Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What to say when a non-profit company asks for free work

You’re sweating, you’re mind is wrought with anxiety, your stomach clenches every time you think of it. Feelings of anger, frustration and dread are keeping you from being your best creative self, not to mention a good night’s sleep. It’s time to do your client billing and you feel underpaid, over-extended and taken advantage of. Sound familiar?

If it does, then you are not alone, creative friend. Now is a good time to take charge of your billing so that you can make a good living with your incredible talents, and let the world know that you are a professional! You provide a service, skill or product that your client does not have, right? This value is measurable in dollars, people. I’ve discovered that most anxiety starts when we (and yes, of course I include myself) don’t set clear boundaries with clients from the start. 

The principle truth is that everyone is much happier when: 
1. There are rules
2. The rules are stated clearly
3. The rules are enforced

I asked some successful creative professionals about how they deal with some typical client/billing scenarios. Since I often need real-life specifics, I came up with some general scripts for you to start incorporating into your business practices. Note the word "practice" because that's all it is.

A non-profit company asks for your creative work pro-bono

Remember these wise words of Lisa Hazen, Lisa Hazen Design and Editorial: "Non profits have to pay the same as everybody else because I am FOR-profit." Even if this company is non-profit, it is still a company in need of your particular skills and talents. They have to pay the plumber, the roofer and the phone bill, right? Well, they also have to pay the creative talent.

But you're thinking. This is the crowd I need to hang with for connections that might lead to more business. Okay, if you think that you will truly benefit financially from the “exposure”, then trade out your work with specific guidelines in a barter. And don’t forget to make those connections at the event AND promote your company and what you do with business cards, table signage and/or banners!

Say this:
“I can supply {the first 5 hours of design work} in trade for {a half page ad in your promotion or similar}.” 

Or, say this:
“I will donate one of my {products} with my name and company listed prominently next to it.”

Are your thinking, I love this project! It's my chance to do great work on my own terms. Does this job mean you can build your real-world experience that will mean more fully paid work down the line? Do you absolutely love the organization and want to help their bottom line by saving them some costs? Okay.

Say this:
“I’m happy to do this (specific job) pro bono because it will be something I can use in my portfolio and I have a passionate connection to the cause. Please understand that this means I will ask for creative license over the look and design so that we can both benefit from the experience. After {a specific number of hours, or projects etc} is complete, I will bill according to my standard rates of {a specific amount}. Based on our conversations on what your needs are, I estimate that I will be donating {this specific amount} to your organization. I also ask you to send me a letter on your organization’s stationery stating this so that I can retain it for my files."

Carolyn Stendahl, from Studio Stendahl has more good advice, especially about including a maintenance fee option: "After meeting with the non-profit, I’d outline the specs of the job, including specific details about the updates and estimate time it would take. I’d review it with the non-profit, and then on a periodic basis, especially if you expected issues.  I’d also include fees for maintenance.  That could be a monthly or annual fee for a certain amount of hours."

The non-profit company asks for your work at discounted rates

Don't discount your work. More on that after the quote.

Say this:
"I am happy to quote for the {insert job here}. I don’t discount my rates because you are an important client, and I want to give your job all the attention and time it needs to be successful."

Do you still insist on discounting your rates? Remember that if you discount your hourly rate (or your products) then when a good, full-paying opportunity comes along, you won’t be able to take it because you’ll be busy, or you won’t have the products anymore. This will make you mad at yourself, which isn’t good for your health and then you might possibly transfer that anger on your client, which isn’t good for business relations.

Brad Plogsted from OXC Design + Branding does offer different rates, and has this perspective: "If my clients need brochure edits, I don't want them going to someone else for these 'cheaper' services and only coming to me for more expensive tasks. Eventually, I would outsource the work to another freelancer, but make sure I'm the only one who deals with the client. That way, my familiarity with the brand is still there, and since I know how designers think, communicating with the freelancer will be smoother and less prone to mistakes. I would build in a 10-20% markup, to reflect the value the client is getting from my experience with their brand, and for the ease in just dealing with one designer (me)." In this scenario, there are still rules and they are built to increase business while offering the client a valuable service.

Is this helpful? Will you practice this if you are struggling to get paid for your work? I promise I will too. More scripts and scenarios later. {Margot}

Friday, November 8, 2013

5 Online Classes that might teach you something new in Adobe Illustrator

This is the illustration I was working on when taking Brad's Skillshare class.

One of the difficulties of working on your own, is that you don't get the benefit of community learning. Back when I was in a studio with other designers, it was easy to shout out, "Hey, does anyone know how to make these holes see-through?" Then a friendly coworker would pop her head up from her computer and show me how. We would be each other's teachers and our design skills developed painlessly and organically. But now if I shout out "How in the hell do I get that stipplish-brushy texture on my illustration?", the only help I get in return is a friendly bark from my dog, who probably thinks I'm going to take him out for a walk.

I've been worried that my designs are in danger of becoming dated because of my isolation. I want to learn more, but the local classes at the surrounding universities are expensive and I really don't want to be stuck in a classroom learning things I already do know. That's why this week was really exciting, because I discovered the website Skillshare.

Skillshare is filled with online classes that teach new skills using videos, assignments, and a community of other students taking the same class. Most classes cost under $30, which make it very affordable. The class I was in is called Communicate with Color, Pattern and Texture taught by Brad Woodward. I loved it! Some stuff I already knew about, but I did learn how to use two tools that had always been a mystery to me (the "widen" tool and the "roughen" tool, both of which I'd rendered useless early on in my Illustrator career). Since I learn best by watching other people do what they are talking about, the videos Brad posted were made it very easy for me to engage in the new information. I would watch a little bit and toggle back to my illustration to try out the new skill. The next thing I knew it was 12:30 am and I was still obsessively tweaking and changing the design. I went from dreading an illustration project, to being on a designer's high about it. Woohoo! This old dog still can learn new tricks!

Here are some other classes that look interesting to me. I haven't taken any of them, so I can't promise they will give you the design magic I got. If you do take one, or know of a good class, please share it.

Patterns for Printed Textiles: Even if you aren't a textile designer, pattern-making in Illustrator or Photoshop is a valuable skill to have. ($25)

Digitizing Hand Lettering: Since the hand-lettered look is "in", I think this one would be helpful. ($29)

Introduction to Photoshop: I know enough of Photoshop to frustrate myself. This might eliminate my need to use the "undo" keys a little less often. ($29)

Beginning Infographics: No one can deny this new design trend for companies and corporations. Might as well learn it on the early side of the trend. ($15)

Stylization Through Simplification: Again, always good to remember those graphic communications skills. ($20)


Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun Friday: How symmetrical is your face?

How symmetrical is your face? Do you have a "better" side that you use for the camera? It came up the other day in conversation so I got curious.  I felt like my face was pretty symmetrical, but was willing to put it to the test and found this website that will show you what each side of your face would look like if it was perfectly symmetrical. I think I read that it does not work on iPads, so head to your computer.

If you want to give it a try and need a photo, just use the camera in your computer if you have one. I used Photo Booth and made a quick photo for the experiment. No comments on my classy outfit and spotless office, please...

Here is the original photo:

Here is how I split up:
Ha ha! Me without bangs again.

...and me with a nerdy middle part.
I don't think there is a HUGE difference, and I'm still pretty recognizable.

I was reading up a little bit on the meaning of symmetry in faces and this article talks about how your facial symmetry has a lot to do with childhood stresses. Interesting!

So, are you willing to give it a shot? How does your face divide?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How the heck do I add a PDF to this?

Friends have asked me how I add a PDF to a blog post that can be downloaded by a reader. I have offered a few of my patterns on my blog for download and it wasn't very difficult to do.

I draw all of my patterns by hand on paper, soon this method will be obsolete and I will miss it terribly. I love starting with a big blank piece of paper then drawing, erasing and getting pencil smudges all over my face.  Anyway, when I want to offer one of my patterns to my readers I will scan the pattern into my computer and then decide if I want to redraw it in Illustrator or just offer the hand drawn version. Either way after I finish with any altering or labeling I save the file as a PDF. In Illustrator, Photoshop and Word this is under File, Save As, and under the Format drop down menu choose PDF.  Name your file something that is easy for your readers to identify and read because this name will show up in your blog text.

In Wordpress you highlight the spot where you want the link to the PDF to show up and then you click on Add Media, upload your file and follow the steps to insert it into the post. The name of your PDF will now show up in your text as a highlighted and underlined link.

In Blogger there are a few more steps because you need to use Google docs. Go to google docs or Drive and upload the PDF. Then click on the PDF file to open it in Google docs. Then copy the entire URL.

Then in your blog post write something like "download the PDF here". Highlight the text "here" (or whatever you choose to be your link) and click on the Link icon from the menu. Then you paste the URL in the window labeled "website" and I always select "open file in a new window" so that readers can stay on your blog. After this step is complete your text will appear highlighted and underlined and when readers click on it they will open your PDF in a new window!

For example here is a PDF  of my towel topper pattern. This pattern is inspired by the vintage towels with little fabric toppers that my Grandmother always had around her house. You can read the tutorial on how to make the toppers on my blog here. And you can download the pattern here.

xo Jenifer

Monday, September 23, 2013

Life Lessons of recovering thrift store chairs...

Do you ever find something at the resale shop and see the potential hidden under the layers of dust and bad upholstery? Can you you bring that gem home and really turn it into the vintage masterpiece it could be? Will you?? I found out the hard way what it takes to turn the ugly into the unique, but I lived to tell about it and to share what I learned in the process so your reupholstery project will go much more smoothly than mine did.

I found these chairs at my favorite Cincinnati thrift shop and immediately noticed the lovely, smooth and nearly perfect wood backs. I knew the copper legs would match my 1950's upcycled copper kitchen cabinets too. But then there were the hideous yellow vinyl replacement seat cushions. I know these chairs once had lovely wood seats to match the backs, but clearly it had long been replaced with this horrible yellow stuff that was disintigrating and stained. I almost walked away but after a few laps around the store, couldn't resist. I snapped them up for $5 a piece and took them home to be transformed. I'm a professional clothing designer and quite familiar with patterns--this should be easy-peasy, right?


After bringing them home, I removed the seats right away and threw the horrible foam and vinyl straight in the trash. Then the chairs were banished to the basement indefinitely until time and inspiration would allow me to finish them.

My First Lesson:
Three months later, after the wettest spring in Cincinnati memory, my beautiful wood backed chairs were resurrected from the basement, but now covered in a thin layer of mildew. I was heartbroken to realize that the lovely finish was ruined. We Googled solutions to removing the mildew and decided to wash them with dishsoap, this worked well but the varnish completely disappeared.  Never fear, my super helpful husband rubbed several coats of the same oil we coated our new wood kitchen counter top with into the wooden chairbacks. Several coats rubbed into the surface gave the wood a beautiful deep finish without the glossy shine of varnish, perfect!

My Second Lesson:
New foam proved to be insanely expensive at the local fabric store so I got online and found this company that will cut your seats to size and also offers several choices in density and thickness. I ordered 4" foam at a cost of $5 per seat.  When the foam arrived I was shocked to see that I had ordered them way to thick. They looked absurdly tall on the seat--what was I thinking?? I had to shave an inch off the top with my trusty electric carving knife. I will tell you that this was not an easy process and pretty time consuming.  At this point I was really frustrated with how complicated this "simple" project had become.

The fabric choice for the seats gave me some anxiety too. I can't afford to spend a fortune on them and let's face it, my children are not easy on my furniture. I decided that vinyl was my only logical option and started scouring the internet. I found this black textured option at my favorite source for down pillow fills. It's beautiful, sophisticated and doesn't have that shiny-cheap vinyl look. And at $10 per yard, it was within budget.

To cover these seats I would need 1 top piece of fabric and 1 piece to wrap all the way around the seat and wrap under the seat where it will be stapled to the base. To figure out how much fabric I would need I measured the size of the wood seat base front to back and side to side. then the circumference of the base, and the depth of the foam. Here is the formula I used:

Front to back and side to side, square the size regardless of actual shape, mine was 15 x 15" add 1/2" all the way around for seam allowance. Then the circumference of the seat which was 55" + 1/2" seam allowance at ends= 56" long by 3" (depth of foam) plus 2 1/2" for pulling under and seam allowance.  So I knew I needed 6 squares at 16" x 16" and 6 long pieces at 56" x 5 1/2"

I drew a rough sketch of the fabric to figure out how much I would need to order:

From this I knew that I needed at least 2.66 yards so I ordered 3 yards.

After the fabric arrived I traced the shape of the seat base onto a large sheet of paper and added 1/2" all the way around the edges for seam allowance. After cutting out the pattern, I then traced it directly onto the back (the wrong side) of the fabric. The long edge pieces I drew onto the fabric with my yard stick.

Lesson Number Three:
After sewing all of the fabric covers together and leaving the bottom open, I stuffed the foam into each seat cover. The foam has pointy corners but i just ignored those and stuffed them in. They filled out each corner nicely and took on the shape of the sewn seat cover. Then I pushed the wood seat base into the cover and totally panicked!

This is the point where I realized that the wood seat bases were actually 2 different sizes! I had used the small seat base as my pattern and now the other 4 seats were too big for my covers. But again my super laid back, handy husband calmly took my seats out to the garage and trimed them down to fit with a jigsaw, yay! Always check the sizes of every seat before cutting and sewing!

As you may know, these 'great thrift store finds' are often a great deal of learning and frustration. I'm pleased with myself for battling through the Life Lessons and sticking the project out to the finish because I really do love them!

- Jenifer

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fun Friday: Make something without spending ANY MONEY

This is last autumn's yarn wreath but I added some of felt shapes and vintage sequins I had stashed in my "Things that Bedazzle" drawer to make it new to me for this year. Pay no attention to the boy and weird teenager behind the curtain.

Do you have drawers and shelves and desks full of crafty stuff and art supplies? Me too. And yet, every time I get that crafty feeling, I head straight to Michaels or Hobby Lobby to buy more. Now, I'm not going to beat myself up about that too much. I do love the creative stimulation of a good retail craft outing--who can resist a pack of adhesive gems for a dollar? Why should we resist? It's a great deal and surely they will come in handy in my crafting future, right? Right. But I digress. Creativity doesn't always come from something NEW. Sometimes, you can do great stuff with your own great stuff.

This weekend's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make a craft with WHAT YOU HAVE. Don't go to the store for a special kind of glue, or just the right kind of paper or doo-dads that would make this craft perfect. Just use what you have. You are creative enough to make it work and the restrictions might actually make you MORE creative. If you accept this mission, I ask you to share what you do with the hashtag, #DearLizaFunFriday (<-- is it redundant to say 'hashtag' and then write a # sign? It feels awkward to me.)

Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking:
1. Make a card or tag with all your scraps of paper and ribbon. 
2. Cross stitch something tiny. 
3. Make a friendship bracelet with all your embroidery floss. 
4. Paint something and put it in an old picture frame. Better yet, paint over that old picture frame and make that new again too.
5. Illustrate your favorite quote
6. Make a collage of something you see in your neighborhood
7. Take old yarn and make a basket of pom-poms
8. Redecorate your mantle with candles and the flowers from your yard (or neighbor's yard if you're fast enough)
9. Cut up a beer can and make some jewelry
10. Sew your millions of beads to a piece of fabric to create a pattern

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun Friday! Want to test your color acuity?

Last weekend I was wigged out by this fascinating episode on RadioLab. It discusses the history of recorded color, the science of color and the phenomenons within this scientific process of perceiving color. I was fascinated about how in any ancient developing civilization, the recording of words for color always start with black...then white...then red....then yellow or green but last is ALWAYS blue. Poor blue! My 13-year-old daughter and I were riveted. There is also a great soundtrack of color songs covered by various artists.

It does hurt my head a little bit to wonder about color and how it's perceived by humans. But as a graphic designer, it's my job to be very attuned to varying colors. I imagine it's the same for a musician who can hear that a note is ever-so-flat or sharp to their ears. The variations are perceivable if we exercise that muscle in our brain or eye or ear that does that particular job.

Do you want to check your hue acuity? An online Munsell Hue Test is one way to do it. This online test takes just a few minutes and it's interesting to see how accurate your perceptions are. If you scored a 0 then perhaps you are a tetrachromat (<--new word for me!). I took the test quickly and was surprised that I scored a 15--really, I expected more of myself! ;oD {Margot}

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