I will never forget receiving my first design team (DT) acceptance email. It was 11pm and I was having trouble sleeping, so I got my phone out and did the typical browsing…Facebook, Instagram, email. And there it was: 2017-2018 DT contract for The Wild Hare Kits. I contained my excitement so I didn’t wake up my husband. It took everything in me not to shake him awake to share my news.
I had been scrapbooking for seven months when I made this team. I had no design team experience. I had just moved across the country weeks before I submitted my application. And I didn’t feel prepared to be showcasing a company’s products. But I had set a goal in December 2016 to make a design team and I did it!
After I made The Wild Hare Kits in May, I kept applying to more. It gave me a boost in my confidence level and made me set my sights on even more teams. I applied to 16 teams in 2017, was asked to join one team and made four teams total. By April 2018 I had applied to one more and asked to join another, bringing my total number of design teams to six.
At the end of 2017, a pen pal of mine asked for advice for how to get on a DT. She had been scrapbooking a little longer than I had, had a YouTube channel for a bit longer. And had a large Instagram following. So why hadn’t she made any teams??? I sat down and wrote out pages upon pages about my thoughts on making DTs. She took my advice and less than a month later made her first DT! So with the prompting of Lara (owner of Ink Road Stamps), I decided to take that advice and put it into a useful blog post for those of you as desperate (as I was) to make a design team.
Tip #1: Photography
I think the biggest issue people have when applying for DTs is their photography. Here’s what mine used to look like:And here’s what my photos look like now:
If you’re photographing a layout, you should be able to take a photo of it from above, as its laying on a flat surface. The colors should be bright and vivid, and true to color. You always want to avoid overexposing your photos (something I am super guilty of doing when I first began editing my photos). I always take a full shot, many close ups (for blog posts) and a stylized flat lay for my Instagram feed. I would master the full shot before moving onto stylized shots.
A lot of people think you need a nice, fancy camera for good photography. But my photos are all taken with an iPhone 6 that I’ve had for two years. Nice cameras are not necessary for decent photos. (Although if you HAVE a nice camera, USE IT!!!)
My set up looks like this:
I mean, that’s about the least amount of fancy you can get right?! (Also, we need to tend to that neglected lawn outside ASAP!)
I have a window in my house that provides perfect lighting between 9am-11am on overcast days. I set my projects on a white foam board, and bounce the natural light onto my project with three other foam boards. I like overcast skies because they don’t cast a blue, or yellow light onto my projects. Although if I’m in a pinch and need to get something photographed, I will take it in bright light, and edit the blue out in the editing phase (this is called “white balance” in most editing software).
Then I edit on my phone with the app Snapseed. There are plenty of editing apps on the market, all with their own learning curve. I’ve heard good things about A Color Story and Pic Tap Go. But I’m comfortable with Snapseed and am happy with my results. Choose an editing app you like, and then practice, practice, practice until you get the editing to where you like it.
If my photos are being used for a blog post, I edit further after I upload them to my computer. I have a PC and do not use Photoshop. Scrapbooking is a hobby that I already put lots of time and money into, I’ve yet to invest in decent photography/editing software. I do, however, use GIMP which is a free photoshop-like software. There is a steep learning curve with this as well, but found that it can really brighten and bring contrast to my photos like Snapseed can’t. It also allows me to scale down my photos to look sharper on blog posts.
Tip #2: Curate your Instagram feed
Instagram is where you want to be if you’re interested in being on design teams. It’s the easiest way for companies to get a comprehensive view of your style. It’s much easier to scroll for a second to get an idea of what your style is like, than have to scroll through pages of blog posts to see.
You can look at my Instagram feed here. I’ve spent the last two years fine tuning my feed to exactly how I want it to look. If you scroll far enough, you’ll see how it’s grown and the changes it’s gone through. My feed is also strictly craft related. I don’t post personal photos in my feed at all. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, it’s just my preference to keep my feed crafty. I think using the stories feature is a great way to post personal photos, or non-crafty photos, without messing up your curated feed. (You can also create highlights that will save these photos so they won’t disappear in 24 hours).
Tip #3: Alternate social media
Along with Instagram, I have a YouTube channel (now inactive) and a blog (sporadically inactive). Do I think these contributed to me getting on DTs? Not in the least. I started a blog with the thought that blogs are what DTs want, I mean, they all say “Link your blog” in the application right? And maybe some of them do visit my blog. But I guarantee it isn’t impressing them to the point where they want me on their team.
My blog is a sad, neglected place that gets 3 views per post. I post infrequently and sporadically. My posts usually direct the reader to another blog. But I have a blog. And maybe that’s all the DTs want to see. Who knows.
My YouTube channel on the other hand, until recently, got regular videos added. And a steady increase of subscribers since I started it. I usually add something about my channel in my DT applications, not because I think it increases my chances of making the team, but because it’s something I’ve worked hard on and I’m proud of and it’s a good showcase of my work. Do I think you need a YouTube channel to make a DT? Nope!
All that said, I think if you choose not to have a blog or a YouTube channel, your Instagram account should be 100% curated and crafty to really showcase your work.
Tip #4: Experience NOT required
The biggest complaint I hear from people trying to make DTs is “They want experience but how can I get experience if I’ve never made a DT”. And while I think DT experience does help in making a team, I don’t think it’s a requirement for most teams. I made four of my six DTs within three months of each other. My “experience” with being on The Wild Hare Kits team was not a contributing factor to making the Citrus Twist Kits team two months later.
If a design team has set deadlines every month, with strict guidelines, they might prefer someone with DT experience because it shows them you will know what to expect and won’t require a lot of guidance. But in my experience, most DTs have loose guidelines and requirements that work around your schedule. So while experience might be preferred, it’s not required in most cases.
Tip #5: Guest Designing
If you still aren’t convinced that DTs want DT experience, maybe you need to add a “guest design option” in your application. There’s nothing wrong with mentioning that if all the positions get filled, that you’d be more than happy to be a guest designer for that company. And let me tell you, guest designing is literally the greatest. I have guest designed for over five companies. It’s like being on the design team without the monthly pressure. It’ll provide experience, and show what it’s like to be on that SPECIFIC team. (All teams are different and not all teams will be an ideal fit for you. Perhaps you guest design and realize that team isn’t the team for you, you’ll have realized that without making a 6-12 month commitment that you’d possibly have to break.)
Those are my tips from someone who has made the design team cut. But I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone on the other side of the email, the one choosing the DT. So I asked Lara of Ink Road Stamps a few questions about the process:
About how many applications do you receive for a design team call?
This time it was 200+, last time it was maybe 100 or so.
(Guys, that is A LOT of crafty people you’re trying to beat out! And keep in mind that Ink Road Stamps is a fairly new company, so those larger companies that have been around awhile, could have even more applicants than that!)
What’s the number one mistake people make when applying to your design team?
Good photos are a MUST and neutral backgrounds.
(I want to touch back to my photography tips here, I will never submit staged photos for a DT call. I love my staged photos, I think flatlays are amazing, but when I submit an application, I submit photos of layout only, on a white background. Period. Don’t try to get fancier than you need to.)
Do you require a blog or YouTube channel for your design team members?
No blog or YouTube is required, but SOME sort of social media is. It’s 2018, that’s where people find you!
Which social media platform is the most important for an applicant to have?
For Ink Road, Instagram is most important, but I’m sure it varies by company.
How important is past design team experience?
Not important at all if they have beautiful projects that can showcase my products!
(FYI, Lara was the second person to take a chance on me with only 9 months of scrapbooking under my belt and absolutely no design team experience at the time!)
When submitting projects in an application, do you want to see a variety of projects (scrapbook layouts, project life, cards, “off the page” ideas, etc.) or would you prefer the applicant stick to their main strength?
Stick with your strength!
(When I first started applying for teams I was submitting it ALLLLLL: layouts, project life, snailmail, EVERYTHING! Now I stick to layouts only, with the exception of the Jillibean Soup DT call. They specifically mentioned wanting to see crafters who can work with their Mix the Media products. So for that call I submitted 2 layouts (my strength) and an embroidery hoop.)
Anything else future applicants should know?
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get picked! There are TONS of design teams and fresh design team calls in the future, keep applying!!
(Seriously. Keep applying! I applied to 16 DTs in 2017! 16!!! It was a lot of rejection, but you can’t make a team if you don’t put yourself out there. I promise, the rejection is worth it when you make your first team.)
So there you have it! I hope you found this information useful. I don’t claim to be a DT expert, but I wanted to share the tips that worked for me! Extra special thanks to Lara for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions! If you have any further questions, feel free to comment below!