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

I was honestly 9 years old and in the third grade, I believe, living in Wichita, Kansas USA. I was constantly getting into trouble with my elementary school teacher for constantly drawing in class before, after and during the time when I was to be completing school work.

I remember I kept getting caught drawing things from the local phone book. For some reason, I had a fascination with sketching the AT&T “Death Star” logo, and others in the book. After a few parent-teacher conferences and my parents enrolling me in fine-art classes, I soon realized one could get paid for drawing and creating, something that I loved to do.

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

That is actually a very ironic and crazy story, to tell the truth. I started in high school working as a graphic artist at a local screen printing and embroidery company. The mother of the girl I was dating in high school ran the local newspapers commercial print shop and knew of an opening in the marketing department at the newspaper.

What they failed to tell me after interviewing and accepting the job was, that the person I was replacing actually passed away from a severe case of strep throat. So, I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school going to work in a professional environment that was known for its creativity locally.

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

In my case, it has been having my work published in various books and websites, advertising and marketing federations, social media, and networking with other business professionals in your area. The local clients will always have friends or associates in other areas and cities that need design, and if you treat the local clients well, they will recommend you first hand and your network can grow substantially.

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

I am always upfront and honest about costs first with my clients. If they ask for something that is out of the scope of the project, I always work out a way for them to retain my services but still deliver the caliber of creative that they are accustomed to receiving from me.

I also do my best to provide original concepts and creative to my clients, and I am never afraid to point out when others are using stock imagery or plagiarism in their designs. That is one thing that upsets me the most is to see others passing another designer’s work off as their own.

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

That is the nature of doing business, unfortunately. I use Freshbooks for all of my invoicing, estimating, and time tracking for those projects that are billed by the hour. It is really simple to use and you can set up reminder emails to be sent with each invoice to let your clients know if they ever fall behind or are late on a payment. I also use work-for-hire contracts with all of my clients that each one of my clients must agree to sign before I will begin working on a project.

However, the biggest and most important aspect of being a creative is, to always require a 50% deposit upfront immediately after the work-for-hire contract is signed and before you start the project. Your clients are more than likely not going to abandon a project or be reluctant about completing a contract payment if they have already paid for 50% of it up front.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I start out by grabbing a cup of coffee or a Red Bull, truth be told it is usually 2 or 3 of either of those and log in to check my email. I then start my morning routine of daily inspiration reads, such as Under Consideration’s Brand New, Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos, BP&O, Identity Designed, AdWeek, GDUSA, LogoPond, and of course LogoLounge.

From there I take a look at the tasks for the day and decide which project I want to dive into head first with. I am pretty simple in that I turn on some music to design with, usually Hans Zimmer, Explosions in the Sky, Caspian, Tycho, Ivan Torrent and etc, and start creating.

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

I would say after being a creative for over 20 years, keep designing until it starts to feel like a job. Once that happens, take a vacation, leave the computer at home, and come back to work after you have unplugged and given your brain and ego a time to relax and reset.

Bart O’Dell is an award-winning and published identity designer based in Amarillo, Texas, USA and manages O’Dell Design Co . You can connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.