Getting your dream design job: An interview with Charli Prangley
If you’re looking for a design job it can often be hard to find an opportunity, even if you’re the most talented designer. But if you get your CV and portfolio right, and put yourself out there too you’re more likely to get the job you’ve always wanted.
To help you with this, on this weeks podcast Ian speaks with Charli Prangley to discuss job application tips, portfolio, CV and job interview advice, and also how she found her dream job through networking, public speaking, YouTube videos, Podcasts and a number of side projects too.
Charli Prangley Interview Transcription
Ian Paget: I’m aware that you work as a full-time remote designer/developer for ConvertKit. I wanted to ask you, how were you able to get a full-time position that you can do from home?
Charli Prangley: Well, the story of me getting a job at ConvertKit is actually an interesting one and I’m afraid not incredibly repeatable. But, yeah there are a few lessons in here. So, let me just tell the story.
So I spoke at a conference back in, I think it was 2016? Yeah I’m pretty sure it was 2016. It was the SeanWes Conference, it was a conference about online business, creativity, that sort of thing. I was speaking about YouTube and going all in on a niche, which in my case was design, and also speaking at that conference was Nathan Barry, who is the CEO of ConvertKit. He invited myself and Femke, my podcast cohost, for lunch after the conference. And yeah we were sitting in this little pizza joint talking for hours and I can’t even remember what specifically we were talking about, but it must have been design.
Because at some point during the conversation he goes, “So Charli, have you ever considered working remotely for an email marketing software company?” And I was like, “What? What’s happening here?” And our friend was like, “I think he’s offering you a job.” And so, yeah from there I kind of interviewed with Nathan, spoke to a few other people at the company, and that is how I got my remote job. So like I said, not super repeatable. But, I guess it’s being in the right place at the right time and putting yourself out there in the community. But to give some more useful advice I suppose, I can recommend a few remote work websites?
Ian Paget: Yeah, sure.
Charli Prangley: We Work Remotely is a great one, and remote work is becoming so popular in tech in particular. So if you’re looking for a job working in tech, then you’ll often find remote positions on things like Dribbble or Stack Overflow, all of those usual tech job sites.
Ian Paget: What I find really interesting from that story is that clearly the opportunity came about because you was pretty much in the right place at the right time, and you was able to demonstrate that you knew what you was talking about. And it kinda feels like I want to stem my questions in a slightly different direction because I wasn’t aware of that, and I do think that the speaking circuit is definitely a good way of getting opportunities. Because I’ve been to a number of events myself where I’d never spoken at them before, and I’ve seen other people get jobs in the same way. Are you able to give us a little bit of background how you originally got in to speaking at the events like that? And if you could offer some advice for people that might want to do the same thing?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Well, so I’d always wanted to try and get in to public speaking, right? And I was quite an active member of the SeanWes Community, who is the person and like company I suppose who hosted this conference I was talking about. And Sean liked my story basically. He saw me taking part in the community, talking about my side projects, my YouTube channel and all the other things I was doing, and he wanted me to tell that story at his conference essentially. So I suppose getting a speaking gig, which in turn getting the job, all stems back to me form side projects.
Putting yourself out there and working in public, like talking about your work as you do it, has had a huge impact for me. Both in my career and in getting these sort of speaking opportunities. I’m gonna be speaking at a conference next year about like, a day in the life of a designer. Basically talking through my process as an in-house designer. And how that conference found me was from YouTube, I think they might’ve even typed in, “day in the life of a designer” and come across my vlog series.
So yeah, it’s all about being consistent with your side projects and putting stuff out there so that people can see you have a story to tell. If you were to reach out to a conference and just be like, “Hey I want to speak.” But you’ve never posted a blog or a video or a podcast episode or anything online, how do they know that your story is a good one to tell, right? If you’ve put some stuff out there for free, then they can kind of quality check you I suppose, and get interested from that aspect.
Ian Paget: Yeah I totally agree with that from personal experience. Even just finding potential guests for this podcast… Unless you can see that someone has something interesting to say, you’re probably not gonna ask them. So, you know like just basically from your podcast, that’s the reason why you’re on this.
Charli Prangley: Yeah.
Ian Paget: So it is a domino effect and if you don’t put yourself out there, you’re not gonna get these opportunities.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, for sure.
Ian Paget: Now I wanted to ask you… I speak to quite a few young designers when I go to these networking events and they’ve just graduated, but they always struggle to find a job despite having a good portfolio. Some of them have been looking for months, but they haven’t been able to find anything. From your experience, what would you recommend designers do in that situation?
Charli Prangley: So I’ve been on both sides of this equation. Both trying to get hired as a designer, and also hiring designers and the creatives. And I think the biggest mistake that people make, is not tailoring their application to that specific job. I think especially when you’ve just graduated and you’re kind of like in a way, desperate for work, right? Like you’ve just put in all this work in design school, and now you want to get paid for it. Fair enough, completely understand. You might be applying for like, literally hundreds of roles.
But I think it’s much better to be selective with what you apply to so that you can take the time to really tailor your application, write a really good cover letter, do research about the company and be sure you know why you want to work there and why you’re applying. Because the truth is, that for these roles that companies have open, they will have dozens, if not hundreds, maybe even sometimes over a thousand applicants to each role. Especially junior roles I would say.
And so just writing, “Oh yeah I have the skills, I meet the requirements” is not enough for them to be interested in moving you forward to the next level. Because guess what, there’s gonna be hundreds of other people who are technically skilled enough to do the role. So what they’re looking for then next is, are you actually interested in working for our company, you know? Have you done your due diligence and done a little bit of research in to what we do as a company, and can you tell us why you personally would, like what you personally would bring to the team here? That I think is something that people miss out on when you’re applying to a bunch of different roles, because you’re playing the numbers game, right? You’re just applying to as many as you can, hoping one will bite. But if you took the time to really tailor your application, I think that you could have a lot more success.
Ian Paget: Yeah I totally agree with that, being on both sides of the equation as well. I wanted to ask your thoughts on just applying to one off random companies. Have you ever had any experience with that? Like, say if there’s a company that you specifically want to work for, have you ever just sent them your CV portfolio just in the hope that you might get a job?
Charli Prangley: You know what, I haven’t. But I don’t think that that’s a bad thing to do. I think that that’s great. Like, you do have to understand with that that you might not hear back or they just might not literally have a role open. So, you know, but it’s always worth a shot I think to show that you’re interested in someone. We’ve had a few people at ConvertKit who’ve applied for a few different roles, and we can always see that they’re just really interested in the company. And I think that goes a long, a long way. Yeah.
Ian Paget: Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen a lot of that at the place where I work. Obviously when you’ve got a job opening, you’re gonna get a few hundred applications. But when you don’t, you might just get one or two that come in and, you know if that person has some talent, you would probably consider employing them if there is any financial backing for that person. So personally, based on my experience, I do think it’s worth trying that if you are really keen for a job.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, and that’s a good thing to do too. How I got my first job that I got, working for a London based company, was looking on their website. So I wasn’t looking on a job board or anything like that, I was on the company’s website on the jobs page specifically because that was the company that I wanted to work for. And I noticed they had a marketing designer role open one time, one day when I checked. ‘Cause I’d been checking back every few months basically, really wanting to work at this place. So, yeah for sure, go to the company directly. Don’t just wait for it to appear on a job board.
Ian Paget: I definitely agree with that. I found out in my previous job – once I’d actually started there, I found out how much it cost them to use an agency to find somebody. And it’s really expensive. I think it cost them something like five grand, because they take a percentage of your salary, which is insane. But yeah, definitely take that route, I think it’s worth doing.
Now what advice can you give to listeners to make sure that they have the best CV portfolio possible?
Charli Prangley: So in terms of the CV, I think just thinking back, we’ve been hiring for a front end developer at ConvertKit recently, so I know that’s not exactly who your listener is, Bbut I think the advice still stands.
Make sure your relevant experience is what stands out on your CV. A lot of the times for this role, I was seeing people say in their cover letter that they had all this development experience, but in their CV I guess they’d been doing development on the side, so their CV highlighted mostly like, I don’t know, office admin roles and things like that, that weren’t relevant to the position we are hiring for. So tailor your CV for sure to the work that you’re gonna be doing at this company that you’ll hopefully be hired at, because that’s what they’re gonna be looking at on your CV. So yeah, just make sure that it’s easy for them to find. Basically make it easier for them when they’re looking at it.
And for portfolio something I always recommend is to not just have pictures of your work, but to have writing about it as well. Because people don’t just want to see the finished work. If they’re hiring you to work on the team, they want to know how you got there, right? Like what’s your process? What’s it like? Have you got a developed process? Do you just go with your first idea or do you do a lot of iterations and talk with people about it? What was the success of this project? Like, based on the brief what’s some client feedback that you got or did it improve this conversion rate that it was setting out to? Any background information you can put on your portfolio, in sort of a case study, not just showing the images, goes a long way.
Ian Paget: Yeah, one thing I did in some of my early interviews is that, I actually rather than just showing the portfolio piece, I got out what they company originally had. So for example, for a brochure redesign, I took out the original brochure, explained what the problems was, and then I brought out the new one and showed them how I solved the problem. ‘Cause sometimes a piece on its own isn’t necessarily the most amazing thing, but when they can see What the problem was and how you solved that, that is generally more impressive. And also like you said, being on the other end, actually having that presented to you, is so impressive when you can kind of see the background of that. So I think that’s really good advice.
Charli Prangley: Yeah I’ve done exactly that too actually, with a brochure also. I used to work for a company that was a distributor for Mitsubishi Electric products, so that’s like fridges and heat pumps, like super technical products. And the brochures before I joined were just basically like a spreadsheet in printed form. Like lots of specs and things like that. And I showed them the brochure that I had then designed from that, that was much more beautifully laid out with like an actual human person in mind, not a robot reading a spreadsheet. And that was really impressive to them, to see that difference I was able to create. So yeah, I totally agree.
Ian Paget: Yeah I think my experience was quite similar. That was for a medical company.
Charli Prangley: Here we go.
Ian Paget: So it included things as dull as tubes. What they had previously was vert uninspiring. It was a lot of data tables plonked onto a page, but the updates I did to them included illustrations, and the data was better presented to it was easier to consume – it wasn’t overly visually stunning, but being able to show before and after made a big difference to show what problems were solved, and how I approached the work.
I wanted to also ask – once you do have a job, I’ve personally struggled to keep my portfolio up to date and I’ve heard a lot of people also struggle. They can be at a job for years and they just leave their portfolio stagnant and if an opportunity does come up, they don’t really have anything to ready show. Based on your story – the opportunity to work for ConvertKit that came up, you would have needed your portfolio ready to show in that situation. So I wanted to ask you if you have any useful advice for keeping your portfolio up to date?
Charli Prangley: Well I’m afraid that I am also one of those designers who’s terrible at this. Yeah I was kind of gutted that I hadn’t kept up with it when this ConvertKit opportunity arose, ’cause I was like, “Oh no! I haven’t” like I literally hadn’t added any work from the company I’d been at for the past year and a half. I just hadn’t bothered to update it.
Luckily I was able to just, because Nathan was interested in hiring me in particular, I wasn’t like technically applying through a job board for a role. So I was able to just send him some links to some of the landing pages that I’d made at the previous company I was at for him to check out. But that wouldn’t really fly if I’d been applying through a job application, right? That would’ve looked a bit unprofessional. So yeah, I was lucky in that sense. Something I really want to get better at is, like obviously it would be good to be putting new projects in my portfolio. But I think a very small start, could be just posting to Dribble more often, little screenshots.
Could be just posting to dribble more often, little screenshots and like snippets of your work because at least that’s keeping active somewhat and sharing what you’re working on and putting it out there. And a lot of companies will look at a dribble dribble profile as your portfolio if you want them to as well.
Ian Paget: One thing that I tried with my portfolio, but it failed miserably – I came up with a really simple layout because when I first started, every time I did my portfolio I kind of redesigned it. So I came up with this really simple format where it’s almost like three boxes on a page. You can swap out the boxes for text. And it’s something that I came up with five years ago and I could still use that same format now. So even though I haven’t updated my portfolio in years, technically I could just take that, update a few pages and then kind of go with that. And I would say that’s been really useful for me because I’ve not needed to redesign it each time. It’s just a standard format that I can use for the rest of my life.
Charli Prangley: Yeah, that’s smart. I think I always try and make my portfolio, I’ve always built them in ways that it’s really easy to add to, but yet somehow that just hasn’t convinced me to actually do the work to add them.
Ian Paget: Do you have any thoughts on how you would actually present the work in your portfolio as well? Because for example, I’ve seen people particularly working on web design where they’ve basically found a mock up of a laptop and they put the website on the screen and you’ve not been able to see it. So have you found any really good ways of presenting your web design work?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Web design is hard because, especially if it’s a client project, once you hand it off to them, basically the client can change whatever they like. And if you’re linking to the website they could have made changes that weren’t your design. And that can, I don’t know, sometimes it can be an okay thing and sometimes it can actually be a really bad.
Ian Paget: A lot of the time it’s a bad thing.
Charli Prangley: Exactly. Even with, well I think in house like I do, once you leave a company or even once a project is a few months old, another designer might come and work on it and update a bit and then it’s no longer really your design. So that’s why I think a lot of web designers will put a mock up instead. But personally I think you need to do more than just show like the one screen on a laptop or even just like the whole page. Currently I’m in the middle of updating my portfolio, but what I intend to do with it is have the full screen thing they can link to and see, but also pull out little different parts of the design that I really like and that fit well with a brief or whatever. So that I can highlight all the little details and thoughts that I put into the decision making process.
Ian Paget: That’s a really smart way of doing it and I like that it kind of goes back to what you said earlier about how it’s showing your thought process and how you’ve been able to solve problems.
Do you have any advice for the physical interview itself? Like once you’ve actually been offered the opportunity to come in, do you have any advice for like preparing for that interview and actually the interview itself?
Charli Prangley: Yeah, so what I like to do in interviews is basically use my projects to answer questions that they ask me about process and challenges and things like that. I want to think through the things that I’ve worked on recently and that I have to show and come up with like, make sure I know what the main challenges were with each, what the main wins were with each, so that I can kind of pull that out of the bag when I need to.
Like if they asked, it’s a very common interview question, “Tell us about a challenge that you overcame.” You can then pull out a project that you worked on and talk about the challenge in detail and what it was about and how you overcame it and what the result was in the end. Just making sure that you know your projects inside and out, and that you’re prepared for how you want to talk about them as well. Having those words in mind, kind of just practicing in your own head I suppose before you go in.
Ian Paget: Yeah. I also, I’m going to add to that as well. I’ve had people come in with with their portfolio. And they get to a piece of work and they’ve actually gone, “Oh, that’s not very good, skip over.”
Charli Prangley: Oh, no.
Ian Paget: One thing I would kind of say with anything like that, even if you don’t think it’s good, make it sound good. Because even if I might think, oh, that’s not that good, if you’re able to kind of sell it and explain why it’s good, that goes so far. But if you do that, you know that negative, that’s not very good and skip, it just looks so bad and so unprofessional. So I wouldn’t do that. I’d even take that piece out or just pretend that it’s actually really good.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Oh my gosh. It must be horrifying for you as the interviewer to hear that. It’s like, what are you doing?
Ian Paget: Now I know you spoke about it earlier, you have a number of side projects.
Charli Prangley: I do.
Ian Paget: I was wondering if you could give us kind of an overview of what those are and also I just wanted to ask you how you kind of fit this into your days.
Charli Prangley: Sure. Okay. So main side project at the moment is my YouTube channel. I’ve been doing this for about five years now, actually. Uploading at least one video every single week. I’m on this streak that I haven’t missed. And so now I feel like I’ve really got to keep this thing going.
So I talk about design on YouTube. About design process, life as a designer, issues that I might face as a designer, creative block, imposter syndrome and that sort of thing. It’s sort of like a online journal slash tutorial space for me, making videos.
I also have a podcast about design that I run with a cohost and so that’s a bit different from my YouTube channel and that we’re talking about our experiences together and there’s a lot more back and forth. We’re trying to come at it from an aspect that we’re your peers in design. We’re not like, these super successful people preaching down at you, but we’re just chatting about what we’re dealing with and you might be dealing with it too. We have a community for that podcast as well. So it’s like a monthly membership thing where there’s a chat and live streams and stuff.
What are my other side projects? I also have a Patreon that’s mostly for my YouTube channel, so that’s like a separate membership community I guess, but like just for my YouTube stuff.
And then I have an online store, so I sell t shirts, which I probably have gotten rid of by the time this episode comes out actually, that’s like a side project that I’m sunsetting. But I also sell prints, like art prints. I think that’s it. I also take on the odd freelance project here and there, but as you have heard the side projects kind of take up a lot of the time. There’s not much room for the freelancing.
Ian Paget: I’m sure everyone listening and myself included, that sounds like a lot. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on, especially since you do have a full time job and you’ve got that going as well. And I understand that you also do these speaking gigs as well? How are you able to fit all of this in? Do you have any useful like time management tips that you could give, or some kind of advice for how others can maybe fit so many side projects into their life as well?
Charli Prangley: For sure. So I would suggest first off that you don’t start with this many if you haven’t done side projects before. It’s kind of been a thing I’ve like added to over time. So we started with just the YouTube, then we added the podcast, then we added the community. So it wasn’t like I went from zero to five in one day. So that’s the first tip, just start small and you can build up from there.
But what I do really is set aside a couple of hours a day to move forward on my side projects. I usually do this in the morning so I’ll get up maybe at like 6:30, 6:45, 7:00, and do a couple of hours on my side projects before I start my full time job, like day job work. And it’s amazing the difference that just a couple of hours can make because it all adds up over time.
So perhaps I might move slower on my side projects than I would with them if they were my full time thing. But the point is this, you’re moving forward just in a couple of hours every single day. The morning time especially has been really great for me for getting things done because it means that I’m waking up, I’m acting on those ideas early in the day so that first of all I’m giving my best fresh self to them. Fresh brain and all of that. Not tired at the end of the day after finishing work. And also it means that I’m then not thinking about them as much while I am going about my work day. Because I would find if I tried to work on side projects in the evening, I’d be super distracted all day because I was so excited about the side projects that I just really wanted to work on them.
So yeah, mornings has been amazing for me. I know it’s not advice people want to hear that you’ve got to wake up early, but I mean if it’s something that you want to do, it’s not just going to happen for you. Right? Like you’ve got to put the time into it. And so yeah, give mornings to try.
Ian Paget: Yeah. I’ve heard that advice from a number of people. One of them in particular is Sean Wes.
Charli Prangley: There you go.
Ian Paget: I know that you’re a fan of him, so that’s probably where you got that from. I’ve got friends that also do that. They will literally go to bed early rather than doing what a lot of people do, just bedroom in front of the TV and watch trash. He would actually go to bed early and wake up at six or seven and use that, what he describes as like interrupted time, especially if you’ve got families and children, there’s time within early morning where you can sit down and you can do stuff. So I do think that’s good advice. And also, from my experience as well, doing a little bit each day, even if it is 15, 20 minutes, it mounts up. You’d be surprised how much you can do. So. yeah, I take that advice and kind of gave running with it.
I also wanted to ask, I mean obviously you’ve been doing this for a number of years now and you’ve got your YouTube channel and you’re doing a lot consistently. What is it that’s keeping you motivated?
Charli Prangley: That’s a really good question because sometimes I do ask myself this question when I’m stressed about meeting a deadline or whatever. But honestly, I think it’s the feedback that I get on my videos and like the response that I’ve had to it. The YouTube comments, if you’ve ever watched a YouTube video, you’ve probably noticed that comments can be like a cess poll, basically, at times. Full of negativity, full of terrible stuff. But I’ve found that my YouTube comments on the whole are amazingly positive. People won’t just write things like “Good video” or even small little throwaway positive sentences like that. They’ll write full paragraphs telling me about their week.
I always like to ask a question in a vlog of them. Like this week I asked them to tell me something they’re proud of that happened because I was talking in the video about something that I was proud of. And so the comments are full of people talking about that, like sharing successes that they’ve had. And I just think that’s amazing. And so that community aspect of things really keeps me going for sure. That’s super motivating.
And also seeing the results I would say in a way. Like getting speaking opportunities, like getting hired at ConvertKit essentially because, if you trace it back, because I started my YouTube channel, like if I hadn’t been making videos I wouldn’t have been invited to speak, Nathan wouldn’t have met me, I wouldn’t be working here. Seeing results like that and what you can get when you put in time consistently and work hard on your content and providing a lot of value out there in the world for free. That’s been super rewarding and that definitely keeps me motivated to keep going because I’m like, okay, what’s gonna come next? What do I want to aim for and how can working on my side projects help me get there.
Ian Paget: That’s a really cool way to look at it. You mentioned then about your videos being kind of like the key source for you to get a lot of those opportunities and I’ve heard that from other people as well. For me personally, video is something I’m not that comfortable doing. I have kind of done a couple now, but for many years it was kind of very daunting and I kind of just put it off. Do you have any advice for people that want to kind of start video that might be in a similar situation to me?
Charli Prangley: Totally. I mean I was also in a similar situation to you when I first started. I had hidden my first ever video now because it is that awkward.
That’s the thing you’ve got to realise is the people that you see on YouTube and the people that you admire who are making videos, you probably admire them because they quite charismatic and obviously confident and comfortable on camera. And so when you make a video or someone new to it and you’re comparing it to that, then that can really get you down and make you feel like what you’re doing isn’t good enough. So what you have to remember is that that person has had years of practice of talking to the camera that you are only just starting now. So it does take time to get comfortable.
I think I can pinpoint, as I look back through my videos, a time, like almost actually I feel like my whole first year of videos, I look at the person in them and I’m like, who is that? Why is she talking like that? That’s not me, you know? So it’s just gonna take time and practice. So the sooner you start talking to a camera. You don’t have to post the videos, just get used to the act of doing it. Even things like posting to Instagram stories, talking to the camera, it all helps you in getting comfortable and getting confident. So yeah, go easy.
Getting comfortable and getting confident. Yeah. Go easy on yourself and realise that it does take time and that if you want to be good eventually you kind of got to start right now in the practicing stage.
Ian Paget: I like that because my first video how it came up was I invited David Brier to do a live feed into my Facebook community. The plan was he would just do it on his own. He kind of expected that I would be on there and he convinced me to go on. I was dreading it for a week. Thinking like, “Oh my God. My first video is going to be live.”
You know what was funny once I actually sat down? Set some lights up and hit the record button? It was not that bad at all.
Charli Prangley: There you go.
Ian Paget: I do think that first one that you do is probably going to be the hardest but once you realise it’s not that bad it’s fine. It’s been the same with the audio as well. My first season it’s not that bad but when I listen back to it now it’s slightly cringe-worthy because obviously when you are able to watch yourself or hear yourself back you start to change how you speak and act and stuff like that. I think your advice is good. Generally with people that do video it’s similar advice. You just need to start and you’ll get better.
Charli Prangley: Totally.
Ian Paget: Now I noticed on your podcast that you said that you stopped freelancing.
Charli Prangley: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Ian Paget: I’d really love to hear a little bit more about that from you because I do feel like there is this general expectation, especially people coming straight out of university that they should go down the freelancing route. Interestingly, you haven’t. You’ve kind of made the choice to actually get a job. I wanted to ask you what’s the reason firstly why you no longer take on any freelance work? Secondly, what’s the reason why you’ve opted to have a full-time job rather than take the freelance route.
Charli Prangley: Good questions. I always assumed that one day I would be freelancing. Who knows, I’m a never say never type of person so maybe I will change my mind and want to do this in the future. My reason for wanting to freelance was for freedom. I wanted to be able to control my own time and work from home and just have more of that autonomy over my days.
Guess what? Now I have a job where I have all of those three things but I also have a steady pay check. I’m not having to deal with clients or the admin side that comes with freelancing. Those things I really cannot stand. I really do not enjoy them. The whole, yeah, figuring out what to charge, getting the contract prepared and the proposal, getting the payments. Just don’t enjoy … I mean, no one really enjoys that stuff but for me it takes all of the fun out of the design work side of freelancing.
I just haven’t really enjoyed freelancing a whole bunch. I’ve enjoyed the actual designs that I’ve created and the design work but, yeah, like I said, that whole admin side really brings it down as an experience for me.
When I started working remote I kind of realised, “Wow. There’s other options out there. I can have all this freedom that I want to have and I don’t have to be out there trying to get clients and freelancing in order to have it.” That’s really my main reason for stopping was that I didn’t enjoy it and I was getting all the benefits that I wanted out of freelancing from my full-time job.
Ian Paget: I know someone else. They worked full-time originally so they had a nine to five job where they had to go to the location. Then they went freelance and by going freelance they actually got a really good client that wanted to employ them full-time.
Charli Prangley: Perfect.
Ian Paget: They’re in the exact same position as you. They’ve got this sweet deal where they’re able to work from home so they get all the benefits of actually being freelance where they can travel and stuff like that but then they’ve got this nice steady pay check. It really does sound like the ultimate position to be in.
I’ve had the same as you. I’m not actually a full-time freelance. I’ve got 50/50. There’s a company I work at part-time, which is only like 15 minutes walk from where I live.
Charli Prangley: Nice.
Ian Paget: Then the rest of the time is freelance. When I first started I really struggled with it because it’s not what you imagine it to be. It’s very tough. You have to do everything. I do think there’s a lot of downside to freelance that isn’t spoken about. I’m quite glad that you brought up a few of those things.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Also, I think another reason that I like working full-time is because I like being on a team, especially a nice small team. The company I work for we’re a 36, 37 people I think. It’s fairly small. You can get to know everyone. It’s just fun to create stuff together rather than by myself. That’s another reason why I like working full-time I suppose.
Another thing too and why I’m full-time as an in-house designer rather than at an agency or a studio is that I like being able to really dive deep on a project and on a brand and be designing something and then maybe six months later come back and improve it.
Often times when you do freelance or even when you’re at an agency you can’t really do that. You hand the work off and it’s done, you finish it, and you move onto the next brand that you’ve got to get to know. Yeah. I really like being in-house. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to do in-house freelance. There we go.
Ian Paget: Yeah. I had the similar experience. It was quite some time back now but I worked in-house for a single company. You do have the benefit that you can invest a lot more time in something.
Charli Prangley: Yup.
Ian Paget: Because you’re there all of the time I remember there being a few brochures that I was looking at for maybe a year. Then I’m like, “I really want to redesign this.” I got this amazing idea and I was able to pitch it to them and invest time on it. I think because of that some of that work that I did back then is some of the best work that I’ve ever done. Kind of being freelance … My agency life is quite fast-paced. Work comes in, work goes out.
Freelance is very much the same. You just have to get the job done sometimes and sometimes it’s not your best work. Like you said, working in-house because you get to know the company, the culture, the product you can really create solutions that are substantially better than you might if it was just a one-off job. I think that’s a good kind of insight to what it’s like to actually work for a single company as you are.
Charli Prangley: Yeah.
Ian Paget: We have a little bit more time than expected. I want to squeeze in another discussion area. The topic of networking. I know when you’re job hunting or looking for work or opportunities in general, networking is almost always suggested as a solution for this. It sounds like you have your fair share of experience based on what you said.
Charli Prangley: Yeah.
Ian Paget: From your experience can you offer any advice for listeners for how to go about networking with other designers or potential clients?
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Networking … That’s such a funny word to me. I would always hear about this in design school and in getting into my career that networking is like, “You’ve got to be networking.” I saw networking as being at an event, going up to a stranger, and introducing myself and seeing if we could work together.
That was what I thought networking was. I’ve since learned that it’s not. Networking is basically making friends, making connections. Maybe not the type of friends that you hang out with every weekend or you’re going to go to the movies with or whatever. Yeah, it really is about just being friendly with people and getting to know them.
I, as an introvert, do a lot of my networking, at least the first initial contact, digitally through Twitter usually. Twitter is my social media of choice. You can reach out to people on there and follow them and just start by like replying to a few things that they say or maybe they ask a question of their followers and you can answer it. Yeah. Get to know someone and get on their radar essentially.
I’ve met so many amazing people that way. I can barely believe it now when I think about … Like you just said before, the Sean McCabe. I’ve been a big fan of his for years. Now I would consider him a friend but through we’ve talked online a lot, we’ve hung out in person several times now, we’ve filmed a video together, I’ve spoken at his conference.
He went from this like person, this stranger that I idolised online, to a friend and a really good connection in my network through just being friendly, being a person. I think that that is often forgotten when it comes to networking is that we’re thinking too far ahead to the end goal that we have.
Like if I’d gone up to Sean or the first contact I made with him was, “Hey, I want to have you on my YouTube channel.” Probably wouldn’t have gone over so well because he wouldn’t have known who I was. Yeah, that just is not enticing for him, is it?
If you instead just play the long game I suppose and realising that networking and making good connections takes time you might not see any benefits from what you’re putting in for literally years and so really you have to go into it with the goal of getting to know someone rather than that goal of getting something from them if that makes sense.
Ian Paget: Yeah. It’s really solid advice. I can totally agree with it. I would describe myself as an introvert as well. Going into these business networking events it’s so scary. A lot of people when they’re first doing this they kind of assume that you just go up to someone and say, “I’m a graphic designer. Here’s my business card.”
Charli Prangley: “Here’s my card.”
Ian Paget: Yeah but that’s naff. Nobody wants that. Everyone is this human being and any event that I’ve been to … Probably the most recent networking event that I went to was one as part of an event and because everyone has got that event in common, as an introvert I find it really useful to go up to someone who is stood on their own and just say, “Hey, how are you finding the event?”
Like you said, just make friends with them and be interested in what they’re doing and connect with them. Not to assume that you’re going to get anything out of that relationship.
Charli Prangley: Exactly.
Ian Paget: I think that’s where people go wrong. Ironically, by doing that, because people have realised … They find out you’re a graphic designer. You connect with them. You add them on LinkedIn or whatever afterwards they get in touch, they ask you how you’re doing, because they see you as a friend. That’s when you get the opportunities, if there are any.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. When someone thinks, “Oh, I need a designer. Oh, yeah. I met that person at that event the other day. They were a designer. Let me get in touch.” You’re on their radar just because you were friendly.
Ian Paget: Yeah. Exactly that. I’m going to ask you one last question to close out the interview.
Charli Prangley: Sure.
Ian Paget: If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself just one piece of advice for your career what would that be?
Charli Prangley: Okay. 10 years ago I think I was at design school. Learning to be a designer. I think the piece of advice I would give myself is to not worry so much about getting the right answer and the right grade and instead focus on the process and really understanding the problem and coming up with my own solution to it.
I feel like a lot of my design school life I was just really worried about what the tutors thought of me and my work and was trying to get good grades. I think that that really hindered me a bit. I didn’t really find my way and really understand the design process and problem solving until I was out working in the real world.
I’m very lucky that someone decided to hire me despite that because I think I learned that on the job. Yeah, that would be my advice to myself is to just trust in the process and not try to know the answer before you do the work. To just do the work to find the answer.
Ian Paget: That sounds like really good advice for anyone that’s kind of in school or university or college or whatever that’s currently working on any project. Yeah. Great advice. Well, Charli, I want to say thank you so much for coming on as a guest. I think you’ve given a lot of really good advice here. Yeah, thank you very much. You’ve been awesome to speak to.
Charli Prangley: Yeah. Thanks for having me. This has been great.
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