Why I joined an agency

Why I joined an agency

It has been seven months since I kind of permanently joined an agency. But why? Why give up seven years of freelance “freedom” for working for someone else? First of all, I did not give up anything. Secondly, well, there is no secondly really. It was definitely not the easiest decision I have ever had to make in my career, but here is why:

Stability and routine:
Creative people are messy. And I am not just talking about my office (which I cleaned up by the way!) I am talking about life messy. We create routines and we break routines all the time. We set boundaries and break boundaries and we borderline everything. Working for an agency does not work like that. You have set hours, set ways and rules and regulations. As boring as this may sound, it is actually just what we need sometimes; a routine of stability.

Less paperwork:
This was probably at the top of my cons list! I hate paperwork. And the nice thing now is that I can make it someone else’s problem.

You don’t realise how stagnant you become when working from home alone. You forget what it is like to randomly bounce an idea off someone else – be it work-related or not. Working for an agency requires collaboration and I am really enjoying that.

Likeminded people:
We all have one thing in common: the agency. We work as a team and with the same clients and share a communal consciousnous about what is going on at the office. It is like having a family you know nothing about but value anyways.

Working on your own, you deal with mostly the same clients. It never bored me at all, but sometimes it just does not make your clock tick anymore. You get to know your clients and you understand what they like and need, so it is easy to do it right the first time around. Now I get to work with a variety of people I don’t know all that well, so the challenge to be creative is bit more of a challenge. This is where collaboration is also a plus point.

Small talk:
How I missed that! A while ago I wrote a post about freelance challenges and getting lonely was one of the points. Everything in moderation, though. Work hard, play hard.

Yup, we have a coffee machine at work too. And I don’t have to always make it myself or wait for Hubbles to do it!

Being appreciated:
Sure, clients say thank you and tell you that you’ve done a great job, but being part of a team that congratulates AND celebrates with you is beyond many things.

On the topic of congratulations and celebrations; it is nice to work with someone on a project and be able to look at the outcome and tell your partner in crime: well done.

Someone’s got your back:
Always. If you are afraid of stuffing up alone, ask someone else’s opinion and rather make sure the damage won’t be that great. Two minds are better than one!

Freedom to explore:
My position is half-day and I am free to explore the rest of the time. Within boundaries, of course!

As I am typing this I realise how many pros there are working for an agency. I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of a team and glad that I took on the challenge. I am having fun doing what I love, no matter where I do it.

Working from home challenges

Working from home challenges

Working from home is awesome. You know, you get to spend the day in PJ’s, you can eat over your keyboard and come and go as you please. But there are also some challenges no one tells you. Like having a 10-cups-a-day filter coffee budget. And a fancy gin budget for celebrating the small wins and coping with the big fails. If you are thinking about going freelance, you should probably read this first. If you are already enjoying the freelance lifestyle, I am sure you can relate to these. Let me know if I missed something!

Working from home alone does not mean you have me-time.
Sure, you get to spend time all by yourself every single day, but the quality me-time (paint your toenails, de-weed the mint garden, draw silly pictures type of time) does not exist. You spend the time on your work, not on your self.

It is not an 8-5 job.
Working either early mornings or late at night, depending on your owl-persona, is a reality. Sometimes really nice weather weekends (thankfully horrible weather ones too) are wasted because of a tight deadline. You often have to attend to emails, answer calls and respond to messages after hours. Working with people from different time-zones especially asks for reading (and answering) emails before bedtime.

You can’t afford to get sick.
You don’t have paid sick leave. If you’re down for two days, you don’t work for two days, and you don’t get paid for two days. Simple – yet devastating – concept.

You arrange your life around deadlines.
I have set project deadlines certain times of the month or year. I arrange my holidays and weekend aways around that. There is nothing worse than having to work while away on a sanity break. I had a very tight deadline for the day before my granny’s funeral. I spent three days working day and night. By the time we reached the funeral (which was in Pretoria, so I had an additional not-able-to-work day due to travelling) my eyes had (graphic)designer bags under them, and I felt like passing out. I even had to finish the memorial letters’ bows in the car on the way to the funeral.

Some months are better than others.
Sure, it sounds obvious, but it really is a tough aspect of being a freelancer. Some projects overlap a month or two, which means you don’t have an income for the time in between. Then there is the winter depression. Things quiet down from June to August. Nobody knows why. And then, January. I have been lucky the past two years to have had projects lined up for January, but this is not the norm.

Your family won’t always get it.
Hubbles supports me like no other person, but he does not always understand why I need to get shit done *right now*. If it is done right now, it means I don’t have to do it after supper or tomorrow morning, saving me 12 hours of time. The tiny human is still tiny enough not to mind too much, but he often walks into my office just looking for a hug. At times it makes you feel like the worst mom on earth. I make time for these hugs and hate when I have to cut them short.

Returning to personal life is difficult.
My office is in our house. I often find myself pacing around after everyone is asleep trying to remember if I remember everything I need to remember. It takes a tremendous lot of effort to switch between work life and personal life. In my post about small achievements, I mention that it does help to create a priority list before switching off your computer at the end of your working day. It gives you a good indication of what your next day will look like and makes it easier to “just step away from the computer.” When I revamped my office a year or so ago, I got rid of the door because it had, well, too much character? So yes, as soon as I get a new door I suppose drawing the line will be a little less difficult.

You feel guilty when you take a break.
Maybe it is just me, but when I am quiet for a week or so, I feel so incredibly guilty for taking things slow. Even if I just spent a week working 12-hour days. I perfected the art of looking busy behind a blank computer screen. It is so silly because it is the perfect time for me time, right? Right.

Career-change becomes a popular topic.
I love my job. I really do. But sometimes you get a client or a project, or merely an existential crisis on some random Tuesday, that breaks you. Then you do a quick internet search for a permanent position as anything else but a graphic designer. And then you think about all the cons of working from home, having a mobile office and working with interesting people from everywhere, and the permanent position idea makes itself temporary.

It gets lonely sometimes.
There is no quick chat about the weather with anyone. No “can I make you coffee” offers and no what-did-you-have-for-suppers and see-you-tomorrows. Thankfully some of my closest friends are also freelancers, so we get to do quick coffee breaks together.

People don’t take you seriously.
No, seriously. You don’t have an admin person. Well, you do, but it is you. You don’t have (that many) overheads and all that other important stuff, so your labour must be cheap. Hence the featured image by Alex Noriega from www.snotm.com who is one of my ultimate heroes! We are serious people. We seriously put in a lot of effort to meet the not-always-realistic demands of clients we consider equally important. And that is some serious, serious business skills. 

Yours in freedom and loneliness and happiness and stuff,

The joys of being a freelance graphic designer

The joys of being a freelance graphic designer

One thing better than my job itself is doing my job from home. I have mentioned numerous times that I am one of the select few who can say that my worst day at the office is probably better than many other people’s best days. I really love what I do. And the best part? I can do it from home! Here is why I love it:

My office is mobile.

Hubbles and I don’t have blood family in Port Elizabeth. His mom and brothers are in Johannesburg (1 068,8 km), and my parents and sisters and nieces are in Lydenburg (1 371,6 km). So the upside is that I can pack up my office and work with my family for a week. No one will even notice!

My time is my time.

Sure, I work crazy hours at times, but I do have nice and quiet days where I get to run around the house with the tiny human or blog or search random useless stuff on the internet without having to close the screen when an unexpected pair of eyes takes a glimpse at my screen. I also don’t have to plan my personal appointments around my lunch hour. Sometimes, no matter how well I plan things, I need to work over weekends. It is not ideal, but I do allow myself some festive playtime the Friday afternoon before the working weekend ahead.

I don’t get involved in office politics.

Being very sensitive, office politics are one of the primary reasons I can’t work at a normal office with normal people and normal routine. I am not saying there is no politics at all, but it is not a situation where colleagues work each other up and discuss other people. You also don’t see when your friends are mistreated, which is a real bonus.

I get to listen to whatever I feel like.

No chit-chatty radio stations with annoying advertisements. No conversations about topics that bore me. No bitching. No cackling. Nothing. I listen to what I want when I want and at any volume level. (I have to add that I do miss the ever so often small talk. Thankfully I can phone a friend or family member.)

I get to spend a lot of time on research and inspiration.

My boss won’t stand behind me tapping a foot while I am scrolling through my Pinterest feed or reading a blog post about Graphic Design Humour or something else. As creatives, we need these things. We need to feed our minds with juices from other creatives. It is a visual culture every creative feeds from. I am thankful I get to spend quality time on this.

I don’t have to dress up every single day.

A couple of years ago I worked for a client at their offices. It is nice to dress up a little more than just jeans and slippers every now and then, and one does feel a bit more >I don’t know the word< when you are all dressed up and you actually have someplace to go. But, apart from running out of clothing options, I got eczema around my eyes for only wearing mascara every day. (Read this post on how to fix tired eyes.) So, at home, I like to vary my outfits. Some days I dress up and makeup, other days I just put on a pair of jeans with a comfy sweater. I don’t really spend the day in PJ’s, although it sometimes sounds like I do!

I get to be a magician.

Well, that’s what many people think, anyways. Especially the members of my family. It is nice to be able to do stuff not everyone else can. Sadly so, I also often take this for granted and expect that everyone can do it. You know, click here, do this do that, and voila! Magic. Time-wise, sometimes my clients also think I am a magician. It is tough gathering powers from places you never thought to look for it, but seeing the magic afterwards is just priceless.

So there. It takes a lot of self-discipline and dedication to work from home. But the pros outweigh the cons by far!

21 Things I hate about being a graphic designer

21 Things I hate about being a graphic designer

[originaly posted on Oct 15, 2012]

I have been working as a graphic designer for thirteen years and have been freelancing for seven. I love my job and consider myself lucky to be in a position where my worst day at the office is probably better than most people’s best days. There are, unfortunately, a couple of things I really hate about my career. Nothing too major to handle, but these things have a tendency to make a day miserable and I usually end up looking for trips to Spain instead.

1. Yes, I can work 24/7. But only if I feel like it. So don’t expect me to.
2. So, you draw pictures for a living? No. Not just that. I do other things too.
3. I can’t just quickly do something. It. Takes. Time.
4. I don’t play around with colour as part of my job. I play with colour in my spare time. So, you pick the colour and I use them. End of story.
5. Don’t tell me ASAP and get back to me three months later.
6. ASAP to me means A Secret Association for Pirates. Give me a date and a time and I will make sure I am done by then.
7. The brief: “Think out of the box.” The response: “Oh, I had something else in mind.” You could have given my your box instead. Put a nice and pretty bow around it if you wish.
8. Don’t tell me I spend too much time on social networks. Twitter Instagram and Facebook Pinterest are my colleagues.
9. Printing takes time. If you want it by Friday, stop fiddling around on Tuesday already. I have a nice relationship going with my printers and I don’t want to ruin that one too.
10. Yes, I am a magician. Don’t abuse my powers. Keep it up and I might just turn you into a flying talking donkey.
11. A copy of The Idiot’s Guide to Law does not make me an attorney. A (pirated) copy of Corel Draw for beginners does not make you a designer necessarily.
12. I studied to be a designer. You studied to be an accountant. You don’t do my books for free.
13. I don’t make you use drugs. Don’t make me use Comic Sans or Mistral or Lucida Handwriting.
14. I don’t read minds. My super powers are not that advanced.
15. There is a reason why pictures have watermarks. Don’t ask me to take them out.
16. I am creative. Not retarded.
17. When I said I will be done, I will be done. Don’t phone to check up as I have passive-aggressive tendencies.
18. I am a designer. Not technical support.
19. Proof 1: “try this instead.” Proof 2: “move that there.” Proof 3: “add this.” Proof 4: “combine proof 2 and 3.” Outcome: “Proof 1.” Thankfully I learned to never override the first file.
20. CSI use a different kind of software. I can’t make small pictures bigger without pixelation.
21. I can only be two of the following three: On time. Affordable. Pleasant. Choose wisely.

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