Rae Hamilton, design darling, baker of all things delicious, and writer of blog DesignSellout.com tells us about her daily balancing act… Art Director by day, Blogger by night and Freelancer in between.
What’s a typical day for you as an Art Director? Is there a typical day?
Every day is a little different, and each of the agencies I’ve been an art director at have been totally different as well. At my last job, a day could range from directing photo shoots, to meeting with clients, preparing pitches and presentations, assisting designers in concept development, and designing… Always with coffee breaks distributed at happy intervals. In my current position, my responsibilities are nearly entirely dedicated to designing.
Describe your desk of wonders.
Oh, my desk of wonders! Well, I dubbed it that, because it’s always a work in progress. Things aren’t the same any two weeks in a row, I might add a toy or a couple books, and toss plants that are on their way out of this world. (Plants on the desk of wonders have a brief but invigorating lifespan of 4-6 weeks.) I try to continually surround myself with things that keep me inspired, excited, and happy. I have a major notebook fetish, so there are always an assortment. And last but not least, snacks, and lots of them. Hello Pandas and chocolate, peanut butter, graham crackers. Nothing healthy, because that doesn’t contribute to my ‘inspired, excited, happy’ goal.
What does it take? What does a designer need to do to move up the chain?
My first thought is that the second a designer loses their passion for what they do, their creativity is doomed. So it’s so important to stay involved in the design community, force yourself to grow and adapt with the ever-changing technology, and foster your creativity with other activities, whether that be crafting with your children, cooking or baking, or traveling. Anything that intrigues someone will foster their innate creativity, in my opinion. The possibilities are endless.
How’d you get started freelancing and collecting clientele?
Initially I just did work for friends and family, but as I widened out in the industry, referrals led some new business my way. I always deliver on my promises, so clients keep coming back. Now, in addition to my job as an art director by day, and running Design Sellout, I support about 3 regular clients, and probably complete 6-10 projects a month. Those steady clients have become so loyal to me, they consider me indispensable. When you get to that point, you’re set, because you can start charging what you truly feel your work is worth. It takes time to get there, though.
What is your advice for anyone wanting to start their own freelance business?
Networking, and developing a flawless reputation is critical. One bad experience can ruin a career in freelancing, so I try and treat every client like they are my only client. Some freelance business can come from the web, a personal website or sites like Elance, but my bread and butter will always be based on word of mouth. Make sure every single person you know, knows that you are a graphic designer, open for business. The reality of the business is, if you can land five, steady and significant contracts, your career can be sustainable.
Describe your blog and tell us why you started it.
Design Sellout is my forum to express and share the things I know to be true about graphic design. Since I’m immensely passionate about the industry, it’s a very natural outlet. I get the chance to share phenomenal design from around the world, offer advice to up and coming designers based on past experiences, meet and speak with some of the most renowned designers and marketing professionals in the world, share resources with my community that I know will make their job a little easier or more enjoyable, and last but not least, network with designers all over the web. It’s really, quite gratifying.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve had to endure in agency life?
The hours can be truly intense. If you are the best at what you do, you will kindly be rewarded with a cell phone that is on 24-hours a day, and be expected to answer it every time it rings. Even if the series finale of Lost is on, you still have to answer.
What advice would you like to give to anyone before they become an Agency Addict?