If you attended the first Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago, you may have met Steve Gordon—one of the people who added a real spark of energy to the proceedings (I'm thinking of Kendall Ridley and Velvette Delaney here, too). Steve is planning to be in Denver this year; in addition to hitting CFC, he'll be presenting the Networking Lunch at the HOW Conference.
Steve has a strong freelance business with a strong brand, and he's a no-fear networker. Check out his book, published by Rockport last year, 100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers. So I conducted a Q&A with Steve yesterday on Twitter. (Follow @HOWbrand on Twitter and search #CFConf to find tweets related to CFC.) I asked Steve about creativity, balance and networking. Here's a recap of our conversation:
So, Steve: Tell us a little about you & your work …
I'm an independent identity & brand designer & a cre8v consultant. Call it solopreneur/freelance/indie, etc.
What’s the deal with Nebraska? There’s great design work coming out of the Cornhusker State!
There's a saying; "a rising tide lifts all boats." We have a great arts, music & indie film scene, much like DEN, SEA & MSP.
You’re a freelancer … where do you spend most of your work time? Home? Coffee shop? Elsewhere?
My office is pimped out! Java shops are a good break. I just scoped co-working spaces w/my peeps @lasertron @downsdesign @secos
It seems like you're always collaborating with other creatives. How do you make that happen?
Willingness! I truly WANT to work w/others. It's very cliché behavior but we designers are often very guarded & don’t work together
… saying you want to do work w/a colleague is as e-z as that. "I really want to collaborate w/you on something!" Boom! Ball = rolling!
I know connecting/collaborating is a big issue for you. Why do creatives have a hard time w/that?
We are very close to our ideas. We feel like sharing would diminish the role we play. Even in school we are taught to guard our ideas
Like, you connected with Dyana Valentine and Jeni Herberger and then created their identities.
I LOVE Jeni & Dyana! Both of those clients came from simple conversations about working togther
What are you working on now that has you jazzed?
I chose to be my own client & not call my stuff "side" projects anymore. Stoked about my "RDQLUS Stash" project … limited-edition goods
A full slate is planned … custom tees, hats, a front-pocket wallet. Lots of fun stuff. 1 item per quarter
I eventually would like a boutique, a curiosity shop full of fun 1-off items
In your Freelance Success book you wrote about challenges for freelance designers. What’s your biggest?
Agency-level clients see me as competition. They don’t know I'm indie because my brand is strong. It’s crucial, but a double-edged sword!
Interesting: Your bigger-than-life brand makes your biz seem bigger than it is. Not a bad problem to have, I guess.
Nah not a bad problem to have. I suppose that's a bit of proof that you’re doing something right.
But being mousy & quiet, wishing to get noticed ain't my style. Not everyone can or should do it my way, but do SOMETHING!
How do you balance time: to create for clients, for yourself and also to have a life/relationship?
Life = all of the above! Truthfully no need to choose. I could use a few more hrs, but I'm not complaining 😉
I play hard! I love my gal! I really dig my friends! I love my work! Choose wisely in the beginning & you don't have to later!
You are so good at networking at design events. What tips can you share to help designers make those connections?
STOP trying to meet & greet the whole world … it’s not a Coke ad! Find real connections. Even just a few is a great success
You were at the first CFC in Chi-town. What did you take away from that experience?
My fave quote is a Jay-Z lyric; "I'm not a businessman … I'm a business, man!" Freelancers forget to run “themselves” like a business
CFC from the very outset showed that there was a huge upside. Kelly Goto once told me, "you are NOT a company, you are a business"