The following is an interview with Jeroen Van Eerden. Jeroen is a passionate logo and identity designer. Based in Groningen, The Netherlands, he has worked as an independent designer for more than 150 companies worldwide over the last 8 years, some of the more notable clients including Google, Disney, Adobe, and Tinder.
1. When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
When I was just a teenager, my brother (Kasper) was the one who always impressed and inspired me to work on designs. He was always super skilled in drawings and was doing poster designs and other graphic designs too.
After many years not fully aware what path I should follow in my career, something about this designs kept with me and I felt the urge to follow this passion which started to grow on me more. I started working on explorational artworks which to me helped to express myself with. When I was a teenager I felt that design was a way for me to simplify the world around me.
Because with clear design, I could reduce a complex world. Over the years I kept on developing my skills and focused more and more towards logo design. Something about abstract designs with the use of simple elements made me feel I could solve real life problems for my clients.
Here are some of that first digital artworks I focused on before I got into logo design:
After I did some studies: First ‘Human-Technology’ and later ‘Communication & Multimedia Design’, I started to get a more clear view of what I wanted to do most with my focus in design. So I’ve been starting to focus on logo design projects ever since and kept on learning and interacting with other designers too.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
Before I jumped into this world as a designer, I tested out for 6 months if this was something I could pay my bills out. At that time (about 6 years ago) I worked part-time at a local garden store to had enough money in to paying my bills etc. But I always felt I wanted to become a fulltime designer. So I agreed with my girlfriend to test out for 6 months If I could hold up as a freelancer and see what it may bring me. Luckily enough this ended up super positively and I decided to quit my job.
Some of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was to build on my own insecurity to start working with actual clients and start asking for decent prices. Especially in the beginning I was super bad in my own marketing and how to negotiate with clients.
Also, because I had to deal with English speaking people was scary because I couldn’t talk fluently English myself back then. It took me some time to get more secure about myself and what I could offer to my clients. I think every designer would experience those similar things when started out.
Because I had to deal with my personal flaws in finding a clear goal to pursue, I started to rethink how I could use my flaws (ADD > Concentration issues) and turned it into my strengths. To me a perfect world is to simplify everything around me and especially in the work I deliver.
That’s why I have such a passion for simple and abstract logo-marks which many may seen in my works as a logo designer. To me abstraction is always been a key in my workflow. To find the perfect balance of a shape that may be very realistic, to a shape which is just too abstract. Right in the middle of those two parts is my sweet-spot for a perfectly balanced design. See image below for example:
Credit: Christopher Niemann | https://www.christophniemann.com/
A recent show from Netflix called ‘Abstract’ this Photographer called Platon told about how he turned his flaws into his ability to simplifies the world around him. This really realized that I was totally doing the same with my flaws and that I really been using this to simplify a complex problem.
This helped me to find my own ‘voice’ as a designer and kept on improving and pushing to become very good at it too. I’ve always been a perfectionist and that can be a tricky mix with my concentration issues. I now can deal with that much better since I have built my routine in working with clients and going trough projects. This also defines me as a designer and could benefit the focus I put into all of my projects.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
My most successful ways always went trough be active on portfolio platforms such as Dribbble and Behance. Along with these sites I also use Instagram a lot lately and twitter and facebook to share these post mainly as a secondary tool.
Somehow Dribbble had worked best to me to get client work from. Especially when I’m more active (1-2 post a week) it often results in multiple inquiries each day. The bad part of this way of getting clients, is the fact I don’t have much more control over it. As I don’t use any SEO or other marketing tools so people may find me better. I am planning to focus more on that too, but due busy times working on projects I never seem to find the right time for that in my schedule or head.
Lately Instagram had worked well for me too in finding new clients. Although many designers may follow me, it happens a lot that those actual designs also work at design agencies and sometimes reach out to ask if I want to collaborate with them, which obviously is a great way to work together.
It sure helps to have a large number of followers but it also is important to keep post quality works so people will refer you or your works can be shared on design pages (which may result in extra attention to your pages).
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
It actually doesn’t happen a lot since I’m mostly focusing and getting hired to design a logo or do a logo redesign. I do however always try to keep in touch with my clients and have interest in what they are up too.
Because I have good relationships with my clients they are more willing to reach out to me again if they may need something from me. But mainly because I work on single logo (re)design projects its more a short interaction between me and my clients.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Back when I just started I had the problem that I was too easy in trusting people which I started working with. Over time I understood that many freelancers expect a downpayment to be completed before starting on a project. Because it happened some times that clients didn’t pay in time or totally ghosted on me, this downpayment felt like a good fit.
It also gave a lot more security in my incomes. I now work with 50% upfront payments and once a design(s) is approved, I will send over a final 50% invoice to close the deal with. Once that amount is paid, I will send over their source files. This gives you much more control over the financial situations and avoid any confusions. Although it still happens (very uniquely) that a client needs their files asap.
But tell me that the money should be in my account within the next 2-3 days. Because I make agreements on payments etc during the first negotiations (also in contracts etc), some clients forget about this term I keep with and can respond very bad on it. Especially if they need it now and feel I might hold them off. It helps to remind them and refer them to this agreement.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
Wake up around 7.00 in the morning. Making breakfast for my family (girlfriend and daughter) and get a strong coffee. Once my girlfriend leaves to her work and our daughter to the daycare (that’s not everyday the same) I’ll go and take a long walk with my dog Hugo. After taking a shower and getting ready around 9.00 I am ready to go to my office.
I focus first on any new emails and try to reply as much as I can. I often create a to do list for that specific day which keeps me in focus on the important tasks I need to complete. I work the whole day on creative projects and do this out of my office which I created into our home. This helps to keep me flexible with my family and be close to them which I feel happy with. An average day will end around 17.00 but I could work later in the evenings when I might have to work on any final deadlines.
I work 4 days a week and have flexible days in the weekends depending how busy I am.
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
I think it’s really important to follow your passions and pursue the goals you’ve set in life. As a designer it’s always hard to really be original these days, most important would be to focus on good design and do your best to solve your clients problems during that process. Also be good to yourself and to others.
What I’ve learned over the years is that communication is key and for that clients will recommend you or come back to you. It also helped me to have a mentor (and or role model) besides you who gives you feedback/critics to learn from. As a designer we always keep learning and it’s super important to not settle and stand still too much. Take advantage of todays tools and social media and engage with other peer designers. Also good to have savings aside in times when less clients reach out.