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Hey Mel. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed on CrazyLeaf Design Blog. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers ?
Hi, my name is Mel Ndiweni, design alias Acuity. I’m a 22 year old freelance designer in London, United Kingdom
How long have you been freelancing & why did you decide to freelance ?
I have been a freelance web designe at what I would call a serious level for roughly 18 months but I did my first freelance job about 3 or 4 years ago and dabbled since then, making a gradual progression to where I am now; having set up Acuity Designs with my partner in crime Ashley Bloom.
How did you market yourself (find design work/new clients) in the beginning ?
I began by doing painted murals and scenes at local schools and by doing CD/DVD print artwork for musicians within local urban music scenes. Marketing in the beginning was definitely reliant on a referral scheme. i.e completing work to the highest possible standard and having other musicians call me about my services.
For the murals, I took photos of completed work and created a brochure of work and respective school testimonials. this worked great, as headmasters and principles want what every school around them has. I think a big factor, which I can only see in hindsight for finding the amount of work I did at that stage was due to under-pricing my services. That I think came with a certain naivety as to what one could charge for design work, due to age and inexperience.
How do you market yourself (find design work) now ?
Finding work now and promotion is a militant routine of weekly and daily tasks. We split the workload. At least once a week, we have a cold calling routine; where we call around 15-20 local small businesses offering service and around 10 design agencies asking if they need to outsource work. Furthermore engaging in the online community of designers has a good unexpected advantage of work.
Engaging in the online community is also essential to us. Posting on forums and blogs and generally just interacting is a big part of letting people we know we exist. A lot of jobs come from friends in the community who are looking at outsourcing work, or who know our strengths and refer people to us. Last month, we printed approximately 150 letters in custom envelopes and hand delivered them over the course of a fortnight to local businesses; that worked out absolutely brilliantly.
The key for us was phoning before pretending to be customers and finding out the names of their heads of marketing/advertising/IT/promotion and who the owners where. This enabled us to place a named addressee on the envelopes! Personal touches! We’re big believers in the power of google; around 40% of our work comes from google. Thus seeking out ways to get ourselves higher in searches is a big part of our strategy.
How did you decide what to charge ? What was the process ?
Working out what to charge came with a solid week of research after receiving a client from a mid-sized corporate office astounded that we could do the work they required at such a cheap price. Looking at forums and online resources about the subject helped. I compiled a list of online resources that we used to determine my pricing structure. Furthermore, good old fashioned sneakiness was a key. Sending out e-mails for fake projects to various agencies and freelancers helped us to ensure we were competitively priced as well…
What type of work do you do? (design for print, web, multimedia etc)
We offer a variety of services including logo design; design for print; illustration; web design (flash and html); aswell as recently adding photography to the list.
You offer a lot of services, do you have a favourite field?
I’m getting more and more interested in logo design, but my personal passion is photography.
You have received a lot of publication and exposure due to your illustration and photography work, what are your favorite pieces?
Our favorite illustration and photography pieces are Disaster, Mc Escher 2009, Bank Of England, LeadenHall Market respectively.
What would be your perfect dream project ?
A perfect dream for us, would be something that involved every aspect of our cappilities from photography to flash website design but the key to the dream is that it would be something that every single person in the world would see. What the actual project could be, I have no idea!..
What blogs, magazines, podcasts etc do you subscribe to ?
Of course crazyleaf!, david airey, smashing mag, webdesignerhelp, also active on a lot of forums so pick up a lot of stuff from there. Not to forget to mention twitter; I love the thing, follow us at http://www.twitter.com/AcuityDesigns. I also, pick up copies of Digital Photography and Photoshop Creative every month.
How do you generate ideas/what techniques do you use to stimulate creativity ?
Sometimes I get ideas from just life in general, but quite often it starts with a lil research into what I want to achieve. Maybe a book on cd/dvd packaging and then a light bulb will hit me..
What about the business side of things, accounting, invoicing, bookkeeping, how do you manage it ?
For big decisions we use the free business consultancy at our bank for the nitty gritty we employ an accountant at a discounted rate as hes a family friend. But for day to day things, we have a complicated Excel Spreadsheet and we recently signed up to Freshbooks, just trial running it for the next month or so.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting out freelancing ?
Work is out there. You have to find it. Or you’ll stagnate into the heap of people who seem to think that its impossible to find work. It’s just a hard struggle that demands discipline. That sounds a lot colder and ruthless than I mean it!
Where can we see some of your work (URL)?
On our website at www.acuitydesigns.net