September 19, 2017

Freelance Advice / Handlettering by Ilana GriffoToday I’m sharing a story that I think is so important when you’re growing your freelance or small business. So here you go, some more unsolicited freelance advice.

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite designers, Promise Tangeman posted on facebook about a new member of her team, her intern Savannah. Savannah emailed Promise with complete transparency, and said that she saw there was an opening position, but she didn’t feel qualified for it, but thought she’d make a good intern doing similar tasks. She’s been working with Promise and the team for over a month, and it’s going great! What I love about this is that Savannah put herself out there, and asked for what she wanted, her passion and talent was obvious, so Promise created a position for her!

Along the road to the “yes” there’s bound to be plenty of “no thanks” or even no response (there will be SO many of those). They say it’s 7 No’s for every Yes – so every time you get a no, you’re still on your way to a yes!

The moral of the story – you don’t get what you don’t ask for! So many of my favorite projects have been because I simply asked! Obviously, having the portfolio, experience and skills to do a project is key, but don’t expect that people will just discover you – get your face out there, and talk to the people you want to work with!

September 5, 2017

Prioritize | Freelance Advice | Handlettering by Ilana GriffoOne thing that saved my ass when I left my full time job (and actually at any of jobs) have been the power of prioritization. As an entrepreneur, creative thinker, go getter, or whatever title resonates with you, it’s likely that you’re mind is always flooding with a million ideas. Product ideas, services, email campaigns, social media challenges, artwork layouts, collaborations, workshops, you name it! While this is awesome, it’s also SUPER overwhelming, and it can be really confusing to figure out where your attention will serve best. Since my business started when I launched the Rule The World Planner, organization is a big part of my business, and I want to share what I’ve learned, and what worked for me.

Lists are awesome, whether you prefer a paper list (one of my notepads and in my Rule The World Planner!), a digital list, or random post its all over your office, there’s just one step to make it more effective. You need an A list, and a B list (and a C, D, E, F, G if you’re anything like me). I make a daily list – the things I need to do that day. I break my tasks into small manageable items – I even put things like “switch laundry” or call doctor”, and I’ll write down what specific tasks for which client I’m working on. I prefer keeping a daily log on paper (the “today or tomorrow” is my go to), and then I keep a more general list in my Rule The World Planner,¬†things like “work on client X today”. That way I’ve got a more detailed list, but my planner gives me a good idea when i look at the full week of what lays ahead. Crossing things off is so rewarding, I love that I get to do that daily.

Next, I use “notes” on my iPhone to keep track of things I think of on the run, once I’m back at the office, I’ll look through it and put them in the right places. I have a few google docs (or one big one with tons of sections, but I’ve also played with Evernote, Asana and other programs), where I keep ideas that come to me, that aren’t things I plan to work on right now. I’ll let an item sit on my “notes” for a few weeks until I figure out which list it really belongs on. I have a section in my google doc of “ideas I’ve had, but am not ready for” including a few bigger workshop ideas, collaborations, things that I’d like to do, but don’t fit on my top priorities list. The best part is that I come back to this list often, and sometimes I realize that they just don’t resonate with my long term goals, and I delete them! Now THAT my friends, is a good feeling! I only delete something that I find doesn’t align with what I want for my business, maybe it sounds like a fun idea, and maybe I can pass it along to a friend that it’ll resonate with more. If it still aligns, I look at what’s on my plate for the next few months, and pick one of the ideas to do in my “down time”. This summer, I took a project that’s been on my list for about a year, and I scheduled in the time for it – almost daily I worked on it as if it was a client project, and I can’t wait to share it! It fueled me, made me excited, and definitely aligns with my goals, I treated it like a client because it deserved my attention.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by your ideas, ask yourself these questions:
Can this project wait?
Is this actionable?
Does this align with my values and business goals?

Do you have other ways you prioritize? Some people tackle their biggest projects first thing in the morning, and others like to do their email and “easier” tasks first thing (waiting for that coffee to kick in). What have you found works best for you!?

August 29, 2017

Q&A Handlettering

Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve been doing some posts that include “advice”. It’s unsolicited, and it’s mostly ramblings, but I enjoy writing them, and I hope you can take something away from them! I want to hear from you! I want to know what questions you have, what hurdles you’re looking to jump over, what battles you’re facing, what’s holding you back! I’ll do my best to reply to these via blog posts, and am taking submissions however you want to send them – send me a DM, comment, or email, all that matters is that you get in touch, and tell me what struggles you’re facing, and hopefully I can help you in some way! No question too big or too small! We can talk business, vulnerability, anything related to growing your career. You totally got this!

August 22, 2017

Specialization Should Be Special / Freelance WIsdomMaybe you’re sick of researching “finding your niche”, or maybe (like me) you still feel like you can’t pronounce “niche” correctly. Either way, I think it’s important to talk about, so let’s dive in.

I’ve seen a lot of buzz about finding your dream customer, and really OWNING your niche. It’s solid advice, but to be honest, after a lot of analyzing, I realized that my clients don’t fit a mold. I work with art directors, small business owners, couples, universities, manufacturers, others designers, and so on. What I realized, is that my work attracts a certain type of project, regardless of the industry. I’ve learned that my “niche” might not be a specific industry or type of person, but my clients still have a common thread.

I recently found a new face on instagram, their work was incredible, but their bio left me thinking.¬†Their bio said they were a graphic designer, specializing in “branding, print, social, web & more”. How can someone actually specialize in THAT many things? If you’re specializing in everything under the sun, how is it special?! Specializing should be special! This is how I’d like to think about my “niche”. When I first started my freelance career, I took every job – you had a problem, I would figure out a solution. It was a great way to find out what I liked working on, build up my portfolio, and stay busy. Now, after a few years under my belt, I’m lucky to be able to cater to specific projects, or clients that feel like the right fit. I don’t advertise web design services, because I’m not seeking those types of projects, but I still work on them every so often. Typically it’s a client I’ve worked on something else with, and they want me to continue the project into web. I’ll even call in an expert and get to collaborate with an even more talented team, which is always exciting. I’ve purposely taken web design projects out of my portfolio, and have an awesome list of talented web designers if an inquiry lands in my inbox for web-only.

What attracts people to my work? I’d like to think that they are looking for something playful, personalized, crisp and type heavy. Hopefully they also like puppies, dessert, and black and white everything. I want to know what attracts people to YOUR work? What makes your work special? Why do people want to work with YOU?

August 15, 2017

Thoughts on Passive Income / Freelance Advice / Handlettering by Ilana GriffoI had an amazing call with another business owner who I really admire, and we talked a little bit about “passive income” and I wanted to share our discussion with you, because I think it’s valuable!

I think people assume that “passive income” is something you offer, that doesn’t require any work once it’s launched. You sort of “sit back and relax”, while your income just comes pouring in. Sounds AMAZING right?!

Here’s the thing. Hopefully you’ve learned that followers aren’t always customers, and that freelancing/owning a business is hard work, and passive income is no exception.

Do Your Research | Passive income requires a lot of work upfront (creating an outstanding product), so make sure you’ve done your research, and found out that people ARE in fact interested, and what they’d be willing to pay for it (aka – know your client!).

Make A Plan | You need a plan of attack, a few months out – start telling people about it, get them excited, share a couple teasers, and capture the emails of people interested.

Tell EVERYONE | My friend recently launched a new product, and sent it out via email. I had NO idea about her course, because she didn’t tell anyone else! No social media, no “hey friend, look what I did”. That SHIT CRAY! Tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW, and then tell them to tell EVERYONE they know. I know it’s scary to ask people to share this, but your inner circle, your social network… that’s what we do!

Believe In Your Badass Product | If you don’t think your offer is that awesome, how are you going to sell it to someone else? Make sure you’re proud of your product as you’re screaming it from the rooftops! Tell people WHY it’s awesome!

Want to see an AWESOME example of a recent launch? A fellow designer, Melissa Yeager, (who has a seriously valuable blog, adorable puppy, and some serious talent – I have multiple posts saved to revisit over and over) recently launched an awesome course (if you’re looking to learn about Adobe Illustrator – this course is for you!), Illustrator Essentials. Melissa hosted multiple webinars, had a countdown, giveaways, and shared progress along the way. As a fellow creative, I knew people who would want to take the course, I watched the webinars with some talented folks, and had fun following along as developed this beast! I also love that she only opened the course for a period of time, and plans to open it again at a specific date in the future (January 2018). This makes it limited, personal, exclusive, all the things people crave, and it adds more hype to her next launch. Her journey to launching was a great reminder of how much work goes into creating the product and sharing it with the world.

Once your product is launched, you’re no where near done. People (unless maybe you’re Beyonce) aren’t just going to FIND your product, you have to keep talking, share reviews, update the course/product as feedback rolls in, and tend to it!

There are really great sites for “passive income” like society6.com, where you can post your artwork, and earn a little extra cash, but if you haven’t done your research, and promoted the crap out of it, you can’t get very far. Even though society6 already has shoppers visiting everyday, it’s easy to get lost in the overload of amazing artwork that’s on there. To stand out, do your research (find out what’s popular with that audience), add artwork/offerings/updates, and tell people about it! Sitting back with your feet up can only get you so far. In my experience, with “passive income”, you get what you give.

So tell me, what are you working on, what are you launching? What’s your experience with passive income?




August 8, 2017

Taking Your Freelance to the next level / Getting BraveThere are so many different ways to be brave. Starting your own business, taking a new job, trying a new hobby, the opportunities for bravery are endless. As a small business owner, I recently found myself channeling my bravery when sending an email to a client. I spent two days pondering over the email, and came up with every scenario in my head. To be honest, the email I was sending didn’t even deserve this much time in my headspace, it was so not a big deal. However, there I was. Fortunately, I had a little encouragement, and everything worked out.

I was sending an email that asked for more money for a project I didn’t feel I had been appropriately compensated. I wrote a polite email explaining what had happened, where there was confusion, and put in a straight forward request.

WHY did I need to channel so much bravery for such a simple email? Because vulnerability is scary. It’s scary to stand up for yourself, and it’s scary to be brave! I often blow things out of proportion, so having a friend/mentor/parent look over an email is tremendously helpful for me. Talking with someone also helps me get some perspective, taking me from “end of the world crisis” to a “client situation”. It’s easy to take things personally when your business is your livelihood. It’s easy to be worried about what people will think of you, or how you’re being perceived. Bravery is hard.

Sometimes bravery is admitting that you failed, you messed up and made a mistake. Sometimes bravery means taking a pay-cut for a more fulfilling job. Sometimes bravery is just sending a simple email that feels like the weight of the world. I want to hear how you’re dealing with bravery today, and encourage you to show a little bravery today!


Represented by Jennifer Vaughn Artist Agency. For commercial work please contact Jen Vaughn at jen@jenvaughnart.com or 760-808-2462