Pierre Kleinhouse
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Firecamp Blog

Firecamp Blog: A blog about illustration, design & being a freelance creative.

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated


I thought it would be interesting to share some of the insights I acquired since I graduated. There are things that cannot be learned in class, and one must go out and experience. So here are my top 5 to date:

#1 I Need to Provide What?

This might be my biggest mistake and of many of my friends who studied illustration/design with me: We were taught that we are creatives, that our job is to design and illustrate the best way we can, and that's all that matters. Wrong. Before anything we are service providers! And that's something we didn't talked about much in the academy. When I create an illustration or design for a client, I am first and foremost providing service. Before being an artist, before my typography or composition skills, I am first of all providing a service to a person who has some sort of a challenge. That person pays me to give him the best design\illustration I can create. However he also pays me to answer his emails on time, be cordial, and explain myself and the decisions that led me to my eventual design and why this decisions are good for him. He pays me to guide him, to ask the right questions. Maybe he asks for a poster design but what he actually needs is branding or a promotional video to his product. My goal is to help the customer, to solve his problem, to take a load of his shoulders, so I need to stop observing myself and start looking at him. He might be a shitty customer from hell, that knows nothing about design and art or that he might be stressed to meet a super short deadline – that does not change anything. I can complain and feel sorry for myself for days on end - and it's so easy to do so. That will not help me. If I took this client, and agreed to work with him, I need to provide him a good service and solve his problem. That is all that counts.

Side note: I guess another thing you develop with time is the wisdom to step away from shitty clients/projects and take jobs that you can actually do well. But more on that some other time.

#2 Karma

Well, that's a no brainer; a good job brings good customers. I knew this before, but still, it corresponds to the previous point so bear with me. Once I followed point #1 properly, meaning I provided good service to my customer, I now have a happy customer. He will recommend me to friends and family and return with more work down the road. Now it will be 10 times easier and faster. I know him and his needs. Moreover, his friends, once getting a positive recommendation from him, will reach me much more relaxed and confident to get into work with me. This is what point #1 is the most meaningful thing I have learned since I left the academy.

#3 Drawing All Day

As a student, I had this romantic image: of how it will be to be an independent illustrator and work in a big studio of my own. Get up every morning with my cup of coffee, sit in front of the canvas or the computer – a record is playing in the background – and draw for 9 hours straight. This does not happen in real life. Third of my time as a freelance illustrator is spent on general errands such as meetings, emails, Skype calls, issuing invoices, quotes, stock management, etc…



Wait, did I say a third? I meant half! Fuck my life! If you really want to draw all day become employed (I still think it is better going freelance if you can).

#4 Management

As a freelancer I am actually running a one man (sometimes more) business . This means that I am actually a boss now – Mazal Tov! So before I sit down and paint all day, I need to prioritize task, follow schedule, payments, set goals for the following week, the following month, year, 5 years – and reach those. I learned that I must allocate time each day for managing and planning the future. Moreover, I'm constantly working on my work-system (is that a thing?) , trying to maximize my drawing/designing time  and minimize all else- using apps and documents. Will try to write about my Management tools soon! 

#5 This is Just the Beginning

The more I learned the more I realized there is so much more to learn. Fuck, I hate this damn quote! But it is tough to argue against. I have still much more to learn, however now it is while I work, meet and make errands. – But it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to continue learning and evolve, that is what makes the creative crafts so much fun .If you are still student while reading this – awesome! maybe you cannot appreciate it now (actually I’m sure you are not appreciating it now) but you are in the middle of an amazing period that is supposed to allow you to experience and learn every day, with no customers telling you what to do – this is great. Enjoy it. Make the best of it. You know what?! This is bullshit. It really does not matter if you are students or not, save some time for free personal work, for learning and experiencing new things. Even if you are 15 years in this profession. 


That’s it for this time! Hope it was helpful.

Hey, remember I talked about focusing your creative work on the last blog post? well, it totally worked for me this week- I uploaded a bunch of my black & white illustrations to Behance, and my project got featured! This shit works. 

The purpose of this blog is to share with you as many ideas and thoughts as possible to help you with your own creative journey (damn, I’m nice!).
- So I would love to hear from you folks by e-mail/comments whether this blogpost was useful for you, and if you have questions or ideas for other topics which you would like me to cover? I need new ideas, and it's good for your karma. 

Don't be a stranger: Instagram / Dribbble / Behance