This week are excitedly crossing the pond to chat with Rita Goulão, an Art Director, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and DJ from Porto, Portugal, who is currently based in Barcelona. Rita is fond of giving brands an image, illustrating good ideas, communicating with graphics and lettering everything from work to everyday post-its.
We are lucky to have her as a member of our Creative Lady Directory and grateful for her fresh perspective. Thanks for sharing Rita!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance art director, graphic designer, and illustrator.
Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to do something art related. I used to copy typefaces and letterings from magazines, I’d ask my mom to pick animals or objects for me to draw and I’d do my own cd covers, posters, and secret club membership cards. My dad was also a graphic designer so that also influenced me, although I always felt like I wanted to pick my own career and not follow his footsteps. Guess I couldn’t avoid it.
I studied Communication Design in college (Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto) and in the first year I was absolutely sure that was what I wanted to do. I almost immediately started to work as a freelancer. I was already uploading illustrations and personal projects to a few online platforms (DeviantArt even before college, then Fotolog, Myspace and others) and also started doing some pro-bono for friends. Later I started charging for my work, got new clients and the rest is history…I just kept going and haven’t stopped since!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Like I mentioned before, by publishing personal work online and doing lots of pro-bono at first. I don’t remember ever being unoccupied. If I wasn’t doing college work, I was doing illustrations just for the fun of it or working for Monster Jinx, an independent music label formed by friends. All the album covers, posters, and t-shirts I did for them (hundreds! haha) really helped me to get out there and start getting real clients.
Also, the personal illustration work I was doing started to get me invitations for zines, for collective exhibitions in galleries… and people started buying my things. It feels good when you start making money out of what you love to do.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
A few, although I sometimes fail at accomplishing some myself!
First, routines! Waking up at the same time every day and getting ready as if you’re going out to work helps to get in the working mood.
Freelancing at home can be tough sometimes, specially because it might get a little lonely. If it’s working for you, great! (I’m trying to make it work at this time) If you’re struggling, co-working is a great option - you always have people around, the environment encourages you to work (you don’t want people passing by seeing you procrastinate by watching internet kitties) and depending on the place, you might have the luck of having other creatives there with whom you can collaborate.
Make to do lists with everything you have to do in order of importance - it empties out your mind and tasks are not as overwhelming when you can look at them anytime. Also, try to cut down on every possible procrastinating source! Keep away from instagram, facebook, blogs and whatever else.
Music (preferably with no lyrics) while doing more intellectual tasks and podcasts while doing more manual/automatic work really help me focus too.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
I’d say managing clients and projects. I try to plan my work schedule as well as I can but I’m still struggling with it. Some projects end up taking more time than initially planned, which delay other projects, payments, and keep me from accepting more work sometimes.
Putting a price on what I do is always really difficult for me too… Am I undercharging, overcharging? It would be amazing to have some sort of a manager so I could worry more about keeping the creative juices flowing and less about keeping the business on point. Also, it can get kind of lonely. I’m used to working by myself but I often wonder how nice it would be to have someone to discuss ideas with.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
Being the one in charge of the final product. It’s great to do what you believe in, own your ideas and creative concepts and have no one above you to abort the mission before it’s even launched. Having schedule flexibility is great too, as well as being able to do so much different work.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
I try to accept work I identify with and keep doing what I love to. If commercial projects aren’t going exactly where I like (let’s face it, everyone does something they’re not 100% proud of) I try to compensate with personal ones whenever I have the time. And of course, uploading it on my website, behance and other platforms like instagram. You have to be out there to be found.
"You have to be out there to be found."
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I try to keep away from the computer and absorb things outside the working space. This might not always happen during the week, but I always try to do different things on the weekends. Traveling is always a huge creative boost and so is changing the work environment as well (perks of being a freelancer). When I have some sort of creative block I also try to change the tools/techniques I’m using and get away from my comfort zone.
"When I have some sort of creative block I also try to change the tools/techniques I’m using and get away from my comfort zone."
You are also a DJ and a radio show host. How does your passion for music impact your design work?
I think it’s an ongoing inspiration. I listen to a lot of music while working and all the different moods and genres can definitely influence the outcome of certain projects. Sometimes I’m designing and involuntarily discovering tunes for Mineralogy, my radioshow. And the fact that I’m somehow in midst of the music world (although I’m not a musician or producer of any sorts) helps me get music related clients. It’s great to work alongside artists and interpret their music visually.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
Always use a precise contract. Protect yourself from late payments, work ownership, timings and define, from the start, exactly what is to be expected from you.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Try to log out at the end of the day and weekends. Nowadays, I only work nights and weekends when I have a really tight deadline, but I’m making an effort to have the time off most 9 to 5’ers have. You need it to stay sane and be with your people.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Hard work, resilience and a good dose of chill pills.