1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
Back in Spring 2015, we had our first son. I was working a super low pay job and started panicking that we wouldn’t be able to provide since they wouldn’t give any promotions at the time. At some point, I stumbled upon a job to become a marketing assistant.
It required a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS which I remembered using once in high school. I thought it couldn’t be that hard, so I took a refresher course and decided to apply for it.
Surprisingly, I got close to getting hired, but they said I need more skill with code, so I started learning to code.
After a few months, I was getting tired of having dull looking websites. I resolved that I would start learning how to actually design a website instead of just throwing some colors together.
I started to enjoy the design aspect over the coding portion of making websites and resolved to focus solely on becoming a designer rather than a developer.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
The most significant challenge that I had was managing the firehose of information out there on the internet. I sometimes wonder why college is still a thing when you have the world’s information at your fingertips.
It’s tough to know what is a useful resource for design and what design articles or courses you shouldn’t touch. And when you’re like me who started learning design without two nickels to rub together to pay for design college or design boot camps, you have to go down the route of learning from the information that’s publicly available.
I started to teach myself UI design through UI challenges and a few college syllabi that I got a hold of to piece together a list of things I should probably learn. Before I wholeheartedly jumped in, I put together a list of class titles together from the college syllabi that I got a hold of, what the students are set to gain as a result of taking that class, and possible complimentary skills I might need to learn (like using software, tools, etc.) and then went on the hunt across the net for quality resources.
From there, I treated my design education like a full-time job (on top of my full-time job). At the beginning of 2017, I phased out of UI design and into branding because that was what I had enjoyed most out of the projects I was making.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
Side Projects. I run a split business where I talk about design out on the net and put out a lot of resources, which gets a lot of attention and people following that end up following my work for a bit and then they ultimately reach out and start a conversation.
Every person that I’ve worked with, it starts with them beginning a conversation with me about something I’ve written or created. I feel like they have to test that I’m actually a person sometimes before putting an inquiry for work in.
However, the level of service that I’ve given these clients that I have worked with through 2017 to now with So Magnetic has started bringing referrals in which may begin taking the lead.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
So far, a lot of my work has been one-offs, because of how new my practice is as a full design studio (I had switched to that in place of freelancing in 2017).
With branding, however, they may not have an internal team (or the time) to spend working on branding, so I would hope that as long as the lines of communication are open and I’m able to stay top of mind, that when they need work they come to me.
Since a lot of my engagements are focused on the goals that they are trying to achieve, branding usually is a longer term engagement anyways and allows for a bigger budget in terms of time and money from my clients.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
I don’t get into contracts that require a delayed payment schedule unless it’s on an alternative compensation plan like equity or royalties.
I don’t have the luxury of being able to do net 30, 60, 90 agreements.
If the client wants to work with my company, it’s usually 50% upfront and 50% before I send the deliverables.
A couple of times, the clients have sent 100% upfront and trusted me and my process based on results they’ve seen or conversations on value that we’ve had.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
I still work a day job; which a lot of people don’t know.
Because I’m in the transition from phasing out of employed work, my schedule has been crazy for the last 2.5 years.
I have a 3-year-old who likes to wake up at 7 am. Any work that I plan on getting done for my business has to be done either before that or after my son and spouse go to bed.
Occasionally I get weekends to work, but I prioritize my time with my family when they’re awake.
You really learn how to be productive when the work you do has to be completed in the 3 hours of the morning or the 2 hours you get at night.
Once my transition out of the day job is complete, I feel like I’ll finally have the focus and time required to scale my agency to the level it needs to be.
There can be a lot of overlap in time used. I can use the time from my 1hr commute to work and the 1hr back from work to listen to design videos or podcasts. While eating breakfast and lunch, I can fit reading design books alongside that.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Do things that stretch what you are used to doing. Share your designs publicly, start writing a blog, record a podcast with your phone, shoot a tutorial vid with your webcam or phone, do a hand-lettered quote or letterform each day, take on a new design challenge. Pick something that stretches your abilities just enough that you start becoming comfortable with it.
Learn that when you start, it’s okay to be bad at it. Just as you continue to do one of these things consistently, you begin to get better and better and creates more value the more you do it.
Eventually, you start becoming an expert, and the rest of your skills begin to grow along with that. Heck, you might even be recognized as a domain expert for what you do.
Never stop stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Darian Rosebrook is a Brand Identity Designer from the Seattle, WA area, focusing on helping create magnetic brands through his agency So Magnetic. Darian also runs the Compass of Design community where he helps equip designers with the skills they need to defeat impostor syndrome and start designing with confidence.