Sometimes, I reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do what I love to do – and do it on my own terms. The road to owning my own business didn’t happen overnight. There is no perfect formula, but to those starting out and looking for your first clients, here is what I would say:
Meet people. Lots of people.
When I first picked up freelance projects, I was actually looking for a job. I was meeting anyone and everyone to try to get a foot in the door. This brought me a few of my very first clients, but it also taught me an important lesson – you never know who you will meet and how you may be able to help each other. Maybe someone doesn’t have work for you right away – that’s fine – it is still worth taking the time to connect with them.
Don’t be discouraged. There are GOOD PEOPLE out there.
Sometimes, it will feel like people are trying to dull your sparkle. Realize it isn’t always about you. Keep your head up and seek out the people who are good. Let them inspire you and hold on to them as clients and/or colleagues. The good people far outweigh the bad in the long run.
And in that vein…
Do right by people.
In the same way you want clients and connections to do right by you, you should do the same. People will remember it, and respond in kind.
Do your best work.
It may seem obvious, but always strive to do your best work, regardless of the client or the budget. In a lot of ways, the work will speak for itself, and if clients are happy, they will come back or refer other clients to you. A small budget project may lead to a huge contract later. You just never know.
Utilize social media.
I have met a few wonderful clients on social media. It is a great and inexpensive way to show people who you are, and to get your name out there. Have conversations, share tips, interact… It will help keep you top of mind when that project DOES materialize.
What do you wish you had known when you first started your business?
What I love about design is that every new project is a learning experience. Recently, I had a client request metal business cards. As with every project, the medium helps determine the design. Metal business cards are no different. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned for those interested in designing their own metal cards:
Say No to Sharp Edges
This is obvious, but also easily overlooked. While normal paper business cards can have sharp corners, on metal business cards, these corners become dangerous. All sharp edges on the card need to be rounded slightly to accommodate for this.
Eliminate Overlays and Clipping Masks
Use the Pathfinder tool in Illustrator to eliminate all overlays, and to remove all clipping masks. Be aware that this can be a lengthy process if you haven’t built the design to accommodate it – so my best advice is to plan for it as you design.
When Etching, Avoid the Edge
Some card providers may allow etching to the edge of the card, but the provider I chose required a border. It is worth inquiring with the provider early to find out if the border is required so that you can design with that in mind.
Design in 2 Tone, Along with Solid Black or Color
I spoke with two different providers, and their file setups were basically the same. For a silver card – use dark grey as your solid, light grey as your etching and white as your die-cut area. Solid black or any other solid color should be used for solid fill areas that will be etched, then filled with color (i.e. red areas should be red, blue should be blue and so on). This file setup is fairly intuitive, and will make it easy for you, as well as the client, to visualize the final product.
Take Advantage of Textures
One of the things I would recommend is to take advantage of etching or die-cutting textures into the card for an interesting tactile effect. This is one thing that sets metal business cards apart from a flat printed card.
A metal card design file with etching (and no die-cut) might look something like this:
As you know, in addition to our regular design services, we are collaborating with District Bliss this year for their DIY workshops, and have been promoting some merchandise on our Etsy shop. If you haven’t been to an event, we’re excited to share some photos with you here.
We’ve been showcasing designs for mugs, coasters, handmade scarves and much more.
We also do custom designs.
Check it out and join us for a District Bliss event at West Elm soon!
You may wonder, why should you choose to hire a design agency versus having a designer on staff? What is the advantage of working with an external freelance designer or design agency like Stacy Kleber Design long term? Today we’re here to share some of the benefits with you.
We Know Your Business
Using the same designer or design agency regularly means we know your business. We remember your preferences and cater to them every time, meaning less revisions and quicker turnarounds.
We See Things from an Outside Perspective
Sometimes it is hard to view something objectively when you are too close to it. As an external designer, we are outside the company culture, and can offer recommendations that may not occur to you.
We Have Skin in the Game
Since you are our client, our success depends directly on your happiness and success. Therefore, we will work incredibly hard to give you the best service and solution for your design needs.
We’re There When You Need Us (and Not When You Don’t)
Maybe you don’t have the money to hire a designer on staff – or you don’t have enough work yet for a full-timer. That is where we come in. We work on a project basis, so you get the help you need on an as-needed basis. We can also work on retainer or by monthly contract.
We Do All the Things
Though we specialize, a small boutique agency or freelance designer needs to know way more than design. We understand what it means to run a business, and to advertise a business. Therefore we have a better understanding of your needs as a business.
Are you ready to take the plunge? Let’s talk!
Last Fall, in addition to running this business, I taught Intro to Graphic Design at the University of District of Columbia. Creating lessons gave me a chance to revisit what I love about design, as well as to remember some of the finer points that we often let slip by in our hurry to create the next big thing.
Graphic design is about ideas and problem solving, first and foremost, but to create GOOD design, you also need to pay attention to the details. Here are a few of the finer, but often forgotten, points of typesetting long documents:
A widow is a single word on the last line of a paragraph. Widows create extra white space between paragraphs and distract the eye. Widows call for manual adjusting of the paragraphs to eliminate the space.
An orphan is a single word or very short line ending a paragraph at the top of the next column or page. Orphans look out of place, and distract the eye of the reader. Again, manual adjusting of the paragraphs may be necessary to create an additional line, or to condense so the line ends the previous page or column.
Rivers are created in justified columns when spaces accidentally align to form a path through the type. Letter spacing can be manually modified to reduce the alignment issue.
Paying Attention to Rag
When setting text flush-left, rag-right, a good rag should flow in and out with small differences from line to line. It should not create a pattern or shape that distracts the reader and creates odd white space. This can be modified by letter spacing or soft returns in the paragraphs to create more even line lengths.
Good kerning means that the letters have equal VISUAL space between them – so that no letter or group of letters is separated out. This is especially important in titles and headlines. While this may seem trivial, making something hard to read can completely distort the message. If you want to try your hand at kerning, check out this type game about proper letter spacing.
What other key points in Graphic Design do you feel get overlooked?
If you haven’t seen it in your news feed already, we are partnering with District Bliss to create signage and collateral for ALL of their DIY workshops at West Elm this year. The first will be in February, where we’ll be making potato print tea towels and bags with The Neighborgoods! They’ll be plenty of fun to be had, and a few surprises from us too.
You can sign up for that here.
As if that we’re exciting enough, we’re coinciding the first workshop with the launch of our new Etsy shop! We’ll be selling our hand made scarves and some fun typographical signs, as well as some printables. And if you are at the workshop, you get the discount FIRST!
We can’t wait to see you and share what we’ve been up to! Get ready for an exciting year!
With the new year upon us, we’re taking a minute to reflect on who we are and how we help you. With that in mind, we came up with a new description for our services:
“Stacy Kleber Design LLC is a DC based graphic design agency specializing in affordable, on-going design support for businesses and nonprofits.
We love helping our customers to establish and build their brand, using everything from logo design to infographics to print collateral. We work with clients both nationally and internationally, as their primary designer or as a supplement to their internal design team, to ensure consistency in their brand and to produce high quality design work.”
While we will still be taking one-off jobs, we really want to be your partner – to offer on-going design support for you and your business. Maybe you don’t have a full-time designer on staff – or maybe you do and they need additional support. That is where we come in. We offer design on an as-needed basis to help you maintain a consistent look and feel, as well as a high quality design presence.
Many of our clients have been with us for 5+ years. We know their brands inside and out. They will tell you that we deliver quality work, on time, every time.
Think about it. We’re here when you are ready to take the leap. In fact, we’ll take it with you.