Interview with Christophe De Pelsemaker

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

At the age of 16/17, we had some moments during school which were devoted to talk about our interests and what we would like to study after we got out of school at the age of 17/18. Like many students, I didn’t had an interest in anything specific so I looked at what I enjoyed in my life as how it was at that time. It lead me to a football simulation game which I played. More specifically, it lead me to the creation of team badges which I did back than, just because I liked creating these team badges.

After doing some research, I found to my own surprise that graphic design was actually a thing. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to become a designer and I therefore signed up to study graphic design at Sint-Lukas Brussels.

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

After graduating, it took me more or less a year before I got some payed projects. At that time, I was looking for a position in an agency but that didn’t work out. Strangely enough, the only opportunities that crossed my path were those as a freelance designer. I decided to first do an internship for a month at an agency, after that I decided to become a freelancer and work started to come in.

The biggest hurdle I had for several years was the idea that things I didn’t had seemed to be more interesting than what I had at that time. I liked the freedom that comes wih being a freelancer, but constantly looking for clients isn’t something I enjoyed. I decided to stay a freelancer, but to work as an in-house freelancer on a full-time basis. Two years later, I decided to go solo again for a year and afterwards to work as an employee for 1 year for a chocolate company. Now, I’m a freelancer once again and I’m pretty confident to say that it will probably remain like that.

My career path may seem more chaotic than it actually was. By having these experiences, it really helped me to see and understand that being a freelancer is the right thing for me. I will certainly have more moments in my life when I doubt about if I choose the right path to follow, but now I know that perseverance is my best friend.

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

At a certain moment in time, people started to contact me automatically. I honestly had no idea what happened or how that was possible, but I must have been doing something right. What definitely helped me was a company I joined that outsources freelance designers to their clients. This gave me the opportunity to work for many clients that are active in different industries.

Another way that helpes me is simply reaching out to people. Starting to get to know them, what they do, who they are,… All of that without the intention of selling them something. Just having a genuine interest in what people do and having normal conversations with them is the awy to go. It’s pure logic, it’s how people are. Never force things and start to build a relationship with someone.

Ask them how they are, what they’re working on. They will ask you the same and at some moment in time, it might lead to a partnership.

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

Doing good work, building a relationship and understanding what your client needs or what could improve their business. Many clients think they need something, but if you dig deeper it becomes clear that they might need more or different elements to really make a change for their business.

It’s part of our job to help our clients with this, so basically it comes down to do great work and building an honest an true relationship.

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

I had some trouble in the past with a client who didn’t pay. It was a long term relationship and after a year the payments started to come a month or two months late, every single time. I worked together with a company who managed all my invoices and payments etc. A part of their service was their legal division which handled issues like that. I was very lucky that I could rely on them. They did everything to get my money and in the end I got every single cent for which I worked.

It really helped me to not worry about the money too much, because I knew things were going to be alright. After multiple of these issues, I fired my client. It was the only right thing to do.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

Depending on the projects I have, I start around 9 am doing the client work. I work on it until it’s finished or until I did what I wanted to do for that day. I also run an Instagram and YouTube account where I share and talke about the books I have.

I spend some time on that as well, but not really on a daily basis. It’s a side project which lead to the publication of my first book, Letters As Symbols. For me it’s still a side project, but if I can, I spend my time to grow it steadily into something bigger.

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

Reach out to people (as soon as possible), it will make things so much more interesting and things will start to happen automatically.

Christophe De Pelsemaker is an independant brand designer specialized in the development of logos and brand identities. He works with local and international companies to create brands that are meaningful to their audience. His work can be found on:

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Interview published on: Aug 8, 2019

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