A date with web designer, fortunefaded

Maya Lekach
Jelena Milinovic

Pairing a client and a graphic designer for a project is all about forming a connection. You’ve got to find the right match!

Whether you’re looking for a design to be done, or just a designer to swap stories with, we present the designer: fortunefaded. A great success story of 99designs, she’s a web design specialist who has shaped much of her design practice around using 99designs to meet the right clients for the right projects. Learn from her experiences, history, tips, and tricks:

About Me…

During college I was working, doing HTML/CSS coding for a small web design agency. It was there that I learned the basic usage of Photoshop for slicing web designs into HTML. We had a fabulous designer there and back then I thought his job was awesome, but I never actually intended to do any design work in the future.

After I graduated in Computer Science, I started to look for a job in the profession. Shortly after starting to look, I met a really cool guy who introduced me to 99designs. He was extremely charismatic as he talked about his design job – he was so elated by his most recent win. He showed me some of his work, it all looked like some game to me back then. I told him I would try to play in until I found some sort of ‘real’ job.

I had no formal training in design and zero experience other than the small tasks I had done in my coding job. But I did know how to use the tools and it seemed like enough for me to enter my first contest.

In the beginning I was mostly just practicing my skills. I started with logo design and I entered 33 contests before my first win. But when I won that first contest I knew: that’s it, this is what I want to do. In time my wins became more and more frequent. I stopped looking for a job and focused all my time and energy on improving my design skills.

CSTA design

What I’m doing now…

After two years of intensive design work, 99designs actually changed my profession. Based on the portfolio I built on the site, I got a full-time job as a web designer for an agency based in San Diego, CA. I was really happy to have the chance to work in this team as it is a totally new experience for me. Besides building social skills through team work and getting used to working hours, I learned a totally different approach to the design process – and I really liked it!

I was working full-time for this company out of their offices in Belgrade, Serbia before I left this company a month ago. Since I’ve been doing work for several clients as a freelance designer. I do not have that much free time recently, but whenever I get some time I enter 99designs contests.

I’m really good at…

Here and there I do some logos, but my speciality has become mostly websites. I have a lot of experience designing e-commerce websites and WordPress themes. I also have experience designing for a wide range of devices, and in responsive design. Making designs that are easy to code and easy to implement, due to my background and working knowledge in HTML and CSS coding. Clients love that I can also do their coding work for them, making me one easy stop to get most of the work done for their website.

When it comes to 99designs, I thrive off the nature of competition and the challenges that are inherent in the contests. That’s what makes the projects so interesting – I understand that even if I don’t win there it’s not a huge worry. I recognize these looses are inherent in the contest model, and I still got the chance to work on an interesting project, to see how other designers did it, and to learn something from the experience.

Louie & Johnnies

People usually notice that…

I try to give every design its own personal note. I like to make it as unique as possible within the required brief while avoiding making generic designs that can be seen anywhere. Even when your hands are tied with requirements for a strict, clean, corporate website, I have found it important to make something different from usual. It’s definitely doable, especially if you put your mind to it for long enough!

Contest holders also often comment that I have great communication, something that I picked up while working in a group and for the San Diego web design agency.

Things I like to look at…

I like knowing as much as possible about clients need and expectations before starting with the design, so a good detailed brief is one of the most important forms of inspiration for me.

Currently I’ve been getting a daily dose of inspiration on sites like abduzeedo. I also follow several blog/tutorial sites such as cssmania, the Shutterstock Blog and, of course, the 99designs blog! It is important to constantly keep up with new trends.

When suffering from a lack of inspiration due to excessive work for long periods of time I usually travel somewhere for several days – without my laptop of course. Mountains are the best place for me to take a break from work and charge batteries.

Also, it’s not particularly visual, but a good brief always inspires me.

Milinovic

I spend a lot of time thinking about…

I think a lot about how to get the most out of the 99designs platforms. There are some maxims in particular that I always keep in mind.

  • Briefs: Read them. REALLY read them. If the client is specific in their requirements I try not to reinvent the wheel. I like to be certain to give the client what they want. If I am looking for complete freedom and open hands in the design process I go for a contest without any specific requirements.
  • Style: I like to remember not to post any work I am not satisfied with. It’s important not to forget that first impressions are the most important, much more important than who uploads first. It’s about who is the best!
  • Criticism: If a CH does not like my work it is critical not to argue or leave any angry comments. I always think, “Chill out, you can always withdraw and use that design with someone who will appreciate your work.” You can make a masterpiece and someone will eventually say it is garbage, because different people have different tastes. I need to know not to take it personally and learn to deal with it.
  • Keeping up: with the latest trends in the design and tech worlds.
  • My goals: I have a yearly goal meter that I keep above my desk. I look at it as a reminder every day and stick to it!

Mai

I’m looking for…

Clients looking for additional work after winning their contest. One of the biggest benefits of 99designs is the possibility of building client relationships. Here, you can choose which clients you want to work with and build yourself a base of international clients super fast!

I also really like freelance relationships. These relationships can come about through contacts I made through the site or other means of networking. I love the benefits of working from home – it’s great not to be tied to the office. Anything that can make this happen is great for me.

You should message me if…

If you are looking to 1-to-1 work, particularly if you want one person who can not only design your site, but also code it for you.

If you’re a designer, you should message me if you are looking for advice on 99designs contests, general advice on web design, tips for a successful client-designer relationship, or just if you want to say hi, share experience, and make some contacts.

If you think you’re design-compatible with fortunefaded, send her a message.

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