Monthly Archives: April 2008

My iCiNG Treats Are Live on!

Many months ago, I was asked by Gala Darling to whip up some designs for her online shop, iCiNG Treats. It’s been so hard keeping my mouth shut all this time, but they’re finally live!

As Gala says about iCiNG Treats:

Think of it as wearing a secret spy signal. It signifies your official nonpareil membership, as well as a salute to anyone else familiar with the cupcakes, carousels, TiLTs & other facets of the iCiNG Bowl!


Advice #3: Time and Money Management for Freelancers


I’m just starting to pick up odd design jobs here and there. I’m still in the midst of getting my degree, but I’m super excited to already be working in my field of choice! However, I feel ultra-lost a lot; especially when it comes to time management and pricing. Do you have any advice on this aspect of freelancing?

The best part about freelancing is that you’re able to set your own hours and rates, but it can also be the trickiest.

Everyone has an opinion about what you should charge and how you can make the most of your time, but the Hourly Rate Calculator can help you determine what is fair.

It’s a solid guide based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit. Even if you charge a flat rate like I do, it’s a great starting point if you know how many hours a job will take to complete.

What to Charge: Flat vs. Hourly Rates

When giving a client quotes on a project, you’ll have to decide whether to charge a flat rate for the entire project or do it hourly. Both have implied benefits, but I usually just charge a flat rate since it helps a client know what to budget for upfront. Additionally, I like knowing from the start that I’m guaranteed a specific amount of money (I always require a half or third of the total down to begin work).

When pricing by the hour, consider that you may end up cheating yourself because as you get faster, the same project you did a year ago might have taken 10 hours and now only takes 5. There’s no reason to set yourself up to learn less!

With each job accepted, you’re in a position to be creative and the goal is to make an idea tangible. Your ideas on how to best tackle the project might not come right away; a vision might take hours, even days. If you’ve charged a flat rate, it’s much fairer to the client in this respect.

How to Charge Your Dream Rates

Everyone has a vision of what they’d like to be earning as a freelancer, but the dream doesn’t always align with the reality. In order to charge these rates, Freelance Switch suggests that your clients:

1. Need to believe you’re worth it
2. Must be able to afford it
3. Need to believe that you wouldn’t do it any cheaper

Is your portfolio showcasing only your best work? Is your correspondence prompt? Do you already have a roster of faithful clients? If you’re professional and have some amazing work to back up the rates you’re quoting, chances are that they’ll be accepted.

Obviously, none of this matters if someone can’t afford your dream rates. If you’re unsure, it’s okay to ask someone what their budget is like. What I’ve charged large corporations is not the same as what I’d charge an artist friend. If you’ve recently taken on a high-paying corporate job, maybe you’ll have some room to accept a few lower priced jobs that you’re passionate about!

When to raise rates

As a general rule, it’s fair to raise your rates as you gain more experience and confidence. As I’ve inched closer to finishing my degree while steadlily expanding my portfolio and client list with established names (freelance for Virgin Records and assisting with Nike 6.0 projects at my internship), my rates have increased. Generally, the more extensive and well-known your client list and portfolio are, the more trustworthy you become to a client because it’s less likely that you’ll be a flake or a fly-by-night operation. They want the security of knowing that their ideas and money are safe in your hands!

If you have too many clients knocking down your door, chances are that you need to raise your rates. I’ve been trying to round out my portfolio with client work before I graduate and have recently had this occurrence. This is a sign that once I’ve graduated, it will be time to raise rates once again.

Figuring Out What To Charge

Never be afraid to ask others what they charge. The worst that can come of it is that they decline to answer. I often come up with an amount to charge a client and ask my peers what they deem fair before sending off a quote. This helps me determine if I’m in line with other designers’ rates.

If you still need more information, All Freelance has a wealth of more specific articles.

Real Life Time Management

There isn’t any magical way to conquer the time issue but setting goals can help. If you drift through your day without a vision of what you actually want to accomplish, chances are that very little will get done. Every day, I keep a to-do list close by and cross as many things off as I can before going to bed. This might sound extreme but it totally works because productivity increases when you hold yourself accountable.

Also, think about when you feel the most inspired and get the most work done. Are you a morning person? Do you have crazy energy in the middle of the night? Once you’ve figured this out, those hours should become sacred; close yourself off from the world and do your best to avoid interruptions from the T.V., friends and the phone.

When None of This Matters

There will come a time in your career when a client tracks you down and offers you a massive sum of money. It will be so substantial that you won’t need to consider how much to charge or even care how long the project will take for that matter! This has happened to me just once, but it totally changed my life and put my career on the map. You can never plan for this occurrence. All the hard work you’re putting in will eventually pay off. Good luck!

The Return of Star and Stumptown

My friend Star just visited me for a totally whirlwind weekend that included a day roaming Stumptown, a spur of the moment gallery tour in a big, white van courtesy of my favorite curator, late night wanderings and bus rides, and vanilla cake with fresh strawberries served at 2 a.m. by Lee Z!

After a long day at Stumptown, the magical van hauled us to an afterparty at a comics shop called Cosmic Mokey. As we were leaving and pushing our way through the crowd, an older gentleman glanced at my nameplate necklace and said, “Nubby. That was my bowling name back in Wisconsin!” 


Star and I have trekked all over the U.S. to meet up; New York in 2006, Hollywood in 2007, Portland in 2008 and hopefully San Francisco later this year (with Smokey in tow)! Here’s to many more adventures with my favorite stripey sidekick. You will be missed.

I *heart* Nemo!

There was a portfolio event at Portland’s world famous stationary and supplies store, Office and though I couldn’t make it, a fellow Nemo-ite was on the panel and so thoroughly described my persona without mentioning me by name that I’ve had three interactions with people bringing it up to me!

Via Coroflot:

The designer from Nemo related a story of an intern applicant from last year, who got hired based on two qualifications. First, that her work as a graphic designer was outstanding, and the second, that the visual style that permeated every piece of information she published–blog, portfolio, MySpace page, even her personal style of dress–held together in a consistent and original way. In her case, it was a strong palette of black, white, and red, a slightly spooky goth-tinged aesthetic, and a strong commitment to personal craft, down to clothes and accessories modified to fit her custom image. “It wasn’t exactly the sort of style we would use here at Nemo,” she explained, “but the fact that she was able to apply this style so universally made us think ‘My God, this woman really knows what she’s doing.'”

Did I mention that I have the best internship ever?!!

Advice #2: 13 Steps to a Successful Blog-Based Business


I’m hoping to take my community and move it to an actual domain in the next few months and expand it into an online magazine, blog and general artist resource on the web. Any tips on transforming a site into something like this? The business side of it is the part that I am the most worried about, I don’t want to forget to do something and having it hurt me a few years down the line.

You’re smart to consider these things ahead of time! The better defined your niche is, the faster you’ll rise. Blogging isn’t all about fun and games, especially when you’re doing it for a larger audience. Blogs are a great format for your online artist resource and magazine. In some ways, I agree that they’ve killed conventional websites.

Some major benefits of blogs are:

a. The ease of updating and modifying content
b. The lack of printing costs / more environmentally friendly than magazines
c. Being in charge of who can advertise
d. Networking and linking for self-promotion
e. 24/7 access for fellow readers
f. Ease of contributions from fans (commenting, surveys, contests)
g. If you love something, it can be bookmarked!

Steps to launching a successful blog:

1. Bookmark Inspiration

What do you like and dislike? What pages will you need? Take screenshots and save a folder of inspiration on your desktop. When the time comes to build your blog, things will be so much easier when you can dive into a pile of things that make your heart beat a little faster! Visual inspiration is overflowing at FFFFOUND! and we heart it.

2. Define Why You Want to Put Effort Into a Blog

Do some soul searching and brainstorming. Ask yourself:

Will it double as your portfolio?
Is your sole goal to provide content to help artists succeed?
Are you also wanting to gain notoriety for yourself?
Is your goal to turn the domain into a primary source of income?
Do you want to make a living off of selling products and advertising?

3. Define a Topic / Niche

If you’re still figuring this out, Darren Rowse suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:

What do I know about?
What topics do I read about and seek out information on already?
What topics do others come to me for advice on?
What topics keep coming up in conversation for me?
What topics would you write about for free?

4. Make a Decision: To Profit or Not?

If your answer is yes, how will you do so? You can sell advertising space, products, and consulting services. The sky’s the limit! Give Blogging for Money the once-over to get an idea of what can be expected if you go this route.

5. Develop a Business Plan

A business plan will help you define and outline your wants, needs, and overall purpose.

Spot-on advice from Freelance Switch:

When someone asks you, “what do you do?” or “what type of business is it?” can you answer in 30 seconds or less? It’s called an elevator pitch.

I did my first business plan for as a senior project before I graduated with my marketing degree; this was years before it became a blog, but I still was able to iron out my expectations. I explained exactly how I planned to reach my goals and what I needed to do so; it was the solid foundation that I needed. The Small Business Administration can get you started.

6. Develop Differentiation

Find a minimum of five of your closest competitors and jot down what you admire about them and how you could improve upon what they’re doing. How can you do it in a different way? Give some serious thought about what sets your idea apart from what’s already out there. This is important so you can create differentiation to demonstrate the unique aspects of your product and create a sense of value.

7. Define Your Market

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do and how you’re going to do it better, clearly define your market. If you’re running a business, you’re going to need customers, even if they’re all based online. Who are they? What do they like? What websites do they visit? How old are they?

Remember, marketing is not unethical. We all have the power to make our own choices. There’s the possibility that thousands of people can do the same thing as you and maybe do it better, faster, and cheaper. BUT! Do they have brand recognition? It doesn’t matter how amazing you are if no one knows that you exist, what you do or how to contact you.

8. Pick a domain name

It seems like all the good .coms are taken, but if you can avoid a name that is super long and full of dashes, all the better (use to see if yours is still available). If all else fails, you can make up something nonsensical like! I’ve registered all of my domain names through Besides being reputable, their 24 hour customer service is super knowledgeable.

9. Get Server Space

Buy some server space to store your site files and images on. It’s always a bonus if the domain name and the server space are through the same company so that the changes you make can be as seamless as possible.

10. Templates, templates, templates

Personally, I’m a huge fan of WordPress because there are thousands of free blog templates that are easily modifiable and gives you instructions on how to install its software directly onto your domain.

a. 6 Cutting-Edge, Minimalist WordPress Themes
b. Thousands of free WordPress themes; sort by color, number of columns, etc.
c. 30 Must-See Comment Designs

11. Develop a Unique Logo / Brand / Image

There are 110 million blogs and over 175,000 new ones join the ranks every day. That’s a lot of competition! How do you plan on standing out from the crowd? Give a logo, tagline and header some serious thought. You’ll have the ability to potentially reach thousands of people a day who have never met you in person. Your blog will immediately convey an image of who you are (online, at least). First impressions count!

Are you going to use your own name to blog under, an alias, or do it anonymously? These options all have perceived advantages and disadvantages. Since my domain is the same name as my business, I sign and take credit for all of my posts. The goal of my blog is to make a personal connection with readers and showcase my portfolio, so this was an easy decision for me. If your blog is a general resource and online community, this may take more thought.

12. Think about a ‘Signature’

I use my handwritten signature at the bottom of each blog post while other people use quotes or unique sign offs (Gala Darling’s air of excitement and positivity is conveyed in ‘Super-love & cupcakes’ at the close of each article). This is important so that your posts are easily picked out when someone is quickly scrolling through an RSS feed.

13. Keep a Running List of Future Topics

What are some topics you’ve always wanted to write about? Who have you always dreamed of collaborating with? As soon as you’re up and running and gaining notoriety, administrative tasks begin to eat away at your time; having a list of what to cover will keep you on track.

Related Work That Will Add to Your Success

a. Answer Your Emails (or, as many as you can)

A close friend (who’s got a massive following) once told me that he tries to answer every email because if it wasn’t for his fans, he’d be working at McDonalds. If people are taking the time to write you and are genuine about it (not spamming or being rude), it’s polite to respond in whatever capacity you can, even if it’s not right away.

b. Have A Cohesive Image Across the Board

My blog mimics the colors and feel of my press kit. I try to keep most of my typography choices consistent in online and offline materials. But, there’s no reason to be uptight about branding; the old rules have softened. It would be so boring if everything you did looked the same. I constantly design new business cards, rotate between three logos and occasionally change my blog header. If you do this, give it some thought. Make the dots easy to connect. It’s good to be remembered!

c. Get Business Cards

Order a stack and get your freshly minted domain on there somewhere. You never know who you’ll run into. Who knows who you’ll meet at the bar; it may be your future business partner and nobody wants to jot down important details on a martini stained napkin! This should be all the convincing you need.

In Closing

Since you’re wanting to start an online artist resource, the 27 Thoughts On Blogging For the Artist is a must read. It’s pretty amazing. If you’re passionate and willing to put in the hard work (and do your homework!), you will be successful. Good luck!