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Thank y’all for reading this year, I have started drafting some field notes for early 2019, which I’m really stoked on, and I wanted to end the year with a bit of lighthearted content for y’all.

Earlier this year, I asked two graphic designers if they would answer a few questions about dating a creative professional. I’ve spent the majority of my career romantically unattached, however I believe that dating artists and creatives is a markedly different experience than dating other personality types - decorating the house is full of implications, deciding on a dinner spot is about so much more than food, etc. Chico Goler is the creative force behind the Santa Fe based brand Goler and Kelsey Ullrich is his lovely partner, an independent graphic designer and the founder of Inner Circle, a holistic retreat space. Below are their responses.

Do aesthetics play a big role in your attraction to each other?

KELSEY: I think so! When I first met Chico I was really attracted to his personal style. Then, when I saw his home for the first time, I was drawn in even more. I loved the aesthetic of his space - the art, colors, and furniture. He has a very modern and contemporary style (which I also personally love). That was something I hadn't seen in many men I had dated before. So, that was a huge plus and really stood out for me. Even the places he chose for dates spoke into an aesthetic, if you will. Even now, as we've been together for a few years, it's still something that really connects us. We just moved into a new home and it's been super fun to come together and design our space. It's a really bonding experience when you and your partner share a similar style and you can express that together. 

CHICO: I think so, I think designers in general already gravitate towards other artists. We look at style, how they dress, how they carry themselves.... what makes them unique. If you have that in common, you know you'll have other things in common.

What’s your partner’s favorite typeface? What is the one design decision that Kelsey/Chico makes that you can’t get behind?

KELSEY: If I had to's probably something like Bauhaus.

CHICO: Hmm, she likes simple, modern typefaces for work, you can tell she likes a gentle and elegant quality, nothing aggressive or harsh. In terms of a certain design that i can't get behind, there isn't really. I think she's a better designer than me, so i like everything she creates.

How do you want to be treated by relationship partners + what makes dating a designer different that dating another creative professional?

KELSEY: When in relationship, the essentials like trust, respect, and autonomy are huge. I really like the word "partner" because I believe that's what a romantic relationship should be. A partnership. Both individuals are treated as equals and think in terms of what's best for the other person, thus benefiting the relationship. They support the person, their dreams, and values. Allowing the other person to authentically be who they are and not who they think the person "should" be. I think this is challenging for a lot of folks but ultimately what true love is.

I think dating a designer is unique in that we both value aesthetic so much--it influences our home, the products we purchase (and don't purchase), and the places we go. If it doesn't "feel" a certain way then it doesn't appeal to us. Even when we're out and about, commenting on the concept of a space or the way a restaurant menu is designed is a common topic of conversation for us. I really like sharing that with someone because many non-designers don't understand or have that natural sense. It's really enjoyable to relate in that way with the person you're with romantically.

CHICO: Not sure how to answer the question, I like that we can trust one another to get an honest opinion about a certain project or the direction that maybe we should be going in. It's rare that we disagree, I think we respect one another's work, style or aesthetic. Is it different than other creative professionals? I don't think there's  much of a difference. We love and respect the arts, we have those sensibilities.

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Kelsi SharpComment
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This week = launching two new social media clients and turning down work for the first time.

This month = lecturing at an AIGA conference in Albuquerque (more on that later…).

This year = a whirlwind.

New clients. I’m so excited to share that I’m working with two new social media clients - Seamless Skin and Shelby House, both based here in Santa Fe. Seamless Skin is an exciting and challenging client all at once. Designing a social media presence around services I have limited knowledge about (and that people rarely talk about) - cosmetic surgery being one of the main Seamless Skin offerings, alongside boutique facials, colonics, and hair removal - has required a lot of consideration and planning, lots of conversation and learning. I want to work with a diverse clientele, though, which is why I’m also thrilled about my other new client is Shelby House, a historic house now doubling as an event space and a retailer of barware and home goods. I’ve been super busy working on these two projects, and juggling four signage projects this month, but I’ll have more to share soon.

New cities. I’ve also come to the realization within the past few that I am ready to grow my business again - and that has meant hiring contractors for the first time ever and beginning the research and development that is finding clients in a second and third city. Santa Fe will still be headquarters, but I’d like to learn and grow in other markets, as well. When you are working for yourself you give up so many of the luxuries and stability that accompany working for someone else, like a steady income, paid vacation, and health benefits. That being said, you get to choose, when, where, and with whom you work. And so for me, I’ve been spending the past month ruminating on potential environments I’d like to work within and really getting clear about what type of I clients I want to attract.

Here’s a peek at some Instagram stories templates I’ve designed for Seamless Skin:

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Everything hasn’t been roses, but everything’s more than fine. More to come.

Kelsi Sharp
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Pricing. I started off pricing my services low - I did my first website for $500 - everything included. I charged a little over $200 for my first fabrication job - I lost money on that project, but I gained experience that I applied to future jobs. Pricing your services too low can undermine your work and the work of other creative professionals. Pricing your services too high can leave you hungry for work. Be realistic with your pricing and do your research. I don't charge what I charged a year ago, and I don't charge businesses the same rates as individuals. 

Invoicing. Figure out how to manage cash flow (I'm still figuring this out!). I do all of my recurring invoicing once a month, for clients who consistently purchase packages from me (email campaign packages, social media management packages, etc.) I give clients a two week due date on all invoices. I charge a 10% late fee if the invoice isn't paid within that window. If the project timeline is less than a month, I typically invoice the project upfront. Likewise, if the project requires me to pay for materials, like wood, metal, printing or website hosting, I'll invoice upfront, since those type of costs are a burden to me.

I work on trade for a few of my clients. I know that isn't always sustainable, but I'll do a couple hundred dollars a month in trade for services - as long as it's a mutually beneficial trade.

Budgeting. The number one thing I've learned over the past year is to be willing to give up extraneous expenses - there are certain things, like rent, and car insurance, that I have to have. Other things, like entertainment, nights out, and shopping are things that I've had to pass at times when I'm making less monthly income. Set a budget and stick to it - and if you can't stick to it, adjust accordingly. This is advice not just for creative professionals, but for anyone trying to practice discipline in finances. For example, I tend to overspend my budget for alcohol/bars and coffee shops each month, so I sometimes have to offset that expense by spending less on restaurants. I used the budgeting app Mint - as a designer, having a beautifully designed app makes finances much more bearable. Screenshots below. 

Taxes. Charge all of your clients sales tax on top of your fees. And don't touch the sales tax, pay it monthly, just to get it out of your account - even if you are only required to report sales tax quarterly or bi-annually. When I deposit a check from a client - I immediately put the sales tax portion of the payment into a separate account - this has a few benefits. 1. This money doesn't get confused with income when I am doing my personal taxes. 2. I never factor this money into my personal spending. 

If you are looking to save a little money, file your taxes yourself using Tax Act - the annual fee is only $75 for sole proprietors and independent contractors. 

Consulting. Get a second look at your finances. In the past I've met with small business consultants, and last week I met with Barraclough & Associates, a Santa Fe based accounting firm to get answers to more specific questions that I had. And because I knew I wanted to write about financial literacy for creative professionals, I asked for general advice to share with y'all. 

Kelsi: What are three simple practices you recommend in relation to finances?

Barraclough: Clarity. Figure out what your bottom line is - that's the most important number. Action, constant action. Follow up with people, it doesn't matter how they respond or how you think they will respond. Stay true to your brand. Success comes from clear, clear, clear focus. Believe in yourself and charge for everything. 

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Hope this helps! Let me know what other concepts I should explore - even if they aren't specifically design related. 

Kelsi Sharp
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I mentioned earlier in the year that I've been working with a pro bono client. I was approached to do a campaign for an organization called Purses with a Purpose, that works with female victims of domestic violence.

Purses with a Purpose is one branch of a larger organization that helps women with concerns besides domestic violence, they interact with teenagers on topics like body image, and work with young professionals to build career opportunities, and they are doing so much more, besides. I was attracted to Purses with a Purpose because I felt that it addressed a cultural issue that no one is talking about - that domestic abuse transcends race and socioeconomic status. Domestic violence is perpetrated against women regardless of their level of education, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, and regardless of whether they are white or ethnic - but that's not how the media portrays domestic violence - and you know what I'm talking about.

And here's what I've learned from working with my first pro bono client:

Specify the workload in advance. Going into the project I committed to an amount of work that I would do for the client - this specific client didn't have much to work with, but I also knew I couldn't offer them everything they needed - a full branding update, ongoing social media maintenance, and so much more. So I developed a proposal for what I could offer them: a logo, a website, and monthly email campaigns.

Know what you are getting out of it. If a pro bono client promises networking opportunities, free product, or to cover your expenses, make sure you are super clear what that looks like before any work is done. here are a few tax deductions you can claim in relation  to volunteering your creative services.

Be realistic about how much you can give. For me, as a sole proprietor, I don't feel that I can handle more than one pro bono client at a time, so when I get approached by other organizations, I typically turn them down, and explain that. Once I wrap up the work I'm doing for Purses with a Purpose, I'll dive into working with on another pro bono client. 

Exposure isn't a currency accepted by your landlord - unless it is, in which case, can I meet your landlord? I can't work for everyone for free, so I also have my "wholesale" clients. A few charitable organizations, a few female owned/operated businesses,  and businesses who are ethically and environmentally inclined, I offer steeply discounted pricing. It's the equivalent of a friends and family discount, and it's a nice thing to offer a organization with limited means, or a brand with an ethos that you want to support.




Kelsi Sharp
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Meet Young Black Santa Fe. 

Zippy Guerin and I are starting a series of events for Santa Fe's young, black population. New Mexico is predominantly Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American population - and about 3% black - including African Americans, Africans, and Caribbeans. I didn't grow up culturally identifying as a black person, but as an adult, I have found that I want to connect with black people, and that opportunity doesn't readily present itself in Santa Fe.

This weekend we'll be hosting our first event, a super casual happy hour. We hope that this will be an recurring event (maybe monthly, maybe quarterly) where we can network and connect. If this is something you are interested in participating in feel free to email me for the details about this weekend's event and (hopefully) future events. 

I created the graphics for the events incorporating the iconic Santa Fe railroad logo and this terracotta tone that in Zippy's words is a "blend of black and desert vibes." 

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Kelsi Sharp
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The universe abhors a vacuum. 

I started this year by ending a contract... with one of my biggest clients. I was nervous (understatement) to end the professional relationship with a client that provided more than half of my income, but I firmly believe (and mama said) that if you create a vacuum in your life the universe will fill the void. 

So I took a leap and nearly a month into the new year I’m working with six new clients. 

I’m working with HANGTIME for the first six months or so of this year on a product launch. HANGTIME represents two new worlds for me - the outdoors industry and the start-up industry - and I’m learning so much. HANGTIME is launching a smartphone accessory for hiking, climbing, skiing and snowboarding and I’ll be creating graphics for the crowdfunding campaign and  investor pitches, including the ABQid Ski Lift Pitch next month. 

I’m working with MAKE Santa Fe on some web design and I’m eager to reap the benefits of a membership at MAKE and I’ll be attending several certifications in the coming month or so. I’ve already used the shared workshop space to create stunning laser cut product packaging for the HANGTIME launch this weekend at Outdoor Retailer and I’ll also be creating laser cut signage for another client in early February. 

I’m working with Cynthia Jones Jewelry, a minimalist jewelry brand here in Santa Fe on social media campaigns, email campaigns, product packaging, and signage. I love working with another female sole proprietor, especially Cynthia, whose work and aesthetic I adore. 

I’ve agreed to do some pro-bono work for a charitable organization called Purses with a Purpose. I’ve felt so fortunate in my career and in my life and I’ve wanted to volunteer some of my time to the right female-centric non-profit - so that is happening now! 

I’m also working with another female sole proprietor this year - my mentor of over ten years, Erica Westby. I’ll be doing web and print design work for her as she launches her private practice and I'm eager to collaborate with Erica in her powerful work.

Curtis Bobsin is an organ builder in San Antonio who also installs high end sound equipment in restaurants, bars, and cathedrals. He’s one of the only remaining organ builders in the world. We’ve already begun logo design that merges his classical work, welding organ pipes and milling custom cabinetry for the instruments, and the new and growing sound equipment component of his company. 

And the big news is:

Anyone who knows me knows that a microbrewery is my dream client and I’ve been working towards making that dream a reality. I can’t say anything more until everything is formalized, but I’m also going to be working with a craft brewery this year. 

I’ll be continuing projects with several clients from last year, too. including Hutton Broadcasting (creators of and soon, and TWIG. And so begins my second year of business. 

Kelsi Sharp
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I work constantly - like twelve hours a day. I usually work about eight hours a day in my office (read: studio apartment) or on-site with clients. After dinner, I work for another several hours (read: in bed) fueled by Netflix and some terrifying true crime podcasts. 

A few of my audio/visual favorites for late night work sessions:

Abstract: The Art of Design I watched it nearly a year ago, and it didn't hold my interest, but watching it again while working, I found it inspirational and I really enjoyed it. There's an episode that follows Bjarke Ingels (superstar architect) and an episode that follows Paula Scher (superstar graphic designer), as well as an episode about an illustrator, a photographer, and an automobile designer. 

Great British Baking Show I love to have Great British Baking Show playing in the background while I'm working. It is so much less theatrical than any American cooking or baking show in the best way. I love how the contestants have real lives and jobs, and participate in the show on the weekends. I love how the contestants help each other with the baking challenges, wash their own pans, and drink tea. 

Sword and Scale Besides design, I also am a true crime podcast fan. Sword and Scale was one of the first podcasts I became interested in. My favorite episode talks about the origin of the last meal traditionally offered to prisoners given the death sentence and lists different serial killers and what they ordered for their last meal - ranging from dirt and cigarettes to a burger and fries with a milkshake. listen here

Casefile This is an absolutely amazing true crime podcast, and the narrator has an amazing Australian accent. listen here

S*TOWN It isn't a true crime podcast, but it is an incredible story and it's four brilliant episodes, produced by the people who made Serial and This American life. listen here

Dirty John I'm in the middle of this one currently, at the recommendation of a friend and it is really intriguing. Dirty John is produced by Wondery, and it feels like the podcast equivalent of Mindhunter, the new Netflix series or True Detective - it really paints a visual, and because it covers one crime over the course of the season, as opposed to other podcasts that cover one crime per episode, it really gets into detail. listen here

I also listen to less hi-fi true crime podcasts - like where you can hear the podcaster's wife or dog in the background, or the phone rings. I find non-fiction podcasts and shows easier to multi-task to than fiction/fantasy podcasts and shows, and obviously, anything with subtitles, I can't properly enjoy while working. 

(note: I'm in bed right now and it is after midnight and I'm watching Great British Baking Show)

Kelsi Sharpfilm, designComment
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Today is the first anniversary of my work as an independent contractor. I'm so appreciative for the clients I've worked with this past year who enabled me to make my graphic design work more than a side hustle this year and I've learned so many lessons in the past 365 days. 

I've learned loads more than I can put in words or should probably share....

Saying yes to work, saying no to everything else. I read an article on Girlboss that basically said 'You'll have to skip going out to cocktails with your girlfriends, but it will be easy for you to skip these type of engagements because you'll be so gratified with the work you're doing.' Wrong. It actually never gets easier to say no to happy hours and dates - no matter how gratifying work is, it never gets easier to pass up a social call. 

Making time for growth. I think my biggest asset to my clients this past year has been my lack of experience. I have had a really hard time investing in reading and growing my skills while juggling all of the administrative and creative responsibilities of running a new business. While being "green" has had the benefit of generating fresh and unusual ideas, I don't want to stop growing. I want to make time to develop new skills, attend trainings, and never become comfortable. 

Asking for help. Seek council from small business consultants and mentors. A small business consultant top meeting clients at coffee shops - it isn't professional or private enough. That's a bit of advice given to me at a meeting with a small business consultant earlier this year, precisely two days before I had the most uncomfortable coffee shop meeting of my life. I invite a select few clients over to my house for meetings, but I generally to meet with clients and potential clients at my office space in Albuquerque, or at the client's office or studio. Point is, I've learned so much from other young creative professionals.

What now? I'm looking forward to working with several new clients this coming year and working with my current clients on e-commerce, app design, and private label products. I just signed a contract with a local ad agency so I'm really excited to see what that will yield - it's a project unlike anything I've done before. 

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