Dan's workspace is in his living room - very compact but functional. The majority of the projects that he works on involve the use of the Adobe Suite, thus his workspace needs only be the size of a normal desk. Dan's 'studio setup' and general lifestyle seemed very appealing to me because he controls everything. He doesn't have to answer to anyone above him because he is his own boss.
Today I paid a visit to Saul Studio with Amelia to meet Dan Pilgrim, a self-employed graphic designer based in Headingley. It was a really insightful visit, as I was able to ask really relevant questions about life after graduation and be relaxed around a professional designer. Dan was super friendly and full of great advice which filled me with confidence for the future.
Unfortunately, we were unable to record the visit and the questions we asked, but I retained a lot of the information Dan communicated. Amelia and I took it in turns to ask questions, which he was more than comfortable answering.
How do you acquire clients and keep a steady stream of projects coming in?
'Sell yourself basically! Go to everything, every event, every exhibition, even if it seems pointless. By putting yourself out there physically, you will be able to meet your clients and stick in their mind. Hopefully, you will then get passed on through their recommendations to other clients. Being self-employed, I would say that I am a slight disadvantage in terms of getting myself known and out there. Working in a studio, you are instantly more exposed to briefs and exciting project, working independently from home restricts the amounts of exposure you will get in terms of acquiring contacts.
Also, follow everyone and everything that interests you. The more you follow, the more likely you are to come across opportunities. You really have to make the most of the power of social media as a tool for finding worthwhile projects.'
How do you decide on the hourly rates/charges for the work you undertake?
'It really depends on the nature of the project itself and the client that I am working for. It's about finding a balance in terms of the client's budget and the amount of time I estimate it will take to complete the work. I have done a number of projects free of charge when I was starting out after graduation which isn't a good habit to get into. Once you start finding a steady stream of work, working out pricing tends to become a little easier.
I also like to think ahead in terms of the deliverables. Say I am doing a branding project, and all the client asks for is a logo, I will design the logo but then suggest other areas in which the identity could appear, for example, tote bags, notebooks, beer mats etc etc.'
How do you manage your time and cope with working from home?
'I generally tend to wake up quite early in the morning, tend to my emails for an hour or so and then work up until and after lunch for several hours. I try to have a certain cut off time so that I don't spend my entire day working inside because that can become repetitive and stagnant. In the beginning, I definitely found it difficult to draw the lin between actually relaxing in my flat and doing work, but I quickly realised that that was counter-productive and that there needed to be some form of separation. It definitely takes time to find a rhythm that works efficiently for your practice.'
Do you think business cards are relevant/necessary in today's creative industry?
'That's a good question. It's tough to say because I think it really depends on the type of creative person using the business cards to promote themselves. I am a firm believer in printed material so my honest reaction would be yes, they are relevant. I actually really enjoy collecting beautifully designed, well thought out business cards, purely for aesthetical reasons. I have actually been contemplating designing a new set of cards for myself, and getting them printed really nicely, as a sort of early Christmas present to myself!'
What is your opinion on working for a studio straight after graduation?
'I think it's great if you know that that is what you want to do. I definitely wanted to see if I could survive on my own after uni, so that's why I chose to go freelance straight away after graduating. It was scary, but a good type of scary. Studios are great places to work in especially if you want to stay relevant, keep up to date with current trends and produce highly contemporary work. It isn't impossible to produce that kind of work through working on your own, but there is a certain level of isolation when you are in a position such as mine. Again, working for yourself forces you to become your biggest promoter, constantly putting your name out there in the hope of finding work.'
How do you view the creative scene in Leeds?
'Leeds is an amazing place for creativity. It has a really independent scene which is perfect for people like me who prefer to do things on their own grounds. If you are interested in getting into editorial work, however, I would say London is the place to be purely because there are more opportunities going down there. There is definitely no shortage of graphic design studios in Leeds though and it is expanding all the time, growing as more and more young people flock here from London.'
I also took some business cards along with me and a poster-zine style portfolio featuring some of my most exciting recent work. Dan gave me some positive feedback on my work and mentioned that he really admired the type choice used on my updated personal branding and in a few of my poster briefs completed as part of extended practice.