How Meella accidentally became a full-time book cover designer

Originally Mila Milic (aka Meella) wanted to become a psychologist before switching to economics. But somewhere in between, by pure accident, she wound up a successful book cover designer.

It began simply enough… While searching through freelance websites for economist gigs, she quickly discovered a need for photo retouching—a skill she had, thanks to her Photoshop knowledge. Realizing design work like this was lucrative, she signed up on 99designs and decided to try her hand at book cover design.

While Meella didn’t have specific knowledge about book cover design at the time, she threw herself into it. 99designs’ contests were the perfect place for her to build up her skills as she studied online. Soon enough she was winning contests and able to work full-time as a book cover designer—and she hasn’t looked back since.

meella designer

Name: Miladinka Milic
99designs handle: Meella
Location: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Specialty: Book cover design

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Miladinka and I accidentally became a graphic designer. I wanted to be a psychologist, but studied economics and ended up as a graphic designer instead.

Two years ago, I joined some freelance websites where I planned to use my economics knowledge. But the first jobs I got were related to photo retouching (I had some basic Photoshop skills at that time). I saw that it was easier for me to get a job related to Photoshop than in economics, so I kept applying to those jobs.

A month later, I joined 99designs. At that time I had zero knowledge about book covers. But with Google’s help, I gathered all info needed for creating a book cover and preparing it for print.

I remember I panicked a bit when I won my first contest, because I wasn’t sure if I’d do something wrong or not and I didn’t have anyone to ask–but luckily, everything went great. As time passed, I became more secure in my book cover design knowledge and my skills were also progressing a lot.

book cover design by meella
Left to right: The Devil’s Dictum, Escape from Shame and Quit Bitching and Live!

As a self-taught designer, what resources do you use to improve your skills?

My most helpful resources were contests, and those are my only resources actually. Just by participating in contests and by watching them, I learned a lot.

What’s your experience been like on 99designs so far?

When I joined 99designs, I went through the categories and basically this is how it was: “Oh, I love books! This is something I could work on” (although I actually didn’t know how to do it—how to make a book cover). And here comes the funny part: I have never judged a book by its cover, and look at me now, I’m designing book covers. What irony!

However, I took 99designs and the book cover category very seriously, even though I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I made myself read the stock image policy, 99designs rules, image licensing etc… all that stuff to make sure I knew what I can and can’t do and how to do it.

book cover designs by meella
Left to right: Dreamclock World, Kicking Ass on the Road and Take Heart

You’re a prolific designer on 99designs. Do you have a daily routine that helps keep you focused?

I don’t have a daily routine or fixed hours. But what I do have is passion and love for this job, and that’s something that keeps me focused. What also keeps me focused is a goal for growing and getting better and bigger. Sure, I have lazy days when I’m not in mood to design, but luckily, those days are rare.

Why do you think you’ve had so much success on 99designs?

I guess because I work really hard. I don’t believe in luck (at least in my case), so everything I have achieved so far was because I worked very hard and was giving my best in every project I worked on.

I’m lead by “Work hard. Play fair. Be nice.” That’s a key to success.

Do you have a favorite genre that you love to design for?

I don’t have a favorite genre, but I do have a least favorite genre, and that’s science fiction. I could work on sci-fi book covers, but they’re just not my cup of tea. I love creating everything else. Which genre I will work on depends on my current mood and a book’s story.

What’s one thing you wish clients would do more of before or during a design project?

Good briefs and leaving (more) feedback would definitely save a lot of time and make the whole process better. A client who knows what he/she wants is a pleasure to work with.

book cover designs by meella
Left to right: Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying, Burn, Baby, Burn and Fjord

Do you have any hobbies outside of design?

I have a lot of hobbies, but unfortunately I don’t have time for all of them, except for music, art and reading. For these three I can always find time, especially for music.

What are you reading right now?

Currently, I’m re-reading one of my favorite books, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Sometimes I like to get back to my favorite books and this is that time.

Anything else to add?

I’d like to thank 99designs for giving me a new life! 🙂

See more of Meella’s work here.

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not working with the designer community, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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