1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

I discovered my passion for drawing and creating stuff when I was a child; my parents would tell me how excellent I was at drawing perfect circles when I was just three. I then slowly started aspiring to become an animator. I was hugely influenced by mainstream cartoon channels such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and of course all the animated movie classics such as Lion King, Toy Story etc.

This passion stuck with me all the way through school, and into university where I pursued a degree in Computer Animation. I think deep down inside, since I can remember, I have always wanted to become an animator even though I may have toyed with other ideas as I was growing older.

2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?

Funny thing is, my career started completely unplanned! One minute I was a hippy within the UK psychedelic rave scene (psytrance party scene). I lived in that bubble for almost 4 to 5 years. I gave my whole soul to that world. It’s not like any party scene, it is a world where creative minds come together to connect around some really loud immersive electronic music surrounded by an environment of mind-blowing decor. They would be held in either a warehouse or deep within a forest. People would bring their own percussion to start drum circles, others would bring fire spinning toys, heck some people would even paint stuff. I guess there is no need to say that there is a heavy use of recreationals in these places. This environment had me hooked, I just loved the people and the freedom.

However, despite the fairy-tale land we created for ourselves, it was not a practical life. Hippies have been trying to create this world since the 70’s, and no matter how much they think they can escape the “system”, it just doesn’t work.

Being a student in University, all my work was influenced by my experience within the psychedelic scene. And this gave a very non-mainstream feel to my art. It was always psychedelic, something that would never connect with the commercial world. And I didn’t want to connect with that world at the time. I was a religious hippy, you know, “money is evil and commercialism is part of the system” type of hippy.

The biggest hurdle for me was that after graduating university, I realised I had no future with my portfolio of “LSD art”, and I knew I needed to go mainstream to become successful. The only place that would appreciate my work was the psychedelic scene. At one point I wanted to go into Psytrance decor full-time!

However towards the end of the 3rd year in that world, I hit a road block. That experience became monotonous. People live that life till old-age, if you go to a psy-party you would see ages ranging from teenage dropouts to 65 year old ravers still going strong since the 70’s! Deep down inside, I always knew I didn’t want to end up like that. There is only so much you can learn and grow spiritually in that environment. I had a calling inside me, to find my true purpose. That is when I left back to my home country, Spain, to recenter myself.

After working in my brother-in-law’s restaurant for 6 months, my best-friend, who is a graphic designer, got me an interview at the tech company he worked at, for the role of a senior motion-designer. Even though I came in late on the day of my trial, I got the job. It was a gift from our creator honestly. That job changed everything for me. Being at a prestigious office as a hippy with dreadlocks and piercings with no sense of office-attire, I felt like a fish out of water.

It was very challenging to become comfortable in that professional environment, but eventually, I came to realise that being part of the “system” was actually not so bad after all.

Six years later, here I am running my own Digital Design Agency and serving renowned companies and building my own content and digital products too.

3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?

The best way I have found to get clients is by trying to put myself out in the world, and firstly serve with no expectation but rather do it for the experience and have fun in the process. Giving value first is what creates a good impression of you in the market place. The word WILL spread, and sooner or later the work comes knocking at your door. Another way is always striving to exceed expectations of our clients, and keeping a good relationship with them. This too will rank up your reputation amongst your network.

4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?

Like I said before, it is all about exceeding expectations. Try to be really good with your communication and never ignore emails. Clients love that you keep them in the loop. Even if you are behind, and have missed a deadline, be straight, be truthful. People will see right through your petty excuses. We have had a few clients where we miscalculated our due dates by weeks, and the backlog kept building up. Disastrous! But these clients are still coming back to us, because we kept them in the loop, we never ignored an email, we were honest on our position, and of course throwing in a few small bonuses goes a long way!

5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?

I have dealt with a few clients that have paid late. Just keep pressing on them. It hasn’t bothered me too much as of yet, as to me it is almost like a savings account! But of course, never be lenient with these things as people can take you for a ride, this has happened to us to couple of times. One client literally went AWOL, but again, I don’t cry about these things. Being a follower of Islam, I believe that we are travellers in this world and nothing really belongs to you.

Everything you have is just a resource that you are borrowing before you leave this world. They are blessings from our creator, and behind every occurrence, good or bad (even if we can’t perceive it) there is a higher wisdom that ultimately balances everything out for the better. If anything leaves me I really do believe there is greater wisdom behind it, no matter how frustrating it is at the time. These experiences only help me grow internally, I just continue to be just and truthful in my dealings in business to the best of my ability.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I try to be consistent in waking up early every morning. First thing in the morning, I prime my self through prayer, meditation and introspection. I always force myself not to grab my phone to go through notifications, bad idea to start the day with a bunch of data. I then always have a pint of lemon water; a great practise to keep your body hydrated and alkaline. I follow that with a light workout which gets me pumped up and ready to go! Some days I drive to the office in London, other days I prefer to work at the home office.

7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?

When it comes to this business, being makers and creators, there are times when everything is going to be awesome. But sometimes it can be frustrating for many reasons:

  • Maybe your creativity is being clamped down by the client.
  • Maybe you suck at the business aspect of it.
  • Maybe you are going through a dry-spell when it comes to getting new leads.
  • Maybe your being weighed down by your pipe-line and can never see the end of it.

The solution to this is growth. Grow spiritually, mentally, morally and professionally. Count your blessings and be grateful. Of course this is hard at your weakest moments, but adopting this mindset at this point will make you invincible. Look at your ‘issues’, not as problems, but as opportunities to grow, to become a better version of yourself.

If your creativity is being imprisoned by the work, then find time to build something for yourself on the side. For me, the workload became too much, so turning my solo business into an agency by outsourcing to awesome designers has helped me find time for myself and family. I now have overheads to worry about, but the solution to that is creative entrepreneurship; delegate, automate and scale. Find ways to create a killer product that generates passive income. Find an audience to serve, and the best way to do this is by pushing content out.

Never worry about leads. Prime yourself daily to be someone that is grateful, ready to serve, and ready to receive. There are other forces at work that we don’t see, so don’t worry, do your leg-work, put yourself out there. They will come knocking on your door.

Chris Green

Chris Green at This Design Life
Chris Green is a designer and marketer. He runs an agency called Calloway Green and is also the founder of This Design Life.

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