AIGA blueprint: freelance

aiga blueprint: freelance
jason adam, mark leroy, heather parlato, spencer cross & petrula vrontikis. photo by paul dimalanta for aiga

last week, i had a blast participating on the aiga los angeles discussion panel blueprint: freelance! i was in excellent company, in concert with mark leroy of silver echo, spencer cross of tokyofarm, and petrula vrontikis of vrontikis design office, moderated by jason adam of hexanine.

i considered the many freelance debates and debacles i’ve been through in preparation, but it seemed once we got going, we really could have talked for hours. one great thing about running your own business is that you can always learn from 3 other people if you sit down and talk about it. everyone has a different experience or has learned some specific twist that can help ratchet the industry ever closer to best & ideal practices. jason kept us from picking apart the details of every point by moving the discussion along.

we talked about a great many things, and all kinds of questions rolled in. aside from saving your money, increasing your moonlighting till you can’t stand it and attempting to take your employer as a client, i think the most general statement about the great unknown can be summed up by these 3 steps of transitioning to freelance:

1. know yourself first. you will have to search yourself for your personal philosophy about how you want to run your business. you’ll draw on past experiences, books and articles you’ve read, inspiration from mentors, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you want things to go. you’ll decide on your market positioning and your mission statement, and you’ll brand accordingly.

2. get prepared. knowing yourself is a good start, but you’ll want to check with industry references and standards. find out the main styles of business and see where you fall. learn about book keeping, accounting, tax qualifications, project management, legal specifics that pertain to design and intellectual property. learn all this stuff you don’t know!

3. learn on the job. the first two steps only describe the situations you can imagine—but the business world is all ready to throw you a bunch of curve balls you haven’t considered. there will be intricacies you haven’t prepared for, questionable situations that don’t point to a clear answer [or maybe they do and you’re just mired in it enough you can’t see it yet], interactions that make you question a policy or contract line. and so be it. you will learn what you didn’t know, you’ll consult your network, you’ll make a valuable mistake that informs your future, you will grow, and you will keep on truckin!

if we look happy, it’s because none of us have bosses! thanks so much to paul dimalanta for the great photos.

with that said, if you have a specific question about something, email me!. in the meantime, here’s a recap of the resources we all talked about:

jason’s recap:
on the hexanine blog!

mark’s resources:
win without pitching manifesto
the brand gap by marty neumeier

petrula’s resources: class running a design business: freelancing

spencer’s resources:
AIGA professional practices in graphic design by tad crawford
design is a job by mike montiero
the education of a design entrepreneur by steven heller
graphic artists guild handbook: pricing and ethical guildelines
talent is not enough: business secrets for designers by shel perkins
california lawyers for the arts
join the spencer-founded kernspiracy list:

my additions:
creative freelancer conference, blog & events!
the designer’s guide to marketing & pricing by ilise benun & peleg top [check their blog too] blog
smashing magazine’s legal guide for designers, check their blog too!
jessica hische’s thoughts on getting freelance work and the dark art of pricing once you have it.

and a couple of my own interviews:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing

aiga’s blueprint: freelance

i’m both honored and excited to be a panelist in aiga’s blueprint: freelance on march 28 at nextspace in culver city! we’ll be talking about running our business and share the realities of what it’s like to run your own show. this panel is full of great voices in the los angeles design scene, and best suited to designers or related creative professionals who have been curious about starting their own firms and want the scoop from a range of professionals spanning 5 to 20+ years in business.

if this is YOU, register TODAY!

in the meantime, i’ve talked about freelancey stuff before, and if you’re into that sort of thing:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing

damn good

damn good by jason adam & tim lapetino
damn good by jason adam & tim lapetino

my buddies over at hexanine have just released damn good: top desiners discuss their all-time favorite projects with how books. i like this book for a few reasons. for one, it’s really well organized into project type, so each project is in a category with similar work. another thing i enjoy now that i know some of these authors is to see what they would curate as a set of work worth sharing. everyone has an opinion about what’s good, and we can easily look at their own portfolios, but it’s always fun to see what they like and are inspired by.

finally, i liked the feedback feature in this book. it’s not just a selection of nice pieces, it’s a chance to hear from the designers about their favorite parts of each project, which can sometimes reveal aspects readers couldn’t have guessed on first glance.

aiga la: speakeasy poster in damn good
aiga la: speakeasy poster in damn good

i’m honored to be among the group of damned good, here in the form of the aiga la: speakeasy poster, which was a really fun project for the 2010 aiga la fellows gala and celebration. the people who work with the los angeles chapter of aiga are a fantastic group, and this project was a great reflection of that.

see the aiga la fellows gala project here.

event calendar: december 18 – 25, 2011

behance/aiga meetup, december 2011
behance/aiga meetup, december 2011

counting down to christmas, i’ve got a lot on my plate this week, but i’m definitely making time for the behance / aiga december meetup to see all my design buddies and exchange our lovely cards. come on down, it’s free!

event calendar: 14 – 20, november 2011

happy monday 111511
an awesome yellow fungus on a tree stump, elysian park

we’re closing in on your last week to get your seasonal eats recipe guide in time to get cooking for thanksgiving!

among other things, i’ll be hanging out & having drinks tuesday at the behance/AIGA meetup at the york!

event calendar: october 24 – 30, 2011

behance / aiga october 2011 meetup

join the LA design community tuesday, october 25 at mohawk bend for the behance / AIGA october 2011 meetup! i’ll be there, LA-area members of behance and members of AIGA los angeles will all be there, mixing up & hanging out. come on down!

creative inspiration

Loose Leaf – Edition One from Manual on Vimeo.


eureka and codex
new publications eureka & codex, images from respective sites.

more good news for the print’s not dead files, two new publications have emerged this spring worthy of note. eureka magazine, profiled on iso50 is a fresh, clean & colorful approach to scientific matter, while codex is dedicated to typography.

design industry

we’re ramping up for the creative freelancer conference in june. i talk about what a good pep talk does for me while longtime HOW magazine editor, bryn mooth, talks about joining us in her transition to freelance. dang, we’re in good company.

i spent the weekend with students at AIGA LA’s student portfolio day, and met some really nice people and promising designers. here’s one for you guys: 50 things every graphic design student should know.

and one for back to basics / back to awesome, if you’re not asking these questions, or questions like them on every design project, it’s time to start: 5 questions every designer should ask their clients.


fava fennel saute
garnish your fava fennel saute with lemon zest and finishing salt

this week in food, we’re all about fresh fava beans over at LAist, seasonal eats: get fava beans while they’re fresh! and look at this nasturtium love over at hot knives!

finally, in semi-food & semi-hollywood news, cahuenga alley adjacent to where the hollywood farmer’s market sets up has been approved for a makeover?! that would be incredible!

event calendar: april 25 – may 1, 2011

happy monday
the music box keeps the marquee positive between shows

after a week of admin mondays, i’m jumping back in with lots to do. if you’re a student and you’re going to student portfolio day, i’d be happy to review your work!

here’s what i’m doing:

saturday, april 30, 10am – 5pm AIGA LA student portfolio day $15 registration fee, includes lunch.

other events for this week:

tuesday, april 26, 7 – 10pm AIGA LA studio tour: level LA $10 AIGA members / $20 non-members.

thursday, april 28, 7 – 9pm command cxv: cut, copy, paste FREE!

thursday, april 28, 7 – 9pm ideo’s fred dust presents: designed to scale FREE with rsvp.

creative inspiration

CicLAvia 04.10.11 from Nicholas Dahmann on Vimeo.

an estimated 100,000 people came out for cicLAvia this past sunday, were you there? check out LA streetsblog’s 5 cicLAvia stories you shouldn’t miss.


plural wine
plural wine packaging, image: brand session /

i love it when 2 worlds i adore collide. brand session assigned a different pantone chip to each varietal of wine and used it all over the packaging. see the whole profile on


one part great sustainability idea, one part diy, why not cut the top flap of your greeting cards away from the personalized back flap and reuse them as postcards? thanks, greenlagirl!

if you find yourself in need of meditation but not sure where to start, get on this 30-minute method from utne reader.

design industry

a few tools circulating like wildfire around the web this week include what font, a droplet that will allow you to identify fonts on the web, and print magazine’s how to proofread like a pro, because everyone needs to do it, but nobody really thinks they can.

in other news, one day for design is an online open forum to discuss the future of design, and it’s happening all day TODAY!


this week from seasonal eats on LAist: asparagus scallion stir-fry!

as we move into spring, more fresh fare appears in the markets. seasonal eats: fare from the ancients with asparagus! because maybe you didn’t know, but we’ve been eating it as long as recorded history.

it’s also the season to throw all kinds of things in salads. i love this round-up from the kitchn: chicken, tuna, pasta: 15 fresh, filling lunch salads.