Expert Interview Series: Bojan Stefanovic (AKA Logoholik) on growing his design career
This interview is part of Payoneer’s Expert Interview Series. Check out our previous interviews with Hazel Bernadette Gapuz of Blogapalooza, Vipin Nayar of Acodez, Tamal Anwar of Blogkori, Alwin Aguirre of The City Roamer and Marv de Leon of Freelance Blend.
Bojan Stefanovic (aka Logoholik) is graphic designer with 10+ years of experience in logo design and brand identity from Belgrade (Serbia). Bojan is the founder of Logoholik Studio, a father of two, and a self-proclaimed “absolute optimist”.
Why did you decide to become a designer? What inspired you?
It may sound cliché 🙂 but I was drawing and doing (although in primitive form) all sorts of lettering work throughout my childhood. I remember scoring good marks in school solely on the account of my well-illustrated school notebooks.
Later on, I decided to take an apprentice position at a print shop, as I wanted to learn the techniques of prepress and later on graphic design. Since I started to work at 16, I took, probably, the harder route. Instead of classic education, I built my career as a graphic designer through working in many design studios and advertising agencies, from prepress operator, through junior and senior designer to art director positions. Ten years ago I decided to build my own freelance career solely focusing on brand identity development.
How does one get started in this business?
In my time, my advantage as an aspiring young designer was the fact that graphic design was fairly new discipline. The market was not saturated; if you worked hard, find (offline) connections and focus on your work, you could succeed. Main disadvantage was the lack of a real market in my (rather small) country. That is where online presence and global market comes to play nowadays. It is now tremendously easier to find clients and jobs than it was when I was starting out. Nowadays, the field feels much more “crowded”. You need to employ all means at hand (read social media sites like www.dribbble.com, www.behance.com or www.logopond.com) to showcase your (good) work and get exposure for new clients. There are several very good courses from really good artists online, while http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/ has really good insights on new identities. If you can, try to visit their conference also.
What was the biggest professional challenge for you early on in your career? What is the biggest challenge now?
When I was starting out, the biggest challenge was to find time (or better to balance it) to get new clients, maintain my online presence, keep up with design trends and build my own brand.
Nowadays? To find time to spend it with wife and kids, of course.
The biggest challenge for beginners nowadays is certainly the fact that it is not so easy to get noticed. How does one stand out in a sea of average designers? The proven way is to work on (non-paying) projects for fictional or real-life well-known companies, express your view on their identity upgrade, and then–this is crucial–present it in a nice way, let’s say on www.behance.net. This alone can bring a lot more attention to your other work for regular clients and land you higher profile ones.
Do you think it’s important to take part in professional competitions in order to attract potential clients?
When it comes to professional competitions, from my experience, having work published and featured online or printed in established publications is well worth the time (and sometimes money) involved. Over the past ten years my works have been published in numerous publications including Logolounge, Taschen Logo design, Logolicious, Logonest, nominated for Hiiibrand awards in 2010 etc. I suggest every designer look for competitions in their field of work and try to enter them. Besides, it obviously looks good in your resume/portfolio and can attract higher profile clients and justify your value as a designer. Regarding free competitions, I suggest working your way towards success on http://logopond.com and http://behance.net, while http://logolounge.com is best option for paid competitions.
What else do you do to grow your business in the international market?
I try to post new work on a daily basis, even though it is very time-consuming. Apart from the specialized design social networks I mentioned before, I use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in similar manner with one specific goal: to position my work in prospective clients’ timelines. Math is simple: I am online, posting new work, I will get the job. Otherwise, nope.
It is hard sometimes to have motivation to do that every day. It is ok to take a break, do not over-post on the Internet; you do not want to be marked as spammer. Personally, I like getting “likes”, so, that’ll be my biggest motivation.
What are the most useful offline methods for scoring new clients?
Besides online presence, I have realized that local conferences help build my client pool significantly. Lesson learned: go out of your comfort zone, attend meetups, conferences, be proactive.
How do you ensure the quality of your designs? And how do you convince the customer that your designs are top-notch?
Every design project has to have few essential steps integrated: research, brainstorming, sketching, rendering, and before presentation, some internal focus group Q/A is always good (either with your colleagues or friends, offline and online).
The process of convincing the client depends on numerous factors, but the crucial one – your experience tends to help. The best part of any designer’s career is when clients approach them for a solution, not just to hire them to move the mouse left and right.
What type of designers will find success in the next 5 years, in your opinion?
The ones that require advanced professional skills, creativity and passion – those will survive. If you design occasionally, or do not invest in your education (not exclusively formal one – you can do it by yourself via online courses) be sure that artificial intelligence will take away your job. It is already happening…
For younger designers, I recommend finding a well experienced mentor in their niche. Otherwise, constant learning and keeping up with trends, not just to copy them, but to extract best practices from them.
How do you get payments from your clients? What methods have you found worked?
When I was starting out, none of the major payment processors offered their services in Serbia. My only option was bank wire transfer–which proved OK for local clients–but very slow for fast-paced online projects that I was involved in. Nowadays it is much easier to get paid; services like Payoneer are a godsend. Everything goes fast and smooth.
And one more piece of advice – insist on advanced or upfront payments from your clients. From my experience, that should be everyone’s standard nowadays. You do not want to finish the project and end up with empty pockets… When it comes to bigger projects, always draw up a contract; your clients (at least bigger ones) will certainly insist on it.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on your professional journey?
Be true to yourself. When working with a client, always try to over-deliver; it will come back to you one day. Freelancing online has many advantages, but there is also little room for mistakes… your online reputation is very fragile – try not to break it, Google knows everything 🙂