Boy we’ve been busy!!! And for such a good reason!

This little baby has been almost a year (if not more) in the making. I’ve put all my love, experience, research into use after receiving a number of inquires for a web design course. And here it finally is! I’m over the moon to be able to finally share this with you. It happened really suddenly so i’m still pinching  myself.

This course is for the graphic designers, giving you all the tools, process and knowledge needed to create a custom, responsive web design.

We’re launching it in late November, and have an early bird offer with 10% off, that will expire on the launch date. You can learn all about the content and modules here.

Oh wait and see what else is in (the courses) store!

Oh boy! Can’t believe it’s a bit over a week since i last posted here. Believe me if you want, but every day i wake up racing with time in order to make it to writing a post or doing something for the blog. The past week showed me just how much more effort everything needs when your life is under so many changes. Which is why, i thought it was high time i shared this creativity post i’ve been keeping in my notes for over 6 months now!

I’ve shared a lot of Freelance Life creativity posts in the past (1,2,3,4) as this is one of my favourite topics. How can it not be? Having a creative lifestyle, all you ever want is to be more creative, original or never lose your spark. As years go by, i’ve gathered a lot of interesting information here and there and i’m sharing basically everything i know and do in this creativity post.

It all starts with the stimulation of divergent thinking. Simply put, generating many different ideas about a concept. To me, it’s thinking without boundaries, unlocking your mind and simply thinking outside the box our routine has put us in. In order to wake up your divergent thinking, you need to practise and practise and then practise some more. Here is my quick and very simple guide to make yourself more creative.

01. Do something creative daily

This one may sound silly to begin with, but it’s the simplest rule. The more creative you the more creativity you produce. Allow yourself to brainstorm on a daily basis and create something new. Whether that’s drawing, decorating, writing a song or a poem you name it!

 

02. Try something new every day

It could be something big or something small. From trying out a new food or spice, to listening to a different genre of music, or simply changing your route home or daily walk. Be open to new experiences – the more experiences you have, the more creative you’ll become.

 

03. Mess up your daily routine

This one is my favourite and always work like magic when i need to refresh myself. So let’s say your morning routine includes getting up from the bed, drinking coffee while going through Pinterest and then having a shower. Why not having a shower first while turning on the volume to some uplifting music and then having a cup of coffee on the balcony? It could be something simple but will make the day feel a lot more special and exciting.

 

04. Exercise one divergent thinking every day

Here is where you need to invest some time in order to move to the next level. There are quire a lot of different exercises to make yourself more creative, all super simple and super fun. Here are four of my very favourites.

Divergent thinking exercises

THE ALICE IN WONDERLAND TEST

 

You might have caught me talking about this one on posts a few years ago. “Sometimes i believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. No wonder Alice in Wonderland was so creatively bonkers! Lewis Carroll had it right. In order to unlock your brain, you need to start thinking differently. So why not six impossible things every day? You’ll find yourself inventing more and more odd things as days go by! The “What If” exercise is along the same lines.

You can take a step further and give more examples of that one impossible thing. For example.. “What if… our feet had wheels?” – 1. We would never be late on our dates. 2. We would be covered in bruises 3. Showering in a bath would be painful 4. Pedicures would dry faster 5. Walks on beaches would be more fun 6. We would take dancing to a whole new level

Creative1Cocorrina

Creative2Cocorrina

Alternate Uses Test

 

Another easy and favourite one! My favourite thing about these tests is that you can do them anywhere and as many times in a day as you want. In this test, you are asked to list as many possible uses for a common item. You can either set a timer and count as many as you can, or set a limit of lets say find 10 different uses as fast as you can. As countdowns stress the hell out of me, i do the second one.

Try to think outside of the normal way you would use this item. For example: How else would you use a newspaper (reading it obviously doesn’t count as an answer).

1. Make a confetti out of it 2. Make a crane origami 3. Warp a bouquet of flowers 4. Make a basket with some glue 5. Newspaper bunting 6. Recycle 7. Basket balls 8. Make a cone and put pop corn in it 9. Give a box full of newspaper to my cat 10. Clean the window glass with it (our grandmas used to do that)

The Torrance Test of creative thinking

 

And for last, the one and ultimate creativity test. It’s a test of creativity that with simple shape tests of divergent thinking scores you for fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. The basic idea here is to complete simple shapes and visualise beyond the expected. Have someone or yourself, draw one two or three shapes or lines on a piece of paper. On that paper, use these shapes to draw something that comes in your mind out of these shapes.

Try to think the unexpected and create a story with your drawings instead of drawing simple shapes and ideas. A triangle, could be a part of a hilltop where skiers are skiing, or the roof of a cabin on a snowy mountain. You can either use the shapes as they are, combine them in a picture or complete partial pictures.

Focus on the fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.

Creative3Cocorrina

Having finished the days work, you sit on the couch to stretch your legs, and the first thing you do is drift away in your phone. Pinterest, Twitter,Iinstagram, Facebook. There’s this constant need to check our social media, or simply have our phones in hand even when we don’t need to. It feels a lot like a compulsive disorder or simply an addiction we have these days. But it’s not the need that bothers me, but the fact that we simply never get bored or rest.

No wonder i keep reading so often on blogs and articles, how “taking a break from social media is needed”, “why taking a break from social media will make you happy”, and “how to take a break from social media”. I’ve had my fair share of breaking up with social media since September. The pregnancy naturally turned me into an introvert out of a sudden and i’ve been trying to break free for the past few months. I do miss being more vocal, and active, but i love how peaceful and stress free my brain is.

sm

I’m not going to share the how, why and when taking a break from social media. I bet you already know that or read an article already. To each his own. For some social media is a way to be inspired, to others it’s their way to share their work and attract clients and to some it’s just for fun. While cutting off yourself from social media completely for a peace of mind sounds stressful, you might want to contain the time you spend there instead.

Finding a balance is the best solution. What really worked for me is to be on SM for a specific time in a day. During the day, on my breaks between work, after lunch and a little less on the weekends. Waking up, has become much faster as i don’t drift away in my phone. Evenings are more peaceful and i can finally relax by not being “locked” in front of a screen. And most importantly, notifications for everything, are turned off. No need for distractions. When it’s time, i’ll know who commented on my pictures.

Lately, i’ve come to realise that every season i am in need of change. Mostly when it comes to my routine and the things that work for me in my daily life. If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll remember my previous posts and updates on the different ways i’ve kept myself happy and sane ever since i started freelancing. I’m not going to say that what we do is the most difficult job in the world – in fact, it’s a lot of people’s dream! But, i’m sure you will agree with me when i say that it’s most definitely tricky to keep yourself in balance.

Which is why every now and then, i like to spice up my daily 9-5, in order to keep the creative juices flowing and avoid burning myself. At the beginning of the year, i focused on changes that would a. make me feeling fresher and b. make me more creative. Here are a few of the major things i changed.

MY personal Creative day

Boy do i love this one! It wasn’t easy to incorporate an addition to the weekend day off from client project, but i just went with it. There were so many personal project that i just didn’t have to the time to work on. The Courses, my sticker apps, the shop, all were postponed from day to day, until i had to be completely honest with myself. There wouldn’t be any free time handed to me, unless i made room for it.

 

At first, i thought this would create a complete chaos, but surprisingly things haven’t changed at all. I still got plenty of time for client projects and something to look for in the week. A whole day, to work on anything i want and most importantly, investing on my business and creativity.

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Redefining personal style

Not quite sure if that’s because i’m such an ocd freak, and maybe not a lot of creatives are doing this. But whenever i find myself in a dark place or feel like like the wind is blowing and i need to change, i go back to my drawing board and start defining what i love. What has been difficult for me over the years is to create one thing, or perhaps, have just one distinctive style. Because i simply freakin love all kinds of design and styles. So what i usually ask myself is: “What kind of design / visuals / make my heart skip?” For that, i will use Pinterest. Scrolling down my pins, i will set aside the pins that literally blow my mind and i feel connected with.

Once i’ve had enough, i’ll start writing key words and what makes each visual so special to me. Is it the colours, the style, the meaning? After spending on this a whole day last week, i’ve come to realise that i connect quite a lot with the concept “witch”. The key words i’ve written down (yes on my notebook) where: mystical, natural, dark, geometry, etherial, crystals, natural, folk, cats, 1920’s. And honestly, i don’t know why i hadn’t realised this before, but these are all the things that fuel my inspiration. So, i naturally created a new board and named it “The Season of the Witch” in order to store somewhere all the things i find inspiring, from photography, to colours, mood and illustrations.

A journal or two

I gave up writing on a calendar or keeping a notebook about two years now. It was time for me to embrace the age of technology and i’ve been using all things digital ever since. Quite frankly, i don’t miss it at all. I have everything i need in my phone at all times whether i’m carrying my bag or not.

What iPhone notes do can’t help me with however, is storing all the creative ideas in my mind somewhere. For about a year i kept notes and descriptions of concepts in my Notes, but never found it inspiring to look back at them and actually bring these concepts to life.

First of January, i grabbed my moroccan notebook (lucky me!) and turned it into a sketching journal. What i happily discovered, was that i ended up having even more ideas, and roughly sketching them makes me even more motivated to bring them to life. So yup kids, no matter how many digital notebooks you can download, nothing is like the real thing. Sketching on a journal makes you more inspired and more creative.

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It’s never too late to learn

You might have noticed my new obsession with illustration, right? Well, i intend to build a little more on that! My first projects include a few artwork illustrations for Jason’s nursery and hopefully will evolve them into something interesting for my shop. The thing about creating new skills is that you find more mediums to express your imagination, and that my friends is wonderful! I haven’t picked up a specific course, just going with what my gut says and lots of practise and patience. There are a few tricks however on how work with illustration even if you have no idea how to draw. I’m thinking of turning this into a mini tutorial / course once i take my maternity break.

There will be loads of time then for me to focus on all the wonderful things i have to share with you!

Aside from illustrating, i’m planning to subscribe to a few podcasts, and take a few online courses myself. One that i’ve been very interested in was Melyssa’s Pinterest course. It’s so refreshing to see things from a different perspective and hear a different option. Makes you eager for a change, as well as learn a thing or two about what you thought you thought you already new.

Today, was such an exiting morning! If you’re following on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ll know the incredible package i received from my dearest Mianra. You remember the brand identity + packaging i worked with her right? Well, I really felt the love today, never before so cared for and loved. Honestly, i cried a little, as she not only sent me every little thing she has in her marvellous shop, but created with love special products just for me, as i have a special condition. Even printed custom labels, with cute instructions, named as “Corina’s 100% Pure Argan Oil”. How can you not feel special?

I’ve talked about creating beautiful relationships with your clients in the past, and how this is my very favourite part. Creating bonds, working with talented people, that in the end turn out to be lifelong friends. The kind of relationships, that you can chat about personal stuff, and be friends long after you stop working. I feel that, when you do what you love, you love the people you do it with, it’s unavoidable. Later today i chatted with Linda from Kinlake, on how precious this is, however not every client you will work with will feel the same. Sadly, i’ve had my share of bad experiences, and people i just can’t seem to have a good communication or click with. I’m big girl, i can work professionally, i don’t have to be best friends with everyone right? But in reality, these are the kind of projects that make me inspired, both when designing and in my daily life!

But is there really a way, that you can filter the people inquiring to work with you, and see if you’re going to be a good match? Well..here are a few thoughts. 

 

01. Test their humour levels

There was this design studio’s blog post i read a few years ago. Won’t name them, as i’m not 100% sure it was actually them, don’t want to falsely point out fingers. They did something rather brilliant. In their contact form, they included silly questions or complete the sentence like fields. Something like, “If i was a fruit, i would be…” or “If i find a coin i will…”

To me, this is an incredible way to analyse the person you’re talking to. Whether, they have imagination, sense of humour, if they’re stiff or tense. You will see who has the most difficult time expressing themselves, who is more analytical. Mind that it translates to how easily they will be able to express their feelings about your work as well as give you exact feedback.

What i’ve done so far, is to include a fan part in my questionnaire with questions like, “If i were an animal i would be..” etc. Gathered them carefully from character quizzes. That way, i’m able to see inside them, make them relax, get to know a few more personal things about them. It sparks everyone’s imagination.

 

o2. DO THEY TRUST YOU?

One question i’ve never thought asking my clients, is have you seen my portfolio? Most of the times, people who already know my work, have been following me on social media, read my blog or seen my work on Pinterest, are the kind of people who get in touch. However, some inquiry emails are a little less “personal”. They might have been referred to me by someone who knows me, or may simply bumped into my blog or something like that. My advice to you, is always ask them to take a look at your previous work, and inlcude your clients of note in your welcome kit.

They might just want a designer who will create what they have in mind, leaving you zero creativity, having zero trust in your skills – because they don’t know who you are and what you’re capable of. And of course, in the end they might not even like your style.

What you want, is to work with people, who know you, admire and respect your work, and have complete faith in you. That’s the kind of environment a designer does hers/his best work.

 

03. Are you Made for each other?

Aesthetics! Style! These are the kind of things you need to know beforehand, to see if they’re the perfect fit for you. Mind you, it could be the other way around, but you’re in the privilege position to choose your projects, and create the best of work that represents you. The work that is 100% you, will go in your portfolio and will attract a dozens more. So choose your projects wisely.

To that, all you can do is either create a small questionnaire for them to fill in once they send the enquiry, seen your rates and process and are interested in working with you. It could contain quick questions, as in adding 3-4 images and brands they find inspiring, favourite trends, and as well as the funny little questions i talked about on No.1.

Your clients will seek fast work, and most of the times have tight deadlines. If they’re not willing to spend 10 minutes to connect with you, and give you what you need, trust me, you’re better off without them. They won’t have time for the project in the future either, will delay feedbacks, won’t have time for proper feedbacks, and we all know what that means. A messy outcome.

 

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So don’t be afraid to ask the right questions beforehand. You’ll save yourself tons of time, not to mention work on projects you really love, with amazing people that will end up giving you the best collaborations of your life.

The season before leaving for vacation, must have been one of the most stressful in my whole working life. I have no idea what do i always think booking so many projects especially right before vacation. Well, you know. I’m one of those who can’t say no to a great project no matter the cost and prefer to burn myself instead of disappointing a client.

Besides creating pretty things, that’s equally one of my favourite things. Making people happy, safe, comfortable, able to communicate and know they’re in good hands relying on me and leaving their business’s future to me. Having a bad communication, outcome or a relationship that doesn’t end to a good collaboration is my worst nightmare. I can work around pretty much anything. Tight deadlines, someone not liking my work, i can reassure and work harder until i please them all. But you know, it’s not always about us (the designers). I’ve been in situations before, where no matter how good you are and how great you do your job, the person on the other side will be just that. Difficult.

I don’t think i have ever lost my temper to anyone or not have gone a step further to please them. And that is what i think it’s all about. Great collaborations with your clients is about being personal, being honest, working a little more, making them happy and most of all be patient. No matter how difficult the case is, who’s right or who’s wrong, you above all, are a professional. And trust me, the feeling of have gone a few steps further and having kept your cool is much more rewarding than putting someone in their place. At least, that’s what makes me a happy freelancer inside and out.

This is probably the latest i’ve ever posted! Almost 11:30pm over here and this cover right here my friends, is the night time nonsense. I call it “i’ve got leaves under my long sleeves”. Definitely not a night owl here, but i loved experimenting freely on this piece – there’s something about it (the weirdness? how absurd it is?) that i like. It’s a crazy week (crazier than you can imagine) and a night time creative outlet was perfect for the occasion.

There’s this contract thing that keeps popping in front of me the past few weeks, that i really wanted to share with you. All freelancers who haven’t been paid for a project, or have had a miscommunication / bad experience with a client, raise your hands. I bet i can count quite a few.

For me, a contract is a base for a perfect collaboration, which is why i keep updating mine every time i spot a flaw or have a collaboration that doesn’t turn right as i want it.

Below, i’m sharing a small part from my Courses “Branding Process”, where i have a whole section analysing what makes a good contract. There’s a midsummer sale going on as well, in case you want to learn a bit more about branding process from start to finish.

All designers work in different ways, therefore they tailor their contracts depending on their way of process. Some, have the impression that the contract is created in order to cover the client and the designer. Which is true, but in more detail, the contract, is tailored based on the designers’ way of working, their process, their needs and their rules are displayed in a contract to clear out the whole branding process from start to finish and let your client know all about it. Contracts should cover pretty much everything you can imagine.  This is a very crucial part so think of every little detail.

Breaking down a contract;

Rights & Ownership

In rights and ownership, let your client know and commit that all the design work you are creating is exclusively for them, will not be replicated, and they will have all the rights to use their brand identity design as they wish. This is a commitment for you, that is protecting not only the client, but your work as well. In case of replication of your work by any other brand or designer, this contract proves that your work is original and belongs to your clients.

 

Communication

..One of my favourite parts right here, is setting up the base for the communication between you and your client. Think through all the parameters. Hours you can be reached, when you can be reached, delays, when your client should be getting back to you, skype calls, and preferable ways of communication. The more you analyse this part, the better you two will be on track of your project.

The communication way that works best for me, is via email. Skype dates can be scheduled, but there is only such little time in a day, and skype calls can get long. Very long! What i like even more, is that everything is written down for you to keep track of the conversation and be able to go back again and again. In addition, while writing down thoughts and feedback, your client gets to really think about what they truly want to see. Make them put some time and work on their feedback, you’ll see it will be the most accurate…

 

Payment

One of the biggest sections in your contract, that you should put a lot thought to. In this section, you will need to refer from methods of payment, to the waiting list, downpayment, when each payment needs to be made etc.

What i’ve figured out works best and protects my work, is having a downpayment of 50% in order to reserve a spot in my waiting list, and then the final 50% payment happens at the beginning of the process. Some designers prefer having the final 50% at the very end before handing the final files and, that was something i tried for a while, until a few bad cases of clients disappearing on me… 

 

Refund

…Think about the ways your clients could get a refund. What if they change their mind, what if they don’t like your work etc. All the worst case scenarios. If you are on a waiting list, consider also the fact that they are taking the spot of a project that you might could be working on…

 

Files & History

Lastly, i’ve included a section stating for how long you will be able to store your files, how long the dropbox link will be active (for the final files). Between you and me i’ve been keeping all my works for the past years. You never know what happens, and so it did. My hard rive broke in January, and i lost pretty much everything i had ever created. Some i had to redesign (can you even imagine that?) but for what it’s worth, i’m glad my contract states storing a year!

 

The final things that i include in the contract are the dates, project and price descriptions, names and signatures. It is super easy to sign your contracts with Adobe Acrobat and have a signature installed in, so prompt your clients to use it in order to avoid scanning or taking pictures.