“Always be working on something. Even if it seems like a dumb idea, or it’s just something for fun. In the age of the internet, you never know what could get you attention” – Chris Gerringer.
What are your favourite kinds of projects and how do you typically start a new one?
If we’re talking about illustration, it can really be anything. Generally I’ll get an idea for a drawing or doodle and I can’t stop thinking about it until I’ve done it. With web design, my favorite projects are ones where I get to push my own boundaries a little bit. I love learning new techniques and skills, so any project where I have more creative control ends up being more fun for me. I generally start web projects by thinking about the general direction I’d like to go and making some rough sketches. I tend to focus the design around one feature or element I’m really excited about, whether that be large images, a particular shape, or an animation or whatever.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always have a few freelance web projects in the queue, and when I’m not doing that I have a comic and a couple of other personal illustration projects to keep me busy.
How would you describe your personality and how do these characteristics help you when you meet clients / when you’re designing?
I feel like my creative personality can best be described as a fusion of ADD and OCD. I’m always looking for new creative outlets and new projects to start, but I also have a very strong need to keep everything organized. The former helps me stay fresh and not get too comfortable with my work and the latter helps me a lot when dealing with clients and keeping track of my time.
How do you manage your needs with the needs of the client?
I try to be as up front with people as I can be from the beginning. That definitely helps a lot with managing expectations and helping people understand that I’m a professional and I know what I’m doing. I’m also lucky enough to generally be to the point where I can afford to be a little more picky with clients. Nine times out of ten, you can spot a difficult client pretty early on so I try to put myself in situations that will benefit me and the client rather than just the client.
What are your favourite techniques, tools, books and what tools couldn’t you live without?
For illustration, I like a moleskine, Micron pens and a good old #2 pencil. Software/Hardware-wise, I use Photoshop, Illustrator and a Wacom tablet. I definitely would not get as much use out of the tablet if it weren’t for brush presets made by FRENDEN and Kyle T. Webster. Both of those guys do amazing work.
I use Sublime Text for coding, and I can’t say enough good things about the London-based CMS Perch. I use that to develop pretty much all of my websites.
Which blogs do your read and what are your 5 favorite sites online?
I spend a lot of time on thebestdesigns.com and tympanus.net/codrops when I’m looking for website inspiration. I pretty much always have a tab open with Rdio running, and I’m a big part of the Tumblr community. I follow a lot of the illustrators and artists I admire there. Also rapidly becoming a certifiable Twitter addict.
Can you describe your design and your illustration style?
I’m not quite sure how I’d describe my own style. Design-wise I know I tend to gravitate towards simple, clean designs with subtle effects. Illustration-wise, I like wacky, disproportionate, sometimes cutesy things, so whatever that would be called.
Is a designer’s worst client himself/herself?
I definitely think I’m my own worst client. I have no respect for appropriate work hours, I’m very picky about what I like, and I don’t pay very well. I kind of joke with myself that it took me five years to build my own website, and I’m always revising it.
What do you do when you’re not thinking about work projects?
I play and record music whenever I can and I’m also a huge Nintendo fanboy, so I’ll play pretty much anything they put out.
As a freelance graphic designer/illustrator, what advice would you give to someone starting out on how to find clients?
Other than the general tips (watch for opportunities, be nice, do good work, etc.) one thing that really helped me was not being afraid to work for free – in the good way. If you have free time because you don’t have a lot of projects going, look for a non-profit or a local business that needs a website or design work and approach them about working for free or for trade.
If you’re smart about how you pitch it, you’ll have a job that benefits someone in need and offers you basically unlimited creative freedom. I usually try to make it clear that if I do a job for free I’m doing it to beef up my portfolio and I’ll need to be given creative freedom.
Working for trade with local businesses is also a really great way to get some solid work out and also benefit both parties. One of the sites I built that got featured on a bunch of design blogs and drove a lot of traffic to my site was done in exchange for free coffee!
It’s just really important to remember to be very up front with clients and be confident in your own skills if you do any work like this. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re working for a client that ACTS like they’re paying you when you’re working for free. If that starts to happen, explain your issue, drop ‘em and move on.
Have you any advice for aspiring designers/illustrators?
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what’s worth your time. If you love a project or an idea, go for it and work hard on it.
How do you find and attract new clients?
About 75% of my freelance work is word-of-mouth. I would attribute the other 25% to looking for opportunities to do work for people. I’m not a great salesman, but I always carry business cards and I give those out quite a lot.
You’ve certainly put your heart and soul into your business card design, what was your inspiration for them?
I wanted something that kind of captured all the little things that I love, but also seemed orderly in some way. I thought the more graphic style of the elements balanced the chaos of the subject matter pretty well.
How do you manage your time as a graphic designer/illustrator and a blogger?
It’s not that hard for me because I don’t do a lot of actual writing. My blog functions more like a sketchbook, so it’s really helped me be a lot more productive than I normally would be. It gives me an incentive to try and draw at least one thing a day.
Thanks Chris, to see more of Chris’ work go to his website http://paperbeatsscissors.com/