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 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!

The difference between “inspired by” and “stolen from”

The difference between “inspired by” and “stolen from”

For some bizarre reason, people seem to struggle with what the actual difference is between inspired by and stolen from. Especially when it comes to design. I sometimes receive emails from clients requesting – usually a logo – that must look like the sample (only one attachment; no combinations between or elements from.) Exactly. Like. That. Yes, that is the brief. Well, that is not my job, exactly. First of all, I don’t like being told what to do. I never did as a teenager, not as a student, not as a wife, a friend, nothing. Inspire me (without being pushy), and I will put my whole heart into it. It might sound a bit hardass, but I prefer to call it resolute.

Resolute adjective /ˈrɛzəluːt/: admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. (According to Google Dictionary.)

Strangely enough, two of these incidents were from photographers 🙄 It may sound like I have something against photographers, which is not true at all! I respect the industry and admire what some people can do without making it look like an effort.

So let me explain:

August + White Design Studio

Client A: This client sent me an image and said something in the lines of “I am changing my corporate identity and want a logo like this. Only change the initials to so-and-so, keep the colours and everything else the same.” For illustration purposes, I am going to use this beautiful logo designed by August & White as the example. I read the email a couple of times and shook my head in disbelief.

From my experience, photographers often do one (or all) of the following: (a) often watermark their photographs to such an extent that you can’t see the person’s lovely shoes. (b) Gets anal when you want to use their photos somewhere and then refuse to send you the high-res, unwatermarked version – even though you promise to credit them. (c) Very often don’t credit the subject(s) of their photo. Point C is very well known within the wedding industry, for some arb reason. The woman who spent hours creating a masterpiece of a cake, the décor team who spent a fortune on flowers and glitter, not to mention their effort and time, the dressmaker, the make-up artist, the venue… And then the photographer expect these people to use a watermarked version of their own work? I don’t really get it. They worked together as an unofficial team and should be supporting and crediting each other.

So, long story short, this was the instructions I received. I calmly typed my response: Dear client, I will unfortunately not be able to assist you with this project. I refuse to copy another designer’s work. How would you feel when another photographer uses your photos in their portfolio? Needless to say, I did not get a response.

And then, Client B: Please will you design my website? Me: Sure, please forward me your logo. I received the logo as a low-res jpeg. So, in the process of tracing the logo (pet peeve!), I realised two things: The icon used is from another person’s drawing portfolio. The typeface is non-commercial. I replied: Are you aware that your logo is actually illegal? After a couple why’s and that’s why’s emails, I ended up redesigning the logo so that it is legal, high-res and has a transparent background.

I normally request three to four examples of typefaces, a couple of logos and random pictures a client likes. Also, links to websites and blogs they find inspirational and I ask who their competition is. From there I am able to see who they are and what they want to represent. It gives me inspiration as opposed to instruction for what I need to do for them. Once I get to know them better, it get’s easier. A personality can be summed up by just designing a logo for a client (which sometimes make you hand over the open files, the typefaces and everything else they might need to take their work elsewhere.) I know I might come across as vain or uncooperative, but I read an article by Kim Kiyosaki recently and she said:

“Life is too short to deal with difficult people.”

And that closed the deal for me: I don’t have to deal with difficult people.

It so often happens that I get logos from well-established companies that don’t adhere to this simple rule: Non-Commercial. It means you are not allowed to make a profit out of it in any way. I judge these people’s designers out loud.

I can’t stress this enough; don’t steal. The internet is flooded with beautiful artworks, gorgeous (and un-gorgeous) typefaces and logo examples. If we all could just stick to the simple rule of give credit and respect, this world will be a better place. And you will sleep better.


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.

First thing that, errr, shoots into your head?

First thing that, errr, shoots into your head?

During my first year of studying visual communication in Gauteng, South Africa a couple of years ago, we got a Communication Design project from one of our stranger lecturers. I can’t remember the brief word for word, but it came down to this:

Design an advertising poster for an archery/bow-shooting competition.

After already being called “Farmgirl” by this guy (which I often got in my first year in the city, even though I never, ever stayed on a farm!) I was already a bit cynical about this class. And I always thought that, as creative, right-brained people, we should think out of the box, right? Right? Wrong. 

New to the world of computer software other than Microsoft Paint, computer graphics and computers overall, I spent an entire week working on my idea. It took me hours to figure out how Photoshop actually works. I started getting the idea the lecturers thought everyone knows how it works when they start their first year. Sure, they showed you around, but hell, not all of the buttons and their options! After working my way around the program, I finally created my concept. An amusing poster for this competition (that, according to me, would have sucked in any way). So I got to class…very excited and stuff…ready to blow his head off with my idea of a design. I proudly presented my image…

You guessed it… My chicken did not fly.

I had to start all over and ended up using some supplied-by-lecturer-for-forced-to-use-or-fail-image of a Native American… I still think the chicken kicks ass though. But, apparently only a farmgirl will shoot chickens around for fun.

Yours out of the box,



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