Over the last few weeks, some of my Stationery Bootcamp students and newsletter subscribers have been reaching out via email. In all of the emails I've received, there is one question they've all had in common:
"How do I get my work and business to the next level?"
This is a difficult question to answer in one email because everyone is at different stages in their career. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you have the same question as well.
There are many things that need to happen in order for growth to occur. Maybe you need to establish an easy on-boarding process. Maybe you need to find wholesale vendors for a variety of stocks and embellishments. Perhaps you have yet to find and establish a relationship with a print shop that best suits your needs.
Regardless of what stage you're in, the trick is not to drive yourself crazy by comparing your work to that of others who are more advanced in their careers than you are. It's great to browse around looking for inspiration, but don't spend hours doing so or you will start to feel hopeless and stuck. I tell you this because it used to happen to me as well, ALL. THE. TIME.
By now, I'm "ripe" enough to recognize that when I'm feeling stuck I just need to step away for a bit and focus on tasks that nurture my creativity and physical health. I know my way around this field (stationery design) well enough to proceed with certainty that creativity will undoubtedly strike when I least expect it.
You might not be so familiar with the territory yet, but that's not a bad thing. It keeps the journey exciting, as you have so much to discover along the way. The best part about familiarizing yourself with this territory as you complete one project after another, is the growth and sense of accomplishment you will be left with. You will, without a doubt, learn something new or finally master a skill that will make the next project you work on a lot easier to get through.
The pace of growth
Whether you want to become a high end stationery designer or focus on cute illustrated invitations for kid's parties - the journey is still very similar. It all starts with baby steps. You have to truly master the basics before you move on to the next phase in your career. To do this, you must work to the FULLEST capacity with the resources you have available. If you are just getting started with stationery design and you feel your work is still pretty basic, then master the basics! Produce the BEST basic stationery pieces out there, the type that makes people say "Wow! It's so simple, yet so pretty!" Polish up your typography skills (a topic I will cover soon), follow a few basic design principles (not too many fonts, create focal points, use colors appropriately, yada, yada, yada).
Once you've mastered the basics, you will naturally and easily gravitate to the next level as you gain more understanding of what each process entails and what needs to take place to achieve certain outcomes.
During this time, there are two things to always keep in mind:
Where are you and where do you want to go?
Take a close look at the work by other designers that you are drawn to. Which ones make you say "Gosh, I wish I would have designed that!"?
The next step is to study the work that inspires you and figure out what it takes to design work of that caliber. What resources do you already have available and which ones do you still need to discover in order to create similar work?
"Well that's the problem - I don't know!"
I swear I just heard you say that. Heehee.
For starters, EVERY designer needs a good print shop. That is the absolute most important business relationship you will make. If you don't have access to a high quality reliable print shop, then your beautiful designs will not come to life in the way you intended them to.
Even if you don't have access to wholesale paper suppliers, patterned stocks and rhinestones, when you have a professional printer you can turn to, you have access to their stock and special treatments. You just need to remember to use them.
Take the invitation below, for example:
This is a design by Paper Fresh Co, I found on Etsy. It's so simple yet beautiful. The hand lettered font used for their names creates a nice focal point and adds a bit of warmth and romance to this otherwise cold design.
Let's say you created this piece but you want to embellish it somehow. It's beautiful as it is, no doubt, but how can you take it to the next level if all you have access to is a print shop?
Below are some enhancement suggestions:
Above is a piece I created in 2013 for the McCallum Theatre's annual gala. This is their major fundraiser each year, which meant I had to create something elegant that would appeal to high-end donors, but it also had to be easy and inexpensive to produce considering we'd be printing about 5,000 invitations.
Here's what I did:
Whether you're a Bootcamp student or not, if you are serious about your stationery career, I ask that you to complete the following mission:
Take a look around and assess your current situation.
STUDENTS: If you log on you'll see I've added a Resources page where I share all the resources I use and recommend. Though the page is still under construction, my entire list is already there, which includes everything from wholesale paper suppliers to printers in the state of California. I just need to finish adding links and a blurb about each resource describing when and how I use them.
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS: If you have been wanting to join the course, but haven't done so, please send me a note and let me know what's holding you back. Perhaps you are not sure if this course is for you? Perhaps you're unclear as to how the course works?
In summary, Stationery Bootcamp is a password protected website where I share everything I know about the stationery business. I charge a one time membership fee which gives you access to all the lessons and all future updates at no additional cost. You can work at your own pace and access the lessons at any point in your career. The lessons currently included will prepare you to respond to customer inquiries quickly and effectively, give you insight on how to conduct consultations both by email and in person and guide you through everything that takes place in between, all the way through delivering the final product.
Registration opens at $229 on July 18th and closes on July 30th, 2016. I don't know if I'll reopen the course for enrollment again, until the spring of 2017. It just depends on how busy I get with work as fall approaches. I don't keep enrollment open at all times because I want to make sure I am available to answer student questions and I can't do that year round as my full time job requires much of me from September-March.
Registration will reopen in spring of 2017 at a rate of $300, so mark your calendars to ensure you are able to sign up this summer to enjoy the benefits at a lower rate!
Thanks for allowing me to be part of your stationery journey. I know my blog posts tend to be long-winded, but what can I possibly teach you in just a couple of paragraphs? I'd only leave you with more questions than answers. My goal is to pour on to you as much knowledge as I possibly can, because frankly, what else can I do with this knowledge that will truly make a difference? Make another pretty invitation?
I'd rather use my skills and knowledge to make a difference in YOUR career, because I remember what it was like to feel lost and overwhelmed. I remember reaching out to more experienced designers and never receiving a reply. In the end, I found my way around and it all turned out ok for me. I am certain that it will all turn out great for you as well, whether you decide to join Bootcamp or go solo. At least you have the option. I didn't.
I hope you found immense value in today's post. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a note.
All the best, your stationery design coach,
Hi - I'm Dio!
Spanglish Lettering Artist
I am often asked what tools I use to create my work, so I’ve incorporated Amazon affiliate links in my posts to products I like, use and recommend. This means that if you click and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission paid for by Amazon, not the customer.
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