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Advice

Helena Price on Revelations

The only way to become “successful” is to define what success actually means to you — and it should be different for everyone.

Helena Price is a photographer in San Francisco who has worked with clients such as Dropbox, Google, and Uber. In her talk with Creative Mornings, she offers so many amazing nuggets of wisdom on how she dropped a successful career in Tech to become a photographer, and what she learned from the experience.

Check out Helena’s beautiful photography here

Head over to Creative Mornings for more inspiring talks and see how you can get involved in the Creative Mornings community in your city!

Artist Profile

Off the Deep End with POOLSF

Illustration might just be better than sex. Or, maybe not. But what if, right?

Michael Jeter, the creative buff of PoolSF seems to think so- and with the level he takes his work to, it certainly starts to make you think. PoolSF is a boutique studio in San Francisco that just launched in March of 2015, and already boasts a host of big name clients like Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and Whole Foods. I met with Michael Jeter to get some answers on what goes into the secret sauce.

How did you get your agency, POOL started? What was the driving force, and what have you taken from the experience so far of running your own business?

POOL was the process of years of figuring out what it meant to be the happiest possible while working. It took quite a few years to fully understand that I craved complete freedom. I have co-owned two studios previously, and while they were amazing times in my life, I found myself feeling too confined by other people’s rules and ideas about how things are supposed to work. Last year i had found myself accidentally stuck in a work situation where I was depressed and very angry. Two things of which are not central to my personality. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, and on paper it really didn’t make sense why I was struggling so deeply. But, I had just made a big life decision based on fear. I had hitched myself to a group of good people, but not because it made sense for what i wanted in my life and my art. I did it because I felt like I wasn’t capable of doing it all on my own. I have a kid and a wife. Shit man, thats a lot of pressure. Or at least that’s how it felt.

The world really has this crazy power to make you feel like you have to conform to the machine, to do things how they are “supposed to be done”. 

Business drones humming around doing business things and making business decisions. Round peg, round hole. It’s just how it’s supposed to be done sir. Oh no! I’ve worked myself up into a rant again. Sorry, I get passionate about this shit. Anyway, that’s a quick round of backstory to what has all led up to POOL. In January of 2015 I had done of a lot of soul-searching and thinking about what this whole creative job thing should be. I wondered if i should join the ranks at a tech company because let’s face it, there is a whole lot of money there.

Ultimately money has never done it for me though. I knew another life decision based on money would just lead to more heartache.

So i decided to continue my journey of learning how to use my weird brain and clunky style to make things that I wanted to make. I started talking to my wife Candace about some form of collaboration. We discussed what that might look like. We decided that POOL would be driven by my freelance pursuits as a creative studio, and that we would work together on the off hours to build something just for us. She will be the driving force for our more cultural endeavors. Together we will start building out a brand based around the weird shit that makes us happy. So in March of 2015, POOL was born. It has been fantastic. This will be the first time in my life where I’m so busy that I am able to start looking 4 or so months into the future for what may come next. That has been such a fortunate feeling as I finally feel like I’m steering this ship instead of going wherever the current takes me.

 

What’s your process? How do churn out your amazing crazy ideas?

Oh man, what a question. First off, it’s a dream come true to hear that my work even resonates with people. It’s funny because for so many years one of my main goals was to make work that got noticed in the industry. But it really wasn’t until after I stopped giving a shit about how other designers and illustrators felt about my work that I actually started creating work that stood on its own and I feel truly proud of. Basically what that means is that I have learned how to get out of my own way. I’m working on dissolving my ego as much as possible. Actually, I’m still learning that part, but that is a part of the journey.

My ideas on process are a bit out there right now, and I have recently jettisoned how I’ve been doing things in search for a more honest creative situation with my client and collaborators.

I’m no longer concerning myself with a set of rules that dictate a series of events in order to ensure the same outcome as before.

What works the best for me is sitting still and just listening. Listening in a way that pushes away any preconceived notions of what things should be. I listen to the client and try to truly understand their motivations. It takes some time to really understand what the client needs as opposed to what they say they want. This isn’t to say that clients aren’t able to know what they need. There are many enlightened clients out there. I’ve just noticed over the years that there are many forces at play when money is involved. Someone’s boss may have said something a year ago that may have been translated from another person or over email, and makes its way into a conversation and reformulated in a meeting and a then a brief is constructed with a lot of baggage that may not even be apparent. That brief is then a list of demands in some ways. It’s not a declaration of possibilities, it’s a hope that nothing will go wrong. Many times its a measuring stick for what failure looks like. If all of the boxes aren’t checked, you have failed. Creative work just shouldn’t work that way. And i think most of the true success you see out there comes from people who have figured out how to overcome that paradigm.

After i have talked with the client it is time to listen to myself. This is the weird part that is hard to talk about without sounding the like a total weirdo. I believe that our thoughts are not necessarily our own. If you really think about it, we do not choose our thoughts, they just appear and disappear somehow. We do not choose who we love, or know why we like some music more than others.

Ideas become our own only when we at some point come to acknowledge them within our brain and then we translate them as our thoughts.

To me it seems like our brains are antennas of some sort and over the years we have learned how to tune some things in and other things out. The more we tune out, the less possibilities are available to us. The more open we are, the more we start to see the vastness of possibilities. That is where i want to exist, open to all of the possibilities of a project as i start it. I think from there the work we do becomes uniquely our own because of our specific brand of distortion. We have to take this thing in our head that somehow showed itself to us, and then make it exist physically in front of the eyes of others. A lot happens in the process that is somewhat out of our control. A lot of distortion happens from brain to pen to paper.

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So, ultimately the question is how do I do it my way? We have been so trained by our egos to want people to hold us in high regard for the quality of our output, when ultimately I think it’s very out of our control. I think all of my work is in essence an accident. An accident that I have learned how to trust and understand, but an accident none-the-less. Each time I start a project, I know the outcome will be a complete surprise to me. The only thing that is concrete is that over the years I have put an insane amount of time into learning some skills that ensure some sort of creative outcome. I know that when an idea is needed, one will come. Sometimes many ideas will come, and over the years I have honed some sort of taste that helps me choose which idea will probably work best in the given situation. I also know that once the idea comes, my personal brand of distortion will yield something that people can identify with on some level.

Ultimately, everything I’ve just said could be total bullshit. I’m open to that. But for now, as a “process” it has allowed for a much less stressful and hard creative situation. I don’t have to worry or fret about coming up with something great. I don’t need to care about how it fits in with current trends or tastes. I just need to trust that it will be right for the job and right for me, and that is really what people respond to anyway. Your audience can tell if what you made has heart or not. If it has heart, they will undoubtedly support it.

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What advice would you give creatives looking to go out and start their own venture?

Don’t do it… haha, just kidding. That one is a hard question really. If you hate your life because your job makes you feel like life is dull and boring then you need to do something different. That may mean going out on your own. It may mean that you should find a job more suited to you. I think ultimately it isn’t really a choice. If you are meant to be on your own, you will be forced into that situation somehow. For me, I tried so hard not to be alone for so long. I really didn’t have a desire to be on my own. It was only after realizing that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try to see what my work would be like without the friction of others that i was like, “fine, fuck it, I’ll go out on my own.” For now, its the best thing I’ve ever done. But at the same time I have to get my books in order and make sure that I’m doing the right thing with taxes and saving for retirement and college for my kid. I have to either do it myself or pay people to do it. God, its complex and not what i’m good at. But the on the other hand, i’m going surfing tomorrow morning before I start illustrating for my next animation, so I leave you with my shoulders shrugged high, and my face contorted in a way that means “i don’t know man, it could be amazing, so you should probably try it and see for yourself.”

Check out POOLSF for more of their compelling work.

Advice

Banish Your Inner Critic

Just the other night I had the pleasure of attending Cascade SF, an event here in SF for creatives to network, and get one on one speed mentoring from leaders in the industry. A really awesome talk is always included at the end, with some pretty engaging themes. This time the theme was “Banish Your Inner Critic” by Denise Jacobs, an author, speaker, and creative evangelist. Jacobs has given talks at events like TedX and SXSW, so it was awesome to see her talk in such an intimate space like Cascade! If you happen to live or travel often in SF, do yourself a favor and attend a Cascade event.

Denise Jacob’s theme resonated so much with me. I’m definitely a self identified perfectionist, and I grew up with the conditioning that whatever I’m achieving is never good enough. (Cause: Asian mom) While this mentality brings out the high achiever in us, sometimes we really need a break from ourselves! Not only that, it may actually hurt our creativity. How many times have you felt a sea of dread wash over you just before you begin a project, as a result of the unrealistic expectation of yourself?

I thought I’d share some valuable advice that Denise pointed out, as I know so many creatives who struggle with their inner critic!

Denise started off her talk about getting her first big break with getting a book deal. Along with the elated excitement came the relentless voices inside her head, telling her that she wasn’t qualified enough, that someone else could do it better- that everyone would find out she was a fake!

Does that sound familiar?

After bawling (actual word used) for two days straight, Denise told us she set some crazy expectations for herself- she was going to finish her book in just four months. She worked herself crazy, and eventually burned out. She became depressed and suffered anxiety. Even worse, she couldn’t find her creative expression.

The end.

But no, wait! Realizing that fear really means “false evidence appearing real” OR “fuck everything and run!” Working off of fear gets you nowhere. This is what Jacobs learned about banishing her inner critic.

Listen for internal talk

It’s all about the language you use inside your head. Thoughts like “I’m so busy!” deepens the stress. Thinking words like “I should have done more by now” creates a mentality that you don’t have control over the situation. Try thinking “I’m going to do this much by this deadline” sets a goal, and gives the power right back to you!

Say NO to comparing yourself.

All we see when we compare ourselves is the tip of the iceberg of that person. Behind the exterior is all the icky struggle, sweat, blood, adversity, and who knows what else. The same goes for you. In this culture of social media, it’s easy to only see the very tip of the iceberg- a very crafted persona. This is your new mantra: “I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet!”

Imposter syndrome is very real.

People with imposter syndrome are actually the qualified, competent ones. Let that roll around in your head a bit. Denise gave us a great example- Jerry Seinfeld quoted, “I don’t have what these people want to see- they want to see a funny guy! That’s not me.” Jerry Seinfeld feels this way, yet he’s a legendary comedian! Remember your achievements. Have reminders of personal success at your fingertips, and be proud!

Everything must be flawless!…So I’ll do it tomorrow.

Sound like you? Perfectionism and procrastination is like a feedback loop. They feed off each other! Perfectionists focus on the finished product, rather than the process. A great experiment between two groups of pottery students articulate the fault of perfectionism so perfectly. The experiment divided pottery students into two groups- one group was given the task to create a single perfect pot.  The other group was tasked with creating as many pots as they could! While the first group suffered anxiety from the expectation and came out with nothing, the second group, through all the practice, came out with beautiful pottery.

You have nothing to prove to anybody.

Decouple your performance from who you are! And remember, fear is not real. Embrace failure, because that’s how you learn. Everything comes from humble beginnings.

Check out  http://denisejacobs.com/ and look out for her new book, “Banish Your Inner Critic” coming out soon!

For more insight on what Denise shared with us at Cascade, you can view her slide presentation here.

Advice

8 Golden Rules for a Successful Freelance Career

I’ve been a big fan of the Red Lemon Club  for some time, and it has been pretty cool to see Alex Mathers grow into quite the influencer over the years. I recently picked up his book, “How to Gain Illustration Clients” and it’s the kind of gold they don’t exactly teach you in art school. In particular, I love the 8 rules Alex outlined for having a successful freelance career. Here they are, not quite verbatim, but very much on point!

 

The importance of hustle

Getting customers, landing work, interacting with the network just takes work. Don’t get too complacent! Too many people underestimate how much work and consistent, plentiful action your illustration career requires. The competing noise of social media means you need to provide more value, and target your audience. Don’t worry about being pushy, or over the top. There’s no such thing as being seen too much as a brand. Don’t compete, dominate.

 

Discomfort is inevitable

Putting in the research, and reaching out is uncomfortable. If you want to build a valuable network, you need to rise above the conditioning of not taking social risks. If your heart is pounding, you are doing the right thing. Have the mindset of a fighter. Are you a spectator, or a warrior?

 

Have more options than you need

When you have client work, you take less action to market yourself. You still need to take action! Too many people try to generate clients when they’re panicking. It’s best to have as options as possible. Get comfortable with rejecting clients, because you are unavailable, and in high demand. Most of these clients will come back down the line if you keep in touch.

 

Make others look good

Help companies and people look good. People will feel the need to reciprocate. Do this, and you will be awarded in life with a great value network. When connecting with a prospect, think about how you can help them in some way.

 

The importance of follow up

Always keep a dialog! Follow Up, even if you don’t get a response. Sometimes you have a reach out a few times! Persistence turns everyone into an opportunity. Always be pushing to generate a close. Push your sales on people who benefit from you. If you annoy some people, who cares??

 

Consistency

Consistently market your work, and your exposure will gradually build up. Do the right things consistently, even if it might not feel like you’re going anywhere. The number of opportunities from a large social network base is huge. But this means commitment.

 

Everyone is a potential lead

Everyone will point to a lead. If someone doesn’t appear to bring a prospect immediately, we neglect them, but we should really nurture the relationship. Everyone you know can somehow link you to valuable leads or resources. For example, what do you do if you have only one contact? You get creative. That one contact could have someone in their network who needs your services. If you do good work for them, they tell their network-and there just might be someone there who is your dream network. Nurture your relationships with a smaller selection of contacts.

 

Keep track

The real winners keep track of everything that gets you closer to a deal. Mark cold emails, tweets, instagram, and track and connect the results. You want to know what works, so you can maximize growth.

I’ve started to follow these and the results have been great. If you want to keep drawing and get paid for it, you have to do the grunt work. Get a free sample of “How to Get Illustration Clients”  , available on audio and PDF.