Interview with Sydney Michuda

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

I had been interested in art from a young age but never felt truly at home in any specific field. In high school, I took a graphic design course and really fell in love with the subject. Later in the year, we had a representative from SCAD visit our class that explained what a graphic design major required, what the career path looked like, and I instantly knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. While I couldn’t go to SCAD, I was still able to pursue my major in graphic design at UW-Whitewater.

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

I got my start in design in high school by tinkering around with Adobe programs. I loved sketching but was interested in making those sketches more polished so I watched tutorials, read blogs, and eventually got a decent handle on what graphic design was. 

After graduating, I got a job at a local advertising agency in Milwaukee. That was my first foray into the professional industry. I worked on print pieces, websites, brand identities, advertising, photo shoots, experiential campaigns, all varying from small brands to fortune 500 companies. Compared to what I learned in school, this felt like an entirely different world. 

After working in advertising for a couple years, I wanted to work in a more design-centric environment. I then started working at local design firm. This was exactly what I was looking for and more. In some ways, it felt like a design bootcamp where you had to be at your max capabilities all day, everyday. While it was tough to get used to, it definitely was the skill boost I needed.

In terms of the biggest hurdle I’ve overcome, I’d say that was losing my job when the pandemic hit. The company I worked for primarily worked with restaurant and hospitality clients, and since those industries were hit hard, many of us didn’t have a place in the workforce anymore. I was always a person that had a steady career plan. Work here, work there, branch into this field or that, but being unemployed while the world stood still was never one of those plans. Before the pandemic, I knew I wanted to be a full-time freelancer at some point, so that felt like as good a time as any to make that a reality. It took many months of trial and error and more hurdles, but it worked out in the end!

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

My most successful way of getting clients has been through word of mouth, Instagram, and YouTube. 
Wether through personal, business, or digital connections, word of mouth is always such a reliable form of marketing. 

Instagram has also always been one of my main ways of getting my brand out there which then leads to new client leads. I started posting on Instagram as a way of holding myself accountable in creating and posting new work. This lead to more viewers and gradually clients that wanted to hire me for my services. Since they had seen what I posted, they wanted to hire me for similar designs. This lead to one of my main freelance philosophies. The way I see it, the world doesn’t know what you’re capable of until you show them. So create the work you’d eventually like to be hired for, post it online regularly, grow your skills, and reap the rewards later. 

I’ve also gained a lot of clients from the Adobe Live stream I did in 2020 “Designing a Complete Brand Identity with Sydney Michuda”. Clients will tell me they will search “how to design a brand identity” thinking they could manage it on their own, they learn what it entails, come across my Adobe Live videos, then reach out to me for their brand work. This just goes to show how successful video content is becoming. One of my main goals in the coming years is to really increase my social media video content.

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

Recently and for the first time in my freelance career, I’ve started experiencing more and more clients coming back for additional work. What’s been happening is that I’m hired to design a brand identity, the project wraps up, and then weeks or months later, they come back for a website, social media templates, packaging, or what have you. 

In my opinion, this is because of two things. One, because I was able to do good work. Two, I provided a pleasant customer experience. This was something I definitely neglected early on. I didn’t do video calls, or detail my process, or provide timelines. It was all somehow based on their trust that I could deliver positive results. I’ve recently started revamping this side of my business. Every client gets at least 3 video calls during their contract, I explain my process, concepts, and timelines super clearly, and make sure that they’re always informed about what’s happening. I believe that this client-focused approach has led to more repeat work.

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

I’ll occasionally have issues with clients paying late, but luckily it doesn’t happen too often. I require at least half, sometimes all, of a project payment upfront. That way a good portion of the work is already paid for. When I do have issues with unpaid invoices, I follow up with the client on a very consistent basis to remind them. If the reminders go unanswered, I’ll propose a few alternative courses of action depending on the final result of the project. If those go unanswered, I keep up with the reminders until it’s resolved.

6. What does your typical work day look like?

I start my day by making coffee and cleaning up my workspace a bit. I need a clear area to avoid any distractions or feelings of overwhelm. Next, I move onto emails, project management, and business tasks. Once I’m warmed up, I’ll start on smaller tasks. This can be anything from social graphics for my retainer clients, quicker logo/brand changes, time sensitive requests, small website updates, things like that. Then, I’ll dive into the bigger projects, like brand design work, illustration, website design and building, designing a suite of full social media assets, or package design. Most days I have a couple meetings sprinkled in as well.

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

One of my biggest pieces of advice is to be patient and keep at it. Becoming a good designer doesn’t happen overnight or even over a year. It takes years of work, growth, and patience. So keep learning, practicing, experimenting, and pushing your boundaries.

Connect with
Sydney Michuda

Main Website: Super Creative

Social Media: LinkedIn, BeHance, Instagram and Facebook.

More strategies to boost your design career

Sydney Michuda is the one-lady brain behind the Milwaukee-based design shop Super Creative. She is a designer, letterer, and illustrator with a penchant for branding and art direction.

Her unique style is a perfect fit for logo designs for passion projects, a groovy print on a blank wall, or a complete business rebrand.

Interview published on: Apr 12, 2022

Check out these other designers

Ruben Cespedes

Ruben Cespedes

When did you realize you wanted to be a designer? Well, it's quite a journey. Ever since I was a little kid, I was...

Tom Muller

Tom Muller

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer? I knew from very young age I wanted to do *something* creative. Both...

Liz Mosley

Liz Mosley

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer? After studying art at school and thinking I wanted to be a...