Capitalism and Creativity
Women & Design // Episode 4
In July of last year, I applied to a few internships out of curiosity. I’ve worked for about 7 organisations since (freelance and internship contracts combined) and I have made almost every mistake that I could.
Had it not been for the pandemic, I would currently have zero industry experience and no right to be writing this article. I could have never imagined, through all those lunchtime vodka shots, that I would be interning at the end of my first year. Life was limited to extravagantly pointless foundation assignments and the delusion that the industry could not possibly be as difficult as everyone had made it out to be.
I learned otherwise very, very quickly.
In July of last year, I applied to a few internships out of curiosity. I’ve worked for about 7 organisations since (freelance and internship contracts combined) and I have made almost every mistake that I could. I am now standing at the edge of my second year with a laptop bag full of lessons and the newfound wisdom that comes with turning 20, attempting to answer work questions that pre-pandemic Simran would have asked me over a round of lunchtime vodka shots.
How do you find good internship/freelance opportunities?
If you are actively looking for internships, some websites that I can recommend from experience are Internshala, Hello Intern and LinkedIn. However, it is important to understand that none of these websites are foolproof and that your ultimate experience is contingent on the third party that you interact with. My suggestion is based solely on the variety of opportunities that these websites provide.
In order to make sure that your workplace meets your expectations, you have to do a little research of your own. Glassdoor allows you to read employee reviews and learn about the nature of potential employers. I’ve been able to find and learn about even the smallest of organisations here. LinkedIn is another great way to measure the reputation of a company. Freelance opportunities are a little harder to find directly. Maintaining a good online portfolio on websites like Behance, LinkedIn and Instagram is the best way to get someone to contact you. Use relevant hashtags and make sure to mention that you are open to work.
How does one build a portfolio as a student with relatively little work?
If you have gone through at least 1 year of design college, you most likely have enough work to scrape up a portfolio for an internship! You just need to present correctly. You can create good looking portfolios for free on Behance, Adobe Portfolio or the Wix website builder.
Mockups are the best way to make any work you’ve done look polished, even if it’s a couple of practice posters, illustrations or logos. Group similar work and turn it into a project; a quick cover and description slide is always a good idea. Make sure that your descriptions are crisp.
At the internship level, most employers just want to make sure that you are familiar with relevant software and that you have a basic understanding of design.
What kind of stipend should you be looking at? How do you price your services for a freelance client?
I would suggest applying to mid range stipends, even if you don’t have any experience. I say this not only because your work should be valued, but also because low paying clients are some of the most difficult people that I have dealt with. If an organisation is offering only 2000 rupees for a month’s work of graphic design, it is already expecting the world. Don’t expect the exploitation to end there. In fact, my smoothest internship so far was the one that paid me the highest. Aim to start with at least 7-8k a month- This is an employer who understands the value of your work and will respect you.
As far as freelance pricing is concerned, I have learned to always make the first offer. Never ask a client how much they are willing to spend because this gives off the impression that you are unsure and flexible with your pricing; they will test their luck and start the negotiation off at a much lower price point than they planned. When you quote your price, make sure that your client knows that every step in your process is a service, right from the research to the ideation to the sketching to the digitisation. Explaining your process to a client will help you in two ways:
It will familiarise a non-creative with your process and encourage them to pay you how much you deserve.
Defining a step-by-step process will display that you are trustworthy, organised and experienced.
Please do not work for free in the name of experience. Even if you lack exposure to the industry, you are still equipped with skills, softwares and sensibilities. When you give these away for free, you are not only undervaluing yourself, but also telling the industry that it can get away with underpaying creatives. You can discount your services, but do not write them off.
What should you pay attention to in a contract?
To make sure that your expectations are met, there are 5 basic items that you need to pay attention to:
Payment stages and terms- Make sure that the timeline for your payment is outlined clearly and that your deliverables are well defined. Mention the number of iterations that you are including in your price and how much anything beyond that will cost.
Inclusion of the work in your portfolio- While some clients might be comfortable with being included in your portfolio, others might not. Outline how much work and what parts of the process you want to put in.
Your rights over your work- It is always good to know what a client plans on doing with your work once you hand it over and defining how much of it you are comfortable with, based on how much they are paying you.
Unexpected termination of work- Consequences must be agreed upon in advance in case either party decides to cease work midway due to unforeseen personal or professional circumstances.
Referrals and recommendations- Include a letter of recommendation/ online testimonial in your contract itself to make sure that your client puts in a good word for you after the job is done.
Bonus: The Formula Behind Creativity That Is Considered Genius.
A person will only describe a concept to be so clever that it is ‘genius’ if they can recognise that it would have never occurred to them. If you want the world to see that you process things differently, you must prove it using objects that it interacts with everyday. The only key to this acknowledgment is demonstrating that your audience’s frequent interactivity with a certain word, object or observation has not yielded, and therefore, will not yield the same result as yours did.
My ‘creativity’ is a calculated, well- practised process. My Notes app is filled with multiple odd lists of miscellaneous items. If I happen to find a form, word or idea that is fairly ambiguous, I put it down so I can play with it later. This is my idea bucket; it allows me to explore concepts that I might not have recalled immediately upon reception of a brief and generate the unexpected.
The basic formula, at least in my experience, is to take two extremely common elements and produce something novel. Try this out the next time you sit down to create something. It’s almost foolproof once you have trained yourself to look for the right elements.
We're always open to other perspectives, opinions and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!
With 🧡 Team WID.