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Melissa Scott Jackson is based in Atlanta, Georgia. She is one of the earliest – and amongst the most successful – members of the HiretheWorld design community.
After Melissa was laid off by corporate America during the recession of the the early 2000s, she reinvented her career, regained control of her life and started her own successful freelance design business, Cranberry Blue.
Today she is both a mother and a freelance entrepreneur. Her thriving small business has over forty clients – and gives her the flexibility to juggle family life with work, while also allowing her to express her passion for design.
Melissa recently spoke with HiretheWorld about her design career, transitioning from Corporate America, her thriving freelance business & mompreneurship.
Life in Corporate America
What was your role at Bank of America and Home Depot?
I worked in the Internal Communications Department at Home Depot where I provided company-wide presentations and projects for employee communications at the retail store level. Although I enjoyed the role, I felt there was a lack of creativity being mainly focused on written correspondence. At Bank of America as a Communications Manager, I led activities for the customer service team, while creating elementary presentations in PowerPoint and Publisher to assist in training. I did not have substantial design skills then, but I had a strong desire to make a greater impact through visual communication.
I enjoyed these jobs, but especially when I was able to use my visually creative spirit. I did not know what I was truly missing until I was laid off and had the wonderful opportunity to unlock my passion for design.
How did the lay off affect you?
It was very emotional as it brought about a great deal of uncertainty about my future. Looking back, it is interesting to see that the fear of the future made me delve into design. I buried myself in what was then a hobby. In a twist of irony, that “crutch” developed into something that lifted the uncertainty and paved the way for my prospering freelance career.
Would you ever go back to ‘Corporate America’?
I could return to Corporate America, but I would not want to give up the flexibility I have with my family and my design business. I think many people are taking their careers in their own hands in hopes of finding a more secure, or at least fulfilling future. They are reinventing themselves by starting their own businesses or by pursuing long-put-off dreams that include creative or charitable endeavours.
Transition to Freelancing
How did your design hobby develop into your current freelance career?
While I was employed in the traditional corporate world, I always received design requests from friends, mostly from those starting their own businesses. At first, after working 10 hours a day at the office, I took on a limited number of projects. As my skills developed with each project and my friends were impressed with the outcomes, I took on more work and began to really enjoy this newly found “paid hobby”.
Word of mouth spread with momentum, and I was getting continuous referral work. I was getting compensated for doing something I loved. It slowly dawned on me that I was building a business that was making money. When I was laid off from my job, it was a natural and easy choice to transition into this business full-time.
How has the downturn in the economy changed your freelance business since then?
The downturn in the economy has been excellent for me, and from what I have heard it has been great for some other people who have been directly affected. Businesses still need services to operate. When they lay off staff or look to cut costs, many turn to contract work or outsourcing. That is great for freelancers.
Also, many people are able to start their own businesses based on their specialized talent or aspirations. We all hope the economy picks up, but the downturn has allowed many people to discover a whole new world in freelance entrepreneurship.
How did you go about setting up your own business, Cranberry Blue?
I always had a powerful laptop and great software for use in my design business. Setting up Cranberry Blue was fairly easy because I had the equipment.
My strategy for landing clients is simply to provide the very best personable service I can to the ones that find me via Internet, Design Contests or word of mouth. This leads to more business and repeat clients.
Why did you name your business ‘Cranberry Blue’?
Cranberry Blue is not a frothy chic cocktail, or the deep and rich purplish hue of an eggplant. The Cranberry Blue, or Vacciniina Optilete Yukona, is a breath-taking butterfly predominant in the Yukon. This small, yet beautiful creature is symbolic of transformation, change and life. Like the small, yet vibrant butterfly for which it is named, Cranberry Blue, a small shop, creates big ideas, transforms images into brands, and breathes life into dreams.
How have you managed being a mompreneur?
First and foremost, I am a Mom. That itself is a full-time job. Interwoven between my role as matriarch and wife, I love being a creative designer. Being a designer and doing what I love is the most amazing occupation I could imagine.
As a mompreneur, I pride myself on being organized. I create lists and calendars to keep up with schedules and activities for my family and business. The flexibility of being a freelance professional allows me to design around my family responsibilities.
How has your business grown since?
I usually have about 5 or 6 projects going on at a time. Large or small, my business has grown tremendously over the years. I have not done any paid advertising, only a facebook page and a few ads on Craigslist. Word of mouth seems to work well for me.
Growth as a Designer
As your business grew, how did you grow technically as a designer?
I seem to learn a new techniques all the time. When I am out on the web searching for inspiration, I may see a 3d image or interesting type effect that is appealing. I then find the tutorial so that I can add that to my skill set.
What is your creative process for projects?
I first research the client, history of the business, their industry and competition. After that, I have a ‘blueprint’ of what I need to communicate. I do not like just throwing an icon next to a font type because it looks good. Sometimes it is visually appealing, but I would never be comfortable unless I create a strong and unique logo that represents the true essence of the business, and helps communicate that to the world.