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There are many reasons it rocks to work with freelancers – and now we give you one more…  When everyone else takes a snow day, our commute to the next room means we’re there for you when you need us!  Be safe, DC!  We’ll be here to help you with your design emergencies no matter the weather.

Ready?

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Let’s get personal for a minute. It has been almost a year since I took the plunge into full-time freelance, and the year has been a ride. Here are 5 things I’ve learned as I took the leap into self-employment.

1. You will work harder than ever before.

As a freelancer, you get a lot of freedom. Want to wake up at 9am?  Do it. Want to go to the store in the middle of the day? Done. But like they say on Once Upon a Time – “Magic comes with a price.” In freelancing, that price is that only you can get the work done. Sick days? Days off? They only sort of exist, because if you are on a deadline, there is no one there to pick up the slack for you. You will work harder than ever before. But…that brings us to number 2.

2. It will be more rewarding than ever before too.

I work harder than ever before, but because the work is mine, I want to. I love my clients, and I love the feeling of satisfaction finishing up that job that I’ve been striving toward for ages. I do a bigger range of work now, and I find that extremely rewarding. Instead of an employee, I am a partner – helping people achieve their business goals. That is an incredible responsibility, but it also comes with a lot of satisfaction.

3. There will be quiet times. This is ok.

I am still working on this one. There are times when all your projects are out for review, and the work is…well, done.  You sit down, and you stare at your inbox, and you wonder what the next email will be. It is scary – but it is ok. I consider these days “forced days off” – days to recharge my batteries and work on the projects that keep my business running, like updating my website, writing blog posts, etc. And tomorrow, either I will find work or work will find me.

4. Everyone will say, “It must be so nice. You can turn down work you don’t want.” 

One of the first things I hear when I tell people I freelance is – “I wish I had the courage to do that.” The next is “It must be so nice to turn down the projects you don’t want.” While this is nice in theory, it isn’t the reality, at least not for someone building their business. I want to get my name out there – I am hungry for projects. And while I won’t devalue my work or take less money than I deserve, I will rarely turn down a project because I “don’t want it.”

5. You are not alone.

Sometimes, freelancing is isolating. Not everyone understands how it works. People will think you are between jobs. People will think you are taking this monumental risk. Maybe you are. But there are many, many other people out there like you, who are waking up every day and setting their own schedules, and they are hungry to connect. Freelance DC has been a huge resource for me this year. I’ve found clients, and I’ve found friends. Find your group – they are looking for you too.

Here’s to another year of learning, growth and partnerships with great clients and friends.

 

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I went to a networking event recently, and left with one thing on my mind – what is effective networking and are we doing it?

I felt as if a good deal of people at the event were simply there to collect business cards. While exchanging cards is important, unless we have a memorable interaction, I’m not likely to use it.

So what would make me remember you?

Meaningful interation.

Before you hand me your card, have a conversation with me. Not just about business, but about the area, the event, whatever strikes your fancy. Sometimes a witty anecdote can go a long way to break the ice.

Listen.

One of the people that stood out to me was a woman I met early on – who later came back to introduce me to someone she thought might be able to use my services. Not only did she listen, but she made an effort to connect me with someone else. I’ll definitely be keeping her card.

Be a partner.

Rather than a client/contractor relationship, I like to think that I am a business partner – helping my clients make their business great through design. I take this approach to networking as well. I want a long term relationship with the people I meet, so I don’t mind if I don’t get a card from everyone in the room. One or two in depth conversations may be enough.  Who knows?

Business cards.

After all this, why is this on the list?  Have an interesting business card can be a good conversation starter.  It is also a great leave behind so I can contact you later. Just don’t use it as a replacement for a conversation.

As we write out our holiday cards, we can’t help but reflect on this year, and all the milestones that we’ve accomplished. From going full-time in February to sponsoring an event with District Bliss in November, it has been quite a year.  Below are our 10 favorite moments of 2015 – the year in review.

February

Stacy Kleber Design went full-time!

March

Attended DCdotGOV.

April

Taught online image tips with FuelDC and Capitol Romance.

May

Vader joins Stacy Kleber Design as our first fuzzy Office Assistant.

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July

Completed signage and event design for the IB Conference of the Americas 2015.

October

Helped to organize Happy Hour with Freelance DC.

November

Sponsored an event at Kendra Scott with District Bliss.

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Relocated our office the Gaithersburg, MD.  (Don’t worry!  We didn’t go far!)

Launched the new website.

December

Spent time at The Wilbert Group office in Atlanta.

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Thank you all for being a part of this year!  We can’t wait to see what the next one brings…

We are excited to share with you some of the official photos from the District Bliss event!  All photos courtesy of Kathy Lynn Photography.

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Thank you to Sara and Sarah for organizing!

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One of the best parts of District Bliss is hanging out to meet new people.

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Our Kendra Scott sign on the counter with two of their fab employees.

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Drinks mean a chance to design some rad coasters.

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The giveaway we designed for fall – sunflower seeds for planting.

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Proud to be linked with these fantastic ladies!

 

In November we were a featured vendor for District Bliss at the Kendra Scott store in Bethesda. If you haven’t checked out Kendra Scott yet, you definitely should stop by – the jewelry is beautiful, and they have a color bar where you can chose your stones and make a unique piece that is truly your own.

For the event, we created these amazing thank you cards, signs, coasters and giveaways in Kendra Scott yellow. The designs were a big hit, and we are excited to share them with you!

Official pictures coming soon, but until then, enjoy this sneak preview!

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Business cards are something that almost everyone has a use for. They are a great way to quickly share contact information with a colleague, contact or potential client. They are also part of your first impression. But are your cards as successful as they could be?

The number one piece of advice I have for clients is: put your name on your cards. I recently went to a networking event where I received a plethora of cards, many of which contained only the name of the business. This made it hard for me to reach out to these individuals to follow up and connect. After a brief meeting, it is natural that someone might miss or forget a name or two. Not having your name on your card discourages people from finding you on LinkedIn or sending you that thank you email. While there are situations where you might give a newbie to your company temporary, blank cards, a card with a name will always be more personal and encouraging.

Also, make sure to include your website. Your website is the modern day brochure for your company. Even if someone is hesitant to reach out after a meeting, there is a chance they will check your website – and if you get them there, you have a better chance of converting them into a customer.

Think about the format of the cards. While it may be trendy to have round cards, or unusual sizes, in the end, the business card goes into someone’s wallet or rolodex. A circle or an oversized card may not fit, and may discourage someone from keeping the card in the long term.

What other business card faux pas have you experienced?

As I mentioned in our newsletter, November is going to be an exciting month for us.  We are getting ready to be a participating vendor at the District Bliss November Social at Kendra Scott in Bethesda.  If you aren’t familiar with District Bliss, you are missing out.  Run by Sarah and Sara, an amazing photographer and wedding planner, the events are a chance for creatives and wedding vendors to mix, mingle and socialize while learning about each others businesses.  Each event has featured vendors in a variety of categories who provide work for the event – from venues to florists to photographers, and in this case, designers, which is the role I’ll be filling November 5th. Come back for a sneak preview of what I’m working on soon, and in the mean time, sign up for the event here!  It will be a blast.

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Invitation Design by Stacy Kleber Design.  Photo by Paula Player Photography.

 

agency vs in house-3

I am one designer that has the pleasure of working in all realms – I have been an agency designer, an in-house designer and now I work full-time as a freelance designer. Each role has its own set of rewards and challenges. Today I’m hoping to shed some light on the mystery of agency vs in-house.

An Agency Designer

An agency designer is an exciting job in that it offers new challenges all the time. One day you might be working on a hotel logo – the next you might be working on a flyer for the Humane Society or an annual report for the Chamber of Commerce. There is a constant stream of different clients, which prevents you from getting into a creative rut.

The downside of being an agency designer is long hours, depending on the agency. I have found that agencies work more quickly and at a higher volume than in many corporate settings.

An In-House Designer

As an in-house designer, you have the advantage of being the expert and truly knowing the brand inside and out. While some may say this means the work is repetitive, I see it as a means of constantly challenging oneself to break outside of the comfort zone.  It is easy to churn out versions of the same design, but how can you take that design and make it different and interesting? In some ways, this pushes your creativity more than ever.

On the downside, sometimes working in-house for “free” challenges your legitimacy.  People think they can get higher quality work at an agency, or they take your work for granted. While this is not true, it is an frequent challenge to in-house designers. The best defense is doing solid, creative design.

What challenges have you faced as an agency or in-house designer?  What is your favorite part?

Why I still love it.

While I definitely appreciate web design, and all the possibilities that come with going digital, I will for now and forever more love print. There is something about a tangible design that I feel is rich and lush – a luxurious experience that a design on screen can’t quite emulate.

Take a wedding invitation, for example.  While e-vite sites are vastly improving with the development of sites like Paperless Post, most brides still opt for rich paper and extravagant printing methods like thermography or letterpress.  It feels special.  It feels expensive.  On-screen-only invites just don’t have the same flare.

At conferences, people still love tangible giveaways.  They pick up business cards, postcards, buttons… What they often don’t do is scan QR codes – and if you put your info on a thumb drive, they can’t see it until they get home.  People like stuff – particularly free stuff. It is yet another experience that we have not found an equivalent for in the digital realm.

According to Karlene Lukovitz at The Association of Magazine Media, printed magazines often fail when attempting to make the transition to digital only (Perception vs. Reality).  I think part of this is that we fail to celebrate each medium for what it is.  The virtual experience strives to get closer and closer to the actual physical experience…  This means that the print experience clearly resonates with the audience.  Why does iBooks implement a page flip function?  People still want books to look like books.

While I think both print and digital have their place, and are both amazing mediums, I feel that print is far from dead.  Long live paper.