Seattle Area Graphic Designer On Doing What He Loves and Digging the Freelance Life

They say 'doing what you love' means never working a day in your life. For Gavin the Graphic Designer, this dream is a reality worth fighting for.

Gavin has been an artist for as long as he can remember, even before he knew what an artist was. In grade school he was always that guy, the one who designed the logo for the robotics club t-shirt or the show poster for the drama group’s next performance. He didn’t major in art in college … but he did develop posters and social media for Phi Beta Kappa and the Computer Science Club. And somewhere along the way he realized that his hobby could be more than a hobby. After school he worked at a print shop. Then, one of the print shop’s customers hired him as their in-house graphic designer. But working for one company doing pretty much the same thing over and over got boring after a while. So Gavin went solo, seeking out clients through Craigslist – and then

“I first found MyPeopleNow on Craigslist, and noticed that several parts of the site were broken,” he says. “So I sent them a quick email letting them know, and before I knew it I was working on the site. I’ve made some illustrative graphics and UI stuff so far, and lots of mockups for their redesign.”

What is Gavin’s idea of a graphic designer? “Someone who can convey information visually in a concise way,” he says. And unlike many artists, his idea of graphic design is as much an intellectual as a visual enterprise. “I like the challenge of trying to solve someone’s problem visually. A good graphic designer has to find a way to fit everything their client wants to communicate into a picture that someone might look at for no more than five or ten seconds.”

Most important to his process is communication. “The client always has to be closely involved,” he says. “I’ll create some initial sketches, several designs that offer different ways to communicate their idea. Then we go through a feedback loop – they tell me what works and what doesn’t, and I adjust accordingly. I’m not finished until the client is happy.”

Not many people are fortunate enough to make a living doing what they love. Gavin is almost one of them. “An artist is all I’ve ever wanted to be,” he says. “So doing this professionally is a dream come true. And it’s close to being a sustainable business. Close-ish. In five years I’ll be there.”


A Young Aspiring Filmmaker Getting His Start Far From Hollywood

With time and perfectionism on his side, Michael Strawn's side hustle is destined to become his career.

Michael has been paying attention to the details in videos and films since he was a little child. While the other kids were singing along or drowsing off, he was noticing the lighting or the position of the camera. So as soon as he could, he started teaching himself how to create and edit videos – editing software, gaming videos for YouTube, audio mastering and mixing – and all before he was old enough to vote, because he still isn’t. When he finally got his hands on professional-grade video equipment in high school, he began making short films and interviews, both for himself and others.

Finding wasn’t too difficult for Michael. The founder of the site, Melissa Strawn, is his mother. But it wasn’t mom who hired him for his first professional videography gigs. He’s done seven so far, including one for Leanna the life coach. And many more are coming.

“I want to make videos for the rest of my life, to reach the Hollywood level of making videos,” he says. “I’ll be going to a school for video production this summer, and I want to do it in college too. With the money from MyPeopleNow bookings, I’m going to buy my own equipment. In five years, I see myself working on commercials for companies, the sorts of ads that you see on YouTube.”

And Michael is a perfectionist. His editing process doesn’t end until the final product satisfies him. That might take a few hours or a few all-nighters. It might be over a detail that seems insignificant to the rest of us civilians. But that’s the nature of a self-made artist.

“I’m passionate about making art, I want to perfect my craft, and I love being able to help people achieve their vision of what a video should look like,” he says. “So going as far as necessary or taking as long as necessary to find the best in each project is just a function of all that.”