The BlueHaus Office {Fort Collins Photography Studio}

A quick look into my office/studio space.  I will be posting a more detailed video sometime soon.  Come visit us :). [embed width="650" height"450"][/embed]

Freelance Tips Most People Aren’t Sharing

I’ve been a freelance graphic and web designer for a while now, and I’ve come across a lot of tips I wish I had known before I started my grand adventure in freelancing.  I searched high and low for information that would help me in my pursuits, but honestly the best information I’ve collected has been by experience.  Perhaps that’s how it goes, but I think most freelancers are holding out on valuable information.  I’m not sure why, I’m assuming to keep the competition at bay, but I personally don’t see that side.  I have confidence in my design abilities, and I don’t worry about the competition.  I only worry about myself, perfecting my craft, and becoming the best version of me that I possibly can.  In life and art I believe in the collective, and that applies for sharing information, so here are some tips I hope will help you budding freelancers.

1.  Searching For Work

Don’t use oDesk, Elance, or any other bidding site.  Sure, you might find an odd job here and there, and that’s fine, but you will not find solid, appreciated work.  You also have to contend with low bidders from all over the world.  People in other countries will lowball bids, get the job, and leave you in the dust.  For them, this might work with conversion rates, but for you, it’s impossible to be valued at $10 an hour.  Total waste of time.

I have known people to find odd jobs, but not steady, meaningful ones.

Use these sites:



Authentic Jobs

Behance Jobs


2.  Rejection/Professionalism

If you’re not used to it, get ready.  I don’t know how many firms I’ve contacted, emails I’ve sent out, hours I’ve spent collecting information, and ultimately didn’t end up with even a courtesy email.  Yep, people are rude.  I personally find it incredibly rude to not answer someone with a simple two second “thank you, but no” email.  Which brings me to this bonus tip, ALWAYS RESPOND.  I don’t care if you’re spread so thin your eyeballs are flat, you have to get into the habit of answering everyone and promptly.  Why?  Because it’s professional.  I look at it this way, those people should be lucky you’re remotely interested in their firm and their work, and the only polite, professional thing to do is respond.  If you’re so busy, make email templates, and this goes for freelancing as well.

Also, email is in your pocket 24/7 so USE IT.  I have my phone with me all the time, and I’m borderline obsessive with checking my email, but I don’t miss a thing, and I promptly respond to any work related emails I get.  If you’re not under the watchful eye of a boss, you have to be that boss, be responsible, and prove to your clients that you’re reliable.


3.  Portfolio

You have no idea how important your portfolio really is.  I’ve come to realize that your degree is toilet paper.  Seriously, no one cares about your degree.  “Oh, you went to college, that’s nice, crack open that portfolio.”  This means online and off.  You have to have a kickass online portfolio, as well as a print portfolio, especially if you’re a web and print designer, which most of us are.  If you’re not interested in web design, if you suck at it, if you dread the words, that’s fine, but find someone who can help you code an awesome portfolio because if you aren’t online, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Same goes for print.  If you’re going on an in-person interview, they want to see your portfolio.  Spend $200 or so bucks to get a nice brushed aluminum portfolio, and a nice leather carrier for it.  Why two portfolios?  Because you unzip that leather one, pull out that aluminum portfolio, show off your awesome work, and then show them samples.  The larger leather portfolio will keep all your samples crisp and clean, just like a potential client wants it.


4.  Discipline 

It’s important, but don’t let it scare you away from freelancing.  Almost every bit of “helpful” freelance advice talks explicitly about discipline and how important it is.  Yes and no.  It’s not as big of a deal as you might be thinking.  We hear the word discipline and suddenly we’re full of self-doubt, but there is hope.

I’ve never been so free in my life, and although there are times I have to make myself work on something I’d rather not, I always get the work done, professionally, and on time.  How?  I want to eat.  Yep, when you’re a freelancer work suddenly equals food, utilities, car payments, and a whole host of other needs/wants.  This is a good motivator for discipline.  Plus, for me, I don’t want to let my clients down, so if that means staying up all night to finish a project, then bring on the caffeine.  Don’t let the discipline portion scare you.  “Can I do it?”  “Will I be disciplined enough?”  Sure, you might not be, but don’t let that be a factor in whether or not you freelance because if you really want this, you’ll find a way, and you’ll probably surprise yourself in the long run.  Honestly, don’t you have to be disciplined to wake up and go to work everyday anyway?  It’s much better when it’s on your terms.


5.  Don’t Be A Design Bitch

Sorry, but that’s the best way to put this portion.  You are valuable, but you’re only as valuable as you make yourself.  What I mean is, if you devalue yourself, others will devalue you, too.  It’s like the saying “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” well graphic design is no different, in fact this applies even more to designers because you can make yourself look good!  If you’re not making yourself look and sound as good as you want to be, then no one will see how truly valuable you are.

I’m not saying don’t take stepping stone opportunities, but don’t let those stepping stone jobs walk all over you, you’re walking on them to get to the next point.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The truly valuable designer will continue to grow and prosper and those employing you know this.  They can see the diamond in the ruff and they know deep down if you’re not paid well and valued you will be leaving them behind in pursuit of something better.  It’s how the world works.  If your goal is freelancing, then you have to break some hearts along the way.  They’ll recover, I promise.  I’m not saying burn bridges or toot your own horn, that just makes you a jerk.  I am saying value yourself, invest in yourself, and do what’s necessary to get to the next point, but don’t be a jerk!  Everyone you come in contact with is a connection, so leave good impressions.  No one will hate you for being true to yourself, but they will hate you if you go about it the wrong way.  Ultimately, kindness is your best friend, and will help you in the future.



The honest truth is most people don’t want to freelance bad enough, and that’s TOTALLY FINE.  It’s also another reason fearing the competition is useless and takes energy away from your personal journey.  Not everyone is cut out for it, it’s not appealing to everyone, but for those of us that it is appealing to, I hope this helps you in your freelancing journey.


Sarah McMahon Modern Southerner

Help Akinz Keep Their Beanies Handmade: Support A Local Fort Collins Small Business!


Suzanne Akin is the owner/founder of Akinz, a board/bike inspired clothing company located in Fort Collins, CO (where I live!). I met Suzanne about 4 years ago and it has been awesome to see how Akinz has grown over time. One of the most unique aspects of Akinz is that many of her products are handmade, most recognizabley her beanies. Suzanne also does most of her screen printing in house, which makes for a very unique twist given most clothing companies these days outsource their labor and products. Suzanne has brought DIY into the corporate retail world, and she needs your help to stay that way. The below video is for a kickstart campaign that will hopefully raise enough money  and awareness so Suzanne can keep her beanie making in house, and purchase a commercial size beanie loom as well as bulk yarn. If you can't donate financially, please help spread awareness. Post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest...anything helps :). I guarantee you will ABSOLUTELY love her products, and if you're lucky enough to come see her store in Old Town Fort Collins, you will be amazed at what she does and how cohesive and unique her style is. Stay Local Fort Collins!

Check out the Akinz Facebook Page:

To Support Her Campaign Click Here

Hello, I'm Sarah McMahon {Guest blogger from Modern Southerner}

Hello everyone!  My name is Sarah McMahon and I run Modern Southerner.  I’m a freelance graphic designer who is currently submersed in the world of web development.  I also own an online vintage/retro store ELEVEN26, and recently I started a booth in a local vintage/retro store in my current town of Knoxville, TN.  I’m going to be guest posting for BlueHaus every 3rd Monday of the month, and I’m so excited to bring interesting content your way!  I’m planning on delivering posts on freelancing, graphic design, the proper use of typography, my product photography methods, and I’ll probably incorporate some web development tips! As I’m sure you know, Ashley lives in Colorado, and I have some roots originating from there.  My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Loveland, CO.  My mom even lived out there for a year when she was 9.  In addition to that, I was born in Teaneck, NJ, but I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Most of my family still lives in NJ.  I like to say I’m a New Jersey born, Mississippi raised hybrid because they are two totally different worlds (and I have a neutral accent, I'm always being asked where I'm from).  Now I’m somewhere in the middle in Knoxville, TN.

Before moving to Knoxville I lived in Hattiesburg, MS where I attended The University of Southern Mississippi.  While there I changed majors a lot, took way too many classes, and finally settled on a degree in Graphic Design.  It’s a few years later, and I’m so thankful I picked that major.  I love everything design, and it's been a great foundation for web development!  After graduating I worked as a designer for USM, but ultimately I wanted to strike out on my own.  Then an opportunity to move to Knoxville came up, and here I am!  I really like Knoxville, it’s a hip, health-conscious, active, fun little city that’s on the verge of some explosive growth.

That's me!

This is Sebastian, he's my sweet Maine Coon.

This is Clementine, she's my fun puppy.

I love the mountains and I'm in them every chance I get!

Well, that’s a little bit about me, and I can’t wait to start blogging for you!

Sarah McMahon

Starting a Business..1st Official Post!

6 Reason to Start a Business

Hi!  My name is Ashley, and I am the owner-operator of BlueHaus Studios LLC.  I thought this first post would give me a unique opportunity to talk about why I decided to take the leap and start my own business.  It is quite the risky venture, and I am excited (and terrified) to grow as a business and continue learning as life continues to move me in this direction.  I wouldn't say this was the timing I would have expected, but for some reason here I am today. {9 to 5's} For starters, I don't think I was made to survive in the corporate world.  I work extremely hard at whatever I put my mind to, and I think I have too many questions for the general normalities of working a typical 9-5.  Don't get me wrong, there are several benefits to working for someone else and being able to have a steady paycheck, but for the non-conformist that I am, I don't think it ever would have really been the best fit for me.  I like being able to create and make decisions without feeling held back.  I am slightly impulsive, which can be a both a good and bad quality.

{Baby, I'm a Dreamer} I am an extreme visionary.  I like to look at the big picture of things and dream about how to make things  better.  I have hope and believe in doing the right thing above all else, which does not fit well in environments where you are not allowed to be a free-thinker.  I want to make the world a better place, and be successful in the process.  Life isn't supposed to be mundane!  We were all made to fulfill a purpose, and for some reason I think part of mine is to chart my own path.  Nothing else provides as much fulfillment for me personally.

{Melting Clocks} If you have ever seen Salvador Dali's artwork, you would most likely recognize his "Persistence of Memory" piece (better known as the melting clocks).  One of the meanings behind the piece is that time is somehow melting.  When I think of this, I think about all that I want to accomplish and how, every year, time seems to disappear more quickly than I could ever realize.  What better time to start a business knowing I might not always have the time, energy, or drive to do so.

{Stand by Me} Starting a business is not just the business owners endeavor.  Family and friends also play a huge role in the success because they are ultimately your main supporters for awhile.  I was very surprised at the responses I received when contemplating the idea.  I thought my family was going to think I was crazy.  I mean, I finished an MBA program two years ago, and now I want to work for myself?  Even crazier, my husband was okay with it.  I think you know the timing is right when you receive encouraging feedback from the people you know are not afraid to be real with you.  I would say I was more hesitant than them!

{Cannonball} For some reason, I like taking risks.  I know it's a risk I should probably take if I am nervous about taking it.  There are so many things that make you question yourself and your ability to succeed.  I had a realization that I am the only one standing in the way of how successful I want to be.  This is America, and entrepreneurs are the life-blood of this country.  I know I cannot control everything around me, however, I greatly influence what direction I want my life to go in.  You can't put your pinky toe in the baby pool and expect for things to work.  You have to be ready to take a giant cannonball leap into the deep end.  It's all in or all out.  That includes making somewhat of an investment into your company.  I am not saying a giant investment by any means, but it does take money to make money.

{Pluck} Preparation + Luck. You can't go into a business having no skills or knowledge about what you are doing.   I have been diligently working on photography/event/consulting skills throughout my lifetime, and more so over the last six years.  Ultimately, my background is in business, and the most important thing in creative industries is having business knowledge.  Many artists fail because they only focus on the creative and neglect the heart of what a business is...a business.  I am not saying someone who lacks all creativity in a creative industry is destined to succeed, but the craft can be learned.  Everyone has to put in their time though.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of why I started BHS, but it should give you some insight into where I am at today.  It is a scary thing, and after talking to several entrepreneurs, most of them were not 100% confident that they were going to succeed.  In fact, the general consensus shows that hesitation and not knowing exactly what you are doing is how most people start out.  Some flounder, some fly; but they all take a leap of faith.  I am excited to start this journey with you, and hopefully we can all look back at this post one day and be in awe that I beat the small business odds.