Since December, 2016, I have been working on cover & layout design for AutoUrge Magazine. This is a free, monthly publication for auto enthusiasts in the STL metro area. I love workingon this project, and will continue to bring you the latest issues via my blog.
The May 2017 issue of AutoUrge Magazine is currently in stores (it's free!) in the St. Louis Metro area. For locations and a digital copy visit www.autourge.com.
Please like & follow us on social media - @autourge
If you are a graphic designer, you probably have a few tools that you feel are invaluable to your success. Here are my top 5 tools for graphic designers.
1. Computer: Whether it's a PC or a Mac, a laptop or a desktop, or both, finding the right computer(s) for your needs is extremely important. It will need to have a decent amount of RAM so that you can tackle many tasks at once. Just try to run more than one Adobe program at the same time as other programs that you may use having less than 4GB of RAM. You aren't going to be a happy designer. My first suggestion is to have at least one desktop with 12GB+ RAM, a decent 1-2GB+ video card, 1TB+ HD space (SSD's are even better), and maybe even a 27" monitor (or two). My second suggestion here is to have at least one laptop to use on the go. Again, look for something with decent RAM and video card. Make sure that your computer(s) has at least Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator on it. I prefer to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud so that I can use all of their programs whenever I need to. Some projects will require more than just Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
2. Drawing Tablet: This tool is amazing. Have you ever tried to illustrate something, or handle little details in a photo in Photoshop with just your mouse or trackpad? You probably have, but have you tried doing the same task with a drawing tablet? If not, you are in for a treat. Not only are these pen & tablet input devices great for illustration, but they're fantastic for photo editing, and especially for those projects where you have to cut parts of a photo out. I tend to have to do that a lot. My recommendation would be a Wacom Intuos Pro. The large one is great, but any size will do. Get whatever fits your budget
3. A Decent Desk & Ergonomic Chair: I have personally been through a ton of chairs, and a few desks, and I can honestly say that these two items are really important for your overall comfort and health. I recently purchased an Aeron Chair, and a Autonomous SmartDesk 2 (Standing and Sitting Desk). I could not believe the difference that these made. Designers tend to sit for the majority of the day, and when you don't have a proper chair, you are going to start to have back pain sooner or later. The desk was really not that expensive at all. The chair is a little bit more of an investment, though, but as soon as I got the chair, I noticed immediately that my back and hip pain were SO much better. These two items are definitely worth it!
4. Sketchbook and/or iPad Pro w/ Apple Pencil: Designers need materials to sketch out ideas. We don't usually just go straight onto the computer and do one design for a client. We tend to sketch ideas out first. Most designers tend to stick with the sketchpad and pencils, but many have also lately starting using the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Some find that it's easier to carry around, and they love how the pencil works with the iPad pro. Unlike older stylus pens, the pencil has very little lag and feels more natural. The iPad Pro won't be for everyone. Some people will still prefer to use paper and pencil, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's all personal preference.
5. Camera: Designers can often times use a LOT of images in their work, and we run into a lot of copyright and other issues when finding images to use. Stock photos can get expensive, and you might not always find the image you're looking for for a project. This is where a camera comes in. If you consider yourself decent at snapping pictures - you don't have to consider yourself a professional photographer, by any means - you can and should take some of your own photos to use in projects. You don't need a top of the line DSLR, but it wouldn't hurt if you can afford one. You can even use your phone if it has a decent camera on it. They even make little lenses that you can snap onto your phone that allows it to take even better photos. Whatever you choose to use, just go out there and use that creative mind of yours to shoot some cool photos to use in current or future projects. You may even have some fun doing it.
One Extra Tip: If you are a freelance designer, all of the "purchases" can be written off from your business taxes at the end of the year. Don't forget to keep track and hold onto receipts.
Do you have an ideas for gadgets or tools that are awesome for freelance graphic designers? Let us all know in the comments.
A Freelance Graphic Designer
In late November, 2015, when I found out that I was expecting my first child, I had to decide that if, once the baby got here, I would continue working freelance at home or stop working for a few years while I dedicated 100% of my time to my baby. Before getting pregnant, I never really thought that I would have to choose between working and being a mom. Honestly, I never knew if becoming a mother was actually going to become reality for me. But there I was, having to make that big decision.
However, it really did not take much time at all to decide that I wanted to really try to continue working part-time at home, AND dedicate my time to my baby. I just didn't know how exactly I was going to pull it off.
I bought a swing to put in my upstairs office, bought a smaller MacBook to make my work a little more portable than it was (the MacBook can actually fit in my diaper bag!), and created a schedule for myself to follow.
In July, 2016, my baby boy, Storm, was born. I took about 2 months off to heal and focus on my newborn, but then I started slowly diving back into work. At first it was a bit hard to adjust, because for the last couple months I literally just took care of my baby and cleaned the house, but I started to get the hang of it after a couple weeks. I stuck with my schedule, not allowing myself more than 10 hours per week for work, then upping it to 15 hours per week, and then to 20 hours, which I am now set at. I worked around when the baby slept. I worked while feeding the baby. I even took my laptop and baby to McDonald's or Panera Bread because the background noise would actually help him sleep better and the free WiFi allowed me to work.
Now, 7 months later, I think that I have found a happy balance between working and devoting time to Storm. Some days are better than others, that's why having flexible clients is important for me. When he's sick or just plain crabby - I can work in the evening when my fiance is home from work. I am so happy that I have found that balance because having something productive to do, other than take care of a baby, is important for me. I didn't want to lose years of my professional life and have to start over again later, but I also didn't want to go back to work full-time and lose valuable time with my baby. I get the best of both worlds, as far as I am concerned.
Is working at home AND being a stay-at-home parent something that everyone can do? Probably not. It does take a huge amount of dedication and time-management skills to pull this off, but if you are willing and able to do so, it can be quite rewarding.
Here are some tips from one stay-at-home + part-time work-at-home mommy:
1. Take a couple months off when you have your baby. This is extremely important because not only will you be exhausted from the constant feeding, changing, etc - but you need time to adjust to being a parent. You can resume work once you feel that you are ready, but definitely take that time to get to know your little one and transition into being a parent.
2. If you don't have a home office, I strongly suggest creating a space where you can work without distractions. I work in my upstairs home office while my baby naps. I either have him up with me strapped in his swing, or I have a video baby monitor with me to know when he wakes up in his crib. I also work in the home office in the evenings when my fiance is taking care of the baby. You can hire a sitter, if you'd like, and work in the home office while he/she watches the baby. Whatever works for you, but dedicate a space that is work-only.
3. Be portable, if your profession allows. I am a graphic designer / virtual assistant, so I can literally work anywhere there is an internet connection, whether that be on the couch, or in a coffee shop, as long as I have the right equipment. It's important for me to get out of the house at least once per day with the baby. Get a laptop if you do not already have one and take it with you if you run errands. You never know when your baby may nap and you will have time to get a few things done. I have even worked in my car while the baby slept in the backseat. I will work anywhere I have to, as long as the baby is comfortable, safe, and I have an internet connection.
4. Don't get angry. It can be really easy to get frustrated and angry at a fussy baby when you have projects to complete, but don't let yourself get to that point. If the baby is fussy or crying, take a break from work for a little bit while you calm him down. Plan to take breaks whenever your baby needs it.
5. Have a plan. It is possible to work at home and take care of a baby, but it takes some adjusting and planning. Don't expect to just dive right into it and have it go perfectly. I also wouldn't plan on being able to work full-time hours and still take care of a baby at the same time. If you want to work full-time at home, you will need to hire a sitter. I worked at home for years before attempting to do this with a baby, and I will not allow myself to take more than 20 hours worth of work per week. I also have my mom come over once per week to help out. Don't stretch yourself too thin.
6. Remember that your baby is priority if you are the sole caretaker at that time. Work can wait if your baby is awake (or when he/she is napping - just have that baby monitor with you). NEVER try to work without your baby in sight. Your child's safety is your number one concern. If you find that you just can not get enough done, hire a babysitter or have a back-up plan (like working in the evening when someone else is there). I can not stress enough that your child's safety is your number ONE priority.
If you find yourself unable to properly care for a baby AND meet the demands of your job, you will have to have a backup plan. Either work less hours, hire a sitter, or reconsider working at home altogether. Some professions and/or clients just do not allow the flexibility that you need.
7. Be honest with your bosses or clients. I always tell my clients ahead of time that I am a work-at-home parent and that my time has to be flexible. You would be surprised how many clients do not mind at all, as long as you meet deadlines (this is where proper planning and schedules come into play a lot).
8. Learn to work one-handed. Aside from a few things that I work on that require a lot of typing, most of my work can actually be done one-handed while I feed the baby or let him nap on me.
9. Take time for yourself - away from the baby, and away from work. It's really easy to get sucked into the never-ending work, baby, work, baby cycle, but for your own health and sanity, take time for yourself at least once per day. Give the baby to your partner, or hire a sitter if you have to, but get away from it. Take a long bath, play a video game, take a walk by yourself...anything to get some you time.
10. Understand that you're not going to have it "all together" all the time. Your house may get messy. You're not going to make every social event you're invited to. You may not have the money to live the lifestyle you were used to before the baby. No one has it all together. We all just do our best with what we have.
One extra tip: Know when it's time to try something else. Working at home with a baby is definitely not for everyone, and that doesn't make you a lesser person. You may learn that you would prefer to work those few hours away from the baby to clear your head and keep your sanity. That's okay. You may realize that you want to quit work altogether and become a stay-at-home parent. That's okay, too. You may even find that your decision will change as your child grows. Decide what is best for you and own it, rock it. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to things like this. Do what is best for you and your family.
I am living proof that you can work-at-home (part-time) AND be a stay-at-home parent, and I am extremely lucky to have found work and clients that allow me to be flexible enough to do both. It just takes planning, patience, and a lot of dedication. I hope these tips help. If you have any tips that you think should be added to this list, leave a comment below.
A Proud Work-at-Home Mommy
Happy 2017 everyone! I hope that everyone had a great holiday season and are excited to get back to work as much as I am!
Christmas was a really special time for my family. First, it was my son Storm's first Christmas! He was absolutely spoiled by my family and friends, but that's completely okay with me! In fact, his daddy and I spoiled him a bit, too. It was such a happy time for us. I love watching his face light up when he sees and does knew things, and there were a ton of new things during the holidays for him to experience. Storm also just saw his first snowfall, but it was only an inch or so, and he was less than interested. Hah!
I am so excited for the new year. I always love passing the winter solstice and seeing the days slowly (very slowly it seems sometimes) get longer. Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of Winter. I don't care for short days, as having the natural light come through the windows in my home instantly puts me in a good mood, and we just don't have as much of that in the Winter months. However, we are headed in the right direction, and in a couple short months Spring will be here! I am so looking forward to that!
Anyway, I just wanted to wish all of you a very happy, joyful, prosperous 2017. As always, I look forward to future projects and I am just really happy to be back at work creating beautiful things!
Until next time,
Normally, I do not do blog entries, or social media shoutouts to websites. Although there are a ton of amazing, creative, innovative, useful websites out there, I just do not tend to take the time to write about them.
I have to break that trend and tell everyone about this new website I found recently. That website is Unsplash.
This website contains a ton of fantastic HD photos that are 100% free to use, even commercially. <Please see image above.> They explain on their website,
"All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash."
For a designer, or anyone else having to rely on stock photography often vafor projects, this is a priceless (lol free) tool that brings professional photos that we can use to our fingertips without complicated licenses or high price tags.
I am very happy to have found this website, and I hope you all find it as useful as I do.
Are there any resources that you have found to be useful recently? Please leave a comment below and share it.
Here is a quick new logo for the band Ever More Broken (https://www.facebook.com/EverMoreBrokenBand). I hope you guys enjoy it!
On July 15, 2016, my son Christopher Storm entered the world. David and I could not be happier! Christopher and I are doing great. I am healing well, and plan on being back to work the first week of September.
I have started working on adding a store to this website, as a way to quickly and easily order services from me. Not only will I have the store on this website, but I will also be selling products on Etsy in the months to come. These will be pre-designed products that have the look and feel of custom work, but at a much better price. Keep checking back for updates as I plan to have our services and Etsy stores up and running soon!
It's time to let everyone know the good news that I promised in December. My fiancé, David, and I are expecting our first child in July. Everything has been going great so far. I am not planning to be away from work for very long, as almost everything I do is already out of my home office. I will definitely keep all of my clients updated as the due date gets closer.
Thank you all for your support!
Victoria (Tori) is a freelance graphic designer located just outside of St. Louis, Mo.