1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
Pretty early on, but I didn’t know what to call it! I always loved to draw, then I started designing cars and such for my friends all through high school, and that’s when I made the decision to pass over a mechanical engineering degree for a career in what my college called commercial art. My sophomore year of college was the big turning point, and I realized I could make a living at this thing I now know as graphic design.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
My career started as an intern at The Jones Group in Atlanta, GA. For the first month I was the grunt boy, but it got to know my new friends (paper, spray glue and X-Acto knife) pretty well. After I put in the time with those folks, I hit bottom pretty hard.
2008 really wasn’t a good year to graduate, so I worked odd jobs for the next 2 years, until I sold the right man a computer at an Apple store, and he hired me as their sole in-house designer. That’s really the way my career went for the first 7 years. Something great followed by a LOT of bad. Ever had an eviction notice on your door? We did. Not fun. My love of design and the support of my wonder wife, Julie, got me through these insanely hard times.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
Honestly, just talking to whoever’s around. I still do quite a bit of cold calling, Instagram DM’s and such, and it really works for me. Be nice to folks, and pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you! Here’s the thing, though. Once you land the client, you have to do good work. That’s where you’ll ultimately be judged.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
Do good work, and show them the tangible value of design. And bring them in on the process! Design is a symbiotic relationship; you’re not taking on clients to brand your worldview on them, you take them on to solve their problem. That’s always my goal from the first email. I just want to help them solve their problem in the simplest, most memorable way.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Nope. I get half down, half when the project is done, and I hold on to the final files until I receive the check. It’s a pretty good deterrent!
6. What does your typical work day look like?
Up around 6:30, and in the office by 8-8:30. I always start my day in the studio with prayer, then make my to-do list for the day. I go hard until 1-1:30, then usually head over to Reuben’s for a sandwich.
After lunch it’s back at it until 7, then homeward bound for dinner with my family. After Sean goes to bed, Julie and I will usually head to the couch with our laptops for more work, and whatever our Netflix obsession is that week. Right now, it’s New Girl. Zoey Deschanel is hysterical. I head to bed around 12:30, then at it again the next day!
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Deliver when you say you’re going to deliver. And really, just have fun and enjoy the fact you get to make a living doing something you love!