Friday 3 June 2011

Tips for the Design Team-curious. 6: Making *it* work for *you*!

Hi, hi, hi.

We're on the home stretch now, just this plus 2 posts next week to go for my part of this series.

But for you ... I don't know, maybe this is just the start of something for you? I hope so! Even if it has nothing to do with Design Teams I wonder if the series has:
  • maybe marked a change in your confidence about your own work [see Part 3];
  • motivated you to develop your photography skills [as covered in Part 4]
  • or if you're looking for even more ideas of where to go and how to move forward in the industry without going down the DT route at all ... then hang around next week for Part 7 which will look at all kinds of new beginnings and new places to share your creativity.
But before that ... there's today ...

Today's post will be useful to you once you get that DT role or indeed if you're already on one:
Once you're on the team that spare time you once had to craft, create and experiment entirely for yourself will now, in part, have to be shared with your DT work and naturally creating and blogging to fit someone else's schedule comes with its own pressures. But with a few simple actions you can support both the team and the Brand of You at the same time.

Start managing your own 'brand'
If you focus on yourself, you can still doing offer the team your best work while making sure it's the best work for you too.  This is a great way to dodge feelings of resentment that could emerge while you're spending your free time promoting a company that isn't yours.

Manage your brand ... in your blog post layout:
  • Where possible, add your name at the top of your posts on the DT blog. Blogging platforms add the name of the author automatically at the bottom of the post but, let's face it, we don't always read down to the very end do we? Having your name at the top can help connect your name with the amazing project you made ... even if the reader clicks away before the end!
  • Similarly in my current DT role I put my first name in the title of my posts eg. 'Julie :: Vintage style card'. 
  • Add link to your blog at the end of the post [I make my name an active link to my blog] just in case your project leaves someone craving more of you!
Obviously different DTs might have different rules on this so you might want to check with them beforehand. But between them, the teams I've been on have encouraged their DT members to identify themselves at the start of a post to inject individual personality into the blog and also to end with their own unique sign-off for the same reason.

Manage your brand ... in your blog content:

Don't be shy to publicise the fact that you're on a DT on your own blog - this really doesn't mean your giving the hard-sell.
  • If you blog a DT project on your own blog make it clear that it's a DT project.
  • I like to do this as I don't want anyone to feel like I was 'selling' anything without being up front. 
  • Likewise, I prefer it when I read a someone elses blog, to see them mention it clearly in the post ... as opposed to leaving it out deliberately - or not stating it as they imagine everyone already knows what teams they're on. There are a lot of bloggers out there and with the best will in the world I can't remember everyone's details.
  • This needn't mean you make a major declaration of interest but just a simple 'Hi, here's my DT project for X this week' keeps things nice and open [or maybe it's just me who cares about this??]
  • Publicise your turn on the DT blog in the same way you would your own posts. Seeing as how many DTs expect you to use social networks anyway ... you might as well use it to your mutual advantage.
  • when possible write posts, on your own blog on the same day you have a post on the DT blog to cross promote your work. 
This may seem like double the effort, but it needn't always be:
  • if you make 3 cards in a session, blog 2 for the DT blog and put one on your own with links to/from both posts;
  • if you blog a layout on the DT blog, maybe blog an embellishmet or technique you used on your own blog;
  • if it's a stamped image you blog for the DT, show a few colour variations on your own ... anything to increas ethe chances of a reader hopping between them. More readers for your own blog + more for the DT blog too = win, win.
  • the two blogs are likely to have a different readerships, so you're not really just showing the same people the same thing twice. 
    The calendar is your friend
    Firstly all those DT commitments will need adding into your calendar ... but while you're there let the calendar work in your favour.

    It will depend on what kind of creating you do and the nature of the team you're on, but still, there are many ways you can use your DT life to get your daily life organised in advance. Before starting from scratch on a new DT project, consult your calendar, see what's coming up ... and then:
    • make cards which  for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries etc etc
    • make your cards with someone specific in mind. This will save you having to find time later to make them a handmade card outside of your DT commitments!
    • make gift tags etc ahead of time for special occasions;
    • layouts, mini-books can all fulfil your DT commitments AND be given as a gift;
    • Altered items, off-the-page items, decorated notebooks / frames / boxes ... the list is endless ... but all can be made and blogged for your DT schedule, then wrapped [in bags you've made in a previous DT project!] then given as teacher's gifts, thank yous, emergency 'oh no I forgot it was your birthday' gifts.
     Far from stealing away all of your spare time your DT commitments can actually become a great opportunity to set time aside to create special handmade cards and gifts.

     But hey ... with all this give, give, giving ... don't forget to ...

    Please yourself!
    Yes, when I was on the Gauche Alchemy DT I made a scrapbook page about one of the toilets at work.
    • I made it because I wanted to,  not because it was a 'theme of the week' on their blog or anything!
    • It made me smile [you might remember from Part 3 that I made a few other pages that made me smile when I was on that team too!] ... and what else was I going to do with a photo I took in a toilet?
    • I've tried to organise myself enough so that I when I had something I HAD to do ... it was also something I WANTED to do, and would have done anyway.
    In short:
    • I've practised combining my 'hobby crafter' self with my 'DT crafter' self to make sure they don't become separate.
    So, that's why I say you should make what you want to make.

    It may sound obvious to say, after all, once we leave school we don't often sit around making things we don't want to make! But ...

    ... but when those deadlines are looming you can naturally be tempted to just make something, anything, to fill that gap! But you might not want to do this too often because, in effect, you'll wasting your 'wages'!

    In Part 2 we put to bed the myth that you get 'free' stuff when you're on a DT because you pay for it in time and effort. But when you're using those products - your wages - on:
    • projects you like'
    • projects that feel like 'you';
    • projects you can even say you love;
    • projects you would have made anyway even if no one was expecting you to ...
     ... well, then you're getting some true value from them.

    Because anything else:
    • such as making something because you had to;
    • using up all your fee [products] on a project you don't really care about and will probably bin afterwards;
    • and only doing it to please the DT blog ... 
     ...  well, to me that's a bit like going out to work, getting paid in hard cash ... but then spending all the money on your boss just to keep them happy!

    You wouldn't do it in 'real' life, so why fall into that trap in your DT role? As long as you're producing quality work and showing commitment to your team I see no reason not to keep yourself happy too!

    But ... once you're all happily settled into your DT marriage ... it shouldn't  mean you should let your crafting muscles get flabby ... you should still put the effort in ...

    Please yourself - but push yourself too:
    Here I'm not really talking about craftyfolk who are on a DT for the camerarderie or purely as a casual hobby, I'm really aiming this at those who are:
    • hoping a spot on a DT is only the start of a career [in whatever form] within the creative industry;
    • hoping to build a larger blog-following [for whatever reason ie: to build your own business around]; 
    • or even those hoping it will bring them something ... without quite yet knowing what the something is!
    So, this part is for you if you want to:
    • capitalise on the platform / audience you've been given on a DT blog;
    • really test yourself / prove yourself /stretch yourself while you're there;
    • prevent yourself getting bored or stuck in a creative rut ...
    ... then use the motivation of having to produce work to a schedule to push you into:
    • pushing the limits of the products you get sent;
    • thinking of alternative uses for them - novelty is often a winner on DT blogs as, really, as there is a danger of projects which all use the same products becoming 'samey'.
    • test out ideas, experiment;
    • keep a notebook of future ideas to tackle;
    • develop all those half-ideas in the back of your mind;
    • don't be afraid of being you. Don't water yourself down because you're on a mainstream blog. Presumably they chose you because they liked your work as it was! Don't go changing ...  
    • improve your photography skills and start writing tutorials as we covered in Part 4.
    And finally, if you want people to know you beyond your Design Team tenure be different ...make yourself  memorable!

    This way, not only will it help you in carrying readers with you across to your own blog ... if you're anything like me, it'll stop you getting complacent and even bored!
    I'll admit that I do get easily bored, distracted, eager to move on to the next new thing ... so all those tips I've just laid out are truly all ones I've tried to live by myself.

    When I worked with Banana Frog stamps, alongside plenty of cards and layouts, I also tried out  making jewellery, a belt, wrapping paper and notebooks. I stamped on tea towels, T-shirts, shoes, pebbles and sea glass [all those projects can be found in my master-list of DT projects!]

    And I even once attempted to make a project out of stamping on my fingernails using Staz-On ... it didn't work ... but I've still not entirely given up on the idea!

    And looking back on the work I did there I'm pleased I pushed myself:
    • Now I have a body of work, a post-DT-portfolio, of projects I can be proud of.
    • I have projects I can confidently show to magazine editors;
    • I have samples which I could easily build a class around and if I ever wanted to teach them.
    I made things I would never have just sat at home and made 'just because', but the deadlines and the knowledge that I had a larger platform than my own blog to perform on pushed me to make the most of it. Both for the team .. and for myself.
    • plan ahead as much as possible;
    • fit DT projects around things you need to make [ie. gifts + cards] or that you want to make [ie. creating your own albums etc];
    • Don't be shy of being 'you' even when you're representing the DT;
    • Don't be shy of discussing your DT work on your own blog - it's too time consuming to split yourself into two separate crafty-people!
    • Push yourself to try new things - don't always play it safe;
    • you can work with the calendar too, planing posts around special occasions, themes etc- this can help if you're stuck for ideas of what to blog.
    • draft some posts ahead of time, not everything has to be made, photographed and blogged in the same week. 
    • If a project would compliment an upcoming occasion [ie: Halloween, Christmas, Summer etc] why not draft out the post and then save it up until the next one comes around. Then you'll be ahead of the game.
    • if you start to resent blogging - have a break - think about what you like being featured on blogs then come back refreshed and do that!
    • I'm almost certain that, if you went back and replaced wherever I've written 'Design Team role' with 'whatever your job title is' and the words 'DT blog' with 'wherever you work' , the tips would  apply to you too;
    • Find ways within the system to develop your own role, either simply to keep you happy while you're there ... or to help you develop skills so you can move on!
    OK then, I'll leave you alone now ... so you can polish and refine your plans to single-handedly take over the Craftiverse.

    Best of luck ... and do let me know how you get on!

    See you next week for the final 2 parts.


    Please note: During the 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 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. Oh Julie, you crack me up! I'm intrigued to see if you can work out a way to stamp your nails with stayz on. I just made it onto a DT (excited much?!) and this post was very helpful, thanks lady!

    2. Can I keep saying how good this series is? I've definitely slotted into the 'real world' translation part a few times, often while temping and once when I worked in a HR dept and they realised I was (just a tiny bit) obsessed with making forms, etc.. look pretty, and I got to revamp them for the whole company!

      Stupidly though, I'm not sure I've ever sat back and applied the last tip on your bloggers list - working out what it is I like to read on other people's sites. So simple, but so clever, and now on my to-do-soon list. :)


    3. Wow, I just found this today and I went and read everything about the DT - b/c I am a hopeful with 1 under my belt! :) Thank you so much for all the info b/c I was totally in the dark about how to go about the process. I threw away one of the DT calls I was going to send in after reading b/c I was on a DT high! Ha ha. I was wondering if you would be covering how to write the e-mail that you send: such as do I post a picture in the e-mail or attach? What do they want to know in the tell me about you question. Etc...

      Again, I can't wait to read more and I am going to go share a link to this b/c it is great!

    4. @ CurlyWiggles - I'm *so* pleased it's been useful - can't wait to hear about your DT spot!

      @Kirsty - thanks lovely.So grateful that you keep sharing your own experiences in the comments.

      @ antenucci - Thanks so much. Great point about the cover letter - let me see what I can suggest in the final post later this week.

    5. Just been catching up on these posts - am so behind on my blog hopping. Just love this and I can't get over how helpful it is for other things not just DT calls. Dare I say it - you surpassed your twitter class? What's next?

    6. This is an awesome series, Julie, and so very to-the-point. A good DT will want you to stretch your wings and be yourself at the same time you are promoting their product. At Gauche Alchemy, we were always thrilled with the unique themes you came up with for just about everything. Yes, I remember that toilet page - and all the other great work you did for us. Anyway, the whole point of DT work is to get to the win-win that you outline so well here. We miss you on our team, Julie - you gave us so much and yet we would have kept you on forever if we'd had a chance... readers of this series take note! Julie knows how to do the DT thing up right.


    Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.