Friday 10 June 2011

Tips for the Design Team-curious. 8: What did I miss? Round-up.

Hello for the last time in the Tips for the Design Team-curious series.
Today I'm going to address some of the questions I've had from readers seeking more information on:
  • What to include in your Design Team application email;
  • How to approach a magazine with your work ... and
  • The challenge of setting up your first blog.
But first, let me just say ...

... while this  may be the end of the 8 specific posts I set aside to focus on the topic, the conversation's not over ... or at least I hope it isn't!

For a start, the conversation was recorded:
  • the posts themselves aren't going anywhere!
  • they'll be listed on their own page for easy access for the foreseeable future;
  • so even if you're not contemplating a DT role, or seeking publication or if you haven't set up your blog yet ... all the advice will still be there, ready and waiting ... when you are.
Plus, the conversation has been continuing in other formats, so a big THANK YOU to:
  • those who blogged about this series;
  • those who tweeted about it, retweeted and shared links;
  • those who emailed and were so open about your creative hopes and fears;
  • those who subscribed to my blog due to this series;
  • those brand new readers who left me some delightful comments ... and ...
  • those of you who already know me who joined in the conversation too. Seeing your familiar names in my comments really made me feel part of something bigger than and beyond my small blog corner.
And lastly ... the conversation will go on ... because you can't shut me up that easily ...
When I was small [yes, yes, I am still small now ... let me start that again ... ] When I was young, if had an idea for an activity or game or project I wanted to try out, I would often pester my family to join in with me.

I'd suggest to them things that 'we' could ... as opposed to just little old 'me'.

Part of me wanted to carry them along and sweep them up in my grand plans, convincing them of how good it would be if they joined in! I thought that if I was so excited about the task, they would be too and that everyone could share what I was feeling.

And things haven't much changed.
While I grew [somewhat] bigger ... I'm still here -  wanting to take people with me -  wanting to demonstrate that the things I can achieve they can achieve too ... basically I've been trying to show you that my game can be your game too!

And I'm not done yet ... so expect to find me tugging at your sleeve suggesting you can do it /here's how to do it and just general personal cheerleading from me in the future!

But let's return to now and to ...

Design Team application emails:
OK then, I suppose the first part is easier to answer than the last, so:
  • Unless the DT specifically states they want pictures in the body of the email [which I don't think I've ever seen] simply send your chosen images as attachments to the email application.
  • Lts of DTs don't even ask for images - only a link to your blog or gallery - which is why it's a good idea to keep them up-to-date when you're seeking a DT role.
As for the second part of the question - and what the recruiters want to hear about you ... well ... that's a lot trickier as every team is seeking something slightly different depending on their style, attitude and readership.

However, here's some great, general advice from my one-time Design Team-Mamma Gauche Alchemy's Amy Wing:
Here - as I covered in detail in Part 3 'Shaping Up for Selection' - is again why it's so important you apply to a team you actually WANT to be on ... rather than being on a team for the sake of it, just so you can put their blinkie on your blog!

This doesn't mean you always have to know an awful lot about the team in advance or admit to life-long undying admiration for everthing they've ever done. Clearly opportunities will arise withing teams you've never even heard of  [Gauche Alchemy were a brand new business when I applied ... but even then I knew I wanted to be part of it].

Here's how to get a feeling for a team and where to pick up ideas of what makes them tick:
  • read their 'about us' / mission statement etc on their website / blog;
  • read their blog posts;
  • read back through their tweets - you don't need to be signed up to Twitter to read things there;
  • look at the blogs of existing or previous DT members;
  • read their product descriptions in their shops and familiarise yourself with their product lines.
Expressing your enthusiasm for their brand/blog should come easy if:
  • you like or even love their product ranges;
  • the products are something you've always wanted to try out;
  • their blog inspires you;
  • you creative outlook feels complimentary to theirs.
Conveying a genuine interest and enthusiasm for a particular brand will be far easier, and less time consuming than trying to fake it while sounding genuine!

However, your application doesn't need to be totally focussed on how good they are, in fact ... you shouldn't go too far in that direction as Amy continues:
Go back to Part 3 'Shaping Up for Selection' for more advice on what to avoid and the kind of confidence you should try to convey.
But here are a few ideas to adapt for the About Yourself section:
  • Inject your own personality in here;
  • making yourself memorable;
  • give them a glimpse of the real person they'll be taking on board - not just a project-making machine. They want this as much as you do!
Describe your creative style -
  • does your style fit theirs or are you offering them something brand new and fresh?
  • tell them why you will be good for them;
  • give examples of how their product suits your style;
  • surprise them with a unique use for a productof theirs;
  • eg. "My work is  best described as clean and simple / grungy / quirky / open / experimental / minimal with a hint of chaos"
  • eg. "Your images would make an amazing effect on my fingernails ..."
Describe your creative environment -
  • do your collections reflect what you'll be making for the team?;
  • is your creativity evident to a stranger from 100 paces on a foggy day?
  • eg. "Busy city girl by day - paper-layering, embellishment-making; vampire-scrapper by night"
  • eg. "If you're ever in the neighbourhood, just head for the house with the ribbon wreath on the door and pom-poms in the trees and you've found me" 
  • "My children have grown up believing it'sperfectly normal for your clothes to perfectly match the latest scrapbooking range".
Describe your experience or specialisms -
  • what are you great at?
  • what do people know you for?
  • can you write tutorials?
  • tell them how your photography compliments your projects?
  • do you blog often?
  • perhaps you've studied something useful to add in here - even classes you may have taguht previously;
  • eg. "a lifetime of experimenting with fabric / UTEE / acrylic paint"
  • eg. "I'm always seeking to find creative stamping techniques" etc
Describe your personal philosophy or suitability -
  •  are you chatty? - useful if they want someone using their message boards / Facebook etc
  • are you interested in others? - useful if they'll expect you to leave comments on their readers' challenge entries;
  • are you organised / used to working to deadlines / someone who likes to plan ahead? - tell them so.
  • highlight places wherever your personality and attitude matches what they are looking for.
Right then .. that's enough for you to be going on with nowI think! Really the main idea is to be yourself - but specifically you - so you become a 'real' person alongside your creative work.

Obviously you begin building your application  around the requirements and criteria which DTs set out for you ... but what about when your application is speculative?

Here's another reader's question ....
How to approach a magazine with an expression of interest
Like a DT application, this too will begin with you doing your research.
  • is it a specific magazine you want to get into - or just publishing in general?
  • if it's a general desire to be in print, look around online and on the shelves of shops for the titles you want to approach;
  • look on their website for something like the heading 'Submission Guidelines';
  • eg. the Somerset titles have theirs set out very clearly - others have nothing;
  • if they don't have any specific submission details online but they have a generic company email - send a general letter to that, asking for the best way to make an approach;
  • similarly you could ask on Twitter - all the major craft titles have Twitter accounts run by someone in their PR department or their creative team who can point you in the right direction;
  • look in the front of their magazine 'in the flesh' for any contact details. 
If you found an editor's email address on their site, then to me that suggests they will expect someone at some point to contact them on it, so I wouldn't be afraid to do so.

The actual content of your email will also vary depending on what it is you're seeking to do. These can be put into two rough categories: general expressions of interest and specific proposals. [And even a mix of the two!]
1. To me, a general expression of interest would go along the lines of:
  • introducing myself;
  • stating I'd like to contribute to their magazine;
  • stating why I'd be appropriate for it ie: style of work, quality of work etc
  • providing links to my blog / Flickr gallery;
  • mentioning previous experience;
  • asking if it's better to approach them with a clear idea - or if I could just be considered for anywork they regularly commission.
2. If I was writing a specific proposal with a particular project in mind I would do the same as above except:
  • include clear details of the project / feature you'd like contribute;
  • include photos if you have any - perhaps of a similar project / technique you'd made before;
  • suggest where this might fit in their publication - pay attention to the existing content, regular features in the magazine.
Finally, don't worry if you don't hear back straight away, they're busy people and plan issues months in advance, there might not be room for you straight away.
And don't get disheartened of they don't take you up on your offer. Try again with a different idea or try another magazine.
Good luck - let me know how things turn out for you!

Finally, after receiving two emails containing almost the exact same question I want to quickly touch on the next point without letting myself get drawn into Tips for the Blogging-curious!!
A few notes on becoming a blogger
... and similarly:
 Firstly, it made me smile to read that people reading my advice admit to overthinking when I must be one of the world's biggest overthinkers ... as perhaps an 8 part feature on one topic might suggest!
That aside ... I'mthe fact that they've both taken time to write to me about it suggests to me that they're just looking for a small kickstart with something they really will attempt in the near future. 

Here's a few starting points for anyone who feels the same:

Before you begin:
  • You can start your blog without publishing it live on the internet straight away.
  • You can work on its design and content in draft / private mode until you feel comfortable releasing it into the world.
  • Most people I know began like this - it takes the pressure off you until you're ready.
Your content:
Don't think of your blog as a big empty space to fill - think of your life as a busy, eventful, creative, colourful event which easily has enough going on to spill over and get mopped up into blog posts! [Even if you don't think so yet!]
  • Personally I think 'blabbing' about what makes you happy is pretty much the perfect starting point!
  • If it makes you happy you're more likely to stick with it over time.
I used to blog only my craft projects as I really began to blog to get more DT chances! I would keep all my other little pieces of writing in my notebooks until eventually I decided that even if the bloggers I admired didn't blog things they'd overheard, or stories about their daily lives or what they'd found in junk shops ... it didn't mean I shouldn't. So I do. And I'm much happier!
  • I assure you that once you begin you soon forget about worrying about having something new to blog because you'll suddenly begin to see EVERYTHING as a blogging opportunity.
  • "Ooh I could blog about that" becomes a frequent phrase as it's all just what goes on in my daily life - elevated by being online for others to read.
  • Try setting yourself some categories [like the My Month in Numbers feature I blog, or any of the many many 'memes', lists, photo posts etc that groups of bloggers join in with eg. Julia Dunnit's What's on Your Work Desk Wednesdays [where you post a photo of what's on your workdesk ... on Wednesdays ... but you guessed that ... right?]
So categories are a great way to structure your blogging time and let your readers know the kind of things to expect from you. Don't give yourself too many strict days and rules though ... you'll be setting yourself up to fail. Do it as and when you feel like it! 
Spreading out the content:
Along with your categories helping with this, try:
  • keeping your posts focussed on one project / item at a time;
  • I see some people blogging lots of scrapbook pages/cards etc in a single post and not only do they not get the attention they deserve - they eat up content which could be spread out over a week.
  • more frequent posting will help you build a steady stream of readers ... who can also be future friends and industry connections.
As for wondering wondering whether anyone will read it ... well ....  you need to know in advance that it takes time and effort to gain and keep a readership.
If you enjoy what you're blogging about, then don't lose heart, keep having fun and gradually your network will grow.
Gaining readers:
Some great advice I once heardat work regarding marketing was that there's no point in creating amazing advertising posters ... if you only put them up in an empty basement! 
If no one can see it how will they know what you're selling? Same goes for blogging:
  • Are you on any crafting forums? Where allowed add a link to your signature in your profile etc;
  • Same goes for being on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and any other social / community media out there;
  • If you're not on any other sites - don't panic, you can get yourself spotted by leaving comments on other people's blogs
  • People will see your name and often hop over to check out who left the comment;
  • Similarly,  joining in with challenge blogs gets people clicking through to your blog.
And know the following things now - in advance - so you don't go crazy thinking you're alone:
  •  ... sometimes you will hate blogging;
  • you will feel inferior to everyone who ever blogged. Ever.
  • you will compare yourself to people you actually really like ... and then resent their popularity;
  • you will think about giving it up and then ...
... one day:
  • you'll get a comment from someone and you'll smile ....or laugh out loud, or get goosebumps down your neck;
  • someone will compliment your work, someone will say 'well done'; someone will say 'thank you'.
  • And it'll be all you need to keep going ...  for at least one more post ... then another ...
If you need further tips on the technical sid eof blogging, there are endless classes out there you could take and lots of free resources if you just Google for 'blogging tips / how to / tutorials' etc

And, if you do start a blog after reading this - let me know and I'll post a link to your new online home in a post over here sometime. Then your first post will definitely have at least one reader in me ... and then anyone else who stops by here might just check you out too!

Ok, that really is all for now! I'm all blogged out ... for today at least.
If you're currently testing out any of the tips from the series - or if you do so at any time in the future -  keep in touch . You can be the Tips for the Design Team-curious in-house design team trying out my 'product' for me!
Thank you again for reading the series, I hope you found something there which felt it was meant just  for you. Take it ... take it ... it's yours!

See you very soon.


  1. Thanks for all the insight on the DT process and answering my questions! :) I've been working on photographing my things a little better (love the sideoats & scribbles that you shared) and now to perfect my letter. Thanks for reminding me to stay myself and look for the opportunities that fit me!

  2. Thanks for this series, it's been so interesting and also encouraging, you really make me feel like anything is possible! Cheers for answering my questions and for making me smile with some of your funny suggestions eg. 'vampire scrapper by night'.

    I love reading your blog! x

  3. I've really enjoyed reading this series - well done and thank you! I came to your blog via Gauche Alchemy and am now here to stay. You've said a lot of really valuable stuff - encouraging, englightening and entertaining. I'll be back to this series for reference no doubt! x

  4. Wow just caught up on your DT series! One heck of a lot of food for thought & amazingly well-written. Well done!(Sorry I'll try & leave a more educated, less gushing comment later).

  5. A thoroughly entertaining and informative series I have learnt alot from it - thankyou!

  6. Thanks so much for writing this series, as I mentioned on twitter I've found it so useful and valuable - both your thoughts on DT's (which I've never been apart of before but always considered) and on blogging in general (which I still feel fairly new to). I really only started reading your blog at the beginning of this series but I'm so glad to have found an awesome new blog to add to my reader :)

  7. Hi, Julie! I just started reading your blog lately, and have really gotten a lot out of your recent posts with suggestions on putting work out there, publishing, etc.! For a newcomer, all of these tips and tricks are helpful! I recently sent in some of my work for the first time and while it has been a confidence-affirming process, it also makes me worry that the work isn't good enough. Knowledge tends to make the process seem less mysterious and scary! Thanks!

  8. This is some of the best dt information I have ever read. You should be SO proud of your work. Very well written and the suggestions are doable for anyone. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I found it inspiring and encouraging. Thank you!!

  9. Thank you so much for the tips! You definitely have a new follower in me! Not to mention, your writing style fricking RAWKS! I'm off to check out the rest of you bloggity-blog! Thanks again!


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