Laila Rezai's Blog

At the intersection of where design meets business and sustainability


Freelancing and the Right Client for You

When you’re out on your own in the freelance world, there will be a time or two or three when you bypass your better judgment to take on projects because you’re feeling worried about your cashflow. While that’s a huge consideration, it’s exactly those circumstances that should have you questioning whether the project and client are the right fit for you. Deciding who to work with and for applies to existing and new clients. Then who are the clients that aren’t the right ones? If you’re not sure, here are some red flags to alert your radar:

The client that engages in crossing boundaries of respect.
I’m not sure this happens to men as often as it does to women (I might be mistaken) but some clients are human messes in transit. They hire you for your talent and then assume that their ulterior motives are somehow part of the creative brief. “Absolutely not!” While you might be thinking, ‘I really need the work,’ consider that these...

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How you Spend your Day

How you Spend your Day


Posted By on Jul 3, 2014

How you Spend your Day

I used to come into my office and figured that if I put in enough working hours during the day, that I could go home feeling pretty happy with my efforts. It didn’t occur to me that how the day got parsed out played so heavily on my level of productivity. I would spend the first part of the day addressing the non-creative and more administrative side of things—returning emails, bookkeeping and returning phone calls. After reading a book called, Manage Your Day-to-Day, published by the wonderful people at Behance, I realized I had it all wrong.

Turns out I was using my most creative and concentrated time doing things that didn’t require the best my brain had to offer for the day. According to the book, I was engaging in what was referred to as “reactionary...

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What You do for a Living is not Charity!

Wow, where to begin with this one? For all the freelance designers and creatives out there…I’m going to have to yell this one out…WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING IS NOT CHARITY! Ok, I said it, you heard it and even if you’re not a designer, this rule of thumb still applies. It’s ironic how often people that love what they do carry around a chip on their shoulder about getting compensated for what they do best. Isn’t that weird? Whether it’s low self-esteem, lack of understanding or whatever the insecurity du jour is that gets in the way, it’s important to understand the basics of business 101:

  • Make sure you value what you do. If not, nobody else will.
  • If you don’t charge market or above market rate for your services, your clients may not take you seriously.
  • What you do for a living is not a hobby, nor is it charity, so don’t treat it as such.
  • Don’t feel awkward talking about money with your career peers because it’s part of gauging...

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Is Design About Making Things Pretty?

Is Design About Making Things Pretty?


Posted By on Feb 12, 2014

Is Design About Making Things Pretty?

Many times during my career, I’ve heard the phrase “Can you make it pretty/look good,” or it’s assumed that the craft of graphic design focuses solely on aesthetics. While that’s occasionally the byproduct of certain projects, there are many more things that graphic design is about. It’s almost like dating someone who’s good looking and hoping that there’s an intellect somewhere to tap into. Design without intellect is as singular in dimension as that good looking person that didn’t take the time to develop themselves.

As a designer, I certainly don’t expect my clients to look under the hood to understand the nuances of typography, the complexities surrounding grids or all of the know how that goes into mastering software applications that generate graphics. However, the client does need to understand that there’s more value in the craft of design than aesthetics, otherwise it’s difficult to rationalize the full value of what design has to offer. Subsequently,...

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Empathy and Energy

Empathy and Energy


Posted By on Jan 14, 2014

Empathy and Energy

I was reading an article in the most recent issue of Fast Company where Burberry’s former CEO, Angela Ahrendts said, “Empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy.” You might have it for your friends, family and loved ones but if you’re task-oriented, type-A or like to set your goals high, its not necessarily your strong suit. It’s definitely a term that comes up with greater frequency in the business community and maybe some people are paying attention, but are you?

Let me ask you something. Do you scrutinize yourself to the point of feeling like you can’t get things just so or pretty close to perfection that you’re exhausted by trying? As we ease into the New Year, what if we took it a little easier on ourselves? A little less of all the things that create mental noise inhibiting our creativity, joy, growth and the space to explore new ways of thinking? Cutting...

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Bad Branding

Bad Branding


Posted By on Jan 8, 2014

Bad Branding

Disclaimer: As a designer, I have a heightened response to visual information. Nevertheless, from time to time something so blaringly awful crosses my path that I can hardly contain myself but to shout out a cosmic “WHY?” for all the world to hear. To give this story context, I used to drive through a part of San Francisco where I would pass by a Sherwin-Williams paint store. If you’ve ever seen their logo, it’s a red can of paint that’s dumping muck and suffocating the earth, as the mass of paint drips to cover most of the earth’s surface. As though that weren’t enough to outrage environmentally conscious sorts, their tagline reads, “Cover the earth.”

As I went by their signage, I would start scowling and get a furrow in my brow, with a feeling of frustration. Why should I be affected by a brand who’s products I’ll never buy and a company I don’t relate to? Because of branding. Plain and simple, they are a giant corporation, with worldwide distribution...

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Assuming Who Will Pay You

Assuming Who Will Pay You


Posted By on Dec 20, 2013

Assuming Who Will Pay You

I’m not sure whether other professions fall prey to the way certain people regard the graphic arts, but it does seem to be a vocation filled with ambiguity—on behalf of the artist and the client or potential client. Many times when I’ve been asked whether I can do this or that by a perspective new client, there’s this nagging voice in the back of my head as to whether they will be able to compensate me for my time. This query became even more complicated when a friend or acquaintance made the request. I often wondered to myself, do they expect me to work for free or so close to free that it’s really not worth it? If you’re wondering why I would even go down this path of thinking, it’s because as a freelancer, it’s happened so many times, that I’ve lost track.

The irony is that it never needed to happen if I had set the right boundaries with myself and everyone else in the context of my craft earlier in my career. In the past when someone I cared about...

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Making Money

Making Money


Posted By on Dec 10, 2013

Making Money

Jason Fried is one of my favorite entrepreneurs and a co-founder of 37signals, a software company based out of Chicago. He is a contributing writer for Inc. magazine and recently wrote an article called How to Get Good at Making Money. Not exactly something that you learn about in art school and ironically, having gone to business school, I can’t say that it was ever once addressed or discussed. I wanted to reference a number of important factors that Jason wrote about but adapt it for my tribe—graphic designers and freelance creatives in general, in the hopes that you will find the information helpful. Jason broke his article into 6 parts.

 

Part 1 — “Understanding the buyer is the key to being a strong seller”
Granted that if you’re in the design business, which is service-based and you’re not selling widgets,...

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