Time is not our currency. Expertise is

We are experts in what we do because we are experienced in our field. The more we do, the more original our work becomes and the faster we get results. In short, we are getting better and better.

Therefore, we can’t calculate our fee by the hour. Our expertise makes us valuable to the client – not our time.

Five years ago, I developed about 4 to 5 conceptual illustration ideas in four days. Today, I draw up to 20 in two days. If I calculated per hour, I would be penalized for getting better.

The client hires our service because he has a problem he needs us to solve (illustrative or otherwise). If we present him a solution in two days instead of four, that’s added value. Apart from the higher quality and number of alternatives, we give him something much more precious: time.

Research is like falling in love

When we meet someone with whom we feel butterflies in our stomach, we want to know everything about the person. We want to be with them day and night. Only time will tell whether love will develop from this or whether we will go our separate ways again. If we have a brilliant idea for an app, a Netflix series, or a comic, the warm flickering behind our chest starts. We think about it every spare minute, gather information, and can’t wait to see where the journey takes us. Both the research and the falling in love should never be seen as wasted time, just because nothing turned out for eternity after all. We just keep searching until we find the right one. 

Good ideas want to be found

Good ideas don’t come to us and don’t just strike us like lightning. Good ideas want to be found. They hide behind the obvious, the mundane, the banal. They lie beneath the surface.

To find them, we have to dig. Sometimes with our bare hands. As gold diggers, we work our way through the surface. In the search, we can despair, for it is arduous and sweaty. Sometimes we come across a lump of gold, only to realize that it’s just a light-colored clod of the earth. We want to give up, but we can’t. We know it must be here somewhere. So we keep digging and digging until we reach the place where no one has been before. Then we climb back up and show the world our treasure. 

You wanted a bike, right? Now pedal!

We have our minds set on it: We want to apply to grad school, write our novel, develop the app, start the relief effort, or plan our wedding. Our mission is clear. Suddenly, something magical happens: tedious work turns into mission tasks under the light of our motivation and determination for the major goal.

My mission was: I want to do illustrations for a living. I quickly realized that making “beautiful” drawings wasn’t enough. I needed a website, used social networks, designed advertising materials, wrote my first invoices, improved my English, and visited fairs and events. I even picked up the phone to call agencies and drove to distant cities to deliver my postcards in person. That’s something I would never have done before. Suddenly, I was a programmer, social media expert, graphic designer, salesman, and I read books only in English.

Each task on its own would not have brought me joy. On the contrary, I would have hated them. But since they served my mission, all negative feelings disappeared. I just did it.

In Italy there is a saying, “Hai voluto la bicicletta? Adesso pedala.”, “You wanted a bike, right? Now pedal!” I used to roll my eyes every time my father said this. But it just seems to be true: We can’t have one without the other. And when it’s blowing the warm summer wind in your face, pedaling is fun, too.

Using time pressure as a motivational power-up

In video games, a power-up temporarily strengthens the player. The most famous one is the mushroom in Super Mario. Time pressure can be our power-up.

Let’s say we have an appointment at the bank in 45 minutes. If we subtract 15 minutes for the trip, we have 30 minutes left. We often fritter away this precious time until the appointment. We say, “It’s not worth it to start something new now,” and bang goes Youtube. But that short time can be our mushroom. We can accomplish so much in 30 minutes, whether it’s work or personal activities like exercise or household chores.

The best part is that we always keep an eye on the clock, which boosts our concentration. I am often amazed that I can accomplish something in an intense 30 minutes that usually takes much more time, like writing this post, for example. 

The art of Email correspondence: three types of interlocutors

The art of email communication can easily be underestimated. Ideally, reading and writing feel like a pleasant face-to-face conversation. We remain friendly at all times. We keep our sentences short and simple by avoiding filler words and refraining from using unnecessary technical terms. Since we lack gestures and facial expressions, we avoid potentially misunderstandable language. Irony, sarcasm, and sometimes even a joking comment can quickly be taken the wrong way. Unlike in verbal conversation, we can change, adapt or delete what we just wrote. We use this advantage.

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The power of creating a series of work

“Do it once to lose the fear of it. Do it twice to understand how it works. Do it three times to see if you even want to do it.”

Chinese proverb

To find your own style, a series of work on a particular subject is mainly, but not only valuable in illustration. Whether for the application portfolio for college or for the first job afterward. Series not only help us in our personal development, but they also say a lot about ourselves. More about this topic soon.

Video recommendation: “How do I raise prices without losing clients” by The Futur

Click on the image or see the video here

A helpful video by the Futur on the challenging topic of pricing or raising prices. In the conversation are Chris Do (the Futur), Joel Pilger (business coach), and Maryia Bulka (illustrator). Among other things, they talk about how to raise the pricing for existing and new clients, and there is an exciting role-play between client and contractor. The following stuck with me:

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Good criticism is like medicine

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At first, it tastes bitter, and you want to spit it out. But once it is down, it works wonders.

This only applies to constructive criticism. Criticism has the sole purpose of bringing the criticized person closer to her goal. This can be during the logo design process, the realization of a business idea, or the improvement of shooting techniques in football.

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WHY – Three mighty letters to elevate or unmask an idea

“Why” questions shake the core of an idea and determine if it will stand afterward. “Why did you use that color?”, “Why did you use that font and not this one?”, “Why that particular format?”. They are the first stress test for an idea, and at the same time, the viewer gets a first impression of the thought processes of the creator. These can serve as a basis for both sides before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Seek solitude to unleash creativity and to make outstanding work

There is a fundamental difference between loneliness and solitude: Loneliness is a state that is always related to our fellow human beings. Being stranded on an island, cut off from all people, makes us feel lonely. We can also feel loneliness even though we are with or surrounded by other people. For example, we can be out with our friends and still feel lonely because we lack a partner. We can move to a foreign city to study and still feel lonely, even though we meet dozens of other students every day. Loneliness has nothing to do with ourselves.

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Got a new commission? 7 Reasons why we should jump in immediately

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We just received a new job request? Let’s start immediately. Let’s not procrastinate. Let’s not put it off. Even if we only spend a minute. By doing so, we make our lives so much easier. Waiting for the right time or inspiration is for amateurs. We are professionals. We get to work. Here are seven reasons why we should always start immediately:

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