Answering your questions – Part 1

Last week I shot out an email out to see what I could help everyone on the Verse community with. I got a stack of great questions and I will respond to EVERYONES emails which I am getting through. If you sent me an email thank you so much, you will hear from me asap. If there is something I still can help you with let me know and I will do my best to write about it. Do a course or an in depth workshop.

To kick things off I share some candid answers to some of the things people wanted know. Hopefully some of these answers can be of interest to you as well. Most of these questions featured came from Joseph Duran (thanks for questions buddy)

Here are the questions I answered from Joseph:

1.What is the standard equipment that you do graphic design, web design, and etc? What are the standard programs?

2.How do you find new clients?

3.Where do you work from? Do you move around? Do you change your office space? Do you work at a coffee shop with good internet or do you stay at home all day?

4. What time of day do you get the most work done?

5.Do you find that you work more efficiently when you work on a project while handling the small tasks throughout your day and around the house instead of being chained to a desk?

6. How does love impact your creativity?

 

What is the standard equipment that you do graphic design, web design, and etc? What are the standard programs?

I have a pretty simple setup. I use a 27" iMac, I believe it's the 2014 Model so not that new. I use an iPhone 7 for testing mobile stuff. And I use mostly a MacBook Pro to write with. The standard programs I use are listed below.

1. Web and app design I use Sketch, Sketch Mirror, Photoshop (if it’s image heavy, or if the client requires it), Principle and Invision for prototyping. For lo-fi prototypes and for wireframing I use Axure. But there are other great tools out there like UXPin.

2. For creating documents I use indesign and keynote.

3. For communication I use slack and redpen.

You can see my recommendations for design tools and frameworks here. https://app.milanote.com/1CFEQ914cUn17m/design--process-tools

Remember tools are a means to an end used to help you get from point A to point B. Creating value for clients and users is at the core of what we do. Tools help us get there, but don't fret too hard over them. Tools may change, but the fundamentals of design don't really change, so try to get good at that.

 

How do you find new clients?

I used to find clients using a pull marketing strategy. So it was all inbound leads, meaning the work came to me based on my presence online. (Awareness is the aim of the game) For the first 2 years my clients came from referrals, and leads who had seen my body of work online. In the early days it came from:

  1. Dribbble (Around 80%)
  2. Word of mouth and referrals (Based on relationships during my agency days)
  3. Behance (more bogus leads) and my blog

I’ve found the quality of Dribbble leads has started declining though. These days most of my income comes from the products I create such as the Process Masterclass and Source. So I don't take on much client work anymore.

If you are starting out though and don’t have a solid reputation or digital presence. I would start by building that up as a side thing. More important than though is to use an outbound strategy. Since work and leads won’t be coming to you you will need to find them.

Identify your ideal client (get real specific) and the type of work that you want to do and offer. For example you could specialise in helping create sites for Sports Photographers in the U.S. Or ecommerce sites for small businesses that specialise in womens fashion for example. That’s your niche and ideal client. Then you would find where this audience hangs out online, and get in front of them. That could be in certain communities such as Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, Dribbble etc. When you use outbound strategies it’s a numbers game. Provide as much value as you can to these ideal clients, what do they need help with? Where can you help them? Start building relationships, via a message, a tweet or comment. Start small and try to get to know people first. Understand the needs and pain points people have and offer solutions based on that. Remember build relationships and trust first - give, give, give, give and then ask. Don't just appear and start selling your web design services, most people won't be receptive to that. Once you have 1 client for your ideal niche, you use that to leverage work with other people in that space and expand from there. So to break it down again.

1. Identify what your ideal client would look like and the type of work that you’d like to do/offer. [Don't target everyone, the more specific the better. It will help you cut through the noise and tailor your messaging

2. Identify where your ideal clients are hanging out. Could be at conferences, on instagram or facebook groups or on dribbble.

3. Get their attention by being helpful. What do they need that you can help with? (Don’t sell to them immediately, help them first to build trust, forge genuine interest in others and get to know them)

4. Once you get to know people, and their needs/pain points you can offer your services. You will still probably get rejected a lot, and know that that's part of of the process. But eventually you will get a yes. Remember it’s a numbers game, the more you ask the higher your chances. If you don't ask it's always a 100% no. But if you ask the is a chance it'll be yes.

5. When you do land that first client, you should try to blow them away with the service and work that you create. Under promise and OVER deliver. Use that 1 client as a testimonial to reach more people within that niche.

Slowly expand from there. That's the overall play or framework that I would use.

 

Where do you work from? Do you move around? Do you change your office space? Do you work at a coffee shop with good internet or do you stay at home all day?

For the first 7.5 years of my career I worked at different studios and offices. In one of the offices we used to face the harbour, which in hindsight was pretty spectacular. But I was too busy looking at my screen during that time than to look out the window and admire the view haha.

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Now a days I work from home. Which has an even better view in my opinion. I get to see my wife, my son and dog every day. The commute is only 20 secs – a couple of steps either from my living room or the bedroom and I'll reach my office :) And it's just a simple room in my home. I do the bulk of my work from there, I’d say it’s the best place I’ve ever worked at. It helps that I am a bit of a homebody so my life is not that interesting most days but I like it like that.

Do I move around? Yes, if I am doing design work then I will be in the office. However I tend to take breaks and go outside, play tennis, have lunch, walk the dog etc. to break up the day. You can find a lot of inspiration by being outside and with everyday life.

If I am writing I tend to write on a laptop and sit on the couch, or on the balcony. I’ve never worked from a coffee shop before, and over the last 3 years I've worked mostly at home. Except for two instances, once when I was in Sydney and once in Tokyo. But those 2 occasions were just to write articles not doing design work. What's interesting is that I've had clients from all around the world. So it's an interesting contradiction. 

I have plans to travel next year but with another child on the way we'll see how it goes. The beauty in our line of work is that given an internet connection and a laptop we can pretty much work any where in the world. I think it'd be cool for a change of scenery and to work while travelling or staying in a new city for months at a time. I know Halli from Ueno did this for a while with his fam when he was still a freelancer and before he started his agency.

What time of day do you get the most work done?

I used to work at random time blocks. But every since our son came along I have kept a pretty solid schedule. It usually goes 2 ways.

1. I wake up at 7:30am, feed Theo breakfast we watch some TV or youtube together. At 11:30am I have lunch with my wife either at home or we go out to eat. At 1pm I start work and work til 5:30pm. I have a few small breaks in between that time but overall I am hyper focused during that time, and get a ton done. I honestly believe most people are only capable of a few hours of solid work a day. So despite the 8 hour work day being the norm I always found that if you really broke down your work day, a lot of it is filled with unproductive stuff. Checking social media. Going to meetings, heading out to meetings, returning from meetings. That in and of itself would take up most of the day. Particularly in an agency environment.

If I have extra work then post dinner I'll continue working. But most of that time after that I’d spend the rest of my time learning something or reading or if I haven't finished whatever I needed to do.

2. The other time slot is late into the night. When Theo is asleep I work from 8:30pm to 1am ish. I like the stillness of the night, it’s just my work in front of me and the tunes or a podcast that I have playing. If I am writing then I just have some instrumental music playing. Today I'm working I'm writing this during the night shift :)

NOTE: Some days I throw in a siesta, which is a nap after lunch.

Do you find that you work more efficiently when you work on a project while handling the small tasks throughout your day and around the house instead of being chained to a desk?

I kind of answer most of this in the above. But for overall productivity this is what I use.

I have overall goals for the year and break them up into the 4 quarters of the year. Then I have a high level plan and objective for that quarter(3 month blocks ie. Jan, Feb, Mar). Every month I put down a list of high level things that I want to complete and achieve (that help my overall yearly goal and quarterly goal). For the day to day stuff I use something called the Productivity Planner. https://www.intelligentchange.com/products/the-pro... It's a product from one of my clients.

1. I plan my quarterly tasks/goals

2. I plan monthly things that I want to achieve

3. I plan weekly tasks that support those monthly goals

4. Everyday there is 1 high level task that I want to achieve along with secondary tasks. The idea is if you can get nothing else done except that 1 high level task, it'd still be a productive day for you. Identify and prioritise these tasks. Do 20% of the work that delivers on 80% of the results. This helps me laser in and focus. Then once you've done that focus on your secondary tasks. Answering emails etc.

As noted above, I tend to break up my days, and then have a block for focused work. I find inspiration and clarity in thought when I'm outside, so I don't think being chained to a desk for hours on end is productive or healthy for that matter. I'd say I work best when I break it up.

NOTE: Some weeks are super organised, some weeks I wing it and that's usually when productivity stops. So just know that while I have a framework I am not a machine and fall behind just like everyone else.

 

How does love impact your creativity?

I'd say love is a wonderful thing. But for me personally it has no bearing on my creativity. It definitely makes life more wonderful, but overall it does nothing for my creativity. I find I'm most creative when I'm just experimenting or working deep within a problem. And that's usually through feelings of frustration, inadequacy (like fuck I need to come up with something!) and just forcing my way through a problem. By creating a lot I become more creative as a by product of that. I focus on the process for unleashing my creativity.

That's my 2 cents. I hope you can gain some small insight or value from some of these answers. If you'd like to learn more about anything always feel free to shoot me an email.