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It all started with a voicemail notification. I had just woken up from a nap on a Friday evening. I checked the voicemail to hear my recruiter on the other end: “Shannel, I regret to inform you that you have been released from your position, effective today. Let me know a good time to meet up if you want to get your stuff.” Groggy and confused, I played the message over again to make sure I heard it correctly. I was being laid off from a contract design job at a major corporation that I was doing well at, so I thought. My manager and I had just talked about a new initiative she wanted me to help her with. I never received any complaints — in fact, it was quite the opposite. I had only been on the job for three months. And earlier that same year, just four months prior, I had been laid off from another job where I served as a graphic designer for almost 4 years. Well, I was pissed off, to say the least. The year was 2010. …


Ever sent a quote or proposal to a potential client, immediately followed by worry that you priced it too high? (even though you probably didn’t — you actually might’ve undercut yourself a bit). A day or two goes by and you don’t hear back, so now you start to get nervous…

The first thing you consider is following up with a lower price. But here’s a tactic to consider—STAND FIRM.

If it hasn’t been a considerably long wait, the client could be getting approvals from team members, rallying the troops on your behalf, or drafting up an agreement for you. But imagine making the assumption that their brief silence is about price, so you lower your standards and resend a quote that you think will appease them. …


My answer: both.

An range of emotions through emoji faces
An range of emotions through emoji faces

Design is a unique mix of visual problem solving, art, and communication. When we design freely, it’s common to infuse our unique style, personality, and passion into our work. Creating can be an emotional and personal experience. How we channel these emotions can either elevate that experience or lead to a project’s detriment, depending on how we control these emotions.

Excitement

It’s always a great feeling to look forward to a creative project. You’re blooming with ideas, you feel confident about your abilities to execute and you’re hopeful for a good outcome. Maybe you’re excited to work on something you really believe in, work with a particular client, collaborate with a talented team, tackle something new and challenging, or look forward to an outcome with high visibility (and pay). Excitement is a good driver for energy, fresh ideas, and initiative. …


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A few months ago, the George Floyd killing awakened a sleeping giant called corporate America to step up, speak out and acknowledge the racial divide and social injustices this country has endeavored (I say this with a mix of hope and skepticism). For many, it came with shock and unbelief, and for others, like me, it was just another grim reminder of an ever-present divide not nationally realized until a pandemic and a knee on a neck opened people’s eyes. With boldness (and reluctance for some) companies declared that Black lives mattered and pledged to do better to acknowledge social injustice, fill the gaps of ignorance, and work toward shifting the lack of “diversity and inclusion” within the workplace. …


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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Potential Client: “I need X, Y, and Z done in two weeks, but I can only afford [insert unfavorable amount here]”

Designer: “Well, I usually charge X-amount for a project like that, and it usually takes 3–4 weeks…”

Potential Client: “So can you do it or not?”

Designer: “Um, yeah sure— I think we can make that work” (while screaming obscenities on the inside)

I think most of us designers have had at least one experience where we’ve accepted a job or client out of desperation. It’s inevitable that life will throw curveballs that push us to do what we need to do (versus what we might actually want to do) to survive. This includes bidding lower than usual on a project, quoting lower than you usually do, giving unwarranted discounts, accepting and/or maintaining unhealthy client relationships, or compromising your work by bending to a lower standard. All of these actions are usually done reluctantly, and at the mercy of circumstance. If we were all rolling in dough, then surely there would be less of a need to say “yes” to the endeavors that really don’t help us grow. …


A desktop computer, laptop and tablet on a desk
A desktop computer, laptop and tablet on a desk

If you’ve ever created a website, made web content updates, done maintenance, or managed web projects, you already know that it’s not for the faint of heart. Aside from the overall technical skills, some understanding of design principles, and the overall competence that you’ll need to execute a website project, you’ll also need to continually practice these six principles for successful execution:

White board of a flow chart
White board of a flow chart

Planning

Understanding the site’s requirements — pages needed, functionality, goals, stakeholders, messaging, technology, etc. — is essential to answer the why, when, what, and how the site should be built. Can you ad-hoc a site? Sure. …


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Photo by lascot studio from Pexels

I’ve always respected and in some ways admired those who consider themselves an open book. Conversely, I’ve always been more discreet. I’m definitely learning more about the power of vulnerability and I’m totally open to sharing when I think it will be helpful. But I’ve never been one to volunteer all of my business to any and everyone (and especially not without a good cause).

When it comes to new beginnings, endings, plans, successes, failures, uncertainties, and everything in between, it seems commonplace to openly share these life events on social media, in social gatherings, over the phone, in the break room. But it is not anyone’s obligation or duty to be an open book at all times. As a matter of fact, I believe there can often be wisdom in silence. …


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Hindsight is 20/20. There’s a lot we can look back on from our past and boldly proclaim to ourselves “you should have done this” or “please, don’t do that!” When it comes to career choices and professional development as a graphic designer and creative leader, I honestly have no regrets. But if I did have a magic time machine that could transport me to various checkpoints across my 15+ year career, I would definitely tell myself a few things:

Less complaining, more doing

I know this freelance thing is tough. I realize you’re dealing with some unreasonable clients (I know, I know…it’s crazy that she called you at 11 pm about a $50 flyer). You’re just getting started and trying to figure some things out. But listen, you’re in control. This isn’t about people-pleasing. This isn’t about bending over backward for pennies. This is about exchanging a skill and a service for an agreed-upon rate of compensation. You are the expert. You set the terms and you can set boundaries. Use them. You get what you accept. You teach people how to treat you. If you don’t like working with cheap, needy, and unappreciative clients, then STOP. You have the power to create the change you want to see. Continue to update the processes and procedures that will help you cultivate better client experiences. Network. As you grow, cast your net in the next tier of clientele who value design and stop playing it small. I don’t want to hear about how bad it is to work with “so and so” anymore. If it’s that bad, then move on!


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A simplified visualization of my experience

Just a couple of weekends ago, I walked across 3 counties and two cities — 23.46 miles to be exact. That’s damn near marathon distance. “Why didn’t you just go the extra three miles?” you might ask. Well, that was the initial goal, but you try walking in the sweltering Georgia heat for 6 hours (I wasn’t willing to walk past my house to put in the extra work and I was exhausted by mile 20). Anyways, the trek proved to be quite adventurous and fulfilling.

I know there are many humans over the course of time who have completed marathons and walked twice as much in a day; what I did was not groundbreaking or unique. However, it was the first time that I had walked that far — intentionally or unintentionally — in a day and in my lifetime. …


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It was just last year that we had refreshed the Terminus brand. As a continuation of pushing the brand forward, we were tasked with creating a new website under an umbrella of spectacular circumstances. We had acquired two companies. The product had expanded and our services and offerings were more robust. So many events had occurred that would influence the need for a better website.

THE CHALLENGE

Like many startup websites, Terminus went through various iterations. Since its inception in 2014, the site development had been accompanied by agency help. We were on the cusp of soliciting our 4th agency at the start of this new website design. …

About

Shannel Wheeler

Creative professional, designer, author. Lover of chocolate, coffee, laughter, and football. Teaching and inspiring through design. http://bit.ly/2vl6AqQ

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