Psych for Creatives

There are a bazillion highly talented, skillful freelancers that don’t market themselves properly because, well, marketing—sort of like business planning—can really, really suck. We have a lot of negative associations with it, and for good reason. When someone mentions ‘marketing’, we immediately think of telemarketers, TV commercials that play twice in one break, or the poor fellow at McDonald’s trying to super-size your fries. But along with that, we’ve imbibed this dreadful notion that selling ourselves short is a virtue.

The only one with responsibility for your business is you. Ups and downs, ins and outs, you have to own it—and that means knowing your marketing stuff as well as your craft. Psychology for Photographers is a brilliant blog that aims to help photographers and other creative professionals understand how to leverage science in the pursuit of their business goals. No, this is not about manipulating people into giving you money, nor does it provide band-aid solutions for bad business practices. Instead, the author teaches you about people and how they work so that you can better serve your clients and prospective customers. This is essential knowledge in a line of work where you have to do all your own pricing, advertising, negotiating and delivering.

The author, Jenika McDavitt, has seven years of psychology at Yale under her belt and she wields it with the grace and precision of a fencing master. Follow the blog, sign up for her free newsletter (this one is gold) and check out her shop for some kick-ass, on-point resources on writing and website design — indispensable tools that are often left out of a photographer’s camera bag.

And if nothing else, pop over there to pick up her free ebook: How Clients Make Decisions About Money. It’s a must-read for any creative freelancer and will answer questions you didn’t even think to ask.


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SEAN CARTER

We are very keen to establish meaningful relationships that transcend the scope of a project. It’s a cliché statement but one that is easier said then done. It is a studio-wide commitment that is best embodied by my partner Ross. He lives and breathes it whilst the rest of us merrily join in. Besides, it is more interesting to work with, and for our friends because the outcome of our work is that much more personal. We know that the work we are currently doing, for the people we are currently working with, will get us more of the same if our performance is notably strong and get this: if our clients actually like us.

Sean Carter is Director of Design at Carter Hales, designing and overseeing every aspect of client projects. A founding partner at Hangar 18 Creative Group, Sean helped grow the company into one of Canada’s largest independent graphic design and advertising firms. Sean has won over 140 design awards from every major North American design competition, including: The One Show, Communication Arts, Graphis, Luerzer’s Archive, Graphex, How and New York Festivals Advertising Awards; his work has also been published in numerous industry journals. He is a faculty member at Capilano University’s Design and Illustration program and sits on the Board of Directors of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery.

His work can be seen online at carterhales.com.

LUKE TAYLOR

It is ACTUALLY who you know. I recommend walking in to a number of major non-profit organizations and offering pro-bono work, or design as gifts in kind. As long as your portfolio is solid, many will be happy to receive this kind of offer, even if they don’t take you up on it. The goal is to get executive level eyeballs on your work. Also, when you are emerging, there is nothing wrong with being a jack of all trades if it means you can get a paycheque and build your network of happy clients.

Luke Taylor is a branding specialist and married father of three kids under three. He operates Loomo Creative Co., a branding and design agency in the industrial district of Victoria, BC. He’d prefer to be a superhero, but lacks superhuman abilities or a massive fortune. Also, no grappling hooks.

His work can be seen online at Loomo.ca.

ANDI MORTENSON

I think in addition to the obvious—have great customer service and do great work—you need to be fair. Charge people what you honestly believe you are worth, treat people fairly, including clients and people doing work for you, and always look at things from their side and think of how you would want to be treated. I also think being a positive person makes people want to work with you and certainly doesn’t hurt with recommendations!

Andi Mortenson is the founder and creative director at Epic Design and has over ten years experience in print, brand identity, web design and concept strategy. She led the development for the 2015 Canada Winter Games branding, and is in her third season producing Vancouver Giants Hockey marketing design and creative. Her experience also includes a Senior Design position on the Vancouver Canucks in-house team for five years, contract work at Vancouver Olympic Committee and Rick Hansen Foundation, and over nine years of running Epic Design.

Her work can be seen online at epic-design.com.

CYMONE WILDER

For me it’s all about the contract. Making sure guidelines are set from the very beginning and all things are clear from both sides of the project. I’ve found that clients tend to appreciate when you’re up front with them about everything. I don’t love to be a stickler for the rules but like I said it protects the client but it mainly protects myself as the designer. Networking is pretty important to me as well. It may sound cheesy, but Instagram is my go to marketing tool. I’m able to get my work out to a large and diverse audience and am able to chat with other creatives. Pinterest is also another big one for me. A lot of time my work gets out there without me even having to personally upload it, and a large majority of the time it’s got my name on it!

Cymone Wilder is a Letterer, Designer and Photographer at Simon + Moose, and company she built with Michael-Andrew Spalding. She is a student at Olivet Nazarene University studying graphic design.

Her work can be seen online at simonandmoose.com.

MICHAEL-ANDREW SPALDING

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 simonandmoose.com.

TOBIAS OTTAHAL

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 upwardsonwards.com.

IVAN MEADE

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 ivanmeade.com.

ANTHONY HOOPER

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 anthooper.com.

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