1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer/creative?
I was a creative youngster. My idea of fun was creating my own magazine layouts by using a collage of pieces from other magazines, and I was obsessed with the album art that came with my favourite cassette tapes (and then CDs).
It wasn’t until I was about 15 though that I realised being a designer was actually a career path I could follow and earn a living from! Once I did though, I decided to pursue it no holds barred.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
One of the biggest hurdles for me, as it is for many creatives, was getting experience. It can often feel like you can’t win, because you need a job to get that experience, but you need experience to get a job.
It’s a catch 22! The best thing I ever did for my career was start on side projects while I was in university. I designed t-shirts and sold them online to people who followed me on Tumblr. While I started it just for fun, it gave me something to talk about in interviews and it showed initiative. I’m sure that’s what helped me land my first design job!
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
My most successful client projects have all been through word of mouth; being referred by someone. In my early days I used freelancing websites and bidder for projects a couple of times, but I was never proud of the work I did.
I don’t believe those sites bring you the best types of clients or the most interesting projects that will end up in your portfolio. I quickly gave up on them and instead stuck to building my reputation as a designer so that people are likely to seek me out online or be referred by a friend.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
I don’t do a lot of freelancing so have only had a couple of repeat clients, but I guess my advice would be to make sure to be professional and friendly throughout the process. If you’re pleasant to work with and the client is happy with the end result, they’ll be much more likely to come back to you next time they need design services.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
I used to, but these days I don’t ever let myself get into a situation where that can happen. If you’re a freelancer who is being paid late a lot, you need to change some thing about your process so you can stay in control of it.
There are some simple things you can do to make sure you’re paid on time, every time including setting up a payment schedule, requiring payment in full before the files are handed over, maintaining good communication and more. I’ve actually made a video series called Getting Paid On Time that gives a lot of advice on this topic because I wanted to try help stop this cycle of creatives being taken advantage of.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
I work remotely for a wonderful email marketing software company called ConvertKit, so I’m able to work from home or wherever else I like. I’m an early riser and I tend to wake up at around 5:30am to put in a few hours work on my side projects (namely a YouTube channel and a podcast, Design Life), before starting work on my day job.
I like to switch up locations throughout the day so I’ll spend some of it working at my standing desk at home, and part of it in a cafe somewhere in London. My job involves designing landing pages for convertkit.com, writing articles for Tradecraft (our blog) and whatever other design tasks are needed to help market the product. Because we’re remote, any meetings happen via video calls and it’s nice to check in with my team mates to see how they’re going.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
The further I get into my design career the more I realise that design is not an industry where you can do the bare minimum. The learning never stops and you’ve got to continually be pushing yourself to improve your skills, try new things and stay creative. And as design software becomes more and more accessible, being able to operate Photoshop is no longer enough to win you a great job or a great client.
What us designers have going for us is our creative problem solving abilities and the way we can take something complex and make it beautiful and understandable. So don’t just focus on creating work that looks good on a surface level. Put in the time, the effort and the passion and it will show!
Charli Marie is a designer from New Zealand currently living in London. She work full time as a web and graphic designer at a London startup.