Grace Smith is a designer, self-proclaimed Apple fan-girl and Twitter addict based in Northern Ireland. Her design studio, Postscript5, specializes in Blog and User Interface design. Grace works with individuals and companies based mainly in the UK and USA, on a diverse range of projects and enjoys collaborating with other designers and developers.
First, thanks Grace, being interviewed on the Freelance Show! Can you tell our readers about your background in design leading up to starting your studio, Postscript 5?
Thanks for asking me, I’m thrilled to be on The Freelance Show!
A passion for design and art is a huge part of who I am. I was an avid artist throughout my childhood and right through school. I actually remember creating sites using Geocities when I was a lot younger, so it’s been a long time since my first site, but I didn’t start designing ‘properly’ until my first year at University.
After I graduated with a Multimedia Design Degree in 2005 I started work as a graphic designer for a local print company. Concentrating so much on print work made me miss working online though, so after a year I started to freelance in my spare time and build up both my contacts and portfolio to the point where I could freelance full-time and create Postscript5, which has now been in existence for over 3 years.
Being a designer is just very natural and suits my sensibilities and passions. I can’t really think of being anything else!
Describe how blogging, social media and your personal projects impacted your design business? Have you noticed a direct impact resulting in new clients that you may not have otherwise had?
Writing and blogging is important and has become an integral part of my personal branding and also acts as a way for me to continually learn and explore new ideas, techniques and technologies.
I have noticed an increase in enquiries to Postscript5 since I started blogging early last year. It has essentially acted as a fantastic branding and promotional tool. I regularly get asked to take part in articles, interviews and features for other sites and blogs, which further helps to build my brand and introduce me to new audiences. For instance being featured in 40 Amazing Female Role Models for Web Designers and on various Twitter lists has landed me clients as recently as last week.
I don’t think any freelancer can overlook blogging and social media as ways to build both your brand name and credibility. It serves as cheap, invaluable marketing for your business if you approach it with the right focus.
My personal projects such as Theme Thursday and most recently The Freelance Feed are essential for me to experiment and work at my own pace as well as putting some of creative energy into projects that I work on independently.
What are some of your favorite apps (web or desktop) that you incorporate into your freelance business?
These are the apps that I use on a regular basis within my business:
I recently switched from Safari to Chrome and so far it’s been excellent, although i do have to use Chromium to enable the plugins. It’s been an awful lot more stable than both Safari and Firefox, the fact it’s lightning quick also helps!
I’ve used both CSSEdit and Espresso but always come back to Coda. It integrates everything that I need; namely a code editor, CSS editor, preview pane, SSH Terminal, website management and an FTP client.
I run all my mail through Google Apps as a desktop app using Fluid, with all my accounts streaming into a single inbox and then filtered into their own labels to keep thing organised. Previously I used the native Mail app, however I switched to Google to better streamline my email process. Google Apps is essential to my business, especially Google Doc’s which is fantastic to use with clients and collaborators, to work on Specs, Scheduling and project specifics.
I was a Freshbooks user for several years but recently switched to Curdbee as I needed a simpler, more cost effective solution. Curdbee is an excellent service, offering the necessary functionality and features which suit my needs perfectly.
After longing for a super simple, ‘get your stuff done’ to-do list app, I knew my search was over once I found TaskPaper. No bloated complex software, just a fast, simple app that makes sure I keep up to date with my tasks.
I started using Noteable just a few weeks back and so far have been hugely impressed. It allows me to easily and efficiently get visual feedback from clients via a slick, intuitive interface. It’s by far the best method of getting feedback and signoff I’ve ever used.
I’ve been using it since the days of Photoshop 6 and can’t see myself usng any other app. It’s where every design I work on is created and polished.
What are some of the upcoming trends you are seeing in web and User Interface design? What trends do you see on the decline—or perhaps that have become too overused and abused?
With the development of CSS3 and HTML5 I think we are going to see designers and developers utilising these new features to add more unique and innovative ‘touches’ to their designs. A small number have already implemented some of the new techniques, and this will increase greatly over the year, in my prediction.
Like myself, more and more designers and developers are stepping into Mobile design, I would expect a marked increase in 2010 in mobile specific design.
I think overall we’re going to see a continuation of some of the major trends of 2009, namely;
1. Huge Typography
2. Oversized footers
3. Modal boxes
4. Grids & Magazine Layouts, and
5. Hand drawn illustration
I would personally like to see an end to the overuse of cliched stock photography! I love it when a site uses rather quirky imagery rather than the obvious, even if it’s stock, it doesn’t have to be boring.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your freelance design career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge would have to be the fact I was quite shy. I’ve found though that freelancing has been a great way to build my confidence, force me to step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to become composed and confident when communicating with others to the point where I’m now completely at ease when speaking publicly, meeting new clients and in large groups, for example.
Now I actually teach IT & Design classes in a local development centre so it’s certainly paid off!
Lastly, what advice would you have for beginning freelancers—or those who are looking to grow their freelance business?
To any new freelancer it’s important to be prepared! Not just with the obvious such as your portfolio. Have a rock solid contract in place, create proposal and estimate templates, setup your email (including signature) and have reliable hardware and software.
Being thoroughly prepared, setting your rates and routine, knowing exactly how you will operate and what you will offer, will not only save you time but it will mean more billable time in the beginning. Instead of spending 2 hours in Photoshop and 22 hours trying to sort out your admin and finances!
For those looking to grow their business, it’s always difficult though there are some excellent resources available such as: 101 Ideas to Get More Freelance Work and Generate New Client Leads.
Personally I’ve found referrals have helped grow my business to a point where I now usually collaborate with other trusted freelancers on projects, which has allowed me to grow the business and take on larger projects without the expenses of physically employing someone. Plus I get to work with some awesome people!
Thanks Grace, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story with the Freelance Show!