We talked to 9 successful creative working in practices ranging from animation and multidisciplinary design, to fine art and textiles.
While there was some clear commonality in the way they market their portfolios, they also had many unexpected and interesting perspectives about tools available as well as techniques for how best to optimise output on social media.
Above image: Merijn Hos
“Last year I got aware that it’s good to think outside the box and took on projects that challenged me more in the sense that they where completely out of my comfort zone. It can be scary but as a creative person you will always find a new way.
For example, I took on animation projects that I directed and it landed me a whole new audience of people that had never seen my work before.”
Above image: We Love Noise
Luke Finch of We Love Noise—
“I would have to say: Keynote.
It’s a great storytelling tool to help educate clients on the process and rationale behind my design work. I use it frequently to validate whether or not an idea even makes sense and isn’t getting too complicated.”
“I’ve also found it useful to show people how things could potentially interact, transition or come to life. For example, I recently did a UI walkthrough of a mobile application to show how the user would summon the menu and travel from A to B. This communicated the idea way better than any words.”
Above animation:Studio Lovelock
“In terms of broadening our audience, we’ve had the most joy through getting featured on various design blogs such as Siteinspire, Typewolf and Awwwards.
Positive statements about your work always carry more weight when they come from other people, especially if they’re well respected with large audiences.”
“Prominent placement of your work combined with a public seal of approval all help to build an online presence, increasing the chances of someone who might actually want to pay you stumbling across your work.
We have had a a couple of projects come through this way, inevitably there’s a certain amount of luck involved but the bigger that presence the luckier you get.”
“Getting featured is an inexact science, but here’s a couple of tips:
—Be organised—draw up a list of your favourite blogs with notes on submission details, the type of work they go for and any contact details you may have there.
—Blogs tend to have a certain aesthetic they go for, so tailor your submissions accordingly.
—Someone at the other end has to upload images, write blurbs, post links etc. so make their life easier by providing all this stuff in the right formats and sizes.
—It’s obvious point, but polish those key images, making sure they look as good as possible
—Ultimately decisions get made by people, so a personal connection always helps. Perhaps you have a friend who can put a word in or have exchanged a bit of social media chat.”
Above image: Charles Williams
“I’ve started using Instagram more ‘seriously’ in the past year or so. I used to post fun stuff on there like pictures of my dog Maisy and what I had for lunch, which was obviously fascinating for me but perhaps not so for those interested in my work.
Since doing that, it’s become a great tool for showing new work, sketches, ideas, bits I wouldn’t include elsewhere. Maisy still makes an occasional appearance (and loses me about 5 followers each time).”
Above image: Grown Up
Thomas Burden of Grown Up—
“The one tool that’s made the biggest impact in self promotion terms is definitely Instagram. It’s the perfect tool for building an audience as an image maker, and pretty much the only social media I use.
I’m a lot better nowadays at resisting the urge to post pictures of my cat/wife/day to day life and I’ve seen a marked increase in followers.
I’ve got several big ad campaigns through art directors following me, so taking it more seriously and really making the effort to curate my posts properly has definitely paid off.”
Above image: Tomokazu Matsuyama
“It’s Instagram. Artists have become so accessible with all the social media. It’s as influential as having a museum show when you post the right images.
It’s reachable to so many people… posting anything from finished art, installation shots, exhibition images, inspiration sources, etc. Galleries, influencers, fellow artists to museum curators to important collectors do view, as it’s the most accessible gallery ever.”
Above image: Hannah Waldron
“I recently got a new website designed and built by Catalogue that I am really happy with and represents exactly what I do. I think it’s been a great tool so far for people to discover my work and find out what it is all about.”
Above image: Oli Frape
“The most effective tool for me has simply been communication, staying in touch. I’d recommend sending an email newsletter every 6-8 weeks or so and from time to time I send something printed.
I’ve just sent out a hand-lettered screen print recently and it’s created some great interaction with clients old and new.”
Above image: Between 10and5
Uno de Waal of Between 10and5—
“Unfortunately my answer isn’t that exciting – it would have to be Powerpoint… Most of our business and sales happens with the tool and has contributed to being able to sell the business to clients.”
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This sounds selfish, because I suppose it is, and I get that this seems to go against a lot of what I’ve written about before, which it does not. The key thing I want to drive home is that selfishness is the root to selflessness (and great work and money).
This can be a hard concept to grasp, and I had trouble putting this into words before I wrote this. I will try to put all this in the simplest way I can.
Often, our intention is to gain admiration from people. We want to be liked by others, and we want to feel good that others have validated our creations.
We think that being liked for our work is what will save us, because we think being liked gives us protection and a sense of superiority.
However, when we work towards what we assume others will like, it stimulates zero creativity, because the end result is dependant on the judgements of others.
You must create for only one person in anything you do. And that person is you. You must work to satisfy not the judgement of others, but purely our own judgement.
Our work should not be to impress others, only ourselves. That is when work of real value and meaning gets made.
I’ve produced a lot of stuff where I put the judgement of other people over my own, and it’s led to work that, frankly, sucks.
So when the poet writes words that bring her real pleasure, she creates value that others will benefit from.
When the furniture-maker crafts a chair for himself, his focus is on value within his own realm of judgement. He makes the best chair he can as a result, even if he’s using an Ikea manual to put one together. Others will naturally benefit from this chair, because it was made with love and self-awareness.
You might be wondering how this approach works in the world of client work or producing for the customer or a wider audience. It still applies.
If you are creating something based on a client brief, you are still working for yourself, not to impress others. The brief creates structure, but you are working for you, in the confines of the instructions you were given.
If you’re an illustrator for a living like I am, your work will (hopefully) be used, enjoyed and paid for by others. This understanding sets the criteria that defines how and what you will create, but you then must create for yourself.
Constraints like being a specialist in a specific area, receiving client instructions, and focusing on small target markets encourage creativity because they are limits that help you make a judgement on what is important. Again, the final judgement relies on yourself not on others.
And here’s the thing about money.
Working for money means that we need to apply a set of guidelines to the work we do, like working out who our audience is, what is selling and what will help you stand out. These are all effectively limitations, and that’s a good thing, because creativity is in its essence making the most out of less, and money is a reward for valuable work.
A lot of people get worried about how working for money taints the creative process. It won’t if you first define what you must do in order to earn, followed by pure creativity within those guidelines.
Did Andy Warhol, who made millions in his lifetime, worry about what others thought about his soup cans? But at the same time, did he figure out a way to make money? Did making money taint his creativity? Do you think he worked for himself or to impress others first?
I made a conscious decision some years ago to focus on vector map and landscape illustrations for a specific type of client, because I’d seen potential for the demand for that kind of artwork, while at the same time enjoying the process of making it.
With a refined style that attracts certain clients, I’m able to earn money doing it, but also express myself creatively, with room to breathe for the evolution of my style as well.
Whenever I’ve found a project that drains the life out of me, I’ve noticed it has always been when I’m working purely for others, and not myself. Today, I either work to impress myself within a brief, or I reject a brief altogether if it is unlikely to provide some room for creativity.
Creativity doesn’t necessarily mean swooping brush strokes, throwing up on a canvas or achieving a euphoric state during the process. Some of these are plain weird. Creativity is simply making better decisions whether that be through the synergy of several ideas, or doing more with less.
Being purely creative and expressive is great, but if you do all this with constraints, like within the confines of a business or on a particular theme, the quality of your work can still flourish.
This is why I’m always talking about the importance of specialisation and restriction and simplification when it comes to work and business.
Your job is to create the conditions that work for you, so that you can make money from a craft that interests you. This might require some searching.
William Shakespeare undoubtedly wrote for himself. His work was entirely unique. He even invented hundreds of new words that we still use today in the English language.
He wasn’t adapting his work to what he assumed others would like. He was an inventor. He worked purely for himself, from his own soul.
His plays, however, were also a huge success during his time and he wrote specifically for live theatrical performance, a 16th Century audience, and he wrote to shed light on the human condition of the time.
These were his constraints, and they guided him, and yet he didn’t write directly for anyone other than himself.
Just because he was Shakespeare does not mean that we can’t be like Shakespeare too, in fact, it’s becoming more and more necessary.
And here’s the crucial thing. When we create for ourselves, we are doing what is best for our audience too.
Do comment below and follow the newsletter for more ideas like these if you have not already.
If you’re not seeing the results you want yet, it could be that you and those around you are not being totally honest with you. It’s understandable. The truth can be painful. But the truth is vital, because it’s only through truth that we can do what needs to be done without being misguided through sugar-coating.
The following are a handful of reasons that could explain why you aren’t where you want to be yet.
My awareness of – and commitment to – each of them has allowed me to guide myself to a simply better, more focused life.
These are primarily written as reminders for myself, based on my own lessons learned, because I’m not perfect, and if this reaches a few more of you, all the better.
Our ability to do, as Cal Newport calls it: ‘deep work’ – work that is free of distraction, rich in flow, and deep thought over longer periods – is becoming easier to neglect.
We all know the reasons why it’s becoming more of a challenge to focus on fewer things more intensely rather than spreading our energy thinly and chaotically across multiple areas.
But for those of us who understand the importance of dedicating energy to very specific skill-sets, and developing mastery in fewer areas, the modern world does not have to be an excuse for our avoidance of it.
“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” Cal Newport, ‘Deep Work‘
We just need to prioritise the important stuff – the things that needs lots of time and focus, day in day out, and block out the rest.
Because most people are zombies in a distracted environment, those of us who invest time in one or few things that matter and have the potential for growth and refinement have an enormous advantage.
There’s no hocus pocus in what I’m telling you. It’s all cause and effect.
Spend more time honing something specific with more focus and less distraction.
You will win if you can do more of this. Don’t listen to what others tell you about diversification. Are they successful?
Anyone who achieved anything meaningful put a lot of focus and dedication to one thing, at least to start. They may have unravelled, but at some point, they focused deeply for a significant stretch of time.
What could you do today that puts more attention towards those master skills that will provide benefits long into your future?
Being nice has its boundaries. Being positive and friendly, good. Being nice to everyone to try to be liked, not so good.
Unconditional niceness, good. Conditional niceness, lame.
Nice to lift someone up, great. Nice to get something in return, weak.
Being overly nice could be damaging your ability to truly connect with people with honesty and be taken seriously.
As an independent professional, your most important asset is the respect that others have for you. If you continually sacrifice your own needs for others, you’re disrespecting yourself, denying your worth, and allowing others to do the same.
This approach applies to self-promotion and even belief in our own ability to create new work. Many of us fail to sell ourselves because we don’t want to offend or encroach on others, at the expense of our own recognition.
We don’t feel comfortable rocking the boat, infringing on someone’s time or asking for help. But these are all things that are required of you to make progress, get seen and be taken seriously as a professional.
All of these require the strength to be vulnerable in someone else’s eyes, which is not comfortable. Yes, self-promotion makes us all vulnerable, and uncomfortable.
Quit being so nice at the expense of your own growth and your needs. Be real, be positive, be bold, and speak truth.
Put your attention to enhancing your own value rather than trying to impress others and covering over your flaws. Striving to impress is a sure sign you lack faith in your own value. With real value, you don’t need to impress anyone.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein
I want you to do this one thing for me today:
Contact one person you’d love to work with or have as a mentor and tell them: 1) exactly what you need (a new job, money, experience); 2) exactly what you can provide them, and 3) exactly how you can help them without sugar-coating it. Don’t be nice, be real.
Do this now and email me with the result.
Don’t email me until you have received a response. This may take several contacts to this one person.
A lot of people say that life is hard, and that’s why they’re not progressing in life. For some, particularly in tough, war-torn parts of the world, this could well be the case, but for most healthy people, this is nonsense.
Life is not hard if you focus on what is possible with what you have.
Most of us have everything we need. Most of us have the luxury of access to the Internet and the freedom to watch sitcoms and movies. Most of us are not at war. Most of us have a roof over our heads and a comfortable bed to sleep in every night.
Access to jobs, happiness, luxury, freedom and money is all there.
Your comfort is actually diluting any sense of urgency to succeed in your life, because you already have comfort.
Humans are interesting. We are built to do our best when circumstances are tough and our backs are against the wall. We are all here primarily for survival. When our survival is not at stake we relax and fatten.
Our comfortable lives make it easier to stay where we are and stay average. To progress and make a difference requires urgency and something bigger to aim for.
You then need to reframe your situation, limit the comforts you give yourself and focus on the reasons for doing what you do, which truly fire you up.
What fires you up? What gets you angry? Who are your enemies and what are you doing to put an end to their advances?
Sometimes you need to remind yourself of this every hour of the day.
These reasons need to go beyond having more time to put your feet up and watch Netflix with a slice of pizza. Why? Because this would mean changing your life by a factor of zero.
There’s an interesting aspect of the stoicism philosophy that I’m trying right now, which is to remind yourself extremely vividly of what life would look if you were really struggling, or at least uncomfortable.
This evocation of the negative sounds like a wrong move, but what you’re doing is awakening yourself to what you don’t want, so that you’re enlivened to do what you do want.
This fires our survival mechanisms again, and creates action.
Remind yourself occasionally of when times were really rough for you. Do you want to experience that again? Feel it viscerally and this will motivate you to change.
I’m more conscious these days about falling into comfort, because I know that comfort leads to being caught off-guard. If I’m getting in plenty of paid work and things are going well, this is a time to push even harder.
I treat my comfort like a thermostat. I know that if I get too comfortable and don’t push my boundaries and take risks, I’m sliding backwards and I need to adjust.
Years can go by like this, feeling like you’re progressing because you’re getting jobs done and replying to emails and fighting fires and winning browny points with your husband or wife, but you’re sliding backwards because you’re comfortable.
Continually test yourself. Take away a comfort once in a while. Forget trying to make every day run by without a hitch or without awkwardness. Stop striving for comfort. Move away from it. Create contrasts.
Infuse some danger into your life, and watch your life change.
I’m not insinuating that you are innately weak. I don’t know that you – yes you – are actually reading this.
We all have strengths and we all have power and courage beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.
You just might not be pushing hard enough, and this ties in closely with being too comfortable.
Sadly, a comfortable world has led to the majority of us being moulded into weak, scared, jumpy and stressed global citizens.
But you have the choice to change that.
Whether you like it or not, taking courage is the one single thing that will make the most difference in how lucidly you experience the truly fulfilling things in life.
For the most part, we all know what we need to do in order to see positive change in our lives and careers. But we’re scared, and we often act – not on our goals or our purpose – but on our fears.
Fear is the great block that stops you from getting what you want, though you don’t need to listen to it.
You can choose to be strong and do things that feel awkward and uncomfortable, because you know you must.
If there ever was a life hack that got you results most effectively and most rapidly out of any other, it is in doing things that take courage.
“They say: Think twice before you jump. I say: Jump first and then think as much as you want!” Osho
When I started coaching people over the phone months ago, I was terrified. I didn’t think I knew enough to charge money to help someone, and I was socially anxious on the phone, let alone on a video Skype call. But I knew I had to do it, and I just did that first call with a pounding chest.
Just because you have fear doesn’t make you a pussy. Allowing it to guide your decisions when you have the choice to overcome a necessary challenge, does.
Hundreds of calls later, my discomfort has for the most part melted away, and I’m able to let that confidence seep into other areas of what I do.
Taking that first step and staying with it was one of the best things I could have done.
These courageous actions don’t have to be gigantic. All it takes is tiny actions.
What fears are holding you back, and what small thing could you do today to show the fear that you’re not going to cower in submission any longer?
Some of us just aren’t there yet in a particular skill or craft. What I mean by this is that your work is not of a quality that can consistently stand out and benefit the user.
You can’t let your ego protect the fact that you still have work to do to build something truly valuable and meaningful.
Of course you never will reach perfection, but not everyone stands on the same rung of the ladder either.
Life is truly a journey that provides us with feedback at every step of the way. Use the feedback to shift tracks if you’re in the wrong thing, or use it to hone that skill further.
Be careful about shifting and changing too much, however. Here’s a secret that I’ve uncovered that is irrefutable for me: there is no path laid out for you.
You carve your own path, and this requires making a decision first and working at it second, followed by more decisions.
Few skills worth working on are developed in a hundred hours. You need to commit to spending thousands of hours on something specific and not get deviated.
Passion comes later, not in a flash of inspiration. Passion grows out of the sense that you are improving in something.
Just make sure that when you choose something, it has potential for you based on your strengths and talents.
Digital illustration might never have become something I developed a level of mastery in if I hadn’t initially found it interesting. Thousands of hours of honing my style and approach has kept the passion alive and growing in that area for me.
Have faith. It might just be that you’re still in phase one out of ten.
You’re not immune to going through the process, like everyone else. You have space to grow, and you will become a master if you find something you’re willing to spend a lot of time on.
Since this post features a lot of secrets, I will let you in on another one based on my experience and deep thinking on the subject.
This won’t be news for many of you, but I need to remind myself of this every single day.
Anything worth aiming for is composed of thousands, even tens of thousands of tiny positive steps. Good health, a career of real value, profound expertise, a solid social network, happiness, and millions in the bank requires tiny, often seemingly meaningless actions.
Here’s the thing. We’re all programmed through society, conversation, movies, and stories of lottery winners and sports heroes that success is an event.
In reality success is a stream of small positive actions (tiny events) that are held together through your wit, awareness and determination.
When I talk about using a limited list of contacts (the Value Network) with my students in order to land opportunities and clients, the strategy requires stringing together many hundreds of tiny actions for results to form.
Sending three people an email each day feels meaningless, boring and mundane to most.
Even though small actions like these are tiny in and of themselves, they in actual fact hold massive significance. When strung together over time, small actions make the difference between something happening, and nothing happening at all.
Don’t underestimate the tiny, positive steps. They are hard to do because we want results now. Small steps feel like nothing’s happening.
Understand that small steps are actually massively significant, and success is a stream.
You can achieve anything with this philosophy put into action.
Your reality is determined by your psychology. How you think determines your attitude and your actions.
Do you think those that truly believe they are a good person; those that genuinely believe their product or service is a great one; those that know they can handle situations, no matter what, experience a different reality than those who do not?
Of course they do.
No one is born confident. It’s a practice and a muscle and it takes replenishing all the time.
The best thing you must do if you lack belief in anything, is to experience real repeated success. This is why you will be depressed following repeated failure.
This repeated success need only be comparatively tiny and most of it is entirely in your control. If whatever it is is a slight improvement on the previous, that’s success.
Now you need to take the tiny steps approach from above and apply that to creating wins in your life. Over and over again. This is what belief is built on – an accrual of little successes.
With belief comes the positive feedback loop that enables your success and your ‘luck’ to build and your creativity to flourish.
You just need to be conscious of what you’re doing that sabotages your little wins, and what you’re doing to actively bring more of them into your day.
There is something else we all need to do more often to increase belief in ourselves and our work…
…That is to make our own value vividly clear to ourselves.
This means immersing ourselves in what is good about our work and our lives. It means listing out everything that is a strength in what we create and how it is helping people or potentially so.
If you are unclear about how much real value you possess, you will struggle to be motivated to express yourself and promote yourself.
If you found a book in a deep forest that contained the cure to all of the world’s diseases, what would you do with it? You’d do your damnedest to get it in the hands of the right people.
This is how you need to think of your work – as it is today, and what it will become.
You need pride in your work, but you need an unwavering belief in how you and what you do is truly useful, whether it’s in a tiny detail or in its entirety.
Are you betting on what is happening to you or what is happening because of you?
There are also days where I spend the entire day working, cialis but usually those days are out of a love for work, tadalafil rather than a need to do it.
There are still some curveballs thrown that catch me off-guard for a while too.
But on the whole, I’m never really overwhelmed, and I rarely feel as if I lack time. In fact, some days I feel as though I have more time than I need.
I don’t need to tell you that most of the world is chest deep in a crippling epidemic of distraction, overwhelm and busyness. Perhaps you’re feeling it too.
For most of the last ten years of my life, distracted and busy was my default setting. But a year or so ago, I got fed up and made a conscious decision to end this insanity.
I’m not quite there yet, and as with most things, it’s a work in progress, but I am in the process of fixing and streamlining my new approach to life every day.
Before I tell you how I got back in control, I want to make it clear that you are not overwhelmed because of the economy. It is not the fault of smart phones that you are distracted and unproductive.
YouTube is not to blame for your lack of productivity.
Many of you might be clicking on to the solution at this point. The way to solve your overwhelm and lack of time is exactly what you would do if you had to be rational about things.
Do less of what is holding you back and keep doing what works.
But humans just aren’t like that are we? Many of us will continue to do illogical, unhelpful things even if it’s actually hurting us, consciously or unconsciously.
Some people will continue to toil in hardship because they secretly and unknowingly love the pain. That’s their life and their ‘problem’.
For those of us who aren’t lost causes, there is a very effective way to take the power back and make it work for you in a more tangible way.
When I made a decision to take control of things, all I needed to do was acknowledge the reality of cause and effect.
Everything happens for a reason. Change the cause, change the effect…
…Which led me to being more strict about placing limits on things.
I now have a set of written rules for myself and for my eyes only, and I remind myself of these rules every day.
I have a rule for how much time I can spend watching videos or movies.
I have a daily limit on when I can access social media. I have limits on what I eat and how late I go to sleep and wake up. I restrict the times I can access my emails, and I’m adding new things to the list all the time. It’s kinda fun.
And do I feel trapped? Do I feel overwhelmed? Nope. I’m free and I’m more in control than ever.
I relish the process of skimming the fat. I love to fast to give my body a jolt. I’ve grown to love being patient. I enjoy getting up early. And I love to be productive.
I have no clear routine, but my rules impose enough control on my day that I don’t (often) fall into lazy habits.
This kind of discipline is particularly valuable to us independent workers. Almost every decision you make comes from you.
No one is showing you the path. No one but you creates that path and decides each and every step you need to make.
When people use the term “being your own boss”, most people interpret it to mean running your business. It is that. But it’s also being your own drill sergeant.
Your freedom in life comes from discipline, not running riot and doing what you like, when you like. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s very true.
Your freedom is rooted directly to the restrictions you set for yourself.
Working for yourself is not something we are entitled to, it’s something to earn. To make it work smoothly requires conscious discipline.
By imposing rules on how you spend your time, and on what things your attention is directed towards, suddenly you have order.
Immediately you have control. Right away, the old you is a dim memory and you are transmogrifying into an elite form.
What would happen to your productivity if you allowed yourself one or two hours of Internet time every day? That’s a lot less than the nearly 8 hours for average millennials. Even less than that?
How would your life change if you, like me, gave yourself 45 minutes each day or less to watch videos and movies? As a film nut I used to watch a lot, including YouTube, so doing so has given hours back to my day. And this is just one of many self-imposed limits.
I won’t share more examples because it would be patronising. The choices you have are so simple after all. You just need to be clear to yourself on your rules and stick to them as well as you can.
Rules that limit the bad habits are one side of the coin.
You must also set rules that define what you must do each day that will have a positive effect on your situation and I plan to talk more in depth about the flip side to limitation in another article.
Hang them up on your wall, and put them in places that you see them all the time.
Allow yourself to slip occasionally, give yourself a break, but then get back on board and see how the chains holding you down start to crumble.
Although I’m grateful for paid work coming in, case this rush of gold also means that other areas of my life and career can get neglected (don’t worry, I’ve got my personal hygiene covered).
One such area is building your own ‘assets’.
To many, an asset is a boring corporate word that means, well, who knows really. It essentially means an item of value that can generate income over time like a property or an investment, rather than a source of loss or liability like general meaningless busyness, debt or expenses.
In the context of our own careers, assets are anything that adds value to ourselves and our brands. Yes, this is a hugely broad term, but all these things are linked by their power in lifting you up rather than sucking the life out of you.
Books you write, paintings you paint, products you make, apps you design, networks you build, and the knowledge you grow are all examples of assets.
When we work for other people and provided services for others, it can mean that our own assets (real and potential) fail to receive the attention they need.
When I’m busy working on illustrations for several clients at once, sure I’m developing my own skills and experiences a little and adding new client names to my credits, but effectively what I’m doing is exchanging time for short-term money, and I’m not spending effective time on things that would otherwise be building my own assets and creating long-term opportunities – income and otherwise.
My own assets manifest themselves in many ways, from the books and courses I write, to growing my knowledge through reading, through my money savings and the online businesses I’m building.
It can be easy to hit a ceiling when working hard as freelancers or employees without building your own assets.
This is a ceiling through which minimal growth occurs.
And you need to be careful so that years don’t go by and you have not been building on what you have.
I’ve seen many freelancers create similar work for similar clients, and ten years have gone by without creating leverage for themselves through self-investment.
You can’t let this happen. You must invest in yourself before you invest in your clients and your customers.
This does not mean that you stop serving others, but it does mean that you spend valuable time and money on yourself first.
When you receive cash from a hard-earned project, for example, pay yourself 10% in savings or investment money, before spending it all on shoes and concerts or even food.
When you start the day, spend the time you’d normally spend fighting email fires by meditating or creating products for yourself that will in turn interest others.
For those that think investing in yourself is selfish, they are the most selfish of all, and they know it. If you do everything for others first, you will have little value, and be of little worth to the world.
Writing this blog post is contributing to my asset of my own writing skill and the Red Lemon Club blog. I’ve exchanged hours that I could spend finishing client projects for ‘asset-building time’, in order to sit here in this cafe and write this.
But I do it because I can, without losing clients, even if it creates a slight strain on my deadlines. And I do it because by investing in myself first, I’m becoming a more valuable entity, which will in turn contribute to those around me in the long term.
Building assets like writing books or creating an online shop to sell your art prints for sale may only make a trickle of pennies at the start. But over time, if you water those assets like a flower, and keep promoting and adding more, you will start to create a stream of income and attention.
The beauty of most, if not all, assets, are that they are accumulative. Value gets layered into assets, the more attention and care you place on them.
So rather than having only several clients coming in next year, you have several client projects and a stream of money and attention, all because you dedicated time to investing in yourself first.
There are many things that stop us all from growing and building our own assets. We all know what they are in our own lives so I won’t attempt to provide a run-down list of distractions.
This is a reminder to myself just as it is for anyone else this vibrates with. Do what you need to do to ensure you have assets, and that these assets are being grown and built on.
Perhaps this means getting up an hour earlier and writing 300 words of fiction for a new book every day before going to work.
Perhaps this means cancelling your Netflix account and turning off the Internet for a day or two and finishing that watercolour you started.
Perhaps this means setting yourself a target of reading 2 books every week so that your grasp of a specific topic widens and crystallises in your mind, and you become an elite at a topic.
All of these things will help you, but you will also become more useful to the world, and this will lead to happiness.
Happiness, as I always say, is the sensation we have of our own usefulness to the world, and this will come through assets and their continual growth.
When you give away too much of your assets to others through busy work, before you have topped up your own value, you will grow weary and hollow.
Start small. It doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 70.
What asset can you dedicate 10 minutes every day to planting, watering and growing, so that ‘future you’ will look back and say: thank you?
Since their launch in 2006, they have continued to succeed and evolve, adding photography to their lineup last year and Erik starting a secondary label with Ben Arditti called &Reach.
Above: Cody Hudson for Scion
Erik’s colourful creative past has included managing and touring in a funk band, founding a record label, and working in house for companies like Motorola and 20th Century Fox.
He has taken his experiences from his distinctly diverse professional history and applied them to the Satellite Office’s ethos, customising their strategies for supporting their artists in the markets they work in.
Erik was kind enough to talk to us from the Satellite Office headquarters in Chicago and share some of the invaluable pieces of advice he has acquired from his unique perspective.
Above: Die Antwoord by Clayton Cubitt
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the kind of background you come from?
I’ve always been involved in art and commerce. Out of college, I was a musician for eight years, touring around the United States in a band called Chucklehead.
During the course of that time, I founded a record company called Wonderdrug Records with a partner of mine out of Boston. We made a lot of music, produced a lot of music, sold a lot of music, which led me into a proper business career. I went and got a classic MBA from Kellogg University at Northwestern University here in Chicago, Illinois.
And then after credentialising, I went on to work a series of brand management type of jobs. Point being, I really come from a business, market, and brand management background.
Above: Chuck Anderson for Madcap Coffee
That perspective, I’ve found, is incredibly unique in the work of artist management because many in this field tend to be like real estate agents. They’re just transacting business, they have keys and they open doors and hope you like it.
We really have a deep empathy for our clients and the communication goals that they’re trying to achieve through their advertising and creative work.
Above: Chris Pratt by Jill Greenberg
Do you think that your unique background and this “deep empathy” you mentioned is what has helped you to be successful?
Completely. What we do—and I’m sharing the secret sauce here, trusting that it will come back to us in big ways and not be adopted by our competitors—we don’t just transact.
Our skills enable our artists to act and behave like small boutique studios, not just freelancers. The skills that we bring to the table—we add in account management, project management, and certainly business development. We’re developing new business, negotiating contracts with a mind to increase the scope and fees on behalf of the talent.
Our market strategy backgrounds help position any creative work we do within the business context that the client is seeking.
Above: Joshua Davis for Heineken
You talk about the importance of this understanding and relationship with not just your artists but your clients. Was there anything else you feel you did right in helping the company grow, and now expand with &Reach?
Yes, of course—here’s something that new artists really have to bear in mind and remember as they’re going out in the world.
The key to success in negotiating a great project scope is to unpack the value of the project. Full stop. And what I mean by that is—you don’t just throw out a number and say, “here’s the number for your project”.
It doesn’t do you any good to just bulk package. Y’know, “I’ll give you everything for this price”.
Above image by Chuck Anderson
Start actually pricing your time and effort appropriately and not just guessing. “If I’m doing a branding project”—”oh, I guess I’ll charge $35,000 for that”—”I don’t know what’s in that. Maybe I’ll give him a logo and a word mark”.
But by line-iteming and specifying, “OK, you’re going to get a word mark, a monogram, you’re going to get iconography, you’re going to get horizontal lock-up and maybe a vertical lock-up—you might get a pattern that is related to the aesthetic language we’re developing”.
It makes you just a more sophisticated purveyor of your craft and it tends to raise your rates because you see all the little things you’re doing.
So, that’s my number one recommendation—unpack the value of each and every contract that you do.
Above: Cody Hudson for Facebook
In terms of the artist-client relationship, you talked about the value of their work—what other kind of common challenges do you see artists having when working with the large kind of companies that yours do?
I would say, where we run into the most trouble is when you have a client who has such a strong idea of exactly what they want that really—and they may not say this to you but it becomes clear—that they want ‘paint by numbers’.
They want exactly what they’re putting in front of you. In which case, you’re really just a pixel jockey, y’know, a Photoshop monkey, right?
I would add, too. Again, in the proposal phase, when you’re outlining what you’re going to do for them, you’re not just unpacking as I said previously, but you’re also describing a work flow.
“I will create phases of work that will go something like—concept: we’ll work on developing an approved concept together”.
Then based on approval from the agency/your client, then you go into actually producing a refined design. You may have several iterations of it and then based on approval, you’ll prepare your finals for delivery.
Above image by Rob Deutschman
It’s important to have that conversation up front so that expectations are clear about what they’re going to get.
And be specific, y’know. “You will get two concepts, or three concepts, but that’s it. There will be two revisions allowed.”
These are things that successful business managers like ourselves do everyday in and day out. They’re also things that artists find very difficult to do because you want to keep the rapport sweet and nice, and fun and positive.
That means it’s hard to say “no” sometimes when a client comes back for that third, forth, fifth, sixth revision, and many times we hear stories of abuse in that regard.
The client will just keep asking if you keep giving, and that’s where we’re able to step in and provide a backbone to the agreement.
Above: Script and Seal for Computer Arts
What would you say to someone who would like to join an agency like yours and is looking for ways to increase their appeal?
I would say to new artists and developing talent that in the early phases of your career, never say no to a gig.
It’s incredibly important to be seen as someone who is seen as ‘hungry’ and aggressive and available and totally there. Don’t be precious. Do a lot of work, make a lot of mistakes but just keep working. Keep saying “yes”.
The other thing that is important for a new artist—you’ve got two strategies: you can innovate or you can imitate.
Above image by Timothy Hogan
We prefer, in the long run, to work with innovators, people who have defined aesthetics in their field. People like Chuck Anderson of NoPattern who is a light sculptor and seminal in being a Photoshop wizard.
People like Jon Contino who have an Americana, hand-crafted style that is definitive and now widely imitated.
People like Stephan Sagmeister who may have a variety of aesthetic styles because they’re so conscious about serving the client’s best interest—nonetheless, you can see at the foundation of every Stagmeister project, there is a sound, clear, conceptual basis for that design that leads you to a conclusion that there really could be no other aesthetic solution to the problem.
Or it’s people like Lobulo out of Barcelona who have a unique papercraft style that is similarly conceptual in its approach and instantly recognisable.
Above: Kevin Cantrell for Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
So we really prefer to have folks who are defining their way. That said, that takes time to get there.
As you’re starting out you may be asked to replicate or imitate other successful styles out there.
That may chaff at you, but what you will do is walk the line like many great artists before you and take those references as a starting point and add your own twists so that over time, you do begin to develop your own voice.
The more that you do that and more that you add your own twists and points of view, the more people will come to you for who you are and that’s what you want as an artist in the long run.
Above: Kevin Cantrell for Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
Do you have any projects that Satellite Office are working on that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
We’re very excited about the brand identity work that we’re doing right now.
I’ll be honest, each year we set goals and strategies at Satellite Office and &Reach for ourselves and our artists. And 2015 somehow became the year for microbreweries, distilleries, and wineries.
I could never had said at the beginning of 2015, “guys, we’re going to make breweries our strategic focus”. I just wouldn’t have known that. I think we’re riding a commercial market trend and it’s been very exciting.
Above: Kevin Cantrell for Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
We’re producing identity systems for a distillery in Kansas City, Missouri called ‘Tom’s Town’— a new winery out of California called ‘Top’.
We’re doing a new beer out of The Valley in California called Bent Shoe Brewery that’s founded by a couple of horse farriers. What are horse farriers? I had to look it up too.
Those are guys that fit horse shoes. These guys have been doing it for 30 years and they wanted to take their hard-working, handcraft life’s work and apply that to making great craft beers for hardworking people around America.
Jon Contino is working on a new winery out of Australia called Hidden Sea.
Above: Jon Contino for Hidden Sea
It’s just been incredibly fun and satisfying work. And what we like about it most is that it’s not just, “hey, design this print ad” or “design this copy for a social media post”.
We really get to be strategic and think about the raison d’être for the brand, help these emerging businesses define what they stand for because sometimes they don’t really know or they tend to be very shotgun or wide about it.
We get to help them funnel down and synthesise really compelling ideas that differentiate them, make them stand out, and are electric in the marketplace. That’s the work that we do on the account management and brand strategy side and then our creative partners turn it into kick-ass brands.
Above: photo of Erik Attkisson by Chuck Anderson
All images © Satellite Office, 2016]]>
I suppose this is less of a surprise when you consider that his main philosophy is to focus on quality work, no matter who you’re working for. Just looking through these images demonstrates his eye for colour, structure, strong design, and great presentation.
His graphic design business Brand Nu was built from scratch, and now features a large list of major clientele from Acer, 007, Harry Potter, USAID to Cadbury, WWF and Xbox.
To coincide with the release of his newest book: The Book of Ideas, he spoke to me about his background before being a designer, how he built his brand, how he runs his creative business, how he works, and what’s next.
I am a creative director and designer and I always aim to find the most fitting answers to any problem. Each new commission starts with a blank piece of paper and many questions to understanding the full scope of the project.
My work is always a collaborative process, I get clients involved as much as possible. I work with the full spectrum of worldwide clients, ranging from household brands to small family businesses, musicians and individuals to non profit organisations and charities.
“There’s a huge crossover through everything that I do. I enjoy the cross pollination of ideas and worlds.”
There’s no set agenda or manifesto of what I do. Every day could differ to another. This year so far I’ve worked on a TV show branding, charity ad campaign, type posters, fashion magazine, T-shirt range, branding projects, digital illustration and web design.
Design is the connecting line through it all.
I was born in Czech republic and I definitely didn’t follow the usual path of graphic designer. I played ice hockey, formed a death metal band, performed as a DJ and studied business economics. However, all of those elements have added to my skill-set as a designer.
Sixteen years ago, I moved to the UK to follow my passion – music. I wanted to be closer to the place that seemed to invent a new genre of music in a lunch break.
Soon after I realised I could put my basic knowledge of design software to use and I got a job as junior designer in small print company. This became the beginning of a journey that I am still on.
Sometimes I find, it’s not the actual work that would be the struggle, it’s the lack of available time to ensure everything else gets the right amount of attention.
Once you amass number of semi-regular clients with semi-regular requirements, you’re likely not to worry about the frequency of the regular income as much as you are worried about the time you can provide to all clients at once.
“Every day can change with a single phone call or email.”
The meticulous planning of each day can go out of window just as quickly as it was put together. This could be frustrating, but it is also one of the reasons why I have set up the business in this way.
I have zero chance of being bored by the doing the same thing over and over. It just doesn’t happen.
When you enter the tempting landscape of the creative industry, you’re most likely to focus all your attention into the quality of your work, and be fully immersed in this world.
You think more about the body of your work rather than client relations or getting the right accountant. This is the way it should be, anyone who wants to get rich this way is a fool. However, once you’ve made it round the clock a few times, you realise you are running a business alike any other.
Not only do you have to posses some actual business acumen, but also you need to look after your clients and provide a world class service even if it’s not occasionally deserved by them.
Your reputation goes much further than your Photoshop skills. A business that is run properly stays around for years to come.
I have always been an advocate for having a solid, no bullshit website with a diverse body of work. No bells, no whistles, with proper SEO to ensure people can find me. The new era of mass folio sites is serving the right purpose but far too many people seem them as the holy grail.
“Designer / illustrators spend far too much time and effort on promoting themselves to other creatives instead of reaching out to anyone who might need their services.”
The key is to see everyone as your potential client and be personable showcasing your knowledge of your craft. Great work isn’t created just for the Fortune 500 companies via big agencies.
Anyone can aim to smash the expectations and provide a piece of stunning work that will make everyone take notice.
When you surprise people with great work, you will open the world of possibilities to them.
Since my very first design talk at Montreal Meets in 2012, I started to entertain an idea of a book that explains the view from which I see the world of creativity.
The more talks I did, the more I knew I was tapping into something that might have a potential to resonate with people in the design industry and beyond.
For the next few years, I kept making notes and observations, I made mistakes and broke things whilst learning from the experiences to form the vision of what the book should be about.
“I didn’t want to write another design business guide or showcase portfolio book telling people how amazing the work is.”
I just set out to write a book about what I have gone through in my work and the personal experience that came with it.
Book of Ideas is a journal of my ups and downs in the creative industry. It’s about how the world outside influences the creativity inside; and how it inspires us, teaches us and makes us create better work.
Over the course of the last few years, I have been exploring the world of possibilities in 3D printing, laser cutting, engraving and all other ways of taking an image from my screen and making it something I can touch and feel.
I am a big believer in making something out of nothing, whilst learning new skills through play.
“I call it, turning dust into gold.”
The next project I am working on is an exhibition show that will consist of a dozen of typographic pieces using chapter titles from the Book of Ideas.
They will be made from a range of various materials and techniques to see where next I can take the typographic poster format.
The show, called aptly ‘Dust & Gold’ is aiming to encourage more people to explore the possibilities that are available to us.
Alex’s note: Radim’s book can be bought here. I’ve received a copy and I can attest to the beautiful quality of the book itself and the value of the content inside.
I’ve read the book and have picked up about a dozen ideas that I can apply in my own career.
It’s really worth having as a physical book, and is something I plan to open up for inspiration and new ideas.
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Between 2009 and 2014 I worked full time roles at three agencies and one large fashion retailer. During this time I found myself very miserable, working for someone else.
I would sit at my desk as account managers dropped more and more unsuitable clients on my desk.
On 2nd of January 2014 I handed in my notice at a high paying management job in a digital marketing agency.
I had bought into the virtues of self employment and was going to try my hardest to forge a flexible business as a freelance Digital Marketing Consultant.
Before I had even begun, I was really interested in the concept of “lifestyle business”. This is a term I picked up from talking with freelancers during my full time career.
There are many different definitions for a “lifestyle business”. Some are associated with startups. Others are about gaining a certain level of profit or income. And some are about a business that is built around lifestyle like tennis coaching or tour guiding.
Some people out there even consider the term “lifestyle business” to be patronising or an insult.
I define a lifestyle business as:
“Creating a business that fulfils my ambitions, drives or values, while being able to do the things in my life that are worth doing.”
I don’t think a lifestyle business is something someone does out of necessity. It is a deliberate choice.
It is something I planned from the start.
I want to share some of the rules I set myself that drive the majority of my decisions as a freelancer in achieving a lifestyle business:
There is no shame in an easy life. Many people think that you have to work long hours stressing and straining to be the archetypal successful freelancer.
In a lifestyle business, your definition of success or achievement is completely different and your motivations go beyond a strict definition of return on investment.
I wanted to create a business that funds my life with as little stress and actual work as possible.
I am not ashamed to say that I work approximately 4/5 hour days and get fidgety when I’m still at the office as 4pm rolls around. Some may call that lazy. But I call it happiness. Remember, you can’t invoice happiness however many invoices get sent and paid.
This may sound like common sense, but have you ever truly thought about the level of control you have over who you actually work with? You are the decision maker in your own business and your decisions dictate who you end up working for.
Is it money? Is it project scope? Is it client personality?
Think about the kind of client you want to work with (not for) and what makes up the ‘avoidable client’.
Here are some traits that have helped me review a prospective client before I decide to work with them:
You can’t and shouldn’t work with everyone who comes along. Be selective, as you have a limited amount of time to sell and selling it to the right business will make your life better.
Working with the right client can lead to much more than money.
Whether you are a workaholic doing 80-hour weeks or a “live to work” consultant like me doing 25 hour weeks, you have a limited number of hours for work.
For example, I currently set a minimum 10 days per month in which I actively work with clients. This figure is based on covering my monthly business costs, personal costs and minimum salary. Having this figure in mind motivates me to achieve it whilst setting a realistic goal without any unnecessary pressure.
Set realistic limits for how many of those hours you want to work.
This should then filter down and dictate everything from the projects you choose to the rates you charge.
If you know you want to work 10 days per month then you need to make sure your rates for those 10 days cover all your costs and salary.
If you don’t work on day rates then the same can apply to setting a goal turnover for the month.
You left (or never began) a 9-5 existence to start something new, different or your own. So why fall into a corporate role when you can control your work schedule?
The majority of freelancers are in a privileged position where we can work at times of the day or days of the week that match our peak productivity levels.
Find out when your personal productivity levels peak and trough.
Every week make a note of when you felt at your best or ‘in the zone’. Then build your working week around those times. But keep some flexibility that lets you change and adapt these timings as you change.
Life throws curve balls at us that we need to work around. Marriage, pets, house buying, babies, relocating, ageing and health scares, to name but a few.
Additional income streams, especially passive income, is your ticket to work less and earn more.
Yes, it’s not applicable to all freelancers and no, it’s not easy to forge or come by. Here are several examples that may apply to your skills or specialism:
I’m probably going to get some dirty (virtual) looks for admitting this, but my passive income comes from Fiverr.com.
I sell checklists, site audit spreadsheets and video audits of websites on there. To date I have made over $500 for very little graft. This kind of setup makes the end of the month bean-counting a lot less stressful.
Reid Hoffman, Co Founder of LinkedIn once said: “the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already who we want to be”.
Whether you agree with him or not, it’s fair to say that people are important to a business, whether it’s one employee or one thousand. I have found that getting out there and meeting anyone and everyone will benefit you in some way.
Don’t assume that just because there’s no direct relation between someone’s role and your business, that there’s no benefit in making contact.
You may have a meeting and find you help them and they don’t initially help you. But the ‘what goes around, comes around’ saying is often very accurate.
Grab a coffee with anyone who is kind enough to give you their time.
It gets you out of the office. It gets you to new venues or parts of town. It increases your contact database. You will come away from that meeting knowing someone new and you will learn something new.
We all have personal reasons for being in, or moving to, freelancing. But do you honestly make the most of this flexible freelance lifestyle?
When I left the world of full-time work I persuaded myself to embrace as many opportunities as possible.
These are things that would never be possible if I was still in full time work. Things that may push me out of the norm or add a sprinkling of discomfort.
Amongst other things, doing what was uncomfortable has got me:
I really recommend you opt in or search out anything that pushes you out of the day to day comfort zone (not literally anything but you know what I mean).
Your life will be much more interesting and you will experience far more than simply working better hours or being at a different desk than you did before freelancing.
I will leave you with this food for thought. Nobody should feel ashamed for constructing their life to make themselves happy. If a lifestyle business will do it for you, then go for it!
Col Skinner can also be found on Twitter.]]>
Rigorous planning and thoughtful preparation often seems like the safest course, but in designer and Photobot.Co creator Adam Kemény’s experience, it can also create barriers to moving ahead.
Photobot.Co creates custom photo booths for brands and businesses for events and venues as well as a range of varied coin operated booths. Now coming into its fifth successful year, Photobot.Co has brought Adam in contact with billionaires and sports stars, and seen him take the business on tour overseas.
We talked to Adam over Skype about the interesting sequence of events that helped shaped the early stages of the company as well as his thoughts on what’s important to remember when launching any new creative business.
Above: Sir Richard Branson using a Photobot.co booth.
Can you describe the kind of photo booths that Photobot.Co creates? What kind of booths have you made in the past?
We’ve made a really wide variety of booths because we make stuff that’s bespoke for clients. We’ve just finished our 19th booth. Everything from really portable, lightweight booths that can be packed away in flight cases to be transported around Europe, as was done a couple of years ago, to photo booths that are covered in gold as we did for Johnnie Walker.
We made a photo booth for The Body Shop that had 15 cameras in it. Some of them are quite visual, quite bold graphic-wise and vary in functionality.
Everything from a simple push button or “insert a couple of coins” to get them started, to being triggered by using Twitter on your phone. There’s a really broad variety and I’m constantly looking for new and interesting ways to make the booth work.
What first gave you your idea to start creating these booths?
I was a graphic designer for about 12 years and was always looking for something else to do. I tried a few startups on the side.
In each case with the startups, I was basically looking for someone to partner with because I could do the graphics but my projects tended to be web-based so I’d be looking for some kind of technical partner to work with. And that’s pretty challenging because of other people’s availability.
That just meant that for a few years I tried quite a few things but they never really came to anything despite putting quite a lot of work into them.
It was a friend of mine’s 40th five years ago and she had rented this big manor house on the outside of Brighton and a whole bunch of people were pitching ideas in for things they were going to make for the party.
The girl whose party it was and I, and a group of us used to go to Berlin fairly regularly. The photo booths in the streets of Berlin we’ve all enjoyed so I thought I’d make a photo booth, something that would be fun a party.
Above: Adam with photographer Rankin with whom he collaborated on photo booths for Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve.
At the time, I had a studio that was above a furniture workshop. With their help, I made a really simple photo booth that look like a photo booth from the outside, really crappy, plastic materials. You’d sit in it, close the curtain and there’d be a mirror in front of you and lighting inside of it.
There was a hole in the middle of the mirror and on the other side of that hole was an iPhone and on the other side of the iPhone there was me.
I basically went in there in stints at this party, getting increasingly trashed as the evening went on. I was kind of fun, and after the party I shared the photos on Facebook and people started enquiring about hiring the photo booth. I had no anticipation or expectation or plan to make this a business.
I did a hire and the hire was mostly people that didn’t know me. And it when pretty well so I thought maybe there’s something to it. And then the business grew from there. I absolutely had no intention of starting a photo booth business but just making this photo booth kind of made it happen completely by accident
So it was really organic, it wasn’t planned before.
Yeah, completely. And while I was trying my startup ideas with other people, I was reading a bit. Books on start up methodology and various different articles.
One of the simplest messages that I kept reading from various different people was, ‘launch early and be embarrassed of your first release’. If you’ve released a product which is already so polished that you’re not embarrassed of it then, essentially, it’s too late.
What I’d been doing previously is I’d been spending endless time planning and planning and planning to the extent that with one startup we basically built the prototype and we’d burnt ourselves out by the time we’d got to it.
Whereas, if we’d built a far simpler prototype way, way earlier and got people using it then we would have potentially learnt things from our users.
Above: The inner workings of a Photobot.co booth built for The Body Shop that included 15 cameras.
With your first prototype, you mentioned starting with crappy materials, as you put it. What’s the practicality of taking that and turning it into something that the big name companies that you work for would be interested in?
My point about the crappy materials at the beginning was—and I would say this to absolutely anybody—just to say use whatever is around you and is to hand to just test your idea out.
Tons of people have ideas and then they will sit around thinking about it for ages. They’ll build roadblocks to actually being able to do anything about it because they’ll think, “well, I can’t afford this and I can’t afford that”. Actually, they’re not addressing the thing that they want to test out, whereas it’s possible by really improvising and doing things the most basic possible way that you can test something out.
The second event that I did with that really basic photo booth—I realised that there might be something in it as a business. So I made a second photo booth, again with the help of the furniture makers (they were really instrumental in getting my business going).
I was hidden behind a two-way mirror so you couldn’t actually see that there was anyone in the other side. Whereas before, there was this hole in the mirror which you could kind of see into. And I built a voice changer into the photo booth so that I could speak and give instructions to people in the other half and my voice would be changed to a robot.
Is that where the name came from?
That’s where the name came from, yeah. And that basically meant that suddenly there was this talking photo booth that was fun and quite a useful thing for brands because they could use it to talk to consumers and their customers and people that they are necessarily already talking to.
After having this new business suddenly land in your lap by surprise, how did you then grow that over the following five years? How do you go about looking for clients and how do you promote Photobot.Co?
To be absolutely honest, I didn’t do any marketing or advertising or PR.
I think one of the things that most creatives can associate with, particularly in the early stages of their career, is being asked to do stuff for free in exchange for exposure. And that’s something that sinks everyone’s heart when they hear it. Obviously, I got the same thing with the photo booth.
But I then realised that I really enjoyed the photo booth and I really enjoyed seeing how people responded to it. So whether it was me or somebody else operating it from within, I knew that it brought something to an event.
Above: Comedian Adam Buxton using a Photobot.co booth.
So I started to seek out events that I wanted to be part of and then I would offer the photo booth to them as a freebie. And that’s something that’s been quite valuable to me really.
So it’s like a really, really passive marketing tool and technique that I’ve used in the past. As I say, looking for an event or festival and just getting in touch and offering it to them.
And the other ways I’ve found work is simply by friends and people I’ve worked for, talking about what I do on Facebook. And I guess, the prints from the photo booth just having my brand on them, which helps spread the word as well.
People might have a print on their desk for quite a long time which has got my brand on it so when they think about a photo booth, they might think about what I do.
Above: Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, drivers for the Williams F1 team using a Photobot.co booth built for Williams Martini.
Going from a guy sitting in the back of the photo booth to where it is now is already quite a lot of evolution. Do you have any ideas about where you would like to take it in the future?
2014 was quite an amazing year for the business. I had two really big clients that dovetailed together somehow completely by accident.
I was doing some work for Johnnie Walker who commission me to make three photo booths for them which were located around Europe. And for Martini who got me to make a photo booth that followed the Martini Williams F1 team around some of the European formula 1 races.
So I did loads of travel in 2014 and it was a really successful year. Last year, I was hoping to build on the back of the success of 2014. I was really hoping to build a bunch of coin operated booths to get the product further out there.
These things, they’re cheap, accessible entertainment of people. You put two pounds in it, you go in with your friends, people enjoy the experience.
I wanted to do more of that but last year I was really stuck by the fact that I didn’t have a workshop. The guys who were making the photo booths for me previously were really busy. So I had to improvise a little bit and steal bits and bobs of work space from here and there and I didn’t get as many built as I wanted to.
So this year is all about—I just got a lovely, big workshop in Brighton and I’m in the process of sorting that out and I want to build more and I want to continue to innovate.
Above: Adam on the Grand Canal in Venice delivering a photobooth to the Venice Biennale.
I’m looking at different technologies I can use to trigger the booths.
It’s such a simple thing—go the a photo booth and somehow that experience makes you laugh. So I’m just all about trying to find more ways to entertain people by this kind of very specific medium that I’ve found myself working in.
If someone has an idea that they want to get off the ground, what advice would you give to them?
Just getting a product out as early as possible. That’s completely invaluable as far as I’m concerned. Whatever it is, whether it’s a physical product or something online or something written or whatever it is. Just getting it out there as quickly as possible and not trying to overcomplicate things or creating barriers that prevent that from happening.
The other thing would be, I believe that judicious use of freebies is a good thing. If you have a product that you think would fit into a certain kind of environment and it’s not really going to cost you very much to put it into that environment, then do that.
By helping people, it just gets you free exposure potentially. You could be adding to an event or adding to a venue or whatever it might be. The thing that you do could add something in some way and that place may be really appreciative of you bringing it to them.
Last year, when I didn’t have a workshop, I rented a storage unit, a 300 square-foot storage unit in one of those big box storage places. I had to finish off these photo booths and they were installed in there.
I was going in after the people who worked in the storage unit had left. I was running an extension cable along the corridor so that I had power into my unit. I was sawing, drilling, using a router in there in the quite dim light that seeped into the space because it didn’t have any light in there.
So you might think, “I can’t do this because I haven’t got a workshop” but you can just find ways around any obstacle really, if you just think about it in more of a circumspect way.
Ha ha! I’m just imaging you creeping around in the storage unit.
The light were on a timer so after every, say, ten minutes, the lights would go off so I would have to go into the corridor, walk down the corridor and start waving my arms around to make them come back on again so I could keep on working.
So yeah, it was not ideal.
Was there there anything you would like to add?
Yeah, one thing I would like to add is that I’m always on the lookout for collaborations with other people. That’s something that I’d really like to push. Whether it’s collaborating with an illustrator to dress the outside of the photo booth so that it looks really fucking cool in venue that I put it in.
I’m totally open to people contacting me and saying, “let’s work together” because they do something that is maybe completely different but somehow could fit together.
© Photobot.co, 2016]]>
Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter this contest. The winners of the coaching and courses were chosen randomly, and are:
Coaching and Courses Winners:
Roland the Illustrator
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If you’re like most people, there is always room for improvement in the world of tightening up your brand, increasing the amount of attention you, your work and products get, making more money and working with better, higher value customers and clients.
But it can be difficult to know where to start and what to do to push through the noise. Everyone seems to be marketing themselves and it all looks like a ton of work. It can be frustrating.
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Since then, I have clinched three new clients and I’m confident that’s just the beginning. Pretty impressive after only one weeks’s consultation! Thanks so much Alex, it’s been a pleasure.”
-Jodie McGuinness, founder and designer, ‘Somethinkvisual’
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