I always love learning from other professionals in the industry, so I try to reach out and speak with them whenever I get a chance.  6PM is a sister website of Zappos, and I was able to speak with a graphic designer about his professional experiences.

Q: Tell me about your professional experience.  How long have you worked with 6PM?

I’ve been working for 6PM for over 7 years and worked as freelancer for several years before that.

Q: What types of designs do you create on a regular basis?

Rather than solely designing one type of graphic (email blasts, advertisements, promotional graphics, etc.) I design a combination of those. I even do everything from helping with photo shoots, driving around models and picking up food for people, because Zappos has an “all hands on deck” approach.

Q: What do you do to stay up-to-date on software and design trends?

I definitely believe in continually learning!  I keep up-to-date by reading blogs, attending webinars, and going to conferences as often as I can. It’s incredibly important to stay up-to-date in the graphic design industry, as technology changes and shifts so rapidly. Continually using and familiarizing yourself with the Adobe software, Bridge, CSS & JavaScript are critical to success, as well.

Q: What are some frustrating experiences you’ve had with clients and how would you recommend dealing with those experiences?

One of the things that I see a lot in potential customers is that they undervalue graphic design and aren’t willing to pay what it’s worth.  One of the mistakes that I’ve made is not establishing enough boundaries in a contract and then running into a blurry scope down the road.   I’ve also not signed a contract because I had a relationship with someone, and that’s always turned out to be a mistake.  As frustrating as those things are, it’s important to stay calm and, sometimes, you just have to cut your losses.

Q: What was the most common sources of business for you when you were freelancing?

Much of the work that I got came from word-of-mouth. It’s incredibly important to have a good reputation, go above and beyond for each client (within reason) and create fantastic work, each and every time. Humility and being willing to accept criticism are two critical characteristics to focus on.  Letting every little thing get to you just leads to dissatisfaction and frustration.

Q: How do you handle work/life balance?

Difficulty establishing a good work/life balance is really common in the design industry. Even when you have a job (rather than owning a business or being a freelancer), work can creep into your everyday life. Being passionate about what you’re doing helps a lot, and you just have to understand that there isn’t going to be a complete separation. There does have to be a balance of some sort; that balance is necessary to maintain creativity.

Conclusion:

There are always things to be learned in a variety of industries, and we loved the advice that we heard. We’ve seen ourselves that continual learning is incredibly important to being successful, in graphic design, in business, and in essentially any field.  If you’re looking to improve your graphic design skills, Lynda is a great resource for tutorials and videos.   And if you’d like to attend a conference, Inc has an excellent list of business conferences.  Best of luck to you!