Whether or not you’re familiar with Local Wolves, one thing I love to mention is that we’re a team located almost everywhere around the globe. Majority of the core team are individuals who live in the United States yet have never crossed paths! Really. Never, ever. I’ve been on the team for about two years now and I’ve grown a wonderful friendship with graphic designer, Lisa Lok (LL). Lisa took the leap and ventured into working freelance rather than sticking to a 9-5 job a few years after college. Since then, she’s been doing quite well for herself but of course there were so bumps along the way. Check out our interview below to see how she got to be where she is today, her advice to those considering to be a freelancer and her future goals!
First off, let’s start with how you got into design in the first place. What drew you to this major and career path?
LL – Even before I knew that graphic design was a career path, let’s go back to the MySpace days— where you could customize your own page with different styles and make it look pretty rad. That’s how I started to get a sense of graphic design, unraveling the depths of coding to make my page unique, but it wasn’t until high school where I was introduced to what graphic design is. I was in an after school club, Class Congress, that met to discuss and decorate for upcoming events. This lead to the discovery of how important conveying information is. It was then that I started to ‘design’ in a sense, taking a stab at letterforms and layout for our school signs. My AP Art teacher later said that graphic design might be of interest to me.
What do you do when you’re having a designer’s “writer’s block”? What are your own methods when looking for new inspiration?
LL – Creative block in any shape or form is not ideal. You’re in this constant state of funk. For me getting out of that block is to get away and clear my head. It means not looking at my phone, or my computer. Being outside, gathering with friends, experiencing new flavors and going to random shows are a few things that will take away the anxiety of why can’t I create? It’s surprising how inspiration strikes.
You graduated in 2014 with a BFA in Design. In college or even before then, did you even know what you wanted to do right out the gate after graduation?
LL – Absolutely not! More power to the ones that know what field they want to go into. Art was a passion of mine but I knew I didn’t possess the patience of what’s needed for fine arts. To piggy-back off the first question, it was the moment I stepped into SVA and the atmosphere of being in New York City that won me over. I wanted to be away from my hometown and explore a different location. Fortunately, graphic design has all the qualities of what I was essentially looking for: Problem solving, but also getting to experiment with typography/lettering, photography, found art, etc.
Before you went freelance, what was your job? When was the moment you realized that the 9-5 full time career wasn’t for you?
LL – Right after graduation I said yes to the first job that was offered to me (something I wouldn’t recommend unless it’s one of your top 3 dream jobs), I went into the job hungry. I was working at a start-up as the sole graphic designer. Only a few months into this job I was also starting to get freelance work that was exciting, and fresh. Balancing both initially was difficult. The company was undergoing some big change-ups at the time and I wasn’t quite sure of my place in the big picture with them. Ultimately I followed my instincts to break away from the 9-5 grind and start freelancing full time.
Did you ever imagine you’d be someone to just quit everything and start fresh?
LL – At the time, no, and I was terrified. There were so many thoughts of doubt and failure. No one really tells you how to go about freelancing. It’s this perceived glamour of waking up whenever you want, staying in your PJs, and having complete control. Taking a look back, that’s the adventure, I was looking for and if I didn’t start fresh there would’ve been so many missed opportunities.
Being that it’s now 2 years since you’ve become a freelancer, what’s the best and worst thing about your career choice?
LL – Hands down working one-on-one with the clients. Each and every one of them has a vision for their company and it’s my job to bring that vision to life, and go beyond their expectations. Getting feedback and that feeling of certainty with clients is the most rewarding. The worst thing about this career path is that you’re not going to get responses sometimes from the clients you want. The waiting game is stressful and hearing a response of no, we found someone else, can bring you down. I remember the first few rejections from what I thought were dream clients at the time. The feeling of not being good enough stung, but I had to pick myself up and remember that bigger and better things are coming along. Now, when clients contact me and I see that we wouldn’t be a good fit, I’m the one saying no. If you say yes to everything, you could end up losing yourself.
What advice do you give our readers who (like me) are struggling with the idea of the culture norm to have a 9-5 full time job but wants to venture off being a freelancer and fulfilling their dream career goals?
LL – Make sure you have enough funds saved up before making the transition from full-time to freelancing. You have no idea how many clients don’t pay on time, it could be a month or so after you finish up a job. Secondly, it’s good to have a pool of people to network with. The person sitting next to you in a coffee shop could be linked to that writer you’ve admired who’s looking for new talent. You have to go after what you want. Though freelancing may not be for everyone. There are a few people I know that are perfectly content with their 9-5 and doing what they love. If you’re thinking about venturing off into the freelance realm, don’t be afraid. Get a little uncomfortable with things.
A lot of people have this idea that freelancers have so much free time on their hands. What are your thoughts on that statement/opinion?
LL – I may have fallen victim to this ideology in the beginning. What you don’t realize is how organized you have to be, and how much time management plays into keeping your freelance career afloat. I am my own assistant, business manager, and HR department while simultaneously staying on top of each project. Some days you’re working all hours of the night so your client in another country has all the materials to prepare for their business meeting. There are periods where you’re waiting for people to get back to you and you have free time, but that’s when you start on that side project you’ve been meaning to create (or catch up on some TV shows).
We’re so happy to have you part of the Local Wolves team. How did being a designer for Local Wolves come across?
LL – Thrilled to be part of the Local Wolves team! It was through Twitter, that I saw their wanting to update the LW site. While I wasn’t right for that role, I eventually saw an opening for a graphic designer. Almost a year later and there’s still so many people from the team I still need to meet. Hit me up on Twitter!
How do you go about finding new projects to ones like Rolling Stone?! That’s freaking huge!
LL – Social media has such a huge impact in the creative community and that’s how I was given this opportunity. I got the email just a few days after I finished up at an agency, which was very serendipitous, since I wasn’t sure what my next move was in regards to long-term work. Keeping an online portfolio of your work and showcasing new projects will get me referrals. Even though I am terrible at keeping up with social media most days, I make a point of interacting and showing design snippets to stay on the radar with prospective clients and other creatives.
What do you envision your life to be like from five to ten years from now?
LL – Hopefully in a good place! Still making designs, whether it be freelancing, going back to full-time, or even expanding to where I can have people who are working with me in the studio. Definitely living with corgis and always fueling the passion of design, while breaking a few rules.