Melody Hansen is a multi-talented Toronto-based graphic designer and illustrator originally hailing from Lausanne, Switzerland. On top of her extensive professional and personal projects, she also makes music and takes photographs in her spare time. Her work includes branding for small businesses, wedding stationary, web design, and more.
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer & letterer.
When I was 12, my dad brought home the first version of Photoshop from his work and I started playing around with it. I didn’t really know what graphic design was at the time, but I liked playing around with photos of celebrities and myself and I’d overlay them with text. I would look up tutorials on how to make my text shine or make it fuzzy. It was a fun time to be alive. Then I continued making stuff through high school, drew on top of my t-shirts, volunteered to make posters for projects, spent hours and hours making each page of my PowerPoint presentations color coordinated. A lot of it wasn’t even that good.
After high school I took a year off, and didn’t really have a plan. I had a retail job for a few months, and spent my free time watercoloring, doodling in sketchbooks, making up my own projects. I got into OCADU for Graphic Design in Toronto by showing them a PowerPoint presentation (of course) of everything I had ever doodled or made (except the fuzzy text stuff). It’s a 4 year program, but after a year and a half, I dropped out. I started making music at the time, and I started feeling claustrophobic with everything going on. So I let myself take my time. People began asking me for designs, and from there, developed my brand. I’ve always loved typography and always sensed I was good at it, so the handwriting came a bit afterwards when I started posting handwritten text on Instagram.
"I let myself take my time."
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I started sharing little creations I’d make on the computer on the internet when I was really young and kept doing it. So people knew I liked to design. And a friend recommended me to someone in need of design work. It all began that way. By sharing whatever I made.
You take on a lot of wonderful side projects. How do you balance personal stuff with client work?
I live in the suburbs and spend a lot of time at home. That’s how I can balance everything right now. That and choosing to make time to work on personal projects over projects that pay me.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Getting dressed. Sitting at my desk instead of my bed. Putting on a movie I’ve seen a few times so there’s background noise (this really helps when I’m doing something tedious or routine-like so I don’t fall asleep). Music gets too loud and distracting for me sometimes.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Having a stable income. That and updating my online shop.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
Having my own schedule with creative freedom, and the freedom to work from anywhere.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
By creating what feels and looks good to me, and sharing it. And by not holding back with the way I want to present myself.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I honestly don’t really know how to deal with it myself. I just make sure I invoice every money interaction, and organize them by year + month. And I keep my receipts. So when it comes to filing taxes, I can easily find everything.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Keep a scheduled time for work, give yourself breaks, and a day or two days off a week.