Wee Gem Design is now two years old! So, Happy Birthday to me/it!
Firstly, to all out there who are interested and taking the time to read this, thank you for your company and support over the last two years. Be it with kind words, simple encouragement or engaging my design services, it is all very much appreciated. I also couldn’t do what I do without the constant support from my loving family (Yvonne, Sean and Jack. x) so a very heartfelt thank you to them, my relatives and friends.
And a special nod to my Twitter and Instagram community who interact, entertain and whose online presence is very much appreciated.
Has it been easy? Well, what important thing ever is? No. Freelancing is not easy. It can be stressful. It can be hard to find that balance between having enough work and not taking on too much. It’s also pretty hard to find new work when you’re trying to focus on what you already have. You have to pitch, keep an ear to the ground and network, network, network.
But it has been the RIGHT thing. It’s creatively liberating. I have the freedom to work from home, am never bored and crucially, I’ve the freedom to choose what I work on and when (Mostly). I’m loving it and loving my work. In fact, I’ve never felt so sure about being on the right creative path. I’m pushing myself, learning new skills daily and finally making the things I always wanted to in quiet moments. I’m also fortunate that I get to be around for my family, walk on a beautiful beach every dawn with my loyal friend, Hobbes and think/plan/create in my head all the things I need to do for the day.
If this all seems ideal and perfect, it’s worth saying that it does take a while to find your way. It doesn’t JUST happen. Wrong turns. Misadventures. Life will throw spanners at your head. But in a creative life, that stuff is all grist to the mill. You can use it. Turn it into something useful, even if the lessons are hard. I’m in the fortunate space now in that I now know from experience what suits me and what doesn’t. I’m also in the fortunate (?) position to have suffered enough mishaps and disasters to have a healthy alarm system in place…and there have been a few. I can now say ‘no’ to things.
And it’s not an easy thing to say ‘no’ when you’re a freelancer. You worry that you’ve burned a bridge by rejecting a paid gig. You worry that there might be no other jobs on the near horizon. What if you’ve just missed a major opportunity? And the money will always come in handy, right?
But I’ve learned to trust my instincts. If a job looks and sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, then it probably will be and you do yourself a disservice by ignoring those warning signs. I’ve also found that the small, ‘we don’t have much money but…’ jobs that occasionally come in are often as much a drain on time and energy as the BIG ones. (Generally more so.)
My rule of thumb is that if there isn’t much money on the table then the client is always going to get more out of you than you out of them. Once you factor in initial meetings, emails, phone calls and feedback loops on, for example, a logo design, then the small fee involved is never going to add up… unless you’ve staff or a constant supply of such jobs coming in. It’s horrible to spend the bulk of your working week doing a small gig, getting paid (eventually) and then, when the car makes an expensive sounding rattle, you then have to hand that entire weeks work over for a couple of hours in the garage. That hurts.
As the saying goes, ‘a grand don’t come for free’, and when you’re freelancing then the weight of a thousand euro weighs heavy. You know exactly how long and hard you need to work to achieve it. And inversely, you learn that you’re not just going to give someone your precious time and experience for nothing.
*Can we meet for coffee so I can pick your brain about something?
Translated: Can I get some of your hard earned experience & knowledge for free?*
So I’m only taking on the big jobs. And only the ones that I’ve decided fall under my chosen specialist remit – Kids education and games. I’ve specialised. It’s the best thing I’ve done yet. It’s not altruistic – I just like do to proper research, make sure the project is something worth doing and that many will benefit from. And what are those jobs, you might ask? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway…
This last year, I’ve been working on a pre-school Phonics Game for a network of schools in china. Consisting of learning activities and videos, the kids learn along with some interstellar Jelly Aliens who wish to visit earth but want to be able to communicate. It’s colourful, cute and squishy. Many thanks to Artist and Animator Sara Mena for her talent and superb assistance on these projects.
*Did you know there are more people learning English in China than there are native english speakers in the entire world?*
In addition, we’ve been making 12 song videos with accompanying games. These sing-along videos, which are a mixture of live action & animation, are designed to teach and entertain in equal measure and were brilliant fun to work on. The entire experience has been eye opening, fun and a fascinating insight into China and what it’s doing in the educational realm.
I’ve also had a little design input into a revamp of the ISPCC/Childline infrastructure, and naturally, anything to do with the protection and support of children is a project very close to my heart. It’s a massive project and an important one, so it’s great to have a small role in it.
And teaching! Now in my 4th year as a 2D Game Art Lecturer at Pulse, which I continue to enjoy, I’ve also recently taken on a night class teaching Design at Blackrock College of Further Education. In addition to watching my students learn and push their own skills to make wonderful things, I’m finding deconstructing and analysing my own processes in order to teach it an extremely useful exercise. Win, win.
And finally, I’ve continued my writing with excellent mentoring from Sarah Webb‘s workshops and have ‘something’ that’s nearly finished. All going well, I hope you’ll hear more about that soon.
Two years in and all is well.
In turn, I hope all is well with you out there too. If you are leading or want a creative life, be bold, be brave and keep looking and learning. Even in the most mundane things, there lies inspiration for art, design and stories. It just needs someone (YOU) to notice it and to go off and do something wonderful with it. Go on – someone else will if you don’t! It won’t be easy, but that shouldn’t stop you.
Marc – Wee Gem Design x