Your checklist for entering the ‘real world’ as a designer (or other creative entrepreneur)

I live by lists and I love having a detailed plan of attack for the big goals in my life. I usually have an overall task list which contains big goals and spans the course of a year, and then small daily task lists that help me accomplish the larger ones. Just something to help me keep putting one step in front of the other.

When I was starting out as an aspiring surface pattern designer, I think having a checklist would have been incredibly helpful. Everyone's story and timeline will be different, and some of you will add and take away from this list, but here's my best effort at a checklist for entering the 'real world' as a designer, or any other creative entrepreneur for that matter!

The Checklist:

+ The Whole Package: Start working on the 'whole package'. Unfortunately, beautiful work by itself just isn't enough anymore. What else do you have to offer? This is where an online following will help you. If you haven't already, be sure to start social media accounts with your design name (I would suggest Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest) and start posting to them regularly. Do your homework and make them look cohesive. A professional website and journal or blog will also help build your brand.

+ An eMail List: nothing is more important to your business than a thriving email list. If you don't have one already, start one today and offer a worthy 'freebie' for anyone who joins. Growing a list is the #1 thing I wish I had started to do earlier!

+ Your Bio: Consider having a photo shoot in your work space so that you have several good bio images to use in your online spaces. People want to connect to YOU, the person behind the business! Write a short bio, possibly in 3rd person to use when needed.

+ Logo: Once you get rolling, it's nice to keep a consistent brand appearance, so I suggest nailing down a logo and brand name early on in the process. This will benefit your whole package and let people know that you're serious and professional (fake it till you make it, you know?!).

+ Work hours: No one will take you seriously until you start taking yourself seriously. Though it may seem that you're at home all day and without a 'real job', you are on a mission and you're the only one who's in charge of it. Giving yourself office hours will help others take you more seriously, as well. This may look like turning down brunch dates with friends or telling family that you'll have to call them later.

+ Signature style: If someones ask, "What is your style?", can you describe it without hesitation? Nailing down your signature style and being able to communicate it easily is important in the 'real world'. Even though this one seems unique to designers, it can be for anything - flower shops, fabric stores, cake decorators. What makes you, uniquely YOU?

+ A portfolio or resume: For many, this is the key that opens the door into the 'real world'. Having a killer portfolio or resume is everything. If this step feels daunting to you- it's something I'll cover in depth in the Immersion Course.

+ Your LIST: Once you have a portfolio or resume ready, it's time to make your list. You know the one - it holds every potential company, collaborator or client you would love to work with. Make a list, start filling in their contact info and start getting in touch with them.

+ Courage: The last thing you must have is courage. This is going to be scary, overwhelming, nerve wracking. But if you can just find a few seconds of courage to introduce yourself, dial a number or show someone your work, your life could be changed forever. Mine was!

Lots of love, Bonnie

Psst.. Enrollment opens February 19th! Surface Pattern Design Immersion is an 8-week Online training program for creatives who want to learn Adobe Illustrator, surface design and the business of how to become a licensing artist. It’s a completely comprehensive course, designed to give you a unique and immersive experience into the world of Surface Pattern Design. Because we all know, the best way to accomplish your BIG goals is to immerse yourself in the learning, the industry and in the community.


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  • Hi. I found this on Pinterest. Thankyou for your encouraging words. I’m having to slip in my creativity time between working and family commitments. I have a half dead commuter that Photoshop just about works on. But I’m managing to get some design done on it. And this week I was very brave and started to show friends and family what I have been up too. My husband was so impressed he said he might take our daughter away to Grandma’s every school holiday so I can get on. It’s not much but it’s a start. Hopefully will get there eventually. Finding your words made me even more sure I need to keep pressing forward as much as I can, when I can. I’m a long way from launching a business but these points are very helpful. Hopefully when we get in a better place financially and I get a new computer . I would enjoy learning how to use illustrator.