A little more than a year ago I sat down and wrote out a list of things that I needed to do in order to measure my daily success. I had been working at Apple Inc. for almost four years and with the support of my family, peers, and friends was ready to make a jump—I was going to quit my job.
Having tried to work as an independent designer in the past (and failing pretty miserably) I knew I had to make set a bold new vision. The goals I created for myself were this:
1. Be Available
5. Share Knowledge Freely
Last week I shared my thoughts on what it means for me to "be available" in my work and how that relates to my measured daily success. Over the next three weeks I'll continue to share more about each list item—this week: Engage.
It started with a small two-inch sticker with "You're Just My Type" written on the face. The idea was simple, give away free stickers to anyone that wanted them (yourejustmytype.com) anywhere in the world. You would be surprised at how hard it is to give away free stuff. What I was most surprised at however is how quickly the idea spread.
When I quit my job I knew I needed to do something to capture some attention and giving away free stuff seemed like a good start. Yourejustmytype.com was never really about the stickers themselves—they're cheap vinyl, the lettering is scribbled, and they're kind of a pinkish/red color that your grandma might wear on her lips. What happened though was that I gave a few away to friends and asked them not to stick them places around town, but pass along one to another friend, and so on...
Before I knew it, my inbox was flooded with requests to ship stickers all around the world. I've sent them to Pakistan, New Zealand, Russia, China, India, Eastern and Western Europe, and all over America.
It was such a small thing for me to do—the cost did add up as I was ordering hundreds of stickers in bulk and it was about $1/piece to ship one envelope internationally, but to me it was worth it.
For me it was a way to engage with people I would never be able to reach otherwise and mostly a way to tell a little about myself. I like meeting new people, I like sharing things, and I like encouraging others to be creative and to share their creativity with the world.
Earning trust is like making small deposits into a savings account. At first you're going to put just a little bit in and do your best to make a habit of it. Over time that amount will accrue and when you need to make a withdrawal you have a sizable sum to utilize.
I think about trust and people the same way, not that they are simply utilitarian, but that every day you have an opportunity to make little deposits into others lives. It could be sharing a cup of coffee, giving someone a ride, or even simply saying hello while passing in the hallway.
The more times you can genuinely share yourself with the world around you, the more your trust bank will build up and when you really need it, there will be enough of a sum to make a withdrawal from.
In closing, I believe this is closely related to how I gain clients. I do not participate in or manage any direct marketing. I don't cold call people, email businesses, or send flyers near and far advertising my services as a designer.
What I do, however, is make stuff. One of my dot-comrades Blaine Hogan, an art director in Chicago, IL, once shared "if you wait for the client's brief to hit your desk to get started on your work, you're already too late."
There is a rather large demand for good design in the world, I know you're aware, but simply launching an online portfolio, updating your resume, and spending hours on LinkedIn is not going to cut it—if you want people to hire your services, you must be engaging.
Start now, don't wait any longer. Figure out what you want to see in the world and then go make that! After all, you never know who's watching.
If you have questions or comments about stickers to Pakistan, creating art, or engaging with your world, I'd love to hear from you—email me firstname.lastname@example.org.