Why did you get into your business? Without knowing you what you do, I’d guess that you like to solve problems. Very specific problems for very specific customers. You solve these problems not only because you like to, but you do it to earn an income. This is where many of us fall short of where we’d like to be. Because the fewer problems you solve, the less profitable you are, and the more dissatisfied you become. Want to solve more problems, and earn more income? You need to be properly positioned in the marketplace.
It’s the month of lists. Notes on the desk, stickies on the computer screen, and reminders set on the phone. Today is the day to get them sorted out.
We all make lists and we usually end up setting most of them aside because we get inundated with the day-to-day tasks of running our business, so they seem as though they just aren’t a priority anymore. But they are.
I don’t have a lot of musical talent. In fact, I can’t play any instrument at all, short of Chopsticks on the piano. Standing on a stage and performing a piece of music is the last place you’ll find me, and it may be a long shot for you, too. The spotlight is a stressful place even when we’re just talking about what we do. But you need to get comfortable talking about the work you do and what you’ve accomplished. You need to “toot your own horn” regularly.
I’m glad I was sitting down, or I’m not sure I would have been able to mask the surprise. It’s possible that I didn’t hide it well at all. Because the truth is I was thrilled. My year-long client had just told me that she was moving on and really wouldn’t need my services anymore. We were done. Over. Kaput. Fin. And we were both positively giddy about it.
A week at the HOW Design Live Conference is a great way to learn new things, and relearn what you should have remembered. Here are a few of the most memorable lessons, in no particular order:
- Practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more.
- A digital business action plan will help your creative business maintain momentum.
- I want to spend next Tuesday on my patio having breakfast. This was an answer to the question, “If you didn’t have to earn a living, what would you do next Tuesday?”
- I still have a hard time appreciating the value that younger people bring to the conversation when I know I still have so much to learn.
- Keep your room key with you all the time, even when you step out into the hall for some ice. Yes, I was fully dressed, but felt like a loser riding down the elevator to the front desk.
- If you own a business, you will sell your business to others more often than work in your business.
I spotted him between sessions one day, and then there he was again. This man had to be almost 30 years older than the second oldest HOW Conference attendee. A thick shock of white hair and fantastic eyebrows, dressed in black from head to toe. I watched him as he made his way from one session to the next with a unmistakable shuffling gait. While he may have seemed out of place to the untrained eye, he belonged. Bob Gill has spent 60 years as a graphic designer (when the words had fresh meaning). Graduating from the first design schools in the United States in 1948, he and his contemporaries defined what the design industry could be. He had a thing or two to say about the state of “design” in 2014. Actually, just two words: it’s sad.
The industry isn’t producing any work that has meaning. Too often, work begins in front of the computer, without value and without opinion. Our culture saturates the brain with imagery and perceptions until we no longer recognize original ideas. It’s very hard to overcome, but we should try. Memes and followers and trends pervade our sensibilities and shade what we think is art. It isn’t art. It’s boring and — what did he call it? Ah yes, dopey.
He’s right. The minimalist trend in logos is B-O-R-I-N-G. And hopefully it will have a short shelf life, and we can get back into the age of art as design.
I tried my hand at not one, but two, letterpresses set up for newbies in the Exhibit Hall. It was infatuation before, but now it is outright love. Cost and talent are more than likely too prohibitive for me to learn the craft. But it is a beautiful, textured approach to printing. And I was thrilled to see the appreciation and use grow in design. During previous conferences, we’d be lucky to see Hatch Show Print in the showroom. I didn’t see them at HOW this year, although three other smaller shops and at least one school were. Keep feeding this spark. Letterpress is one of the ways we appreciate letterforms, and there was plenty of that at the conference as well. Another session I didn’t get to see but heard a lot about was Nikki Villagomez. Wish I could have caught that one.
It was a great week spent with new and cherished friends, fantastic design trailblazers and important business lessons. Many of the experiences I had this last week will come out in future projects. Stay tuned. It promises to be a great ride.
I went to Boston to be a panelist at the How Design Live Creative Freelancer Conference. The panel addressed the joys and challenges of virtual teams to an audience of my peers; creative business owners like me and a smattering of really talented soloprenuers. As if it weren’t enough to “just be invited”, my name shows up on the same page as Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin. I will never be this famous again.
Aside from seeing friendly familiar faces and rubbing elbows with design elites, I’ll have a chance to do what I love to do — find better ways to work creatively. It’s no secret that I’m a Geek with a capital G. At the HOW Conference, I am among my people. It’s not quite ComicCon, but I blend in. And there is little that compares to the creative rush I get when I’m in a room with nearly 3,000 other incredibly talented and motivated creatives. I cannot wait!
Wanna take advantage of that post-HOW creative spark on my return? Give me a call (214-217-4299) or send me an email.