The Business of Graphic Design: Protect & Perfect Your Passion | Aaron Draplin | Skillshare

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The Business of Graphic Design: Protect & Perfect Your Passion

teacher avatar Aaron Draplin, Designer and Founder, Draplin Design Company

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Perfecting Project Templates


    • 3.

      Refining File Structure


    • 4.

      Emailing Like an Expert


    • 5.

      Building an Invoice


    • 6.

      Refining Tax Forms


    • 7.

      Crafting Contracts


    • 8.

      Optimizing Accounting


    • 9.

      Protecting Your Business


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Want to spend more time doing what you love and less time managing it? Renowned designer Aaron Draplin shares his secrets to a streamlined creative business!

When you start making money from your creative passion, it’s easy to get caught up in your craft and ignore all the “businessy” things. If spending hours crafting a logo for a new client is a walk in the park, navigating taxes, client contracts, and email etiquette can feel more like an uphill battle. Luckily, legendary graphic designer Aaron Draplin isn’t just a fan of logo design and long afternoons with Adobe Illustrator. He also enjoys making an honest living as a self-employed designer by running a business that works like a well-oiled machine. 

In this class, Aaron reveals how to be as elegant off the page as you are on it by:

  • Building clean, crisp project templates
  • Optimizing your file structure and file names
  • Treating email like the artform it is
  • Understanding the building blocks of a strong invoice
  • Getting ahead of potential problems and staying above the law

Plus, Aaron shares the mistakes he’s made as a business owner, and what he wishes he’d done differently over two decades (and counting!) running the Draplin Design Co. 

This class is designed for any self-employed creative—designer or not—who wants to nail down the admin side of owning a business. By the end, you’ll have an actionable business management to-do list that’ll help you feel more confident and protected, and allow you to impress clients with every interaction. Save time on the front end by streamlining your operations, and discover more time for the work you love—and some well-earned play!

This class is geared toward self-employed creatives at all career stages. While it contains no financial or tax-related advice, it does lay out the steps you need to make sure you have all of your business bases covered. Bring a notebook and a pencil so you can create a personalized to-do list as you enjoy the class. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Aaron Draplin

Designer and Founder, Draplin Design Company


Bred from the loins of the proud Midwest, this guy was squeezed out in Detroit, in the year 1973 to the proud parents of Jim and Lauren Draplin. Growing up on a steady stream of Legos, Star Wars, family trips, little sisters, summer beach fun, stitches, fall foliage, drawing, skateboarding and snowboarding, at 19 he moved west to Bend, Oregon to hit jumps "Out West." His career started with a snowboard graphic for Solid snowboards and took off like wildfire soon after. Everything from lettering cafe signs to drawing up logos to thinking up local advertising campaigns were manhandled under the ruse of the newly formed-and gigantically reckless-Draplindustries Design Co.

After five winters out west, the kid sobered up and headed back to Minneapolis to finish up a high-falutin' desi... See full profile

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1. Introduction: It's one thing to talk about, things that happen on the page, how to make logos work on type iterate. But what about the things that happened off the page? Females taxes, invoices, communication, the stuff that takes so much of my day up, that should be designed also. Hello everybody, Aaron James droplet here and my eighth Skillshare. This one, it's about the things that are off the page. The ideas as I make things and give them to a client when they see that thing on the page with the client isn't seeing is all the stuff off the patient, right? Businessy things. If you have bad craft before they even see your work, it's gonna be tainted with that, right? So we're going to talk about everything from emails, how you do your file structure, templates at a, an invoice. I'm gonna fumble through a couple of anecdotes about tax problems I've had and how to use the power of an accountant. Then let's just be real clear here ahead of time. There is no financial advice whatsoever anywhere within a within a Portland mile of this chat. Sometimes you need to ask for help. I want you guys to thrive. I want you guys to be good at this stuff. I want you guys to get in and get out, make a ton of money, and be thankful that we get to do it. Being creative. I would hope that this course is broad enough that any kind of creative. And I know there's a couple of goodies in here that will help beginners. And also season that. I hope this stuff resonates with you guys. Thanks for being here. Here we go. 2. Perfecting Project Templates: Okay, so before we even go on the page, something really, really big to think about is where are you even start a document, right? Where I start inside Illustrator is a really, really important thing because I start off with a template. So what we're gonna do is I'm going to show you one of my templates. Looks like this is an eight page template here it is. What I did here as you can see how I work. Everything that's outside of the page out here, that's where I'm working on logos. I'm working on things I'm iterating by the time it lands on the page here, that's ready to go, That's prime time when we spit out the PDF. That's what comes out of the template. That's what's important about this, right? Because those building blocks, you can just start a new document, go right to that, and then have all of your wayfinding material right there to start with, what I've got here is I've got my logo, I've got my company name. I've got the name of this project. I've got the round we're working in and then of course I've got the date and the page numbers. What's important is this. When you start off a brand new project, you are starting off from a clean, crisp, logical place, right? So let's jump into Illustrator and let's go build out that perfect first page for a template. Let's start a new document and just have a fresh, clean page. Alright, keep it horizontal, 8.5 by 11 horizontal. Think of your client, how they're going to be using this stuff, flipping through it on a laptop, on an iPad, on a phone, et cetera, right? That works. So I'm gonna go in here and I'm going to grab all the data that we need on that on your page that you were building out. Okay, so now when I paste this thing in here, Command V, I'm going to put it down along the bottom here. So this is going to build your first template out. Later on. This is going to be your logo. So I'm gonna get rid of this, my little DDC here, I'm gonna put a little blue dot, That's your logo. Now we're going to call this your company name, right? And then I'm gonna go through here and I'm going to trick out each one of these with just sort of like a good starting point for later on, right? Okay, when I call this first one project name, there it is. I'm going to leave the round where it's at because you can fill this out later on. We'll go put it in a nice clean set of numbers. Is 00. Pick a real simple typeface? I picked a few terrible because it's just something I use all the time and all my invoices and things and stuff. We'll show that later on. Alright, this is ready to be saved as a template. So watch how I do this. Now, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna save this thing. And you have to be really, really simple how you name these things. Because moving forward, this is where you're going to start, right? So let's just call it blank deck. Make sure you come down here to Illustrator template, AIT. And then we're going to call it one page because it's just one page in this deck right? Now, save this to the desktop. So close this thing and then let's go find out where these things live. So you have to go into a new window, go into your applications, find your latest Illustrator, jumping here and find cool Extras, EN us templates. And then this is where you put your blank page. You can see I have all my DDC ones in here. I'm just going to plop this one in here now it's going to ask you, because you're putting it into a software folder, you have to give it the permission. So put on your computers password. There it goes. Okay, now, now this is a couple of steps, but check it out. Go back into your Illustrator. Quit the thing because you have to let it restart and show this thing, right? Start illustrator backup, Command new to start a window, go into your templates in the bottom left of this dialog box, and you'll find that thing. And where is that thing that there it is. Blank deck page one. So start from there. There it is. Hit Okay. And see what just happened just that quick. Now you have all your stuff built out. If you wanted to just change just this one, how you would do that is you would go in there and you would know for me I would go in there and I would say, okay, company name and I would say drop in design company right now for the project name, I would call it Skillshare eight, DDC Skillshare eight, round one. We're in the date we're at 0410 to two. And then now we are ready to start building up this and now check it out. That's just one page. Alright, so let's go back into the template and build out two pages, four pages, six pages, whatever you want to build out. But let me go do a couple and I'll show you what I mean. Okay, So we've saved this one. Let's go start from a template again. So now we're gonna do is we're going to start another document command, new templates. I'm going to grab that blank deck page one. Okay, check this out. Let's make a two-page, right? So if you go into Option Command P and then hit Edit Artboards and drag this thing over. If you hold Shift Option Command and drag the art board over that snaps it to the next one, release it. And now you've got two pages built, but you have to go check your numbers, right? Because this is gonna be page two. Now, save this out to the desktop, right? Save it out as an illustrator template. Just going to call this blank deck two-page. Ait. Save it to the desktop. There it goes. Okay, Done. Now while we're here, let's make a four-page or a four-page template. So how we'll do this one is going to grab Option Command P to get to your documents setup. When hit Edit Artboards, we're going to grab this page right here. We're going to hit Shift Option Command and drag it over, snap it to the next one. There's your page three. Do it again. There's your page four. And now go check those page numbers, right. That's page three and that's page four. And now you've got this blank template for a four-page starting point. Let's go do this where we save it. Once again as an illustrator template, you can just click on the other one that's already weighing their call it four-page dot AID. Save it. Close those up, and now plug those back into your templates folder. You have to put your password in. But what that did is now you've built a one-page, a two-page in a four-page. Just that quick. Really what it comes down to is a good place to start from. So depending on what you need, you know, build out the basic building blocks, right. One-page, two-page, four-page maybe six, maybe 81012. I've got documents that go up to somewhere like 4860, nice round numbers, 72 pages. Because when I'm done with that thing and I'm gonna show iterations and contexts and things. I have to do a save out that PDF and it spits out that really clean PDF with proper wayfinding. But the most important thing is the whole time we are iterating outside of the page, on the page where the rubber meets the road, that's where you're showing the stuff that you're gonna show the client later on. You shouldn't have to do that as an extra step later on because that's wasting time, right? So we just built templates. Now you have a whole template set. 3. Refining File Structure: If you're gonna get hired somewhere, what you're doing is you're leaving tracks all over the place. You send off a folder with a crazy link to it, with all extra characters and just, you know, bad craft people were. Remember that you have to be as elegant off the page as you are on the page. And how you do that is by having simple logical folder names, filenames, and good craft exhibited throughout, right? If we're talking about being off the page quite literally, how do you store your stuff as a pro tip, if you aren't on the Cloud yet, you will be forced to be soon. It's a good thing. I had an intervention at Dropbox in San Francisco about, about a decade ago when they showed me a Dropbox link and just a Cloud service, it dawned on me what a privilege that was. I didn't have to drag these hard drives and ******** and everything else out with me. Know, it was all up in the cloud safe now, you know, you have to trust it. But the idea was if I was on the road and I dropped my laptop, broke it or it was stolen. I've had a water bottle kicked over and splash into it and the thing just fried right there on the spot. Everything was still in the Cloud when I'm done with any of my projects now, one of the things, one of the sort of safeguards I can give to my client and say, hey, I know you guys meet whipping around with all these files and products and stuff. But just so you know, everything is backed up on my end as a service, if anything was ever to happen, I have everything backed up. That's a cool thing. And you'd be surprised how many times people have come back to me and said, We lost the files. And one creepy, clammy little sweaty little Dropbox link that I go and generate that quick and fire back to them in a nicely worded e-mail. You'll continue to get jobs with that kind of efficiency. So good on the Cloud. Big pro tip. Go, pay the price because you want to protect your files, protect their files, and protect the process, right? We're going to jump into now is folder structures and why naming conventions. And then the power of an underscore. When I'm about to show is a way that you can name all of your projects from here on out. I wish I would have done this back in the nineties. I didn't know yet. So let's just save this file, right? Let's be logical about how we save it. Let's make a new folder, DDC Skillshare. Number eight, right? Okay, there's your root folder. Now when you go inside that folder, Let's say this thing properly because you're going to make changes to the files and, you know, stair-step off of each one of those as you save as, and save out from there, have a good starting point, right? We're going to say this thing has DDC underscore Skillshare underscore, underscore, round one, right? So there it is. Now check it out. Let's just say the client comes back and says, We don't like cyan and you say, Okay, well, let me change the color up here. Let me, let me, let me What do you what do you feel and all we want to see more green or something, right? Right. You change everything to green like this there it is, everything goes to green and then you save this thing out. Now watch what we're gonna do. Command Shift, Save, you, save it out. And you're gonna say DDC underscore Skillshare number eight, number to round to write. This is the second round because we made a change, we change everything to green. So now we're going to round to, now you have a way to walk this thing through and give it a starting place and be logical where this is going to come back to haunt you in a good way is one year from now, if we go look at my skill share folders and files from one year ago, you'll see that kind of stuff. It'll probably say Skillshare underscore seven or whatever we picked. But you'll see how that spills out. Get into this habit later on if you have to go into a file and you're spending time digging around because you can't find your way. That's wasting time, right? So this is crucial. Alright, moving forward, there's just a couple little, little, little trick tips of how to save that name. Let me show you this. Now if I go into Illustrator, just find a blank spot to work with. Now, take a look at this. So this one we're gonna do is we're just going to put a big goal, cyan be, okay, because this is the bad file name. Alright, let's put a big old Helvetica beyond there so we know exactly what we're looking at. Now. Watch what I'm gonna do. Okay, so I'm gonna save this the bad way. Here we go. Ddc, space, Skillshare, space eight, lets us go one step further, space. And we'll call this one bad. Okay, there it goes, save it in there and your folder. Now let's, let's put a big old G here for G for good. Okay? Let's say this the right way, but good way. Okay? So Save As now go back up here in the save as put underscores where all the spaces were. Okay? And we're gonna call this one good. Now let's save it. Now if we just go and review real quick and we can see these things, you've got a big B for the bad, the bad file name, and you got a big G for the good filename, right? So since I'm all synced up on Dropbox, the beauty of this is once everything is in that Dropbox folder and you're I mean, I know I'm like this is an ad for Dropbox, but there's many, many cloud services, right? Apple and Google and all kinds of Microsoft's and stuff isn't, you know, here's why it's amazing. You can see here, if I go into one of these good or bad filenames and I just simply do a right-click and go down here, I can quickly grab that Dropbox and I don't have to, like, I don't have to go and generate a link that's in your clipboard now, it's floating around. So if you go into an e-mail per se in your jam that into an email. There's your link. Just that quick. Now when you check this thing out, and I grabbed the Dropbox link from that bad file per se. Copy the Dropbox link. There it is. Bring it into my Illustrator and paste it in. But see what it did here. It went through. And for every space that you had, it made a little bit of HTML. So what that means there is it's, it's, it's compensating for that space character by adding this pretty dirty little percentage to 0. So if we look through the rest of the file name, check it out. That added that extra little bit of gobbledygook in there. But that's the, that's not the right way to go. If we go back to our folder, we go to the good one, copy the Dropbox link and you come back into here, paste that link in. I'll check it out. See what that did. That has the underscore character in it. And it's not this extra problematic stuff. And that's the way the filename looks at this little link right here. That is just two or three k. So what I would say is that's a responsible way to get this data transferred around. Don't just take that PDF that you made in plop it into your e-mail because that's going to take whatever the size of that PDF is and plop it into the e-mail size, use these links. That's the biggest pro tip I can give when we talk about the Cloud is of course that your data is backed up. But most importantly, you're just not clogging anyone's feeds up in C. This is all off the page. There's a whole world where you're not even designing. That has to be as tight as when you're actually designing things. My stubborn friends who still won't do this, they're just wasting their lifetime. They're wasting their clients time. They're just wasting time. Learn this stuff, trust it. Get these things. Don't take the extra steps and you're just going to have more time to actually play, or how about this? More time to turn this stuff off and go live your life when you're really off the page. 4. Emailing Like an Expert: Alright, let's talk a little bit about communication and specifically email, because I spend my life on email just like you guys do. And it's an art form, like anything else. Take it seriously because listen, if you're just talking to your buddies, like you talked to them on Twitter or TikTok or whatever the ****. Fine, That's one thing. But don't do that to clients. It's a privilege to have these jobs to privilege they have their ear. Exhibit good craft. Understand that spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and things are really important. If you're spelling like a beast, they're going to see it and they will judge you for it. If your punctuation is off, take just a little bit of pride in your craft. I am not a certified professional with my grammar, punctuation, syntax, and all that kind of stuff. No, no, no. But I take pride in it. I tried to learn all the time the proper things, the proper whatever can look into grammarly. I think you got to pay a little bit for it. But I love this thing. If I'm a little on the fence, I just plop in whatever I'm nervous about to see how they react. Seasoned professionals, putting up against these different style guides and stuff, That's cool. Or how about this? Just how you lay the e-mail out is important. You don't just want to hit the cursor and just run off some 19 sentences. Run-on sentence like people do. That is hard to read. Break up your thoughts, break up your ideas. A thing called the Spacebar. There's a thing called a return key. Use that little bit of, that little bit of data, that little bit of space to delineate things. Alright? Alright, let's get into an e-mail and some basic tips for how to build one out. First things first, clear subject line. You know, it's craft. Explain what you're doing. Maybe at all times just a quick dash to say this is round one and there's a lot of ways you could do it. Be clear with your subject line, if we're doing DDC, Skillshare, eight, dash, round one, take the time to put the names in there. Simple greeting, clear and concise. Set the tone. Here's the so-and-so. That's it, right? Instead of attachments just to a Dropbox link, generate the link or cloud link whenever you want to go, whatever your services, send a tiny little concise link with a nice filename, right? That shows that you have a command over the data. You're not wasting your time and wasting any data. Now watch what I'm gonna do here. I'm going to come down. I'm gonna put a couple little dashes, space, dash space, four of them. I'm going to come in here and say, you know, Adobe Illustrator link exactly what it is. Copy and paste that Dropbox link in there, come out of this. Put a little bit of delineation there. Now that you've got the link in there to say something quickly, check those out. Hit me back with your thoughts. Now, thinking one little step further, always let people know where you're at, right? You know what I mean by that is like, Don't play the game of hiding behind the emails. Be be be confident to say, I'll be here another hour. So let me know. Because what that does, that means they have an hour to react or whatever. Right. Always put your name in there. I always put Aaron, you know, so down below my name, I don't have signatures necessarily ready to go in here, so I'll just go build one out. Now one step further, just give us a little bit different color. So I'll go through read or go with the orange maybe, I don't know. But here's the thing. Just this quick right here. You've got their name spelled out. You've got your first idea out there. You've got to a spot where the link is living and it's not buried inside one big run-on sentence. You've got space in-between your ideas and the way you would speak in real life, right? This is good craft. The next time you get this, you can go in there and this is crucial. Say you, they react, you react. You send another link, you said other file, and you jump in there and you put DDC Skillshare eight dash round to what you're providing to the client is you're providing this clearly delineated set of emails every time. Don't just put the little reply thing in there because it starts to get this chain thing going. Start over with the next round. You owe it to yourself, you owe to them when you keyword search your emails. This will come up a little bit quicker. Clarity, clarity, clarity. You know, what you don't want to do is send stuff off that people are going to have a hard time with and make more work for them. Understand that that tells everything about you when you send that stuff off, it's got your fingerprints all over it. If you make it hard on people, they'll remember, right? So don't do that. 5. Building an Invoice: Okay guys, for the next lesson here, what I wanna do is I want to walk you through the basic building blocks of building an invoice for yourself, right? Why that's so important. If you're working for money, you have to go and be able to, you know, invoice properly. So let's just walk through what my invoice looks like and how I've done that over the years. Alright, so here is my basic invoice. Now you're gonna notice we did a little bit about jump into some InDesign because I built out my template for my invoice in InDesign. I don't know, back in 2008 or nine or ten or something and I've been using it ever since. So if we just take a quick second here and zoom around a little bit and take a look at just the top bar here. I've got my name of my company. I've got what I do, design, heavy lifting, advice, friendship, my address, my phone number, my email, my website, all the basic stuff that just lands there. When you get into an invoice for design services rendered, I built this thing out into two layers. So what you're gonna notice here, all my type is built on its own layer. So what that means is all the wayfinding, all the lines and the stuff below. Let's put that on another layer. This isn't changing from invoice to invoice. So I can lock these two and now only go work on the type that the client name where it goes. Not that gives me enough lines to put in their address, phone numbers, emails, people's names, whatever I need to put it in there right there it is. I've got the invoice number. I've got the date. You can see I've itemized out right. And then let's say you might have to show your hourly rate, the job numbers, the number of items. This is a big one. It says as directed by some someone and their title. Because the more data you can put on there that connects you to your contact person. That's just that much more official. I've got a place for notes. I've got a place for the total. When you're building an invoice. These are just the parts and pieces. And the best advice I can give is own every little bit of it. So keep your invoice. 8.5 by 11 tall vertical format. You use really simple typefaces, but figure out what's right for you. Remember, there's a lot of different ways to build an invoice. It's gonna be tailored to your needs, tailored to your sort of like how many aspects do you need that you'll see invoices and examples online. They have a thousand things to input. Boil it down exactly to what you want. Now if you do it through all the software or online, more power to you. The idea is how can you customize it? How can you own that? How do you catalog it? When you're building these things out, you want to think about the naming convention and how you're going to build up this folder structure where your invoices go, keep them away from your design files. Have a finance section or something and a job about a week ago where we had done a bunch of reprints of things and I had to go back quickly because we're on a chat. He's asking what did you charge before? And I said, well, let me go look. And within a couple of clicks, I had that invoice from four or five years ago. We saw the price, we ramped it up a little tiny bit, but I had a I had a quick way to get there. So lots of things online you can go look at. But the idea is this, build it, own it, and start that process. Okay, so you've built an invoice. Now I want you to think of it like a bit of a template. If they want an estimate ahead of time, it looks like the invoice. If they want an agreement talking about what we agreed to after they sign the estimate, the agreement looks like the next thing. They are all parts of the same family. That is good craft. That's professionalism, right? Exhibit grace, off the page. Show them that you know what your worth, you know what your value is. And people will take you more seriously. 6. Refining Tax Forms: We all have to do a W9, right? And I quickly learned. I quickly learned. Nothing sucks more than when you fill out a W9 appropriately. And then someone on their end puts the wrong Social Security number, wrong federal number, wrong address in and you don't get your paycheck or anything for better, or they put the wrong address and then doesn't even get to the IRS or something. That's not good. People like to hand in W9. They sign them and they filled them out with a pencil or a pen and they take a photo of that and they send that in. That's just bad craft. Remember a humanist processing that data. It's just all about controlling how you hand off your data. Use what we know how to do to have clarity. Become front and center. Alright, what we're gonna do now is wrinkled grab an IRS W9 form and download it from the IRS there it is right there right now, if I click on that as an open PDF, now see how it allows you to fill in some of this stuff here. Now, that's cool and all. But here's a thing. As a nerdy designer never liked the way it looks, right? So if you go in there and you put in there, aaron, drop-in, like everyone would never like. It's hard to read. So here's what I want you to do. I want you to take this thing and I want you to drop this in Photoshop. Now it's gonna, it's gonna ask you what page you want to import. Let's import it as a gray scale, 8.5 by 11. Only the first page. Really what they need is they need that first page. Okay, Let's open that thing up. You have to put behind it in a layer behind it, a white layer. There you go. And now flatten that thing. Okay? Now what you've got, you've got this pretty high resolution image of this thing. Okay, now, save this thing as like a tiff, OK, and we'll call that the IRS W9, blank page. Save to the desktop. Okay, cool. Now, start a new document in Illustrator. Make sure it's vertical, right, 8.5 by 11. There it goes. Now what you wanna do is you want to place that image in there. So go and place on the first layer off the desktop, the image placed it up in that corner. Now that thing is placed on the page, right on the first layer. Now go up above it with a new layer. So you can check down below there's the, it's on the layer down below. You can turn it off. Now go up above, and here's where this gets cool. Go grab a piece of type and tried to make it somewhat bold. So just grab some really simple typeface, Helvetica bold. Make it red or make it turquoise, make it orange, make it something that's going to really pop off of that black and white background, green, something, whatever you wanna do. And now you can control the size of this. You're just having complete control now of how this thing looks on here, right? And then you have to hit your classification. So you just want to get a couple of X is going, I'll just make up a fake EIN. You gotta get those numbers to line up, right? So using your tracking or your kerning or whatever you're going to use, get those numbers to line up. This thing now is, it's making sense like it doesn't look like everyone else's. And what I mean by that, you can actually read it a little bit easier to get your stuff. There's your date. But what we need here is we need the signature. So what I'm gonna do is I'm just going to show you this. I'm gonna go place one of my signature. So here is a red one. And I lay that thing on there and I multiply it over. Now check it out. When you save this thing, to save it as a PDF. And you're going to call it DDC LLC, W9, right. Save to the desktop. All this is now it's a PDF. No one can edit it and when can mess with it. It's got clarity. You controlled it. You can see the stuff. You're just lessening the chances that something is gonna go wrong, right? So that's a quick hack with your W9. 7. Crafting Contracts: I think it's just good practice that you have an agreement in place, even with your friends. You want to make sure that you have these things ahead of time and you're synched up. Because you guys know, after all these courses and classes, listening to me and looking at all this, I'm loose. It's sketchy, it's whatever. But it becomes a little bit of a power play. Because if you're able to show that you are confident off the page, there's less they can mess with you on the page, you see what I'm saying? What's important is to have it spelled out in the agreement is there, and then the client knows what to expect. And then when you have this in front of the client, they sign off. That is binding in court, right? It's just good practice. Get it out in the open. Don't play any games. Be fair about it, be ethical. So you can sleep at night. People mess with this stuff. That's not good craft. Being honest, being on top of ****, That's good craft, right? Basically what I was told, I was shamed into it. I was working on a larger job and let's just say it was ten grand or something above. I sent the invoice off after we're done, I sent the invoice off. And one of the handlers, they said, you know, where all your terms you know, your terms to how to conduct the payment, the timing. I didn't know what that meant. So of course I wanted to ask a couple of friends. One guy sent me his contract, he said Cut and Paste it. That was scary to me. So what I did was I hired a lawyer when I needed help getting my terms and agreements and stuff, intellectual property protections in place. I don't even know what those things are, you guys. But the right move was to call a lawyer. He walked me through what each little section meant. If we go on screen real quick. What I'm going to show you here is I have sort of like one of my letter of agreements. It's kind of off that template of my of my invoice. I had a blur out some stuff because that's what my lawyer told me. He said, You know what? You don't want to show us, stop. You don't want people just copying and pasting it because it might be only tailored to your very precarious situation in your backyard, air and drop it, right, right, right. Right. But as you're digging around here, it's got the date job numbers to line up with the invoice. You get to this middle section here. It's your summary, the scope of all the work, everything. But the deliverables are what the estimated design fees are, what the payment terms are. Remember, your lawyer can sort of like, you know, suggest what appropriate terms aren't. My lawyer went through and drafted up just the very basics of what happens if there's a dispute. It's never happened. But what if it did, at least we have some steps for that. We all can agree on or intellectual property, who owns what? It's all spelled out. Me, a lot of the jobs I work with, I relinquish that the IP to the client. If you don't want them to have the IP, you'd have a lawyer help you draft the right word, right resolution. So you can plug that in as a component. When you hand off a logo, can they use it forever or is there a term limit that's up to you to sort of figure out and then have an agreement on this is what we're getting at. Go and ask for help, like going invest in this stuff. Invest in yourself. No different than equipment, no different than software. But you need to go ask for help right now. Remember, as another cool trick tip, There's all kinds of stuff online, Legal Zoom things, stuff. Some people have different confidence levels. Mine was pretty meek because I don't want to be the person that was lucky to get a head and head resources and then undercut myself because I tried to go and just download some quick form. That works also. But once again, maybe you do that and then hire a lawyer to look at it for 15 minutes. See, I'm Sam, I hire this guy every couple of years just to assess where I am in my life and where I am with my clients in the projects and the things. And then he'll just make little tweaks based on where you're at because sometimes this stuff can change. I think it's just good craft to really understand where you're all getting into. How it on paper, have it binding, have a professional, right? So that's like the best foot forward. I just know that you seem to have some protections in place. 8. Optimizing Accounting: Alright, so I don't have a lot of stuff to show here. So what I want you to do is go get a nice warm glass of milk and wrap yourself up in your rumble DDC blanket. And just listen up because it's important. So what we're trying to do here is to try to be a little ahead of everything and just talk about taxes. Here's the deal. You are responsible for every buck that comes into your bank account to have it taxed, right? Very simple things. I mean, we all know this well, here's the thing. My relationship to taxes is always been like heartbreak because I was afraid of it. It was tedious and it didn't need to be the way the information was given to me. It's like when I got in trouble, there's stuff that I might have pulled off that I shouldn't have been pulling off because I just didn't even know. I just want to tell a little story. I don't know what year it was. It was like 2006 or seven or something in every fall, I would go on these big road trips. And by the time that I would get myself back out to the West Coast and it would be winter. I'd always be backed up. Too many jobs, too much stuff, that road trip, whatever wonder would finally come down to tax time. A couple of months outside of April 15th, I would get a letter from my accountant. In the letter would always say Aaron, last time we spoke, you told me about your road trips and how fast you're going all these jobs you're getting. That's great. So what I've gone and done is just to take a precautionary step. I've got you an extension on your taxes, so that means he's got an official extension to the IRS after April 15th, that gives us six months to submit this stuff by October, whatever the extension is. Well, one year I come back 2008, something 2009, I come back and there's all my mail. There's a letter from my accountant and i'm I didn't open it. I didn't open it because I thought, well, he's going to do another extension and then we'll come crying to him sometime this summer. I'll get everything ready to go and shoe boxes will add it all up. I'll make my payments little bit, maybe a little bit of penalty, and it will send it up the way we've done these last three or four years. I don't hear anything from this guy. Come September or even October. So I call my accountant in the line is like dead. It goes to like a disconnected number. I try sending an email. Nothing bounces back from the e-mail. I go back into all my paperwork and stuff and I find this unopened envelope. I opened it up and it says on the letter, Aaron, It's been a privilege to work with you. You're a wildcat, you're this, you're that I've loved watching you take off as graphic design and all this stuff. But I'm retiring. And you're going to have to find Council on new accountant for the next upcoming round. The guy retired and I had nothing put in place. So what that meant? I was officially six months after that April in the failure to file category. And that's not a good spot to be in. There was no extension. There's no nothing. I had a big year in 2009 or eight or whatever it was at a big year. More money than I thought I would make. And that year I screwed up to the point where I owed something like $20 thousand. It shouldn't have been that much, but I had screwed up. I had let it go. It had gone past the April 15th thing. You're supposed to have the extension filed. I don't even know if I'm using the terms right here. And I apologize. But the thing is this, that's not good craft. The idea is this. You need to be proactive. It can catch up to you in bad ways. Get out ahead of it, understand it, and then get some get some help so you're protected, right? That's the pro tip of this fable. Alright, so don't learn the way that I learned that whole time. I clearly understood, even if we relate, understood the power of a well-designed set of folders. Now, I can't really show you this stuff, but I can just tell you this much. It's like if you're coming up on your next year, you need a folder for your 1099 possible W9 to sign out receipts, invoices. There's lots of ways to do it now listen, I'm at a point now where I pay a good chunk to an account and she does all of it and QuickBooks, That's amazing. Before that, I was a little bit older school. In an essence, I was getting piles of receipts and it made sense to me to not do it at the end of the year and take three days to do it. But over the course of the year, did a couple of shoebox is going and delineate it out into software, equipment, meals, all this kinda stuff. Because with every year I asked more and more questions, right? And I got more and more help and I got more and more educated to understand what was right and proper under the law. And then where I was also fudging it and I didn't even know any better. I mean, I can tell you funny stories of friends who haven't paid anything. And then when it caught up with them, It's not funny at all. Your wages can get garnered because the taxes are just taxes. I mean, that's what it costs to live in America, right? So be creative. Be curious, get out ahead of it and ask for help. 9. Protecting Your Business: Moving along though, was I even a business? That's what I want to talk about next. It can be a sole proprietor, which is just using your name and your social security number. I'm sure a bunch of you are already doing that or you can become a business and become an LLC, go through the state, go through the city, whatever, however you do it. I had to learn that I wasn't working as Aaron drop on and I was actually working as a drop on design company. I had to learn that. Remember, I've been making all these funny shirts and stuff from my friends and for things and for stuff for lots of years. Well, we're not client would hire me and they think I'm the drop in design company. I'm going to get that after I do an agreement and estimate and the invoice and all this stuff, and I would get a paycheck and the paycheck would say grappling design company where I learned I was not a business, wasn't I tried to cash that check done at my Wells Fargo account. Right. It got bounced back because it didn't say Aaron droplet got bounced back and I had to go inside. I'm relying on every penny of that paycheck. I go inside. In this kind of a gruff bank or woman says, I can't catch this, you're not a business. And I said, Well, what do you mean I'm out of business? I got to check. I didn't even know there was a thing called a business account. Now, you have your personal account, you have your business account, guys. I didn't know about this growing up and there's no one punching me in the face with it. So I'm learning as I go. So here's the thing. She wouldn't catch it for me. So I went to another branch and the woman kinda knew me there and she just cashed it. It just kinda slipped through and went random. I Aaron drab on account. Maybe she doesn't even look. But that's not good craft, right? Next check comes in. It's right around the time I get this call from the City of Portland. And the woman on the phone says, where's your business license? In the state of Oregon. And that's when I learned that you need things called business licenses. I didn't even know you haven't had to have one. I got in trouble with it a little bit and she said that you need to get a business license for the City of Portland. It costs a 100 bucks. The state of Oregon, that's when I became the draft when Design Company LLC. When I became an LLC, not only did that start to protect me in certain ways, I took that piece of paper with my EIN number, which is federally given your employer identification number. You have to apply for that through the Fed's, through the government and stuff, and they spits it right out. And that's what you use to do your tax status. Number one, it's a pro tip to get that because you're not using your social security number. But I took that number down to the bank account and by the way, they opened a business account for me. On that business account it says draft and Design Company, LLC. In every single time ever since, any money that comes into my life from making work with graphic design, it goes into that business account. For a number of years. I operate as the drop and Design Company, LLC. Okay. What that meant was, you know, I'm paying self-employment tax, I'm paying Social Security, I'm paying state tax, I'm paying feds and all this kinda stuff. Portland city tax. It's a lifelong list, right? And you're accountable to all that. So at the end of the year, my accountant would see all the money that came in. I had money put away. We would start doing quarterly payments. We started doing things to offset certain things. Sometimes they have a big refund, some I have a little refund. Sometimes I owed money, but it was all about how much I made in a year and every year it was kinda going up and up and up. And that's called, I guess being successful. I've had a great run, you guys. I'm so thankful for every merge purchase and everything else, right? My next step of the evolution was when I had a bit of a stern talking to when I was handed over to a new accountant because I was just a simple LLC. It turned out that was the wrong way to go. The right way to go is to become an S Corp. Now listen, I'm not going to even try to even explain what this thing is. The important part because I knew to ask for help, right. I had an accountant. She may mean S Corp. This is all under the law. I'm a corporation that drop on design company as a corporation. And Aaron dropped one works for it in the first year alone, she saved me a pretty good chunk of money when you become an S Corp, there's a lot, there's little more fees because you are having bookkeeping and payrolls and all this kind of stuff. It's a bit of a dance. But the thing is it's important because if you offset the fees and costs for what you're saving on the tax, that's money you could donate to help with people and stuff to help people who are in need or whatever. Some of the things I do, I still don't really understand it, but I know this much. It's the right classification for me and my situation, my age, what I'm, what I'm earning, It's gonna be different for you. But the important thing is to go ask for help. That's all there is to it. Getting accountant. Explain your situation. Explain what you've make, educate yourself to understand what you need. Something to jam in here is just a real quick talk on this stuff called E and O insurance. It's called errors and emissions. Go talk to an insurance agent, ask them how it applies to what you do. And you might want to get a policy if you have a big job coming up that requires a bunch of printing because if there is an error in the printing and that got sent over, wasn't even of your control of someone screwed up at the printer and it gets to the client, you're responsible for that, right? I have insurance for the drop-in design company that protects like if someone comes here and twist an ankle and stuff like that. Or when I go on the road, sometimes I have to get special policies for like being around the public. You have to call an insurance agent and get it. Here's the thing. Get out ahead of it. Called insurance agent and ask them to explain to you eNO insurance and how it applies to your business. I don't have the right answer on this stuff, but if you go ask for help, that's the pro tip. 10. Final Thoughts: All right, you guys, thank you for sitting through all that and listen to all those things. I hope those were interesting tips and pro tips and things and exercises and new ways to think off the page to protect yourselves, right? It's so important if you're getting mired down in the stuff off the page, you're just asking for trouble. You gotta get that stuff on lock so you can just move fast, move efficiently. You have to understand how to save things. You have to understand that sometimes you have to go and ask for help. It's okay. Be at legal help, be at whatever tax status and all this scary ****. You're not gonna get a rounded face it head-on. Asked for a little bit of help, get that stuff synched up out of the way and you can get to designing and enjoy the stuff like we're supposed to. We're so lucky to do any of it. Now listen at Skillshare, they love to have you show the stuff. And I can jump in there and leave some comments and stuff, but this stuff is really tricky. I don't want you putting your W9 up on that page. I don't want us to show invoices with your own no social security numbers and things and stuff and heights and weights and all that stuff. But maybe build out the templates and show us how you trick that thing out. Let's see that. Let's see how you built it. Let's see what your filenames look like. Zoom back and do a screen grab of that because we'd love to see it. I'd love to comment on it and feel free to share that stuff. You guys, thank you for taking this course. It's not lost on me how lucky I've been these last seven years in Skillshare. You guys from the first one, which was so fun, talking about how to build logos and things all the way up all these seven years later to this eighth one. Now, talking about things that happen off the page, It's a privilege to be able to show you some of the things that have helped me get out of the hole. That's what we're showing here today. It's a privilege to have your ear. Thank you for taking this class. We'll see you again soon. Everyone, stay curious out there. Stay healthy, stay safe, stay cool. Thank you for this. We'll see you around.