Meeting old friends 13 years later

Key Lessons of the time travel.

Keva Epale
10 min readMar 22, 2019
© Keva Epale

Time is a great friend, through ups and downs you become new, same body but your mind changes and mutes. Good news! If you think you have not changed, check well, you have!

I recently met two old friends from art school, with whom we had an amazing time in our first year, discovering and studying art and being enthusiastic about the new path. From those years, full of faith and expectancy, 13 years later: here we have 3 kinds of women empowered and growing.

^ What have you been up to?

The whereabouts of what happened in 13 years for sure are the focus of the conversations. From art students to professionals, more mature but still full of “hunger” to create no matter the challenges. Life has imprinted lessons on us that the younger versions of ourselves wouldn’t even understand nor imagine.

Surprisingly or not we are still in the design industry, freelancing into fashion or graphic design. We all had witnessed the evolving market and how people we studied with radically changed fields. Still being in the design industry is a powerful statement of love we have for what we do.

° Still in the field

Funnily three of us decided to get out of the 9 to 5 vibe, we understood how powerful it was to be flexible in your time and the people you work with, acknowledging that working for a single company for 5–10 years wasn’t healthy and fulfilling for us.

The statistics of people who quit their jobs are in constant increase. For instance in France, the amount of contract termination has increased by 2.7 % from 2018 to 2019. In the design industry more and more of full-time designers switch to freelancing or being independent workers. There are more than 900.000 freelancers in France today, who mostly have had significant full-time experience in the working field.

So what was our drive, when we made the jump? I believe the freedom of choosing and working for a variety of clients is overall the common thread.

° Yes, we are new people

Sharing stories, anecdotes and memories kept in boxes, shed light on how we have grown from those days of lightness, not knowing exactly where we were heading to.

We were young girls back then and now we are women, with different levels of growth and acceptance. I realized the novelty of rediscovering and meeting “the new” in these old friends. Funny how what we used to be (personality, passion, group moments) shaped the women having a drink 13 years later and yes! the big lesson is: why change even the bad? (or opportunity as I call it), all of it made “us” meet again today.

° Sisterhood

Sharing the same challenges, concerns and visions could be the right place to build sisterhood.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

What is sisterhood?

  1. It is an association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest, religion, or trade.

2. A strong feeling of friendship and support among women who are involved in an action to improve women’s rights.

3. A feeling of shared interests and support among women.

For me, it is a peer to peer of strong women sharing and growing together: a female mastermind alliance. I see tons of groups being created with the intention and label of sisterhood in a variety of fields (from tech to coaching or even food industry).

While talking to these old mates, sisterhood was subtle but real certainly, because we are working girls in this modern world, we know it’s challenging and having support in our journey matters more and more, especially when you are a freelancer.

Sisterhood is not a quest, you don’t just go out and claim “I am going to find sisterhood”. It’s really just meeting people and perhaps with some of them, you may find common interests and vision. It can be both men or woman and may turn into a great bond.

^ The Freelance path is not easy

Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

You must be aware being freelance is full of ups and downs but time will always be on your side, «momentum» is the keyword, being proactive and seizing opportunities when you spot them.

Being in a position of liberty is more demanding than the other way around: finding your offer, clients, prospecting and marketing is like a full-time job. And above that, you need time to create quality content.

° We are brands…

While talking, we have understood in 13 years that we are sort of «brands». Back then we were trained to work for companies and brands but not to think as «a brand» in that extent.

16% of freelancers confess not having the marketing skills to attract clients in a highly competitive industry, finding clients is one of the biggest challenges of freelancers. My old mates and I also acknowledged that fact, and for sure the branding mentality is a must so as mastering marketing skills or strategies.

Added to that 49% of freelancers suffer from an unstable professional network, all this data could rebuke or scare for sure. But I believe that by keeping the work and vision, the ecosystem and network will grow and be meaningful as well, the question is «are you willing?».

Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

° The ecosystem!

The ecosystem is made of a whole set of skillsets, not only services but also things we create or teach. I want to express myself in several things: design, illustration, writing, audio (one day who knows). With my personal growth the ecosystem will adjust and talk by itself, it does take time and persistence. You may not always know what you are doing and yes! no matter the knowledge you accumulate, it’s a test-do and re-do.

The creation of such an ecosystem goes from creating, sharing and organizing daily tasks and schedules. It is not understandable for everyone, people may say: «why not just be a designer?». Well define a designer then, maybe this new era allows designers to be more than designers. It is also a demand of this digital era but in the end, it is your panel of choice.

° Different strategies

Beyond the fact that freelancing is not easy and it takes effort and time, demanding plans and preparations, I just realized while talking with them that we didn’t have the same strategy and it is interesting because it matches so much with who we have become but also who we used to be.

One of my old friends is all about accumulating clients and earning significant money (which is what we all want), the other one finds the fashion/textile field saturated and is making opportunities to be noticed and gain more exposure. For my part, I have been working on what I want to offer as a service and the practice of the law of attraction has enticed me to try: «why not create those opportunities». The strategy of creating content, building the ecosystem that in due time will attract the “niche” clients is my option now, but I stay open to the gifts of the universe.

In a nutshell, we know it is not easy but we still sign for it.

^ People who saw the possible future (voice) in us

As a designer, we know that whatever we create is already part of a legacy whatever the size of the project and it is true for anyone who creates content. It is like a baton you pass on no matter what.

Thinking of legacy, made me recall the people who shed light on who we could be when we were still students. Before us, there have been a set of mentors who inspired and guided us: that person, teacher or examinator who spotted something in us we were not ready or able to see.

Photo by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

° They spoke over you

As art students, we had a set of teachers, peers who in one moment enlightened a path or a skill to grow. Remember those “minds” who had already spoken future over you, you may have forgotten but there have been key moments of truth in your becoming, which today starts (perhaps) to make some sense.

° A project remembered

Book project entitled “Behind the makeup” © Keva Epale

While we were talking, one of my mates, spotted a special project I worked on, she remembered my answer to that specific project years back (makeup and the “Linceul du Christ”) and it was still vivid in her mind. I was moved by the impact that I could have had at that moment, while not even aware of it.

The same for me, I do remember a poster design she created about “Circus”, a real testimony of why she is the designer she has become.

I started remembering key moments of my student years when someone older or a peer enlighted a skill, idea and cheerleaded me into keeping on.

My turning point was first with Art, at a final exam in high school. I had prepared a set of artworks in art class: all experimental. I remember presenting the pieces so vividly and with a passion that I knew, I had to choose art. I had the highest mark: 20/20, well the examination was impressed so was I. Never would I believe being able to talk about my work with so much passion and sense, at such a young age. I Just knew it could lead me to my calling somehow. I had never heard of graphic design back then.

Only when I battled with my family convincing them to allow me to give it a shot in Art (I did the work, research, interviews, argumentation) that I entered the phase that brought me here today. The ride has been a rollercoaster but I wouldn’t change a thing.

° Competition in art schools

The first years were for us really experimental (painting, drawing, installations, in situ projects…), I remember my first interaction with graphic design: it was with a duo of teachers who introduced us to graphic design through the art of posters and visual decoding. I thought it was intriguing, the power of an idea into a picture. With years it has proven itself to be powerful from within (values) to outside (sharing, inspiring…).

It is true it has evolved into a highly competitive field and still today the students in their early years are already pushed into that competition or challenge rather than really enjoying being in design which is still today not that granted. The market is over saturated and it increases daily, it is an attractive field and it deserves that light.

^ Business not taught in art schools (back then)

One important thing to state is that business or the «art of selling» your skills and vision was not really thought in art schools back then. Today things have changed and key classes such as marketing strategy and tools are introduced early in the studies. They are part of the era we live in, we are lucky to be in such a time, where branding yourself is key in order to reach people, share your work, sell products and services…

Vintage salesmen would be so envious of that power of reach, in one click you can catch the attention of someone and fill the «need» through a product, service or just support.

It is a demanding percentage of your strategy in terms of communication and choices. Making an offer readable and understandable, crucial to reach your «ideal client». I am learning it all again but with more accuracy and curiosity, for I have chosen to enter a freelance institution. My old friends and I do face the situation: there is no other choice than thinking differently and learning from those who have succeeded before us in creating an abundant freelance lifestyle.

° Taught to create

Yes! We have not been taught to do business in art school, we were taught to create, experiment, going beyond the problem and birth “the idea”. Today the tables have turned, it is part of creating, you must be a “couteau suisse” (swiss knife): aside from being a graphic designer, you are a community manager, a copywriter, etc for yourself and your business. At least, it is necessary to have an understanding of these skills and find the right experts in that specialized knowledge elsewhere.

° We are all salespeople in the end

“Business is not something you learn but do”.

Three of us are selling our skills for “time” but also creating businesses. We have learned and learned mainly outside of school. Being a full-time designer to freelancer did trigger our dormant business skills. The only way for us to learn about business is to get into the playground and create our own specific game rules and witness the lessons of «business».

^ Every 13 years: a meeting?

I believe if a bond is genuine, it doesn’t take time to rebuild. You meet without the time gap as if it was yesterday (those are good signs), aware of the closeness but staying true to who you are growing into.

I have had great friends with whom the time gap just faded, years without meeting but still fresh as before, it is kind of reassuring to experience. Obviously, we have changed but we have new things to share with each other, new life lessons.

This month have been a series of time travels, meeting old friends from years before. It shackles because there is always a slight bit of comparison «who I used to be and now» but overall it’s good to see we are growing. With ease within the challenges, “the ride was, and “is” totally worth it”.

Doctor Who in the Tardis (best doctor ever N°10) © BBC



Keva Epale

Art director, illustrator and brand strategist. Creator of the newsletters: ''Your Creative Letter'' and ''Your Branding Letter''.