The most common piece of advice I could give to emerging designers would be to learn from your mistakes and use them to grow. If you had a bad experience with a client look back at everything that happened and see what you could have done to make the experience a better one for both of you. Another piece of advice I would give is that “comparison is the thief of joy.” If you’re just starting out, don’t compare your work with someone who has been designing for way longer than you have. They had to start somewhere too.

Michael-Andrew Spalding is the Graphic Coordinator at Simon + Moose, a company built with Cymone Wilder. He is currently a sophomore at Olivet Nazarene University studying graphic design.

His work can be seen online at


Like so many creatives, I am an introvert. My batteries get completely drained by being around people for too long, and I need to go home and shut the door around me to recharge. For the longest time I didn’t realize that this was my pattern, and I simply carried on working in isolation. Until you are in such a position that you have a few trusted clients with whom you have reciprocal respectful relationships and they provide you with a steady stream of well-funded projects, work most likely will not fall into your lap. Sure, your work should speak for itself, but it’s only half the equation. The first half is the content, the second half is people’s awareness of it. Unless you’re in a situation as described above, chances are you need to keep the work pipeline loaded. As much as I hate it, meeting people face-to-face has been the single most effective way of digging up leads for new work and detecting early on if they are worth working with.

Tobias Ottahal is the founder of Upwards & Onwards. He is a communications designer originally from Öckerö, Sweden, and is currently living in Vancouver, Canada. He runs the design firm Upwards & Onwards where he focuses on socially and environmentally progressive organizations to make the world a better place. In 2010, Tobias co-taught a course at the University of Karachi called Design for Disaster Relief about human-centered design, which responded to the massive Pakistani floods of 2010 that had occurred while he was in Pakistan.

His work can be seen online at


I will say that the best business practice for me has been learning how to say no to clients who shouldn’t be my clients. Of course, now I am able to do this because I have built a good reputation over the years. The ideal client understands why they have hired you, and understands that they need to pay for the service in order to get what they are looking for. Why? Because with this type of client I can produce better quality work and get paid what I deserve. The other big thing after this is flexibility; if you maintain an organized structure for every project and you manage your clients’ expectations correctly, there is always room to be flexible and either delay aspects or improve aspects of every project.

Iván Meade is the principal designer and founder of Meade Design Group, and has received international and critical acclaim for his work in graphic, interior and industrial design. His infamous blog (circa 2007) has kept Iván at the forefront of the art and design community giving him the opportunity to interview some of the industry’s foremost names, including Kelly Hoppen, Jean-Louis Denoit, Kelly Wearstler and Lorenzo Castillo. Recently, these high-profile interviews have been updated and compiled into an e-book, and the blog has since developed into a multi-platform approach, with the launch of ‘LifeMStyle’.

His work can be seen online at


I understand that most clients do not have formal design training; it’s my job to be patient and articulate my process and my ideas clearly. Educating the client helps me to qualify myself as an expert in what I do. This tact requires a little bit of extra leg-work, but in the end it almost always results in a stronger working relationship—one that’s built on an established respect and trust. A great example is the initial meeting with a prospective client. Without fail, the client will want to skip ahead and talk about the final product: “it needs to look like this…”, or, “It needs to have this…” and when I was a junior designer it was really tempting to take the bait. Of course, it’s crucial to consider all of your client’s needs, but there’s a time and a place for that conversation. My approach to these meetings is very different now. I almost always begin by explaining how I work—my creative process; I find that this creates a rapport with the client right off the bat, and affords me the opportunity get a read on the client.

Anthony Hooper is a Vancouver-based freelance designer who has an advanced diploma in Graphic Design and Illustration from Capilano University, and studied four years of commerce at the University of Calgary prior to that.

His work can be seen online at


Image from Adelle Charles of Fuel Brand Inc, via the Evernote Blog

Happy Monday! We are kicking off this chilly but glorious week with an awesome giveaway of one whole year of Evernote Premium. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to let us know you want to jump in. Tell your friends, too!

We will run all the names in the comments through a randomizer and draw one lucky winner on Friday at noon, PST (UTC-8). The winner will be notified by email, so make sure you double-check your spelling and check your junk mail.

What would you do with your prize Premium year?

EDIT: Congratulations to Brett for winning the draw! The entries are now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated!


Often the difference between being successful and just being a martyr is simply the ferocity by which one pursues one’s goals.

You’ve probably heard of a “bucket list” (a wish list of things to accomplish before you die). Well, in a less morbid fashion—and with a lot more intentionality—what big financial goals do you have for your creative business? A “Big Buck” item is a wildly ambitious, lofty and inspirational goal that will bring in, well, the big bucks. Success is most often equated with financial freedom and an entrepreneur will always benefit from scheming up the kinds of ideas—or imagining the kinds of events or activities—that if accomplished, would dramatically improve their own economic condition.


I would trust the idea of word of mouth, which is essentially what fuels social media, and put less money in clever marketing which, I think, served my ego a little more than my bottom line. My marketing now is almost entirely based on relationships and connections—it is more about story than about positioning statements and branding.

David duChemin is a world and humanitarian assignment photographer, best-selling author, international workshop leader, and accidental founder of Craft & Vision. His eBook How To Feed A Starving Artist is a must-read for creative people who want to get a handle on their finances so they can continue to do what they love with greater freedom. When not chasing adventure and looking for beauty, David is based in Vancouver, Canada. His work can be seen online at


The most effective marketing has always been person-to-person portfolio reviews. I regularly update and redo my portfolio, which is a physical, printed book that I bring to art directors so I can have a chance to meet them in person. It’s one thing to send an email back and forth, it’s another entirely to sit down with them and have a personal conversation.


Adam Blasberg is a commercial and editorial photographer based out of Vancouver, Canada. Adam battles against an age of hyper mass production, where images are manufactured like a commodity, by approaching his photography with care and thoughtfulness. His cinematic, dramatic and thoughtful style requires commitment to a process and a standard not upheld by most. His desire to tell a memorable story—a story that engages the viewer and pulls them into the story—is the driving force behind his pursuit of excellent craftsmanship. View his work at


Can you list ten (10) words that describe what your business does?

Sometimes all you need is a short and sweet list. Making a list of the keywords that describe your creative talent and your big ideas can be a great launching pad to drafting the kind of sentences and phrases you need to help demystify your freelance business.


Fostering the relationships I have with my current clients is the most effective marketing tool available to me. I have spent thousands of dollars on advertising and nothing is as powerful as a word-of-mouth referral. I also send regular emails to what I call my core group of clients—those who have been working with me for many years.

Sherri Koop is an award-winning film photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. Sherri creates classic, luminous portraits that are rooted both technically and artistically, the direct result of the relationships developed in front of her lens. In addition to portraiture, Sherri accepts a limited number of wedding commissions each year, anywhere in the world. Learn more at