Friday 27 May 2011

Tips for the Design Team-curious. 3: Shaping up for selection

Hello you. You came back then I see. 

I'm relieved!

Clearly the criticisms I raised in Part 2 'Finding a balance of expectations' haven't put you off going down the Design Team route. [Either that or you're checking in to see if I've had a meltdown after it ... which I haven't!] No, I'm still here and seeing as how you are too I'm going to get even more demanding now I know you're persistant! 

Even if you're not reading this as a DT hopeful today's post [Part 3], along with Parts 4 and 6, contains tips which lots could be useful to anyone wanting to present themselves with more confidence, promote skills which are complimentary to their craft or to generally just polish up their act!

Right, let's get on with it ... notebooks at the ready ...
Are you good enough?
Right now, right this minute, if a DT call was announced in the next 5 minutes, could you apply with enough confidence to believe you were in with a chance?

If you answered 'No' ... then stay where you are, you're in the right place, because by the end of this session I hope you'll have changed your mind. I'd love it if you were able to reply:
  • "Yes I am good enough" or ... at the very least...
  • "Oh, OK then, maybe I'm not so useless afterall" or even ... 
  • "Hell yeah I'm good enough! Now get out of my way - I've got people to impress!"
In which case I'll consider my work here done ... and go put my feet up. 

Until then, let's talk about the awkward subject of talent and if you've actually got what it takes to get on to a DT.

How do I know if I am good enough?

We're often the harshest critics of our own work so it can be hard to decide on what's 'good enough' and what will impress someone who doesn't know you! But, if you're putting together a DT application, or even if you're still just rolling the idea around in your mind, at some point you're going to have to out your creative neck on the line and send your work for scrutiny by others.

Objectively judging your own talents is hard and rather than  just hide your crafty-light under a bushel you could try this method:
  • select a few of your latest / favourite pieces of work and set them out in front of you;
  • open up the blog/gallery of the team you're trying out for;
  • compare your work to theirs;
If you still don't trust your own judgement, repeat the process with a friend or relative whose opinion you trust ... but who isn't just trying to be kind. 

  • if you don't think you're quite there yet, maybe take some time to work on new skills, pay attention to small details which add to a more professional feel to projects or try out new techniques.  
  • if this comparison process surprises you / wakes you up to your own qualities ... then please ... allow yourself a victory for a change!
 However, when you are in that place of working out if you're good enough, don't forget to ask ...

Am I good enough for WHO?
In DT life as in romance ...  there's someone out there for everyone. You just need to find the right match.
This much I know to be true. Mainly because ...

During my time on the Gauche Alchemy DT I made scrapbook pages about some fairly unusual things and got away with it. Take, for example, the layouts featuring: 
And not only was I not banished from their blog they were actually delighted with it ... because, after all, they were the ones who put a playboy image in my ephemera kit to start with!

So, you see, there really is a team:
  • for everyone
  • for every style of crafting, [from cute-in-a-good-way, to grungy, to clean and simple, to cute-in-a-bad-way ... etc etc]
  • for every attitude and outlook. 
  • and for every lifestyle [there are Faith challenge blogs; challenges where you only scrap the males in your life, challenges for kraft-addicts ... all human life is out there!].
You just need to look around and focus your energies into applying for teams you feel are already a good fit for you ... so you don't end up bending your style just to get on a team:
  • don't get hung up on getting on the most well known manufacturer's DTs;
  • there are smaller companies out there, with specific, niche products who are eager for team members who 'get' them and their style. 
  • If you already belong to the kind of online communities that someone niche wants to expand their market into, then that can only work in your favour.
  • Plus there are many, many online stores who set up their own DTs, tailored to reflect the mix of products they sell.
And don't forget about challenge blog Design Teams:
  • while the founders of these don't generally offer any form of payment - neither are they receiving any themselves, so .. you know ... fair's fair;
  • they're often seeking fresh talent and friendly contributions - rather than full-on 'commitments' and perfection;
  • there are a lot of them ... which means more opportunites and vacancies!
Be realistic ... 
There are manufacturers out there whose products I really really like and part of me would like to think that I could be a part of their team. But then equally, I doubt I'd stand a chance as my work isn't like that of their existing DT. 

I suppose there are two ways to process that way of thinking:
  1. I could go for it anyway - hoping they'll appreciate that I'm offering something different from their usual branding OR
  2. I could decide not to put myself through it when I don't ever imagine I'll get in. 
To me, both options seem valid. 
But I think that, if I truly wanted to be on that team above all else, I'd try-out anyway ... possible dints to self-confidence be damned!
... but don't be put off:

Even if you don't consider your work to be on par with that of the members of your favourite DT ... you still needn't be be deterred. 

It's not all about who can create the most amazing scrapbook pages; the most creative multi-layered cards; the most altered of all altered items.

It can be about those things ... but it isn't ALL like that DT recruiters are also interested in you beyond the projects you submit.

Remember that list of requirements from Part 2? It shows that, just like recruiters in the job market, DTs are looking for more than just raw talent. They're also seeking:
  • commitment;
  • availability;
  • reliability;
  • communication skills;
  • social media skills;
  • presentation skills and so on and so on ...
You have more to offer a DT than your creative talents and if your application can convey your competence in some of these 'transferable skills' alongside your creative work you'll be giving yourself an extra edge.
Also, seeing as how DT recruiters are real, living, breathing humans too ... they're also looking at whether you'll fit in, whether they feel they can talk to you ... whether they like you. And as there's no way of working this out in advance, you've just got to be yourself as far as possible. 

In fact ... as with any job application:
Creating confidence:
I don't want to deliver this next part as 'advice' per se. Because, frankly, it's personal preference and I have no evidence that it works! This one is  purely my opinion!

Email is your friend!
Being able to introduce myself to people via email means:
  • I get to 'speak' at my own pace; 
  • I have time to select my words carefully; 
  • I can take breaths in between phrases; 
  • I can state my case without stumbling.
All of which provides me with my best ever opportunity to come across as a normal, capable, grown-up with a brain and a voice. 
What happens when someone subsequently meets me in real life is their problem ... ;-) 

So, whenever I have this calm, collected, 'virtual' opportunity apply for jobs or DT roles; invite people to guest blog for me; write cover letters and proposals or brazenly introduce myself to people whose work I admire I always aim to be:
  • respectful, friendly, polite, open, real.
Meanwhile I'm able to edit out anything remotely:
  • awestruck, apologetic, self-deprecating, self-doubting.
I bear in mind that DTs - as with editors etc - are looking for someone:
  • able;
  • reliable;
  • practical;
  • able to represent their brand online ... unmonitored ... unscripted ...  
Therefore, it makes sense to leave out ...: 
  • anxieties about how your work might not be up standard;
  • explanations why the photos you sending aren't the best you've ever taken;
  • excuses about why your blog isn't up-to-date;
  • unneccesary flattery;
  • going for the sympathy vote;
  • And anything remotely like 'I'm not worthy'!
The last thing you want to do is make a recruiter uncomfortable or have doubts about you ... use the joys of virtual communication to put your best you forward.

To save you time and to help you keep a clear, rational head when you hear the perfect DT call for you, then you could:
  • have a carefully, confidently, drafted cover letter already saved on your computer;
  • edit it once you've read through the particular team's requirements;
  • prepare a crafting CV/resume containing your successes or ventures to date;
  • consider having this online somewhere - I have my Crafting CV up there ^^ as a page on my blog - as this enables you to send someone a short link, rather than a long document.
Also think about storing your work in an online gallery [ie: Flickr] as well as on your blog. 
  • Arranging your projects into sets/folders makes it easier for you put your hand on those favourite projects you would most likely offer up in the event of an application. 
  • Even when they don't ask for it I include a link to my Flickr gallery in DT applications ... it opens up my entire visual archive to them in one click.
  • And if they don't click on it ... I haven't lost anything, it only took me the time to paste a link into an email.

  • Don't get disheartened;
  • Keep an open mind about the kind of team you want to be on;
  • Try to be objective about your work;
  • Be confident when applying ... even if you're not. It's all conducted online. Who'll ever know?
  • If you've ever wanted to guest blog for a site you think you'd be a good match for - email them - ask! 
  • Building a loyal blog following is also about finding the right niche for you. Finding those readers who match your attitude, style etc.
  • Look around for who you feel comfortable with, leave a comment, visit the blogs of their followers and commenters too.
  • We can't all be [insert name of super-super-popular-blogger-here] but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for us and whatever it is we blog about.
  •  the pre-prepared updated CV, cover-letter, assuming / faking confidence ... it's all taken from real life career's advice anyway!
  • On and yes ... there probably is someone - romantically - for everyone ... but I'm not about to add 'match-maker' to that CV ... I'm steering well clear! 

Join me for more tips aimed at presentation and getting you selected to a DT in Part 4 and check out the 'Tips for the DT-curious' page where I've added the full list of upcoming topics, so you know what to expect in the next posts. 

Thank you to everyone who's already left a comment and who's tweeted me and re-tweeted links to the series. Really ... thank you.

Julie  x


Please note: During this series I do NOT refer in a negative way to any teams or companies by name. I ask that, if you share experiences or opinions in a comment, you stick to this way of doing things too.

Thank you in advance … you can collect yourself an ‘I Play Nice’ sticker for your cardigan on your way out.

© Julie Kirk 2007-2011 The images used throughout the series feature the projects I've made and photographed as part of my Design Team commitments over the last 4 years. 


  1. More oh-so-sound advice, lovely lady - am so enjoying this series, despite having no current intention to do the DT thing again.

    Also, to echo what you've said, sometimes it really is your differences which make you stand out, to the point where they can become a virtue. I did quite a lot of work for Scrapbook Inspirations (before the magazine folded) and I think it was the fact that I made stuff with paper and papercraft supplies but wasn't actually a scrapbooker that helped get me repeat commissions (I was their pet lost-cause!).

    Really looking forward to Part 4.


  2. Another fab makes me realise that what I want is just to sit in my little garret and craft!( and chunter to myslf!)

  3. I am love love loving this series Julie! Your points about finding the right fit and staying true to yourself are so important!

  4. I'm loving this series Julie. It's perfectly written, full of great advice and completely real. Go you! x

  5. So refreshing!! I'm referring my readers to this series for sure. :)

  6. Ah, you were such a fantastic, wonderful, perfect match for Gauche Alchemy. It's taking me back and thrilling me that you mention your projects for us in this series. This is so spot-on. You were our earliest DT member because you so embodied everything we wanted to represent, and you did not disappoint. So the advice about finding your niche is very important. One thing I find appealing, personally, in reviewing DT applications is enthusiasm. I want to know someone is STOKED to work with us. I also want to know they are not so cowed by the DT application process that they are afraid to be themselves. So I love the applications that are written as if someone is confiding in their best friend or sister, letting us know who they are without being too over-the-top with praise and flattery. Great series, Julie. Very good job.

  7. Great work! Really loved it..i would be recommended to my friends!

    Art Cv


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