfect opportunity here. Instead, she illustrated a complete lack of pride in her work.

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Applying for a Graphic Design Job

Applying for a graphic design job is as easy as sending in your résumé.


When advertising a vacancy for a graphic designer I make a point of including a specific instruction. Something like “please include a PDF document with 5 logos from your portfolio”. About half of the applicants will ignore that bit and just send a résumé.


I’m truly baffled by this.

Why do they bother?

It does make my job easier though. I can flat-out delete 50% of applications and focus on the ones that can pay attention and follow instructions.

Don’t disqualify yourself before your résumé was ever opened.

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