This week was a very long week for me. I thought that after launching my new business and portfolio website, that things would settle down for me and I could start focusing on my next steps. But work, projects and brand development does not wait for anyone. So the chaos and adventure continues!
A great tool and habit that I have started implementing in my daily routine is a journal and planner. For obvious reasons, I keep a digital and physical planner with me, just so I can stay on top what needs to be done for the day. If you have read some of my earlier posts, I mention that writing things down helps me remember tasks that I need to work on. I have been planning for years, since grade school. But keeping up with a journal is a fairly new habit.
Keeping it simple, I have two sections: “Yesterday I learned …” and “Today I’m grateful for …” These sections were inspired by a Communo planner I received this past summer. Since then, I try to be mindful of these two daily themes: education and gratefulness. How fitting that we had Thanksgiving this past weekend as well. My journal/planner has really helped me keep track not only of events and tasks, but also where I am in my journey.
So when I came to writing this week’s blog post, I simply looked through my journal and read through my reflections to get some ideas of what to write about. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I wrote about relationships and building connections.
I had several meetings with new and old contacts for personal and professional reasons. After really reflecting about it, as a freelancer, a lot of your first clients will actually be your friends and family. For instance, a couple of my current branding clients are my personal friends. We have built our relationships overtime through dance, school or clubs and now have come to a point where our professional skills and talents can help and support each other. It actually a pretty awesome thing to happen.
And it really would not have happened, if I did not reach out to my friends, family and contacts in a more personal and professional way. I can understand that there may be relationships that are best kept personal rather than professional. But the connections that fit in the professional and mature category, are connections worth inquiring. To be honest, when you freelance with friends at the start, there will be compromises. Focusing on branding, I know that I still have to prove my skills and professionalism even to friends and family. Remember, in this case, they are now your clients.
Moreover, it is also a good idea to set a contract or verbal/written agreement about payment. No one wants to be doing work for nothing, but also understand that a homie discount is to your discretion. I personally design my quotes and budgets after I know exactly what my client wants and can afford. Be generous at the start, sweeten the deal and building good relationships are important. But also remember to make it work for you, too. A good friend will support you professionally, too.
At the beginning, focus on building a great business relationship and delivering a great service to start establishing a good reputation rather than money. Gaining great feedback and developing a proactive and successful process takes time. Your early projects are the very practical experiences that test your skills as a designers and professional. So communicate constantly, listen and deliver.
Feedback from Friends
A good friend will kindly correct you, not to bring you down, but to build you up. I experienced this, funny enough, from both perspectives as the corrector and correctee. As the corrector, I reached out with a friend that I lost touch with over the years. It really felt like we had fallen out in my view, but for my friend, our relationship was alright. Because I did not feel the same, I told her how I felt and I was happy to see that she wanted to talk about it and make the changes to make our relationship better. It really just took a good sit down and great conversation to be on the same page again. Being honest in a personal or professional relationship is vital to keep both parties happy and at peace.
On the other side, as the correctee, it can really feel like you are getting in trouble, embarrassing or uncomfortable. In this case, it was in a professional setting. As a volunteer, I work as a team with program leaders. They had corrected me on that fact that we need to communicate more often when leading the kids in our care. In order to dissolve confusion and contradicting each other, I needed to communicate better.
While taking feedback, even from people you know care about you, it can still feel crummy. No one wants to feel embarrassed or like they failed. But these moments are important for our personal growth as well as growth in the relationship. If you are someone who takes feedback badly or too personally, you may lose out on the direction and growth that someone is pointing you towards. So keep an open mind, even when feedback is from friends or family. If you think about it, they know you best and would want the best for you, too.
Better Brands Means Better Relationships
As a brand designer and communicator, my business is working with people first and their brands second. Brands are an extension of the person who has a vision for their business or career. So I am very excited to integrate the human and personal aspects in my designs. People and stories move me to create and design. As a society, I think through communicating can we learn to live and celebrate our different stories and experiences.
If you are starting out as a freelance branding or graphic designer and are looking for new clients, reach out to that friend from high school who started a business or an old co-worker’s girlfriend who wants to start a travel blog. The opportunities are everywhere. It may be awkward at first. But revisiting certain relationships may be an unexpected lead to a project that connects your skills and talents or simply reconnects you to an old friend. ■