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

When I was 5 years old, in school, I played with Legos a lot. I loved building cars and spaceships, and was so particular about the forms I build and the bricks and colors I chose. When other kids tried to play with me, I was appalled at the awkward things they were designing using multi colored bricks. I didn’t make friends well back then. But these were my earliest memories of design. Creating something from scratch. Having a distinct point of view. And using my imagination to fill a need – to build toys to keep myself entertained.

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

I was fortunate to always be nurtured in my creative endeavors. Since I was a child, I had a very supportive family, who bought me paints and crayons. Throughout high school, I was enrolled in a specialized art program which let me explore painting, digital tools, and animation. Eventually I made to ArtCenter College of Design, and graduated from the Graphic Design program.

The biggest hurdle I faced, and continue to face, are moments of complacency. There are periods in my life where I’ve gotten too comfortable and start the dangerous process into coasting.

For example, after high school I enrolled to Art Institute, because it was so easy to get into and all of my friends were going to attend. I could’ve gone directly to ArtCenter, but I was intimidated and didn’t really want to “be that serious about design”. After 2 years in the program at Art Institute, I realized that the curriculum wasn’t really challenging me and that my growth had plateaued.

Once I recognized this, I left that school, then spent the next 3 months sharpening my portfolio, so I could apply to ArtCenter. I was ready for a challenge, and I was ready to take my work seriously.

These types of moments tend to reoccur in my life. Luckily, these stints don’t last long, because I can recognize when these moments happen. My productivity slows down, I become unhappy with my work, and a week will go by and I don’t have anything of significance to show for it.

These are the moments when I reflect, try to get to the root of what’s in my way –usually it’s low impact busy work– then I aim to refocus. I write down a fresh set of to-dos for myself, and get all the busy work off my plate. This constant evaluation helps push me to learn, grow and create. It also helps me avoid the dangers of complacency.

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

The best way of getting clients: serving the current ones well.

Every opportunity I have to work with people, I do my best to help them. With their goals in mind, guiding them through the process, and making sure that what we create together will truly be impactful for their business.

Even in moments of frustration, I still always aim to get them what they need to get the job done well. This has lead to clients returning over and over again, or referring me to colleagues.

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

See above.

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

Sometimes. However putting strict policies in place, where we’re collecting money upfront, and throughout the process usually prevents us from having to chase clients. At Blind, we have a policy of 50% before project start, 25% midway, and 25% upon delivery. We withhold the final delivery of files until the last payment has been processed.

We slightly alter this from client to client depending on terms and the scope of work, but we always get paid in increments, that prevent any clients from ghosting on us when it’s time to pay.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I made a video on what a typical day in the life looks like for me. You can watch that here.

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

If you’re not investing in yourself when times are good, that’s called complacency. Nothing is forever. There’s no guarantees in the market, or in life. So you should be actively designing a life for yourself that multiplies your skills and diversifies your sources of income.

Invest in yourself. Shift some of that good creative energy you give to client work, towards yourself. We’re good problem solvers, and come up with so many innovative ideas for our clients. Shouldn’t we do some of that for ourselves?

Some people might not know where to start or how to look outside of a linear career path. To them I say: “how many times has a client asked you to make something that’s never been done before— and you’ve figured it out?” Why don’t we take the same attitude towards our own lives?

We figure it out because of the itch to be creative, a fast approaching deadline, our need to please, and the incentive of getting paid.

We should be our own favorite client to serve. Because our deadline is death, and our life is the biggest project we can work on.

Matthew Encina is a content creator, educator, and creative director. He teaches online at The Futur and speaks on stage, where he shares his knowledge on creativity and productivity.

@matthewencina (Twitter / Instagram)