Custom Design VS Template Design

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There are many websites these days that offer ways for consumers and small business owners to take graphic design into their own hands, by way of pre-designed templates, “logo creators” and by offering design elements that can be arranged into a new creation. There are pros and cons to using pre-designed templates and hiring a designer to create a custom product for your business.

As a professional graphic designer, of course I have a bias towards hiring the right designer to get the job done. I believe that the sale of templates creates an unsavory market which undercuts professional graphic designers who need and deserve to be paid a fair wage for their skills and expertise. Take a look at these bullet points I’ve collected which analyze the pros and cons of both.


Custom Design

Pros:

  • The designer will work with you to create exactly what you are looking for – Your finished product will fit your brand’s needs and solve a problem in your business.
  • Expertise in branding and in technical skill – Designers will lend their professional advice and help guide you to what will work for your audience, even if it goes against what you originally had in mind. Designers have seen a lot of great design, and a lot of bad design, and they will recommend what will work best for your brand.
  • You receive a customized design that nobody else has. Your final design will be made with care and love.

Cons:

  • Usually you will have to work with your designers schedule, which can change from week to week, or perhaps they are booked out for a few weeks.
  • A professional graphic designer will charge an appropriate amount for their services, based off of their own skill level and the complexity of the design. They might only charge an hourly rate, while some designers charge by project.
  • On occasion, clients and designers may have trouble communicating or getting their ideas across. When there are too many expectations on the client’s end, it can be difficult for the designer to create exactly what they are envisioning.


Template Design

Pros:

  • Quick and easy, you can usually download the template and add your information in yourself right then and there.
  • You get exactly what you see on the screen before you purchase it.
  • Usually priced very low, meaning the designer has to sell A LOT of that product before they get to see any return.

Cons:

  • Other people may be using a design that is virtually the same.
  • You are probably not creating a long lasting relationship with the person designing what you’ve purchased.
  • There is a possibility that the template you purchase may not end up looking as promised, if you’re not completely familiar with putting the final work together.

Instead, create a bond with your local graphic designer, and they will get to know our business and create consistent graphics for your brand. A dedicated designer wants to do the job, do it well, and wants you coming back to re-hire them in the future! While it may seem easy to jump online and grab yourself a logo template, it can be detrimental in the long run. These templates and quick one off jobs are available to countless other people on the internet, literally anyone with internet access and a credit card.

There is a place in the world for template designs, especially for things projects that only need the design once. Personal invitations & stationary, creating collages for your home, and fliers are great uses for template design. Things that stick with your brand, like logos, infographics, and website graphics are best left to a graphic designer you trust.


 

How to Network When You Are Traveling

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This month I was invited to take a trip out to New York with my good friend, and of course I jumped at the opportunity! I like to make traveling and experiencing new things a priority in my life; I love to explore new cities, meet the locals, and feel the vibes! Freelancing has really opened up my schedule to allow for more travel, which is one of my favorite freelancer perks! Because I have just started my venture into running my own business, I started looking for ways I can make my trip an important move for my design business. Here’s what I found worked out for me:

1. Utilize local connections to find opportunities to network.

I have been working with Madison’s local Freelancers Union reps to coordinate and promote the Freelancers Union Spark events. It’s been really fun to get to know Madison’s local freelancer scene, and because Spark events happen all over the country, I was excited to attend the October event in Manhattan. In addition to learning some new things on contract writing, legal issues and non-payment resolution, I also got to connect with the NYC Freelancers Union coordinators. They offered up some tips on getting more people to attend Madison’s events, and they were generous enough to send me home with some Freelancers Union t-shirts for my fellow Madison reps!

2. Find and visit businesses like yours that you can learn from.

I made a point to visit the Cotton Candy Machine, a shop in Brooklyn that’s run by one of my favorite artists, Tara McPherson. This has been a goal of mine for several years, because the Cotton Candy Machine is exactly the kind of small business that I believe in supporting. They run art shows frequently, featuring artists of various fields and selling their work and merchandise. The creative community that has been cultivated in Brooklyn was super inspiring! I was sad to learn that they will be closing at the end of the year, but I was glad to see it in person while I still could.

3. Make time for fun things that will inspire your business.

Exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a great way to remind myself of my creative background and my love for the creative process. Walking through those halls observing the intricate scarab carvings of ancient Egypt, the ornamental sculptures of south Asian deities, and the incredibly detailed American mosaic fountains cued up feelings of nostalgia. Nostalgia for the many art history courses I had taken during my studies, which were such a source of inspiration. The chance to view artifacts of such historical significance and gain perspective on the role of creativity in various cultures encourages me to work even harder to benefit others through my own creativity.

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Of course, there are many ways to get yourself out there and build your business while traveling. It’s also important to take a break from your business goals and take advantage of some away time! I look forward to learning and writing more on this subject, as there are so many places I am eager to travel to. Making travel a bigger part of my business is a dream of mine, and I would love to have more opportunities to grow my network.

5 Things I Learned in my First 2 Weeks of Freelancing

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Hello friends! I recently made a huge career and lifestyle decision: I quit my cozy 9-5 office job as an in-house graphic designer. Full time freelancing is something I have dreamed of for many years, and I finally built up the courage to take the jump into focusing on freelance! I thought I might make a post about my first few weeks and what I have learned so far.

 

1. When motivation is running low… Get out of the house!

I am very fortunate to have a sister who also owns her own small business, and has an extra desk in her home office. Several times a week I trek out to her house with my laptop and we’ll spend the day working side by side. My own home office can get a little old after a few days, and bringing my work elsewhere almost tricks my body into feeling like I’m ‘going to work’. After a year and  a half in an office job, sitting at the same desk and seeing the same people, bringing a bit of variety to my work space is a much welcomed change! Next we are meeting at a coffee shop on my side of town to change things up for both of us!

 

2. Nothing beats some good ol’ fashioned local networking!

Before ditching my 9-5, I made little time for networking and meeting other creatives in my city. Now that I have much more time to devote to scouting out my local network, I am able to attend events of all types here in Madison. After attending just one Freelacer’s Union event, I have met some really inspiring freelancers who have begun to introduce me to the freelancing / small business scene. I am even working with some of them to help promote future Freelancer’s Union events!

3. Having more than enough time to myself means I no longer feel guilty doing things just for me.

When I was devoting 40 hours of every week to a job that didn’t particularly thrill me, the rest of my time that was left over felt SO. FREAKIN’. PRECIOUS. After allotting time for my commute, making food, grocery shopping, errand running, working on side projects, and (who would have thought!?) having a semblance of a social life, I felt selfish for certain personal health practices.  Making time for meditation and yoga? Good luck clearing your head when you’ve only got 20 minutes! Taking the time to have a relaxing bath or even just cuddle my cat? No way, that’s taking away from precious sleep time. Now that I decide when I work and how much I work (and have abandoned the notion that I need to work exactly 40 hours to feel ‘successful’) my time actually feels much more valuable, whether I’m working on a logo gig or spending 5 minutes in tree pose.

4. Using the buddy system is a great way to get things done!

Having a business buddy to bounce ideas off of is a great way to hold yourself accountable for the things on your to do list. Keeping each other in check with your entrepreneurial priorities and staying focused is mutually beneficial, and can help stave off some new solopreneur loneliness. Working with those who have similar business goals or a similar mission can offer great insight into aspects of running a business that you may have over looked. Not to mention that finding your tribe of like minded people does amazing things for all aspects of your life, not just your business! Don’t have any freelancer friends? Many cities have meet ups of varying sizes for just this type of thing! A quick search on meetup.com may assist you!

5. I spent too much time waiting around for the RIGHT moment to take the jump.

Was I financially, emotionally and mentally ready to make the jump to freelance? Did I have x amount of money saved up before hand? Did I have just the right amount of projects pre-lined up? You bet your butt I didn’t. Now, I didn’t close my eyes and make a running start before canon-balling right into the freelance-o-sphere, I had been designing on the side for over a year. I do consider myself to be quite the risk taker, and even though I was filled with nerves and (gasp!) some self doubt, I knew that this was going to be one of the best decisions I ever made for my business. In fact, I actually made my decision to focus more on freelance during a particularly hectic and emotional time in my life. I found myself fed up with the excuses I was making about why I needed to stick with the 9-5 that was no longer serving me emotionally and creatively. Even though I made this jump in the midst of a personal upheaval, all of the positive aspects of my new lifestyle have really brought home how badly I needed to make this change. Not only for my business, but for my own personal gains.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first few weeks as a freelance designer! Each freelancer’s journey will be different, so I don’t consider my route to be viewed as a guideline. I am still figuring things out for myself (and probably will be for quite some time…) but I would love to hear from my readers about their own freelancing experiences! Do you love it? What are you struggling with? What can I write about next time to benefit my fellow soloprenuers?