Entrepreneurs often don’t understand the value of graphic design. People like me don’t understand the world of freelancing. So when I met Rose, who is building a freelancing graphic design career in her spare time and mostly working with entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists, I figured there was an interesting conversation to be had.
Rose works as a graphic designer in her spare time, a nice complement to her career in marketing. It is an interesting story of how she found her first few clients to actually turn her passion into a side-business.
She also filled me in on what you need to know when you’re starting a venture and developing your branding: entrepreneurs are often strapped of cash and inexperienced with branding — often thinking they just need a logo, when really a cohesive design goes much deeper.
So, enjoy going deeper into episode 5 of the people helping people podcast, exploring graphic design for entrepreneurs. You can find out more about Rose Buoni on her website chromarosa.com.
[00:00:00] Adam: welcome to that people helping people podcast where we discuss culture, social change, entrepreneurship, and basically anything go where people are helping people make awesome stuff happen. I'm your host, Adam, Maurice. And today I'm very excited to be here with Rose and we're going to be talking about graphic design, entrepreneurship, starting on freelance business and what it takes to start something on your own.
[00:00:36] So I met Rose a few weeks ago and, uh, the CSCA was having their monthly talk. And she's starting her own freelancing and a part time and she's been doing some great stuff.
[00:00:46] Rose: So, hi, welcome. Hi. Thank you. I'm excited.
[00:00:50] Adam: So let's start off. I'm curious a little bit. What's been going on with your, your freelancing work?
[00:00:55] I know you, you have a full time job and then in your part time you've been building up a
[00:00:59] Rose: freelancing career.
[00:01:00] Adam: So
[00:01:00] Rose: what does that look like? So I started part time about six years ago when I was in college. I started off really, really, really baby steps. I mostly was self-taught with graphic design too, so I started out not even thinking of it as a business.
[00:01:20] At first. I started out doing. Things for friends who are in bands, they see the cover or something like that, so invitations, things, different labels, reading cards, and then it became clear that I really liked doing it and I wanted to do things that challenged and inspired me, and it became clear maybe a couple of years into it that.
[00:01:45] I wanted to make money doing it. So I began doing more logo work and more poster work and kind of getting in touch more with different networks of people beyond family and friends. And so I went to Ohio state, so I had an Ohio state network, and then I was studying English actually. So I work in marketing and I also do graphic design.
[00:02:11] So it began there. In school when I was thinking about how my English degree would be complimented so well through visual communication. So it just kind of was born naturally that way. And then, yeah, after I graduated, I kept with it still very, very part time. Couple of years ago, I started getting people who I didn't necessarily know that well, but were still part of my professional or Ohio state network.
[00:02:41] Contacting me asking for something. So I think there were a couple of people that I was in classes with at Ohio state, a couple of people that I knew socially from Ohio state, a couple of people that are in different professional organizations. In different community groups. So 2015 was when I started taking it more seriously and trying to figure out what to charge and how often to do freelance work too, because since I do have a full time job, I was thinking a lot about that at that time.
[00:03:15] And then. In late 2016 early 2017 it's already shifting a little bit more to what we were talking about at CSCA, which was people who are associated with startups, particularly in scientific and engineering fields, needing help with their visual identity in some way. So either they had an idea for a logo.
[00:03:39] Or had no idea for a logo that happened to and just kind of needed help because I really liked doing work for scientists and engineers, and I like working with them and helping them sort out their thoughts on, on how to display themselves and show themselves off visually. Yeah, so that's how you
[00:04:00] Adam: find them.
[00:04:00] How do you find, like I know when you're starting something, there's not much visibility to.
[00:04:05] Rose: It's mostly been professional organizations that I've joined. And then word of mouth. Yeah. That's amazing how well word of mouth works. Yeah. Yeah. So that was kind of surprising actually. You do good work. Yeah.
[00:04:22] That's, that's the hope that it'll keep happening too.
[00:04:25] Adam: So you're not out there like calling entrepreneurs at your lunch break me and like, Hey,
[00:04:29] Rose: no, no, not, I don't know that that would really speak to the kinds of people that I'm hoping to work with. That's a fun idea though. I like to try that
[00:04:42] Adam: hustle, balancing that with a full time job.
[00:04:45] Rose: Well, I think I would compare it to, I did one post-baccalaureate year of studying graphic design out of state, and so that year was early morning until night work. And so it was different than the type of work that I'd been doing before, and it was way different hours. And so shifting from that. To taking freelance work more seriously.
[00:05:08] Plus my full time job seemed kind of, it seemed doable because I was already kind of doing it already. And so nights and weekends, that's when I fit in things. And it depends on the type of work too, but yeah, it's usually just nighttime. Yeah,
[00:05:28] yeah, yeah. No, I can do something. That I'm excited about and proud of and I don't necessarily need to wait around for it to happen. And if I don't have something happening for a client, right, then I can start working on different prints and posters that I want to make to
[00:05:46] Adam: figure out how the
[00:05:47] Rose: pricing work with them.
[00:05:50] Adam: How did
[00:05:50] Rose: that start? Like.
[00:05:51] Adam: What were you doing at the beginning and how did that actually transform into,
[00:05:55] Rose: yeah, I think we talked about that a little bit too, so I think I learned the hard way about some about pricing, which is that. I wasn't valuing my work enough. So basically I read a lot about how to price your work, whether by the project or by the hour, and a lot of it depending too.
[00:06:20] And so I, I learned that it wasn't as simple as I thought it was going to be, but it turns out into the more complicated answer suits my work much better because it turns out that it just depends. And that's what I keep reading. And. Experiencing. That's all. And I don't think so.
[00:06:43] Not, not so far. Not. In my experience because charging by the hour wouldn't necessarily always benefit the designer and think charging by the project could be kind of tricky too. If you always do that. People could learn that if you don't in place certain perimeters that you know. Like I keep asking and asking and asking for changes for version 210
[00:07:12] Adam: I think that holds true pretty much anywhere you go.
[00:07:14] You have some clients that are very easy to work with. It's very clear what the project is. You do it finish like, okay, charge per project for this, and then you get a client who's like. They can't make up their mind. They
[00:07:29] Rose: want
[00:07:29] Adam: changes after you've finished, and it just goes on and on and on and on. Never ends.
[00:07:35] Rose: Yeah. And I think also the biggest shift too, was deciding it's not a hobby, it's a business. And so once I took the business part of it more seriously, and. And once I started thinking more about marketing too, since that's a business or a part of business, I fall out more about my value as a designer. And so that kind of started to click more to them providing a service and certain knowledge that they went on necessarily have, especially if they're from such different backgrounds, different disciplines.
[00:08:06] Adam: Now when you're working with entrepreneurs, have many of them worked with designers before? Is this usually something. You do them like what's their general level of understanding? And
[00:08:19] Rose: it's pretty new to them to work with a designer. So I think part of working with the people that I worked with and the people that I expect to work with is educating them as well and trying to help them understand how they can get the most out of it.
[00:08:36] Adam: This conception is when they, when
[00:08:37] Rose: they start off. Probably the biggest is I need a logo, help me, help me come up with a logo, and then sometimes the conversation. Kind of dies off there and then it's a matter of the designer or in some cases, the account manager saying, what's the logo for once? Is there a larger context to it that you're trying to, some goal that you're trying to achieve with this logo and what strategy are you using to roll out the logo too?
[00:09:10] I think those are really interesting questions and they might, they might even reach beyond that. Actual design of the thing, because that's something that I certainly can do and designers certainly can do, but I think we're more valuable to them when we teach them to think beyond only the logo I, when it comes to their visual identity and how they want to present themselves in print and online too.
[00:09:39] Yeah. So
[00:09:40] Adam: there's a lot of education that goes on in that discovering what their situation is and where they're at, and helping them understand, okay, Oh, so this is what you're really looking for. They may have one idea of what they want, but it's really up to you to help them understand.
[00:09:55] Rose: Yeah. I'm trying to think if there are any other big misconceptions.
[00:09:59] I think the other misconception might be. Expecting a logo to do everything or expecting a little bit to be a cure all, um, and just kind of stopping there when you're paying for something. And I think that a little bit could only do, it's
[00:10:16] Adam: not like people see a logo and all of a sudden they're going to buy your product just because you have a logo on your
[00:10:21] Rose: desk.
[00:10:22] Yeah. So I think that you have to be more competitive than that, especially if you're a startup.
[00:10:28] Adam: If you're an entrepreneur and trying to explain to them, you know. What aspects of graphic design are going to be important for his business and how, you know, different elements might take his business forward.
[00:10:39] Like what would that be? So beyond the logo, what should an entrepreneur be thinking about in terms of rolling out a designer or low core communicating with her about?
[00:10:50] Rose: A couple of things come to mind. The first thing. That I have talked about before. Sometimes it's understood. Sometimes it's kind of planting a seed and maybe they'll come back later and say, actually, we do want that.
[00:11:02] And we realize why that might be important because it keeps coming up and we don't really have a way to resolve this issue. So I think a brand identity guide or brand manual. Something that includes the logo, but extends beyond it. So that would also include examples of the written voice of the company too.
[00:11:24] So not just the visual communication, but the. Verbal, written communication too. And I think that's something that, that's something that does extend beyond what a designer does, but it's something that's come up because it makes, it can compliment your design really well. And so that's something that I naturally gravitate towards because of studying English too.
[00:11:47] I'm thinking about marketing too. So brand manual or brand. Identity guide in that. That can include a lot of different things too. So not just the logo, but also the applications for the logo, and then when you use a, it should and shouldn't be used. I think that's something that's kind of tricky. We talked about that a lot in my program too, which is that once the logo is created.
[00:12:11] And it's done. That's wonderful. But then it has to live somewhere on your materials, and so then a brand standards are, are really important then to decide how small the logo should be or how large the logo should be, if you're allowed to change colors or not, or if you're not, if black and white is okay with you, if only the word itself is okay with you, or if you want something like a Nike swoosh to be able to communicate what you want to communicate or the Apple.
[00:12:39] Apples are there too, so there might be opportunity. I also think that Chipotle is a good example too, because they have the actual pepper. They have a few different ways of showing their name, and so everything like that would be included in some, in a manual or guide. Have some sore and then it probably extends beyond to the Brown Chipola bags with all the words and stories on the sides and stuff, drawings.
[00:13:05] So I think stuff like that may or may not be in it, depending on how often it gets updated, but it can include a lot of different things. That might, you might not think about right away. And then beyond that, I think also the business cards, stationary website. So those things do tend to come up quicker than something like a brand identity guide.
[00:13:25] But I think that. Um, and if they come up quickly in terms of urgency, but I think that some guiding light for your, for the materials that you ended up creating, like any other print materials or if you do emails out to, um, to different people too, or. Yeah. Depending on what your marketing materials are too, that can be really useful in
[00:13:48] Adam: how well your marketing materials reflect what your brand is consistent with what's up for website.
[00:13:53] And you're saying to a company's like values as mission come into that very much.
[00:13:59] Rose: Yeah. I think it should. That's something that would be part of maybe the first or second page of your . Showing what your brand identity is or saying what it is first and then later you can kind of show examples of how to communicate that visually to
[00:14:15] Adam: young entrepreneurs.
[00:14:18] Rose: Usually by the time I start working with them, they have a pretty good idea and they have articulated their. Mission and or vision in some way. And so I'll look at that and think about that too when it comes to the logo creation and yeah, I guess it depends on how, how far along they are, but in my experience, they've been pretty good about articulating that part of it.
[00:14:43] Adam: You mentioned you had worked with a company
[00:14:46] Rose: that was in Washington.
[00:14:48] Adam: How does that work when you're so far away? Is that mostly just over
[00:14:51] Rose: Skype? Like
[00:14:52] Adam: how do you
[00:14:54] Rose: Skype email, phone calls, go on national phone calls. Yeah, it was good. It was pretty amazing that I don't think on either of our ends it felt particularly difficult to keep in touch and yeah, I'm getting different iterations back out.
[00:15:12] Pretty easy. It was great.
[00:15:14] Adam: A full time job. How are you communicating with people throughout
[00:15:18] Rose: the day? Generally email during email. Sometimes during lunch, usually after 5:00 PM though. Okay. Um, or between six and 8:00 AM it just depends on how or did it is too. But so far. I was nervous about that at the beginning, thinking I need to get back to people right this second.
[00:15:40] But generally, if it's between six and 8:00 AM or 12:00 PM or after 5:00 PM. Those are three really good times in the day already, so it hasn't come up that someone's said respond faster.
[00:15:56] Adam: I had a colleague once who email off for about four hours out of the work day said nobody had an issue with it. They learned that he wasn't going to
[00:16:07] Rose: Yeah, I think that's part of it too. People learn your behavior. Adapt to it, or you move on to work with different people.
[00:16:14] Adam: So what's, what do you find, so what is it about graphic design that I find enjoyable? That you're doing this in your spare time?
[00:16:22] Rose: Trying to think of some things. How does it start? How
[00:16:24] Adam: did, you mentioned that you started off doing, you know,
[00:16:28] Rose: Carhartt for mans and things like that.
[00:16:31] Yeah. We always artistic growing up like, yeah, so I started out in high school and before high school and doing a drawing courses and painting courses at CCAD. There's Saturday morning art classes, and so that started to shift in late high school, but I didn't really get into graphic design until early.
[00:16:51] College. And I think the first, the very first thing that I did was design what I thought a book cover would look like if I were to do it. Um, so it just was as looking at book covers all day because of being an English major and thinking this could be different and what is a way that I can communicate what everything.
[00:17:12] Complex and interesting that's in this book through, you know, probably on a five by seven cover or whatever the size is. And so it was a design challenge that I think that many people may come to it through that even because it's something that I had daily exposure to. And so I started there and I'm glad that I did too, because it's interesting how.
[00:17:40] A challenge like that can then extend to something like communicating the interesting complex things about a business too, because you might have to communicate something that is complex and alive and growing and shifting through a really simple logo even. So, yeah, I was just kind of fascinated by trying to make complex ideas a little bit simpler, a little bit more accessible to.
[00:18:09] Adam: Do you have any idea in high school that you would be doing something artistic
[00:18:13] Rose: later on? I just wasn't really sure. I really liked my painting classes and drawing classes and really liked fine arts, but didn't really want to do fine arts in college. So I was feeling kind of stuck for a while and trying to figure out how to make it more.
[00:18:30] Applicable to business and a little bit more applicable to reading and writing too, I guess. And I, I was really attracted also, uh, not just to art, but to artists statements. And so that's something that probably brings me back to marketing a little bit, which is. I'd read different artist's statements and then think about how would I communicate something about this particular artist and with everything that they do, trying to simplify it enough to that, you know, this is the essence of this artists now, and I did kind of find that.
[00:19:03] Many artists would have a really difficult time writing an artist statement. So yeah, I thought about that a little bit too, and that was kind of the beginning looking back of thinking I could help people better articulate what they're trying to say about themselves, what they're trying to show about themselves.
[00:19:20] Artists, artists actually read Georgiou Keith biography a year and a half ago, and that was really interesting. So. Yeah. I'm trying to think what else. There's so many. There's this local artist who that I really like his name. I really hope that this is his name. His name was Christopher for Burke, and he does paintings and drawings, but I think mostly painting.
[00:19:48] I don't want to misrepresent why he has like a utility poles and like, like a lot of civil engineering type things like I'm stirs and. The corners of buildings and it's so realistic too. And I just thought it was amazing that he was looking at things that a lot of people don't really look at or just kind of are trained to glaze over.
[00:20:13] Like manhole covers even I'm sure like different parking spots and just kind of everyday life things. For the things that make what we're used to. Yeah. I wouldn't be surprised if he did a painting, like a water tower or something. I don't even notice water towers, but I started noticing them more and more.
[00:20:37] I'm thinking once he painting that I'm not even noticing. So I really like his style though. Too. Yeah. So coming back to entrepreneurs
[00:20:47] Adam: a little bit, there's always this question on my mind. I'm like, okay, an entrepreneur starts up and typically they're very strapped for cash and must say it
[00:20:55] Rose: are super
[00:20:56] Adam: wealthy, have some great funding, or have
[00:20:58] Rose: had earlier successes.
[00:21:00] How do they afford
[00:21:01] Adam: graphic design? Yeah. And you found that to be an issue.
[00:21:07] Rose: Or, no, I haven't found it to be an issue yet. I think it could be. I guess it depends on how developed they are, how much funding they have. They usually have the funding for the initial stages of rolling out what they want to do,
[00:21:24] Adam: entire websites or.
[00:21:26] Rose: Oh, no. yeah. Although the design of the website, yes, but the development of it, no, because I, it drove me crazy.
[00:21:37] Adam: You work with other people with that or is that something where they would take a design and then find something else to fill the website?
[00:21:45] Rose: I haven't worked hand in hand with the. Developer and web designer yet, I don't know that I would necessarily count myself as a web designer, but yeah, usually they would.
[00:21:57] Find someone else and I'd offer ideas on how to make the design consistent. Like you definitely could do layouts and mockups as a, as a graphic designer. But that's something where I'd want to grow I think. But I think it would also be a matter of finding the right partner to
[00:22:16] Adam: what has it been like working to, and there's some entrepreneurs that you've worked with that you can share a little bit what, what's like
[00:22:22] Rose: working with them.
[00:22:23] And. Yeah, so I guess, I don't want to say anything too specific, but I'll leave out names. So I've worked with, actually very recently with some fashion designers who they have really cool designs. They're really excited. I really like working with. Entrepreneurs and startups for that reason, because they have a certain energy to that, and by the time they start meeting with designers and accountants and lawyers and everyone who might be involved, marketing people and writers there, you can tell they're, they're so ready to get going.
[00:23:05] So yeah, every meeting that I had with these fashion designers was. The time went so quickly, it felt like such a natural fit too. I was excited for them. They were excited to work with me and they're really put together too, and so it's really impressive and I'm excited for them too, because then I got to learn a little bit more about Columbus being a fashion city and which I didn't really know that much about.
[00:23:31] And it's funny too. It's interesting because while they are fashion designers and then the graphic designer, we don't really necessarily know that much about what. Each other creative discipline really does. Exactly. So they were talking about how, you know, they might have a pretty strong aesthetic sense and they might be able to work something out.
[00:23:51] They might be able to kind of cobble something together, but they want someone, they trust the opinions of creative people who do this exact thing. And so I think that's the other thing that I really liked about working. With my fashion design clients, isn't there. They're really trusting and confident in what another creative person is doing and excited about it.
[00:24:15] Adam: something I've always found about startups is that they have a certain energy about it. Like you have to be passionate in order to start something and actually pursue,
[00:24:22] Rose: cause it takes a lot of work and effort. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it felt like we were similar in that we were working kind of all hours of the week trying to make.
[00:24:33] These things happen. And so I would respond that weird hour, they would respond on weird hours. So it was just kind of like we're partners and moving things along pretty much no matter what.
[00:24:47] Well, so one exciting thing was being in the recent block, four show calm, beautiful words. So I was excited about that. So I have this one print from that show. That was selected, and I do want to later in the year, sir, and that's a shock to have Prince and Prince and posters. And so I'd had various things that I've started and I kept thinking I need to put them somewhere because for the time that I'm not spending necessarily working with one.
[00:25:19] Client or another, I would like to devote some energy to a shop environment too, because that's something that I haven't done before really on your website. Thanks. Yeah, so I'm hoping to put up different things. Yeah, I'm excited. Turns out it's a lot of work. Those are behind the scenes Mark. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:25:42] And then hearing all the print, this says they're up. But yeah,
[00:25:50] there are a couple of different techniques that I use. Some things that I do involve hand lettering, so doing a sketch and scanning it in, and then sometimes making it super digital, sometimes just scanning it and having that. Be the drawing. The drawing is basically done depending on how detailed and how final it is by hand.
[00:26:11] But yeah, so I really like doing that. That's something that they stressed too and in the program was find something that you can do by hand. Don't have it all be on the computer and, and especially when get away from the computer when. When you can and when you need to. Why did you spend so much time on
[00:26:28] Adam: the computer?
[00:26:29] Rose: Yeah. Fixing these tiny things. Yeah, that's true. Pretty much anything I think you lost
[00:26:35] Adam: and the computer time just goes by and you don't think it's clearly in front of the computer
[00:26:39] Rose: as you do when you're .
[00:26:42] Adam: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
[00:26:48] Rose: I see myself in Columbus being. Pretty involved with the artists, designer, creative people, community here, and hopefully partnering with different people on different projects too. I think that'd be really cool. And hopefully having a shop too. That is not necessarily a shop that people can walk into, but definitely an online shop.
[00:27:14] And I think that since it's 10 years from now, I'll give myself like some more admission to, um, which is, it would be really neat to have prints featured in different local stores too. Like if stores, you know, I had walked around and admired them and thought, I wonder if I can do it.
[00:27:34] Adam: You said you studied in Richmond, have you, did you grow up in
[00:27:36] Rose: Columbus?
[00:27:38] Adam: I'm from everywhere else except
[00:27:40] Rose: for right. Yeah. You lived in London too, right? Yeah. So promise has grown a lot. This is the biggest thing that I could say about it. There are a lot of neighborhoods that have changed a lot. I know it's growing significantly. I know the metropolitan area, it seems to be. I don't know exactly how rapidly it's growing.
[00:27:59] I've lived in Columbus, Cleveland in Richmond, and Columbus is the biggest city that I've lived in. So Columbus is deceptively big, and I always tell people that, that I shouldn't be overlooked, and people in Richmond thought that I lived. In the middle of a cornfield. I think. I'm thinking that Columbus was smaller than Richmond, but Columbus has a lot of people, and although I mean, I really can't compare it to London, which is one of the biggest cities in the world, I think.
[00:28:25] So I
[00:28:27] Adam: felt a little bit like that coming here. I was like, Oh,
[00:28:29] Rose: this is a small town.
[00:28:32] Adam: But then you know, as you start to scratch the surface is actually a
[00:28:35] Rose: lot happening. Yeah, yeah, for sure.
[00:28:38] Adam: Find out about it and then,
[00:28:40] Rose: yeah. Yeah. And people are so friendly and generous here too. I think that's something that I've heard a lot of people say when they moved to Columbus, especially larger cities.
[00:28:50] So I'm excited. I'm proud of that. It's got a good culture,
[00:28:55] Adam: I think. I think in the larger city you're working so hard to see you can afford
[00:28:59] Rose: your rent. Yeah. You can't really afford that. Help other
[00:29:02] Adam: people. Yeah. And I think there's just a little slower pace.
[00:29:07] Rose: Here
[00:29:07] Adam: because there isn't that imminent threat that you're gonna run out of money and
[00:29:12] Rose: be out on the street.
[00:29:13] Right. Yeah. I've heard people say that about New York and LA and that even if they wanted to help someone out with a startup thing or a freelance thing, there either wasn't time or wasn't money. So it kind of forces a certain lifestyle. And so I'm glad that Columbus is awesome living is what it is. So as people who are at
[00:29:35] Adam: the top of the game are helping everybody else out, like, you know, they may talk to that, which is really
[00:29:39] Rose: cool.
[00:29:42] Yeah. Well, thank you
[00:29:43] Adam: very much. It's been a delight talking to you
[00:29:46] Rose: and
[00:29:47] Adam: more about
[00:29:47] Rose: the graphic design. Thank you for having me.