Remote work has helped me get a wider reach of clients from all over the world
Teo is a freelance illustrator and a junior graphic designer at BOND. As a freelancer, he works mostly on editorial illustrations and lately on collaborations and projects with NGOs. At his day to day job, he works at BOND which is a brand and experience design agency.
Explore more from Teo's work.
A few words about yourself?
Hello hello! I'm Teo, a freelance illustrator and an agency graphic designer, who was born and raised in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, but has been living abroad for the last 9 years. Currently, I'm based in Helsinki, where I'm also trying to finish an MA degree in Visual Narrative at Aalto University.
Do you usually work remotely or only due to the pandemic?
I live a bit of a double life, hah. As an agency designer, I used to go to an office every day, but since the pandemic started, we've all been working from home. However, as a freelancer, I have always worked remotely.
When did you start and what challenges did you face in the beginning?
I've been doing some sort of remote work ever since I first started tiptoeing into freelancing during my first year at university. The challenges then were related more to the industry as a whole – I had no idea about pricing, communication, what was required from me, how to present my work, etc. At the time I wasn't being reflective of different aspects of work; my main goal was to try and figure out some path so that I can overall progress.
What are your pros and cons of remote work?
The flexibility has always been the biggest benefit of remote work for me. I can go to the bank or to the doctor's without having to rush back to the office and that's great. Or I can go and work from a different place if I feel like I need to change the scenery. These are quite small things, but they can have a significant impact on daily anxieties created by the never-ending list of errands. Luckily, at BOND people are super flexible and understanding if someone has an appointment and needs to go away for a few hours and that's been great.
In terms of freelancing, remote work has helped me get a wider reach of clients from all over the world. I've done projects with people from California and Australia and that would have been difficult if I didn't have the flexibility of remote work.
Also, with remote work, I feel better about setting time aside for professional development like going through tutorials or exploring software and ideas.
However, I do miss some aspects of working in a studio with other designers. There is a natural exchange of information and visual influences, like learning through osmosis. That is a thing that I find difficult to achieve when I'm more isolated. Before the pandemic, I would often go to some coworking spaces or university where I'd be surrounded by other people who are just working on their own thing.
Another downside that I've experienced is related to facilities and local partners. If I have made a packaging or print project, it's hard to have a direct line of communication with whoever is producing the project. So sometimes it's difficult to control print processes, pick paper types and so on.
What is your workspace setup?
I use a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2015 and a Wacom Intuos Pro S. Recently, I also bought a Logitech MX Vertical mouse to help me with a carpal tunnel that was bothering me several months ago.
At home, my partner and I have a workroom in our apartment where we have two desks – a regular one from IKEA and a drawing table with an adjustable angle of the top. So when we get tired of sitting in one spot or just wanna change the wall that we're looking at, we swap seats and it actually works quite well for now. We do need some bigger display screens and better office chairs but that's in the bucket list for a future investment.
What is your typical day like?
Right now I try to wake up around 7:30 am and the first thing I do is to make coffee because "coffee headaches" are a real and unpleasant thing. Then I start work a bit before 9 and try to do the bulk of it in the morning before lunch when I'm more active. Usually my energy drops in the afternoon, so I leave that time for more technical, mechanical, or administrative work. I try to finish by 17:30. I actually don't mind the 9-to-5 routine at an agency and I am trying to keep that now when we're all working from home. I have a couple of relaxing hours and at 20:00 I go back to work and continue until I start feeling bad for the version of myself who would be feeling knackered the next morning when the alarm rings.
How do you stay focused and healthy?
I've become a lot better at staying focused lately, mostly because I'm learning to be more aware of my own energy levels. If my mind feels tired and distracted I take 5-10 minutes off, do something else, or go to the other room to do a quick chore and then come back to the task that I was initially doing. I used to be a lot harsher on myself in the past and I had to learn the hard way that work doesn't need to be equal to suffering.
In terms of health, that's something I must focus on next. I've already started feeling the effects of sitting down so much and my wrists and shoulders are feeling often stiff. So even though sports are a big source of anxiety for me, I should push myself to do more of them. 😐
What collaboration and communication tools do you use?
For work at BOND, we use mostly Slack and Google Hangouts (if we want to have a meeting with more participants). It's not a big company, so people tend to be quite flexible when it comes to picking tools; that would be a lot harder in a corporation.
For my freelance work, I've used anything – Viber, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc. Pretty much wherever the clients are finding it more comfortable. However, lately, I've been trying to streamline it all through email, as the conversation feels more to the point and controlled and I wouldn't get 15 pings in the middle of the night for something minor.
Instant or asynchronous communication?
Both, for different reasons. In my freelance work, I prefer to use email for the main bulk of the conversation. But if there are any tiny details that need to be tweaked and that would take 10 minutes of work, I'd be happy to just have a quick chat with the client and resolve it quickly.
Would you change anything in your regular working routine once the pandemic is over?
Yeah, well, for my daily job I would return to commuting to the studio, which is fine for me. I actually like the public transport here and it's a nice time to read a book or listen to a podcast.
Freelance-wise, all will be the same, although I will probably do a lot of my work from university or cafes.
What is the funniest place where you've had to get your laptop open?
I've had to do some freelance work while camping and trust me, the mobile internet connection in the mountains is not great.
No-pants, pajamas or regular clothing?
Regular clothing almost always. I feel weird if I work in the same clothes that I use for sleeping (though I've done that too, of course).