Melissa Scott Jackson (aka Moonflower) is a graphic designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is one of the earliest – and amongst the most successful – members of the HiretheWorld design community.
After Melissa was laid off by corporate America during the recession of the the early 2000s, she reinvented her career, regained control of her life and started her own successful freelance design business, Cranberry Blue.
Today she is both a mother and a freelance entrepreneur. Her thriving small business has over forty clients – and gives her the flexibility to juggle family life with work, while also allowing her to express her passion for design.
Melissa recently spoke with HiretheWorld about her design career, transitioning from Corporate America, her thriving freelance business & mompreneurship.
Life in Corporate America
What was your role at Bank of America and Home Depot?
I worked in the Internal Communications Department at Home Depot where I provided company-wide presentations and projects for employee communications at the retail store level. Although I enjoyed the role, I felt there was a lack of creativity being mainly focused on written correspondence. At Bank of America as a Communications Manager, I led activities for the customer service team, while creating elementary presentations in PowerPoint and Publisher to assist in training. I did not have substantial design skills then, but I had a strong desire to make a greater impact through visual communication.
I enjoyed these jobs, but especially when I was able to use my visually creative spirit. I did not know what I was truly missing until I was laid off and had the wonderful opportunity to unlock my passion for design.
How did the lay off affect you?
It was very emotional as it brought about a great deal of uncertainty about my future. Looking back, it is interesting to see that the fear of the future made me delve into design. I buried myself in what was then a hobby. In a twist of irony, that “crutch” developed into something that lifted the uncertainty and paved the way for my prospering freelance career.
Would you ever go back to ‘Corporate America’?
I could return to Corporate America, but I would not want to give up the flexibility I have with my family and my design business. I think many people are taking their careers in their own hands in hopes of finding a more secure, or at least fulfilling future. They are reinventing themselves by starting their own businesses or by pursuing long-put-off dreams that include creative or charitable endeavours.
Transition to Freelancing
How did your design hobby develop into your current freelance career?
While I was employed in the traditional corporate world, I always received design requests from friends, mostly from those starting their own businesses. At first, after working 10 hours a day at the office, I took on a limited number of projects. As my skills developed with each project and my friends were impressed with the outcomes, I took on more work and began to really enjoy this newly found “paid hobby”.
Word of mouth spread with momentum, and I was getting continuous referral work. I was getting compensated for doing something I loved. It slowly dawned on me that I was building a business that was making money. When I was laid off from my job, it was a natural and easy choice to transition into this business full-time.
How has the downturn in the economy changed your freelance business since then?
How did you go about setting up your own business, Cranberry Blue?
My strategy for landing clients is simply to provide the very best personable service I can to the ones that find me via Internet, Design Contests or word of mouth. This leads to more business and repeat clients.
Why did you name your business ‘Cranberry Blue’?
Cranberry Blue is not a frothy chic cocktail, or the deep and rich purplish hue of an eggplant. The Cranberry Blue, or Vacciniina Optilete Yukona, is a breath-taking butterfly predominant in the Yukon. This small, yet beautiful creature is symbolic of transformation, change and life. Like the small, yet vibrant butterfly for which it is named, Cranberry Blue, a small shop, creates big ideas, transforms images into brands, and breathes life into dreams.
How have you managed being a mompreneur?
First and foremost, I am a Mom. That itself is a full-time job. Interwoven between my role as matriarch and wife, I love being a creative designer. Being a designer and doing what I love is the most amazing occupation I could imagine.
As a mompreneur, I pride myself on being organized. I create lists and calendars to keep up with schedules and activities for my family and business. The flexibility of being a freelance professional allows me to design around my family responsibilities.
How has your business grown since?
I usually have about 5 or 6 projects going on at a time. Large or small, my business has grown tremendously over the years. I have not done any paid advertising, only a facebook page and a few ads on Craigslist. Word of mouth seems to work well for me.
Growth as a Designer
As your business grew, how did you grow technically as a designer?
I seem to learn a new techniques all the time. When I am out on the web searching for inspiration, I may see a 3d image or interesting type effect that is appealing. I then find the tutorial so that I can add that to my skill set.
What is your creative process for projects?
I first research the client, history of the business, their industry and competition. After that, I have a ‘blueprint’ of what I need to communicate. I do not like just throwing an icon next to a font type because it looks good. Sometimes it is visually appealing, but I would never be comfortable unless I create a strong and unique logo that represents the true essence of the business, and helps communicate that to the world.
What are some of your main sources of inspiration? Favourite online resources?
I get inspiration from everywhere literally from: magazines, to packaging at the grocery store for new colour schemes, to someone’s clothing for a new pattern. I believe a true artist gets inspiration from everyday life.
Tell me about your workspace set-up.
My formal workspace is at home in my studio, painted in cranberry blue colors! My laptop is like an appendage and is always with me so I am ready whenever creativity strikes! Technically, my workspace could be Starbucks, in the car waiting for the kids, or even my couch – where many ideas have been conceived.
What hardware / software do you use?
I have an HP laptop and Wacom tablet. No, I am not a Mac user! I mainly work with Adobe Creative Suite CS5. Their programs rock! I use Photoshop for graphic design, Illustrator for vector projects, DreamWeaver for websites and Flash for flash-based projects. If you have a creative mind and spirit, and you can also master these tools, there is nothing that can stop you.
What helped prepare you to become the designer you are today?
Many hours of research and tutorials!
Life with HiretheWorld
How did you get started as a designer on HiretheWorld?
I stumbled upon HTW through the Internet. When I first visited, the site was friendly, comfortable, organized and inviting. It is just the kind of place you would want to work. I have been designing on the site since their launch date.
HiretheWorld allows me to help create dreams come true. I love to design. I also love being a part of someone’s dream – bringing their visions, thoughts and ideas to life. I truly live for the “A HA” moment. My aim is to design edgy yet sophisticated designs that will get my clients noticed.
How has HiretheWorld helped your design career?
HiretheWorld has allowed me to master my skills by offering a varied clientele base with diverse needs. That of course, leads to new challenges with new techniques learnt along the way. I look forward to pulling HiretheWorld up on my laptop to see what is in store. There is always a new project waiting for me.
Are there benefits to your online career with HiretheWorld vs. offline career?
What do you see as the benefits of working with clients online vs. offline?
In the design business, working with clients online as opposed to offline is far more advantageous for both the client and freelancer. Face to face meetings take time away from what the client and freelancer do best. With face-to-face meetings, you have the unproductive travel time, and you rarely get anything that you cannot get from a phone or video conference. There may be times that a personal meeting is necessary, but I have not found one yet that added much value to the common goal of producing a great design.
What has been one of your favourite projects on HiretheWorld?
I enjoyed working on the Silverstork contest. The main challenge I had was drawing images with my mouse. I had not purchased my Wacom Tablet then, so it was a bit difficult. But, somehow I pulled it off and the client loved it!
What is the best advice you can give to aspiring freelancers on what you have learnt as a freelance designer?
What is the best part of being a freelance mompreneur?
Freedom. That freedom allows for flexibility, and, in turn, allows me to juggle my role as a mom and a designer in parallel. You need not be tied down to an office. And since there is Wi-Fi just about everywhere, the whole world can be your office. This is my favorite perk of being a freelancer!
Melissa Jackson is a graphic designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is one of the earliest – and amongst the most successful – members of the HiretheWorld design community. If you’d like to hire Melissa for your Graphic Design projects – just click here:
Image Sources: Melissa Scott Jackson, Bigskyline.com, Glassdoor.com, Guypadfield.com