When I was first laid off at the end of last summer, I was immediately hired as a contractor by my ex-employer. I was back in the office the same week that I had been escorted out. Soon, another catalog came up, and I was hired for that one, too. As well as some other projects that fell within my scope of abilities. At the same time, I was working on smaller projects for other clients. Busy enough to keep out of trouble, and enough money coming in to cover my bills and set aside a chunk for taxes.
In January, things started to slow down. I was able to devote more time to actually selling the vintage goodies that I’ve been collecting, and while I’ll never get rich that way, it’s “pin money” and I enjoy seeing good pieces go to good homes.
But that has slowed down as well.
I’m not good at networking. I’m painfully shy, and rarely talk to people outside of my small circle of friends. Heck, I don’t even call my friends. I’m much more comfortable online, and can fake a general sense of confidence, but when it comes to digging for work, I suck. I use “social media” (even the jargon makes me gag) for socializing. Not for marketing.
“But you’re a designer,” people say. “There’s plenty of work out there, don’t you do Web design?” To which my explanation is this: A dentist and a veterinarian are both doctors, but you wouldn’t want the one filling in for the other. The similarities between designing for print and designing for Web end at “looks good.” All of the background stuff, the stuff that the client never sees, is completely different. It’s like making a traditional cupcake versus a vegan, gluten-free cupcake. In the end, they’re both cupcakes. But the ingredients are totally different. A few people are truly skilled at both, but not as many as they would have you think. I’ve seen many good Web designers do poor print work because they don’t know to take into consideration the line screen, the dot gain, the gripper area, the inaccuracy of a guillotine cutter. In the end, those behind-the-scenes details will affect the look of the finished piece. One of my more recent gigs was to fix the print files that had been provided by the client’s usually-Web designer, because the printer had kicked them back. All of the margins had to be adjusted, and therefore pages of copy had to be reflowed, because the designer didn’t know about the required safety zone. During my days in prepress, I spent much of my time rebuilding “spot color” files that had been designed in whole or part in CMYK or worse, RGB. Your client wants to know why the printing bill is so high? Go ahead and tell them that we spent 4 hours, at $60 per (that was ’95), editing the files you gave us so that we could actually RIP them. Or quietly eat your markup without saying a word about it, which is what you’re going to do to save face.
Conversely, my portfolio site is built in iWeb, which means that, in addition to not being very creative, it has funny little CSS-related (I think) bugs that I recognize but don’t know how to fix. Also, it looks neat in Safari but loses all drop shadows in any other browser. Again, I don’t know how to fix that. I know what SEO is, but not how to “maximize potential” or integrate it into my site. I’m not even sure how to add GoogleAnalytics to my site. I think I could do it, but I’m pretty sure it would mean not being able to edit it in iWeb any longer and the code for my site is probably too robust for me to tackle in my little HTML editor. I can’t control my fonts? My lines will rebreak? Color will shift? I cannot begin to tell you everything that I don’t know about Web design. Bottom line: I’m a print designer, not a programmer.
So what I’m saying is this: I’m available. My design work is adequate, and my production skills are second to none. If it’s for print, I know what I’m doing. I am not good at conference calls, at meet-ups, at glad-handing or schmoozing. I am good at sitting at my desk (or yours, if you prefer me to be on site) and cranking out work. Hire me. You can find my poorly-self-built Web site at tiddleywink.com.
I think I’ll bake a batch of cupcakes today.