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

Probably after leaving High School. I didn’t know communication arts or design was a thing until my High School art teacher said something about me “making a great graphic designer” one day. I was intrigued. I must learn more about this occupation.

I had grown up loving art and was inspired by Norman Rockwell, J. C. Leyendecker, and Alphonse Mucha. When I look at those artists now, I can’t help but notice a substantial amount of design in their work.

After realizing I could “do art” and not be the “starving artist” I’d heard about, design became a clear path for me.

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

I was a wide-eyed, green employee that thought I could stay with a company for years and grow with them. It was several years before realizing I needed to hunt down opportunities. I graduated college wanting to disprove the adage “it’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

I misunderstood the meaning behind this phrase initially. It was important to “make it” on my own merits and not on someone else’s name. That frame of mind was detrimental. Looking back, my love for people and desire to get better could have worked together.

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

Piggybacking off the last question, the most successful way of getting clients has been through meeting new people. Regardless if you’re a 9-5 company employee or full-time freelancer, you need to get out and meet people!

Our whole career is based on helping others. It’s imperative to interact and relate to others. My biggest clients have been direct results of long lasting relationships founded on common interests outside of the design world.

Your work needs to be solid, but sometimes it boils down to a friend mentioning “I know a guy” to get the ball rolling. The next best thing, be confident and ask to partner with clients you admire and respect.

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

You have to be realistic. Realistic with expectations, costs, and deadlines. Never mail it in. People can smell it, and it stinks. Being an active “partner” in the business helps clients know you’re on board in getting to the best solution possible. Delivering on deadlines is crucial. Give yourself enough time to complete tasks early, leaving room for those last minute changes.

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

I have been extremely fortunate to have great clients. Some have paid before I’ve gotten invoices to them, based strictly on estimate numbers. Getting 50% down to start has been key. Everyone has skin in the game at this point. Depending on the client you may or may not get caught up in the grinding machine that is “payroll.” Knowing what type of company you’re dealing with helps gauge timetables.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I’m up and rolling by seven, usually. I’ve been a full-time “company guy” for the last 15 years, 8:30-5:30/6. Head home to hang with the family.

After dinner and putting my three kids to bed, I jump back into the laundry list of personal projects and regular life. Passion projects and freelance usually take me up through 1-2am.

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

Take road trips. Explore the world outside of your career. Be good to those around you. Be present with those around you. And for the love of Pete, don’t be pretentious.

People can’t always visualize our “big ideas.” That’s OK. Help them imagine and see what the possibilities could be.

You can connect with Doc Reed on Twitter.