Hey there friends! It's time for the second installment of the Top Ten list! The Top Ten list focuses on a range of paper crafting topics that will get you talking and thinking. You can fist pump the air, with a "right on!" or you can tell me, "Whatever! You've got it all wrong." Feel free to chime in with your opinion! The first Top Ten list dealt with ten trends that needed to end, which a lot of people loved. So, make sure that if this is your first time here, and you haven't read it, that you check it out right here.
Today's Top Ten list are valuable goodies that I learned from being on a design team. If you're new to paper-crafting, you may not be aware of the phrase, design team. Simply put, a design team is a group of creative ladies that design projects to inspire others. These ladies may design for a paper-crafting manufacturer, or be part of a design team that focuses on a particular element of the paper-crafting industry, such as a challenge blog. If you're trying to get on a design team, or interested in some tips about designing for a team (from a girl who's "been there and done that"), then read on!
Design teams are a professional responsibility. More often than not, when you're on a design team, you're representing a manufacturer or the creator of the design team, not just yourself. Whatever you do online and offline reflects onto the people you're affiliated with. If you frequent message boards and engage in chats with people, you'll soon be easily recognized. More often than not, people from those message boards will visit your blog, and when they find the big 'ol binkie saying that you proudly design for Lucy Goosy Stamples Co. (soo not a real manufacturer), they'll see you as the face of that company to some degree. Your behavior online can influence the way people view a manufacturer.
The same goes for your blog. While blogging is fun, and can be therapeutic, if you use your personal blog as a design blog, and post very personal information, you may want to seperate the two. Sharing fun tid-bits of your life can help people relate to you, but long-winded dramatic personal life stories aired to the web, aren't professional and don't reflect well as a design team member. Try to separate the two.
I've designed for a variety of teams, from challenge blogs, to store design teams to manufacturer design teams, and here's the truth: at some point you are not going to be inspired to design. It could be that you don't like this week's challenge prompt, or you received your design team box in the mail, and the product isn't your style. The simple truth is, you still need to create, and do it well.
There have been times when I've gotten product, sat there, stared at it for days, and tried to make something work with it. Maybe I didn't like the design, or it's not my particular style, and I have no clue on how to approach a project using the product. Whatever the case is, being on a design team means that you'll need to step up, and sell that product. You never know-your project could be what sells the product to a person who doesn't usually use that style of stamp, or that type of ribbon! Some of my favorite projects have been made using stamps and paper, that at first, I wasn't too excited about working with.
Being on a design team carries some extra perks that aren't advertised---you can make some great friends. I've been blessed to work on a few teams, where the ladies I designed with became wonderful friends, who I could share stuff with that I never shared with anyone else. My design team friends and I also met up at CHA, hung out, ate and laughed together. I would have never had the pleasure of meeting them if it had not been for our design team.
Take the time to connect with the ladies on your design team who already share a common interest with you! Often times, the design team has a private group or message board where you can share projects, ask for advice and get to know one another. More often than not, you'll find ladies on your team with common interests. Take advantage of this great opportunity to connect with others.
Man, I wish someone had shared this advice with me when I first started applying for manufacturer teams; it would have saved me money. I have seen some design team calls include this in the list of requirements for applying, and I went along with it buying any product I could find with the company's name on it. Spending money, and hunting down product of a manufacturer for which you'd like to design for isn't necessary, and it's ridiculous. If the design team coordinator likes your style, it won't matter what paper or embellishments you use because your style will show through in your design.
I don't recommend buying product for a design team call...ever. Try out for teams whose product you actually use and enjoy.
Like all relationships, the honeymoon stage of your design team affiliation may end sooner than your term. Does that mean that you bail? No! Sadly, the truth is, when you're an adult, you fulfill your obligations. Does that mean that you continue designing for the team, even if you're miserable and feel under-valued? Hmmm....I'll have to chew on that last question, since I've been in this position (twice), and I stayed because I felt it was unprofessional to ditch my commitment, and leave. I wasn't happy, but I did my projects, wrote my posts and finished my term, then I moved on.
If you're designing for a team, and it's turned out not to be the wonderful experience you thought you were in for, you should thoughtfully evaluate if bailing early could impact your role as a designer within the industry (women talk, ya know). However, if the entire experience is emotionally unhealthy, you should probably step down. In the end, it's a decision, only you can make.
Chances are that your greatest paper-crafting dreams will not be fulfilled by being on a design team. If you dream of fame and fortune in this industry, a design team will not launch your career. Before you apply for a design team you should be honest, and ask yourself what your motives are for joining. Remember, you're a representative of the company you design for, it's not necessarily a means to an end in creating a name for yourself.
There are benefits to being on a design team. Being on a design team can help you improve your craft by making projects regularly, and trying new things. Some design teams can also provide you with product that you don't have to buy, and supply your blog with a decent following. Designing for a team can also be a fun experience. However, If you have higher hopes in the paper-crafting industry, you'll have to work above and beyond design team affiliation to accomplish such fame.
Some design teams are a great experience and some aren't. Finding out which ones are great will help you avoid top ten reason number 6. You may be thinking,"this is great advice, but there's no list of approved design teams to work for." True, there is no list. However you can seek out former design team members of a team you're hoping to join, and ask them about their experience. Remember, the experience should be enjoyable for you, since you are promoting the manufacturer for free over an extended period of time.
When probing current or past design team members, ask them questions such as how many terms did you serve on the team? Did you find the design team coordinator helpful, available and responsive to emails and questions? Did you have enough time to complete projects? Were you given product on regular intervals? Were the design team expectations transparent? Researching how well a design team is managed will make a profound impact on how much you enjoy the experience.
When I was a beginning paper-crafter and blogger, I thought the ticket to paper-crafting fame was being on design teams, and a lot of them. I would spend hours looking for blog challenge design teams as well as manufacturers that I could apply to. There were two things wrong with this approach. First, I wasted a lot of time and second, I applied and joined design teams that were not my style or that followed my brand.
Style? Brand? What are those? Your style is your unique approach to design and your overall aesthetic. For example, if someone looked at a card, could they easily identify it as yours? Your brand, on the other is what you as a designer and a blogger do. Your brand is your high quality original content. You could be a DIY-er, or a mom who blogs about crafts that you can do with your kids with stuff found around the house. Ignoring your brand and style so that you can design for five teams could be potential suicide to your brand.
Design teams are a strange phenomena. It's the only job where you'll basically work for free. Some people are going to agree with this point, and some won't. That's okay. We all have different goals for ourselves as crafters and as bloggers. But, it is important to address the fact that in most cases, most women give of their free time, their talents, their ideas, and for what? Free product? Really?
In no other industry will you see companies and other bloggers receive such incredibly cheap marketing and advertising. Blogging and crafting as part of a design team are a lot of work and time. Not only do you have to think of a project, you then have to create it, photograph it, edit the photos, and then write the blog post. Finally, you have to optimize it for SEO's, and then distribute it amongst your social media platforms. Dearness, for just the social media alone, people hire that work out.
The design team model gets a lot of flack from professional bloggers and crafters because it can minimize the work and effort needed of those crafters who take this industry seriously. Now, I am not suggesting that you should go out there and demand money for your talents. However, asking yourself questions like, "how much is my time worth?" and "Do I want to expand my brand?" will point you in the right direction in choosing to be a part of a design team. And, note that there are some design teams that do pay their designers for required projects. Just as there are also design teams that pay for published work or for projects displayed at a trade show.
Quite possibly the best advice I ever received, was given to me by my friend, Amber from Damask Love. She asked me two questions. First, who am I as a brand? Do I sell my own ideas? My content? My work? Or, are companies freely using my blog to sell their product? Secondly, who am I as a blogger? What am I offering at my blog? And, how is it any different than the other thousands of crafters who are blogging out there?
Those questions really made me think about what I had been doing as a crafter for the last two years. I wasn't designing for my brand. I wasn't making a name for me. Heck, I had been blogging for two years, with no changes in readership or influence. These questions and this top ten number one point also motivated me to re-brand Emily Branch Designs, offering new content designed to help you, the reader understand your brand, expand your readership and enjoy the being the divine crafter that you are.
If you're serious about making a name for yourself through branding and learning about crafting techniques, then I hope you'll subscribe to this blog, and continue to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I have lots of fun posts informative series planned for 2013 that you don't want to miss. And be sure to stop by throughout the week, you don't want to miss pretty projects or an opportunity to share your thoughts with me.