My name is Cajvanean Alexandru. I’m a creative person just like you. Creative graphic design makes business effective and profitable. Owner at Cajva.com since 2016
How did I become a Creative graphic designer?
My dear readers,
You asked me once if I told you all it is to know about the design world. And while I can say I’ve been nothing but honest, I didn’t tell you all that there is to say. I’m not old, I’m barely 28, and I believe I still have a lot to learn but back then, when it all started, I was a totally different person. The year was 2009, and anyone who afforded a PC and an internet connection was living the life. Creators on youtube, creators on DeviantArt, creators of content everywhere, it was magic. You should’ve seen it all. It was in its prime. People drawing, painting, photography, video, ooo isn’t this a wonder for a teenager’s mind. Quite by chance and by my parents’ will to get an internet connection, fate decided I will become part of the story I will write you.
It began…well, it began as you might expect, in a small village in the north of Romania, lived a teenager. It was me. Besides the fact that I wanted to become a Formula 1 driver, I didn’t have any other aspirations to become a designer or an artist. I loved to draw, and I was somewhat decent to my peers, but it wasn’t my main focus. The enjoyment and the countless hours I spent on art websites surely had an impact. I was really enjoying other people’s art, varying from music to paintings and poetry. Just like any teenager, I just devoured anything there was to devour. I finished high school, and it was time for me to go to college, and boy o boy, was I in for the long run. I didn’t have a clue of what to do. I didn’t know what college to choose or what to do with my life, and so one night, I randomly decided I will go to the college of art because why not. For sure, I didn’t want to do classes like math or chemistry. I wanted the easy life, relaxed, drawing chillin’, you know what I’m talking.
And so I went in. My drawing was the worst, and my skills were at the bottom of that institution’s chain. There I found very talented artists, extremely talented people. I loved every second there, I was inspired, and I met some of the greatest designers there and some of the best artists who really impressed me.
Step by step, I started to learn how to draw, and color theory and composition, and so forth, but the most I’ve learned was by myself. I can say 90% of what I learned was by myself through the internet and through the people I’ve meet and worked with, but I don’t want to take the credit of the college, na, if it weren’t for the college, I would not have had the time to learn and to meet all the creative people. I started with 99designs, where contests were held, and I participated there. I did like 70 projects until I won the first one, and in total, I participated in 1130 contests during those years of college, so you can say I did my time there. I’ve learned a lot there, and I gathered a few clients with whom I’ve worked outside of 99designs. After a while, I started to publish projects on Behance, and from there, it took off. I started to do real projects, and people trusted me to deliver good logos and graphics for their business. I’m forever grateful to my clients. Bless their beautiful soul.
One of my best friends is also a successful designer that goes by the name of Kreatank, and he also pushed a few projects in my way when I wasn’t doing so well. And so went by the university years, I finished both bachelor’s and master’s degree, and I was on my way to the work field. As I was part of all kinds of social circles and meetings and my interest was wide, I teamed up with a programmer, and we started a company that did games and apps for android. It was great, but it didn’t last due to our difference in interest.
A local marketing company then invited me to be a part of their small team. I accepted. We did some great projects, and the company grew a lot. I loved the team, and the people were great, but I had to part my way due to the low pay and the lack of time to work on the side projects that brought me much better pay. If you want to go fast, you know how you go by yourself, if you want to go far, you go with a group.
And so, I started working on my own image and brand that I called Cajva in 2016. I reworked projects and portfolios on Behance. I’ve built myself a website and started posting on social accounts. I also created an Upwork account and started to apply it to different design projects.
Time went by, and I had projected. People were reaching out via social platforms, portfolios, and websites. I was earning decent money, enough to pay rent, food, and live normally. I started my own business, and every year I’ve updated the website, reworked the graphics, worked on recreational projects for my portfolio. I’ve established a small brand for my name, and I keep pushing further day by day with this one.
Each year I’ve updated my skill set and learned new things. I learned a lot about creating a top-shelf design, great quality content, and using resources. I’ve invested in software, hardware, and design resources that vary from font to mockups and illustrations. I’ve also established connections with other designers that could help me, and I can outsource work.
More than anything, I’ve learned how to talk and negotiate properly. Establishing a long-lasting relationship with the client that is also healthy and productive for both sides is a dream.
As you can see, my last paragraphs just went flying by, and that is because you want it or not. You have to grind a little. Even if I can’t advise you on properly preparing for an interview, I can tell you what strategy I adopted and how that helped me build a business.
Lesson I learned over these years developing my business:
- Always be open to the fact that your work may be sh*t, keep updating your portfolio, and know that project you think is amazing? It might not be very good, so feel free to consider even removing it.
(How to do that: See what had success, did you get good feedback? Did someone mention the project that is good or bad? How do you feel about it? consider both updating and removing)
- Keep up to date with the software, tutorials, new features, new resources and marked demands.
(How to do that: Work constantly, and these things will come to you, check YouTubers from your domain, other people from your domain, blog posts, specialty publications, books, podcasts, etc.)
- Keep on working, keep on striving, work like you got some sin. Even if you don’t have projects to work on, that doesn’t stop you on creating stuff.
(This kind of profession comes with both work for money and work for recreation)
- Get inspiration from other sources than the ones in your domain
- Workouts and good night’s sleep are kings and queens
(Not only that they keep you healthy but your brain will function properly and be at its peak all the time, creative and high performing)
- Don’t forget why you work
(Find your motivation even if it’s money, fun or passion)
- Work smart
(Don’t overkill yourself with sleepless nights, projects that don’t go anywhere, abandon them, it’s perfectly fine to drop them and enjoy life, your sole existence is not just to grind, have a breath, smell the flowers, you can overstimulate the mind so relax from time to time)
- Treat your clients as you want to be treated and learn to communicate
- Drink water
Now, there would be many things that are left to be said, but most importantly, you have to learn pretty much all of them by experience. You have to be the one that makes the mistakes to improve, and it’s ok to fail. Just let it go and keep on working. You have to do something with your time anyway. Trying to create your own business and monetize your creativity is not an easy thing to but if you are like me, you will love every single moment of it. I sometimes think of how would’ve been if I were to search for a job. I surely think that working alone can make you lose your min,d and having a team and coworkers is fun. Just makes the days fly by when you have a team that is fun and collaborative. Sometimes, when working all alone in your chair, you will feel empty because connection and connecting with people are the best things in life. Having friends and family is the most important thing, and doing something you love and enjoy does add to the whole spectrum of happiness.
As you saw from my story, I never thought of becoming a designer, but I just grew with it, and I loved it so much that I worked to become good at it. A teacher from the college of art once told the class that there are 2 kinds of artists, the ones that are naturally talented and very good at it, and the ones that are sh*t that but they love art so much that they work ten times harder to be just as good as the ones that have talent. I’m from the second group, and I really find good motivation in those words. I never got where I wished to, but for sure, I’m where I have to be. I love every moment, and I think this is reflected in my work, and it shows in my overall brand and story.
Books, podcasts and other recommendations:
Behance.net to post your portfolio and find inspiration. The future, Chris Do for podcasts, but I listen to all domains podcasts from Joe Rogan to Alan Watts, so keep your mind open and consume what tickles your mind. I never read any design books, but I did read many art books and graffiti, and so on. I highly recommend books that help you draw and teach you an actual skill.
I hope you will find a bit of knowledge and inspiration from my story and my work.
Thank you so much.
Also read My Career Change to Become a Fast Fashion Graphic Designer (without a relevant degree)