Just Keep Going

I have a confession to make: 10 years ago I gave up on Graphic Design too soon. So this post is for young designers or anyone just starting out. If you’ve been thinking to start something of your own or really want to pursue your passion, whether in a business or through freelance, even if it’s a side hustle ‘cuz you work full-time, just start! If you’re feeling stuck, this is a reminder not to give up and just keep going! Double tap or tag someone that needs this reminder. Read on for my full story.

If you’re new to following me and my account, I started ARTLABkma back in 2013. It was just for fun at the time, and I even registered my business name and started designing t-shirts for Pride that year, eventually deciding I would try to sell the shirts during San Francisco Pride. Looking back, I realized a lot of mistakes I made thinking that my designs and the shirts would sell themselves, especially when friends said they loved the designs and the ideas behind them. Not long after, I didn’t make any more t-shirts, but thankfully with what I sold, I broke even in the process.

Flashback to early 2006, I barely finished my first semester of Graphic Design. I actually gave up and decided to switch back to my original major in Fine Art. Mind you this was almost 5 years after I started college and began studying Fine Art in late 2001. Sometime between, I had also taken a year off as sort of a gap year (I was overwhelmed, went through depression, and still figuring things out). I didn’t try designing anything until I needed a portfolio sometime in early 2009. 

After graduating, I didn’t have much direction in what I wanted to pursue and with the recession of 2008, finding work was like entering a ghost town. I was straddling between pursuing fine art, wanting my work to get into galleries, nearly making art just my hobby, and my personal work and projects were almost coming to an end as well. The jobs I’d worked were mostly Admin or customer service—basically anything but “creative.”

Here and there my jobs would have design tasks like creating conference materials, creating a website on Wix, and in one of my last positions, I was part of a management team that needed marketing and trade show materials designed–I was getting somewhere.

In 2016, about 10 years after almost giving up too soon on Graphic Design, I decided to give it another shot. My cousin @danagrows, who runs her own branding agency DG Coterie, needed some help on some projects and reached out. Thinking it would only be a one time gig, cuz the idea of designing something I never did before made me want to run for the hills (I didn’t know what I was doing at the time), but I said “Sure!” anyway. I still get that feeling when we need to tackle something I haven’t done before (back then it was designing a large billboard, full on branding projects, lookbooks, animations, email templates, etc). For about a year, these gigs became more regular, and soon enough we were hustling to put together a huge branding proposal for a potential new client in need of a full re-brand. 

Around that time, my full-time job was starting to slow down, I found out they would cut my hours in half, and I knew it was only a matter of time until I would be let go. My wife gave me some tough love advice to get my shizzle together, not to mention we had rent to pay. I decided to still keep working part-time, and during my off-time hours, I would pound the pavement, spend time applying for jobs, putting together my portfolio, going to hiring agencies like @thecreativegroup in person, and I became a Postmate and Uber Eats driver for a good month or so, while still freelancing for DG Coterie. Within that month, I was able to land a full-time in-house Graphic Design position for a small, but growing firm. About a year later, after ARTLABkma had been on the backburner for almost 2 years, I kept hearing a soft but persistent voice to relaunch it. By the end of 2017, I couldn’t ignore that voice any longer and decided that in 2018, I would revamp my personal brand and now design business.

Originally posted on Instagram: @artlabkma

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