1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
I always loved drawing when I was growing up. I’d spend hours sitting in front of objects sketching and would often distort their appearance so that their character was accentuated in some way. This then lead into a love of art history and how the masters use to explore their surroundings in their own unique ways. I originally wanted to become an illustrator but my brother convinced me that I could make a better living from graphic design than illustration so I pursed that direction.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
After completing a four year Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Typographic Design I then went and applied for a job at lots of different agencies and design studios. I think I applied for fifty in all. From that I got three interviews and two job offers.
My first and only design job was for six years before I resigned. The biggest hurdle I overcame when I first began was a lack of confidence to do a good job. The advice that I would give young or new designers starting out in a new job is to listen very carefully to instruction and make sure you understand really well what your employer wants you to do, even if you have to ask lots of times and it takes you longer to complete the project.
Accuracy and attention to detail are incredibly important. The speed will come eventually.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
I like to look to look at this question a little bit differently. Many will answer that word of mouth was their most successful way of getting clients. I would ask “What lead to you to getting lots of clients?”. To that question I would respond that making every client feel like they are your ONLY client, and the centre of your attention, and backing that up with a quality product. Happy clients equates to advocates which then leads to more inquiries.
Having said that another successful way has been setting up my website properly so that it ranks well and the content is relevant to my prospective clients. I have regular organic inquiries every month as a result.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
When I first meet a new client and we talk through their requirements, I often say “Let me earn your trust”. I really mean that when I say it too. I see a lot of designers talking these days about clients having to earn their trust before they commence a project. I look at every client as a person or organisation who is investing a lot of hard earned money into something that I’m yet to provide for them.
If I can create a solution that “wows” them, and I do that continually, then I know I’ve at least done my very best to be asked by clients to look at other projects for them. I’d also add that I don’t always agree with my clients and like to offer them different solutions where I feel necessary. That provides value above and beyond the scope which many clients appreciate.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
It happens to every designer. Not often. I send out a reminder and it’s usually paid within the next payment cycle.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
I wake up, have breakfast and then check my social media channels and emails. I then prioritise my work for the day. One of the great things about working for myself is that I can control my time management based on how I like to work or how I feel that day. I tend to start work after 9am and work through until mid-afternoon. Then after dinner I’ll put in a few hours. I tend to be a bit of a night owl in that regard.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Becoming successful in a design business doesn’t happen overnight. I takes time and hard work. Treat EVERY client as if they were your ONLY client. It is a privilege and not a given that you will have a design business tomorrow so always be working at your craft, streamlining your process, offering value and producing the very best product that you can for your clients.
Craig Burton has been running School Branding Matters since 2008. They are a specialist visual branding agency to New Zealand schools. His aim is to be a ‘One Stop Shop’ for school leaders looking for someone who can handle all their design requirements whether it’s a new school logo design, school prospectus, website, mascot, or values branding.
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