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

I originally went to school to become an illustrator. I had no clue what graphic design was at the point. I was required to take beginning Typography as one of the required courses for my illustration degree and it was there that I fell in love with graphic design. I had seen design all my life but was unaware of it. How could that be?! I have no idea. It was right under my nose this whole time. The purpose and strategy of design hooked me. It felt like I had met a long lost love from another lifetime. And it was then that I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer.

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

Right out of school I got my first design internship which turned into a full-time position. That job massively opened up my network and introduced me to many talented people and designers I would never have met otherwise. Those early connections inspired and motivated me and even lead to many client referrals later on.

My earlier days as a designer were marked by me thinking my way was right. I totally had a designer ego. It was my pride that was my biggest hurdle and at times still is. But at least I’m aware of it now. And hey, the first step to change is awareness.

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

Referrals from clients, friends, family, and past co-workers have been my most successful way of getting clients.

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

It’s not something that I consciously do to get clients to stay with me. It’s a natural progression if the experience of working with me was enjoyable and valuable to them. It’s true that people work with those they know, like, and trust. And that goes for ongoing work as well.

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

Thankfully, this is a very rare issue for me. I only had one client pay late that I can recall. I did consistent work for him and would bill every two weeks. When the payment got to be a few days late I would send a reminder. Really, that’s all he needed and quickly paid. I did not have a contract at that point (I know, shame on me!) but that could have encouraged a prompt payment.

I now work with a contract, and for large projects, 50% up front is needed to kick off the project and the remainder must be paid before final files are released. Without payment, things won’t happen. All my clients seem to be motivated by getting their project started AND finished.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I start by checking my email and opening my calendar. I plan out my work week at least a week or two in advance so that I make sure my tasks are leading me towards my goals. It’s easy to get caught up in client work and not realize I’m not really getting anywhere in my business.

My day usually consists of a bit of client work, meetings with clients and other creatives, working on my business, and learning a new skill. I typically get the most done when I’m by myself at home than working in a coffee shop or other public environment. I sometimes go to a co-working space but that’s more for socializing and networking. That’s my time to get out of the house and see what everyone else is up to.

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

Design is way more fun when you give up looking for the perfect project. Do the best with what you’re given and you may find that what you’re given is the best.

Melinda Livsey is the founder and creative director of Marks & Maker. She has worked with brands such as Oakley, Paramount Pictures and Loot Crate. She has also appeared on several episodes of The Futur, including this one.