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How I Handle Custom Work

How I Handle Custom Work //
It’s become evident to me that my retail year is split in to two very distinct segments. The first six months are heavy with custom design and stationery — for weddings, bachelorettes, birthdays, graduations and more. The final six months, however, are very heavy with my gift items: mugs (so many mugs!), notepads, totes, and the rest of the goods.

Every year, I vow to streamline my custom design process when I’m not as busy. But by the time I slow down on custom work, the holiday season picks up and we are living in mug-ville up in here.

SO. I’ve been carving out time in between orders to finally get my shit together.

First of all: The Process.

I’ve honed this process for 5 years and it still isn’t perfect. Nor will it ever be. I have learned a few things from from experience though:

1. Be very up front with my process and how I work. For the client to have a clear road map of how the process will go is so important.
2. Streamline my shit. I have a custom design handout that, ideally, I’d email all of my clients up front. Admittedly, I’m really bad about doing this so I’ve created a page on my website with information on how to hire me. Shoot potential clients the URL. Easy. I also have various custom design questionnaires to help me gather information about a particular client’s design vision. These have been invaluable as having the information all in one place beats having to scroll through a bunch of emails to find what you’re looking for.
3. Give a timeline. And stick to it. This is not only great for the client to know but helps me plan out my days/weeks. Because my work time is so limited, I always give a timeline that tends to be a little longer — this works well for me and my clients because if I am able to get it to them sooner, they are thrilled and I’m not killing myself trying to meet unrealistic deadlines for my life at this time.

Next up: Pricing.

At the risk of sounding cliche: every project is so different and therefore, the price is different. Discussing price up front is key for me. I do better (mentally) if I know I have given the client all of the information necessary to decide if they want to work with me.

And lastly: Offerings.

What I offer is not always clear and that’s my fault. I share my work often on social media but I still get many questions as to whether I can do this or that. A big goal in this streamlining process is to make very clear who I am and what it is I do.

I am a graphic designer who can great unique stationery that captures the essences of your rad event. If you’re a creative fun haver who needs something designed, email me. I think we’d make a great team.

That line is at the very tip-top my my Hire Me page for a reason. I’m not going to be a good fit for the serious, professional, business-y person in need of design — chances are we’d both end up unhappy if we worked together. Making sure my client and I are a good fit is key to loving my work.
How To Hire Me //

In sum: Having processes and a workflow in place has saved me so much time overall. The initial investment of time is a lot, of course. But I’m glad I finally took the time to hash it all out.

I’m so curious to hear from other creatives, how do you handle custom work?

Blending Who I Am With What I Do

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I spent the better half of yesterday trying to finish this post. My husband had the morning off, I had planned on using the morning he was home to pump a few posts out. Ya know, to get ahead. Instead, my morning went like this: I ran to Target with the 3-year-old in the pouring rain first thing because we were out of toilet paper. Tyler stayed home with the teething baby to try to get him to nap. He slept 20 minutes. I punched out some sentences between nursing, entertaining toddler, folding laundry, feeding toddler, applying band-aids to fake injuries, keeping beast baby away from the stairs, taking toddler to the potty and cleaning up eleventy billion toys. I was finally finished! I did it! But then, the page refreshed unexpectedly and my entire morning of work was gone.

Jaw drop.

What the fuck.


More breathing.

Jaw still dropped.

Then a realization. This is exactly the shit I was talking about.

I’m currently jotting down this lovely memory (an hour after the fact) with Sullivan in the Ergo, half nursing, half sleeping. Harrison upstairs screaming that he’s “all done with rest time!” (It’s been 15 minutes).

Welcome to a day in the life of Brittany Garner Design. Now on to your regularly scheduled post. Twice written, just for you. 😉

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I can’t help but compartmentalize. It’s in my nature. In my world, I like to have a piece of me carved out for business, a piece for family and friends and piece to be my introverted self. Like a perfect pie, divided equal parts.

Cue roaring laughter.

That’s not how it happens in real life. Take the little story time at the top, for example. There’s an overlap, a blending of all the facets of life.

I listened to a really powerful episode of the Being Boss podcast a few weeks ago. I even jotted down notes in my phone because some of the things they were saying rang so true I was sort of embarrassed it hadn’t clicked for me like this before. The gist of the message was to blend who I am with what I do. It sounds so simple, right? The walls of those compartments that I’ve built in my head came crashing down at that moment. I’ve realized that I can’t expect to divide myself in equal pastry parts this, that and the other. I am just one person.

I have since taken steps to embrace The Blend.

Disregarding “regular work hours”. I used to have the idea in my head that morning time was a time for work. The boys have other ideas what they’d like to do with their morning. So! Much! Energy! We try to get outside in the morning instead. I sometimes answer emails from my phone at the park. I work a lot during rest/nap time (and when the elusive double nap time happens, it’s like I’ve hit the freaking jackpot). I work in the evenings. We’ve also hired a nanny to come to our home 8 hours per week so I can work.

Using my own voice. When corresponding with clients and vendors, I write how I talk. I say ‘awesome’ and ‘shit’. A lot. My business is my name: Brittany Garner Design. Using my own voice when I interact with the world is 1. freeing and 2. much easier than using a super professional voice that doesn’t come naturally to me.

Let go of imaginary rules. You can’t post 2 business photos on your Instagram in a row. You can’t write personal blog posts on your business blog. Your personal Facebook friends don’t want to see a photo of your workspace. These are just a few of the made up rules I had for myself. When I started thinking about ways I could blend myself with my business, I asked myself why I had these rules. I realized just that, they are made up. It was like a weight off my shoulders. I can make up my own rules that fit my business and life. Then when those rules no longer apply, I can redefine them. Because I’m the boss.

I have learned a lot in this work at home mom creative entrepreneur venture but the biggest thing is that The Blend is real. I still have a ways to go to completely embrace and live it but damn, it’s really freeing to be yourself in all aspects of your life.

To letting go of the rules and just doing your thing.