Creativity for Sale Podcast - Episode S1 E29

Honest reflections on creativity and social media success - Robert McCombe

Mon, 13 May 2024

Send us a Text Message."You give it to someone else, they'll have a different opinion. And someone else will have a different opinion, and say that's amazing. Then you send it to someone else and be like, well, this is crap. I'm never going to hire you."



Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

"You give it to someone else, they'll have a different opinion. And someone else will have a different opinion, and say that's amazing. Then you send it to someone else and be like, well, this is crap. I'm never going to hire you."
~

Radim Malinic delves into the mind of Robert McCombe, a rising creative force whose Instagram presence has garnered over 150,000 followers, providing a calming respite amidst the digital chaos. With candor and vulnerability, McCombe shares his journey, shedding light on the pressures, triumphs, and challenges that come with navigating the ever-evolving creative landscape.~

McCombe's journey began with a simple desire to showcase his work, but as his following grew, so did the opportunities and responsibilities. From the temptation of sponsored posts to the constant pressure of maintaining a consistent presence, McCombe's experience offers a raw and honest glimpse into the realities of building a brand in the digital age. His passion for learning and experimenting shines through, as he discusses his forays into photography, video creation, and product development, all while balancing the demands of a day job as a graphic designer.

  • McCombe's transparency about the pressures and uncertainties of social media success
  • His commitment to authenticity and creating value for his audience
  • The delicate balance between creative freedom and financial opportunities
  • The importance of community and collaboration in the creative industry
  • The ever-present fear of algorithms changing and platforms disappearing


Creativity For Sale: How to start and grow a life-changing creative career and business by Radim Malinic - Out now.

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Robert McCombe:

it's hard because if you give it to someone else, they'll have a different opinion. And then you give it to someone else and they'll have a different opinion. It's like when you're making like a template, like a portfolio template. whoever's offering the job and they look at it, they'll be like, Oh, yeah, that's amazing. Then you send it to someone else and be like, well, this is crap. I'm never going to hire you. So it's really hard that even just that because design is just Everyone has their own taste of what they like and what they don't like. It's like where I work now, like it's only me and the two bosses that are in the company of designers. But all three of us have completely different tastes. So then we're just bickering about I want it minimalist. I want it more abstract. I want it like this.

Radim Malinic:

Hello and welcome to Creativity for Sale podcast, a show to help you start and grow your life changing creative career and business. My name is Radim Malinich and creativity changed my life. You see, I believe creativity can change your life too. I even wrote a book about it and it inspired this podcast. I've set out to interview the world's most brilliant creatives, designers, writers, musicians, makers and marketeers about their life changing experiences with creativity. If you ever wanted to know how people go from their humble beginnings to the pinnacle of their success, our conversation should provide you with an intimate look into the triumphs, challenges and untold stories behind their creative endeavours. We also discuss the highs and lows of creative careers and creative life. So, thank you for joining me on this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all. Let creativity change your life. Are you ready? today's guest might not need any introduction to his more than 120, 000 Instagram followers. In the era of billion of eccentric voices vying for our attention across the digital space. His social media presence and his calming, almost meditative creative work provides a much needed calming sanctuary and respite. Sharing tips and tricks, useful assets and resources, book recommendations, along with insights into tech power in his creative pursuits, his Corner of the Internet is a welcome addition to the digital creative world. today's guest is one of the most exciting and up and coming creatives right now. It's my pleasure to introduce Robin McCoon.

Robert McCombe:

Thanks for having me.

Radim Malinic:

Hi, Rob. How are you doing?

Robert McCombe:

I'm good. I'm good. How are you?

Radim Malinic:

Yeah, it's good. It's good to have you on the show. Welcome.

Robert McCombe:

Yeah. Thank you.

Radim Malinic:

And, yeah, it's nice to have you on the show because, so far I can be honest about the fact that I've actually interviewed most of my friends to get the podcast started and you and I have only exchanged a few messages across social and done a book collaboration and that kind of stuff. But I wanted to reach out to you because, I do what you're doing. I think it's quite interesting what you've achieved

Robert McCombe:

man. Thanks.

Radim Malinic:

you seem to be gaining followers by a minute. Is that right? How is it going?

Robert McCombe:

Yeah. it seems to be going pretty well at the moment. It goes up and down, but. I went through a bit of a, I say rough patch, where rough patch for me is like I was gaining say, 30 followers a day. That was like my rough patch. Obviously there's been worse, but, now it's stayed steady for a good couple months of like around three to 500 a day.

Radim Malinic:

It's an insane number.

Robert McCombe:

yeah, I'm just waiting for that day, you know, where it does start, creeping down it, it is doing that, but then it's goes back up, even though my, posts don't do, millions of views, but my account seems to be quite steady, so I have no clue why, but, I'm not going to question it for now.

Radim Malinic:

I think you've got the algorithm on your side. I think at a time when everyone's complaining about Hey, is anyone still here?

Robert McCombe:

I say a lot of that.

Radim Malinic:

It's usually from people who like haven't been around for like months, show up once and go, I've got 20 likes. I'm like, that's 20 more than you were maybe expecting. But I think you're winning, but in my opinion, obviously I'm not invested in social media as some other people do because of what I do day to day, but it's quite impressive that, The way you sort of decided to sort of your presence in a way that it seems very strategic. did you ever sit down and thought, okay, I'm going to build this, that way and I've built my grid and stick to it because you know what it's like to be a designer. You decide, decide something in five minutes and then you want to change it in 20 minutes later.

Robert McCombe:

Yeah. And I'm still in that stage. Like I probably have about five Figma files all titled personal branding because I still have no clue how I want my Instagram to look like I'm in the process now of maybe changing it. I have no clue. It's, one of those things that Instagram is awful for personal branding because a trend comes out. And then you'll want to make that video, but it doesn't fit in your schedule. So then you have to change your schedule to fit in with something. But, it's hard. It's hard, especially cause you're so limited to say just a square or, slightly taller than a square to design something that looks nice on your grid, but also something that people will click on because it's quite a fine balance. You don't want it to look too designy, because then people think it's an ad. But if you make it look crap, people will think it's crap. So it's a middle ground I'm finding, but I think at the day, I'm just trying to like, design something if someone went on my page and they say, Oh, that looks nice.

Radim Malinic:

It's a really interesting insight saying that if you do it too good, it looks like an ad.

Robert McCombe:

and I think, I recently found that out because someone commented something similar to that on one of my reels. and it wasn't a sponsored reel, but that kind of made sense to me, and I've always, and I think it was on a Diary of a CEO podcast, saying something similar, that you can't make your Instagram feel like an advertisement. And I think that's Even though my Instagram's doing well, that's something that I've been doing wrong where I don't like to play into the trends. I like to just make something that is visually nice and aesthetic. But I think that comes with it might look like an advert, unfortunately, it's quite a fine balance.

Radim Malinic:

I think you've kind of created, I mean, you talk about seriously, think that there's a lot of interesting stuff when you say, it's limiting because it's a square. there's a freedom in limitations because, you don't have to entertain, like how much different could it be? Like, some people try to go wide on their posts and some people try to do other things. But I think I've seen somewhere like an advert for adverts and it says. Make ugly ads, basically ugly ads work because you can't obviously be in condition from the history of advertising, like condition, it needs to be polished, it needs to be clever, it needs to be this and that. And then you see like, you know, your local Gary's, the scaffold is promoting himself on Facebook and you're like. that's not looking really good, it's getting the point across I've run a scaffolding company and this is my ad, do you need scaffolding? No, this is what it needs to be.

Robert McCombe:

and I think it's also that, you know, not making it look so nice, but it's also just not doing it the same as others. I remember seeing a design article in a newspaper. I didn't have the newspaper, but I saw it online and a company. Printed out a full page in a newspaper and they didn't have anything on it besides something at the very bottom Which was their call to action, but if you flip through a newspaper, you see one full page that's completely blank You never see that. So you've got to stop and look and read it.

Radim Malinic:

Yeah, that is the idea of advertising and surprising was sort of in, advertising interrupts you in your day to day being and we're like, okay, here we are, what are we doing? so yeah, I like that you call your 30 followers a day as a rough patch. Like, you know,

Robert McCombe:

I've had worse but that was the most recent rough patch

Radim Malinic:

That's interesting. I think for some it's still, it's still a celebration. I think there's, in my book, Mindful Creative is like, what is your enough? You know, and that's like, for example, I've started my own second Instagram profile with And I'm like, that is fine. Because sometimes I find with my other account, it's there's actually better following on thousand followers than it is on 17, 18, 000 we've got on the other account. And it kind of brings me to the article by someone called. Kevin Kelly, who says, look after your thousand true fans, you know, like we'll stick to a thousand people who literally will buy from you a hundred dollars of merchandise of a year. That's your hundred grand, a year salary and that's all fine. But you seem to be doing really good with this. I'm still going to ask you about, sponsored posts and collaborations and stuff, but how much do you feel like you want to. refresh your whole look and feel because I know you said you've got like a five different Figma files and of course comparing to your followers you only got 341 posts is it all or you did you delete some of them or how did you do it?

Robert McCombe:

So cause I started my Instagram, I think back in university, I think it was like my second year of university and I started it just more to show my work as I think all designers do, we all set up an Instagram to post something to show our work off. so a lot of the, I do have a lot of posts that are undeleted by hidden, I think more so as my Instagram grew and I started changing my content, I changed more, less from design and more to desk setup or tech and stuff like that, that I started to hide some of my old approach because I didn't want it to look like a design portfolio. That wasn't the objective anymore.

Radim Malinic:

interesting, because I'm currently going through it. I'm just still amazed by it, like how it changes and what it does. And I remember some of your, older posts, when it says, this is my first branding project and it wasn't good. And I think that's the time when I think I found out that, I've got one of my books and I was like, Oh, this is really interesting because it was, you're right. when I joined Instagram in 2012, I was posting pictures of poutine in Canada, like, you know, just flags and hotel rooms. And I wasn't ever expecting anything from it because I was always geared towards having a really strong website direct clients. And there was, this was always entertainment, but then you find out, okay, well, how do we use this thing? Because when you think about it, it's unregulated. like we are voting with our time to things that take our fancy, it's like buying strawberries in winter, because you buy strawberries in winter, then they will keep keep growing strawberries and sending them to the UK. But in winter, just feel like with this. It's we've got almost like a two ways of deciding how to get people interested because, what do you want to be? Do you want to be sort of educational or do you want to be helpful? do you want to be on par with the industry, like giving resources? And I can see that from what you've done in the way of having work, you've kind of, they almost like going away from showing your work and becoming more of a, it's a kind of dirty word, but more like an influencer

Robert McCombe:

Yeah, I used to hate that word, but I can't really now. I can't avoid it.

Radim Malinic:

but, it's just good. As I said in my introduction, it's got this sort of meditative feel because everything's beautifully colored and stuff and sort of tone, tonally aligned. so it's, very good. It's very good indeed.

Robert McCombe:

I feel like I'm doing a portfolio review here of my Instagram.

Radim Malinic:

I'm curious about the mind of what goes in it because, we can change our minds so many times. do you plan your content in advance? do you know what's going to happen the next two weeks or what collaborations you've got? Or oh, is it just some people claim like, oh, I just wake up and I just post something. Whereas how do you do it? Do you plan? Would you?

Robert McCombe:

that's probably the worst thing that, like, as a skill I have is planning ahead. That's probably the worst thing I have and I'm really trying to improve on I've always tried stuff like, like notion and just even just pointing to notes, you know, trying to build a calendar. I'm really trying this year because when you start doing, pretty well on Instagram, the pressure starts building. I know when say I got to, I don't know, one number say like 40K, then I was, and then brands started messaging me. I knew I was like, okay, this is an opportunity and I either go with this opportunity and see where it takes me because I know from seeing YouTubers and Instagrammers that, this can open a lot of doors. This can, make it so financially, you're not so stressed. so when the pressure builds, that's when you got go either a hundred percent in or not. And then because of the pressure, if you're not planning ahead. Then your whole life just becomes a bit of a mess. And that's like what 2023 was like for me, I was just, posting something and then I like to try and post either every two days or three days. So after I posted something and I'm thinking, okay, what can I post in two days time? What can I post in three day times? And it was just a constant cycle of that. there's some times where I do, you know, not just more accidentally, I'll have three posts done. And then I'm like, okay, I'm going to use this week where I don't have to make posts for the next week. But then I just end up watching Netflix and taking a break. And then the cycle starts again.

Radim Malinic:

It's an interesting choice of words you've used there. So you used the word pressure and I have to post. is your Instagram monetized? Is it making you money? is it bringing income?

Robert McCombe:

Yeah, it's definitely bringing in income from sponsored posts because obviously the annoying thing is you don't get any money from Instagram. YouTube, if you got, I don't know, a million views, you'd obviously get money from it, but from Instagram, you don't that way. So, fortunately I've had a few sponsorships and I've just recently purchased my first home. So that's helped a lot. with that, I know that if I didn't have. A second source of income, I'd be a lot more stressed with this house. it's not like enough to say leave the job that I'm at, not that I'd want to, but, it's a nice cushion so that I don't feel, you know, if I want to, go on holiday, I can, or if I want to go out for a meal, I don't feel like I have to check my bank accounts.

Radim Malinic:

That's amazing. Well, congratulations on buying a new one. Buying your house.

Robert McCombe:

Thanks.

Radim Malinic:

It's always stressful. always stressful. and never feels easy. So congratulations. It's great to hear that. yeah, as I say, I want to go back to the word pressure because is your sponsored work time dependent? Is it like time defined? Or? It, are you under contract to actually sort of deliver X amount of powers? And so you can be sort of as confidential as you can,

Robert McCombe:

No, that's fine. Cause I'm obviously, I'm guessing you don't do that type of stuff with your Instagram cause it's all your work. usually when it comes to say, if a company emailed me or messaged me, it'd be, this is who they are. We're looking for this. we're looking for a reel or a carousel. it's usually 99 percent a reel cause there's companies. and then they'll say, this is our budget and it's usually always a really low number unless they're a nice company. but it's usually quite low. And then you just do the whole back and forth of, as influencers, we have a price in our head. fortunately I've met people, influencers that have, similar page size and they've really helped me because I had no clue. Like, I think I got my first paid sponsored post when I was about 60 or 70K. And it seemed really late for me. I kept thinking like, when's it going to happen? Like I was getting products sent to me for free, but I was seeing people with 20k followers that were getting, every other post was a sponsored post. I'm like, I've got like three times as many followers whereas, you know, when is company going to message me? So fortunately I've met some really nice people on Instagram that, If a company reaches out, I know that they've worked with them before, I'll be like, do you mind telling me how much you charged them or, what was it like? So you kind of get like your own little community when you start doing the whole influencer game.

Radim Malinic:

That's really good to hear that there's a sense of community there. people are happy to help one another, even though it sometimes feels like we've got our own horse in it, in the race, even though we should be all together, So that's exciting. I've got an anecdote with one of your sponsors, IONOS. I've been on IONOS since 2004. So it must be something right. But they once asked me to be in their TV commercial. this is years back and I was thinking about it. Like, okay, so I don't get anything for free. So I'm like, how much are you going to pay me to be in your commercial? And they never go back to me.

Robert McCombe:

Oh, really?

Radim Malinic:

Yeah. It was like, oh yeah. So we do want to be paid to be our promo, like to write. I mean, I don't get my internet for free, they've disappeared. But, think that's, interesting. That's, now you've got your products and stuff sent to you and it's great to know that instead of making money, but I want to go to. The part that you do, I'm sorry, this actually feels a bit like a portfolio review.

Robert McCombe:

No, don't worry.

Radim Malinic:

but what I want to know, obviously, from, this book, actually, we've established what's become a work for you in terms of what you do, obviously, it's a source of income and you treat it like a work, and you've done obviously amazingly well out of this. what type of work outside Instagram, outside running this thing? What type of work excites you? Because I can see your, photography work, especially in Chester Zoo. It seems to crop up here and there quite a lot. Seems incredible.

Robert McCombe:

Thanks.

Radim Malinic:

photography?

Robert McCombe:

I remember it's where I used to work, there were two photographers there, like they're both really good friends with me now, even though, um, we've all, most of us have left our company, and. I remember when they joined and they were talking about cameras, I had no interest in it at all, like, I just felt like we were the designers, they were the photographers, they knew the cameras, we knew Adobe, but I think it was actually because of Instagram, because I was just filming stuff with my phone because that's all I had, and then it got to a certain point where I was like, Okay, I'm gaining quite a lot of followers now, like I say, you gotta take that opportunity, so I wanted to up my game a little bit. So I was asking them, what can I get for, you know, a camera, just up my quality a little bit, and they recommended one. And my girlfriend, she's obsessed with Chester City, the whole family is, so they all have like yearly passes. So then, she really wants to go basically like every other week. So I was like, okay, let me just take my camera and just try and do some photography. And then I just started really getting into it. I wasn't really a fan of photography, but I think it was because I was doing it wrong. I was like, oh, let me take a picture of this nice building or, the scenic park or something. and that is when I went to Chester Zoo because it's so close to me. It's only about a 20 minute drive and then you take a picture of a cute little like panda or, a tiger. I don't know, I think it's because you have that sort of connection with the eyes. For me anyway, just wildlife photography. It's just so much fun because it just gets, as designers, we're just sitting in our chairs for 12 hours a day. So that's like a reason for me to get up early in the morning, get there before all the kids get to Chester Zoo and scare off all the animals. And then I'm walking around for four hours, but I'm still being creative. I'm still learning a new skill because I feel like with me, I don't really to do stuff. If I'm not really getting anything out of it, or if I'm not being creative or like, because otherwise I just think It's a bit of a waste of time. I'd be like, I could be at home filming a video or doing a post or doing this. So at least I'm getting something out of it, but I'm still having a bit more fun.

Radim Malinic:

I think we've established the two sides of the coin. So when you're on your Instagram, you're stressed and constantly under pressure. And when you find the time to I mean, I like that sort of juxtaposition, man. There's the work and then there's the total sort of meditative time where, you got time to yourself. And I loved the, expression when you said, before all the kids come and scare the animals, uh, reminds me of a South Park sketch when, is it Cartman goes into the swimming pool and it's like, it's all blue and all the kids turn up and turns yellow. And it's like, all the kids got in and spoiled it for everyone.

Robert McCombe:

It's the same. It's like when we go, cause did Chesu have a great Lima? Exhibition, well, enclosure where all the lemurs just roam free around you and all the lemurs around, then kids, as soon as they see it, they just scream and the lemurs just run away and I'm just there, my camera just, my face and my hands like, why?

Radim Malinic:

Yeah, I've got two young kids, I can understand literally, I can fully understand why. They're wilder than the animals, they're absolutely wilder. how much post production goes into your photography and what you use?

Robert McCombe:

well, camera gear wise, I use, Sony a7III. That's, so this is the second camera that I've owned. and there is quite a lot of post production. I'm still learning the whole editing side of it. I use Lightroom, it's just the easiest thing because it's all Adobe. there's a lot of post production. I bought like a preset pack for like 30. I had 200 presets. so I just whack one of them on and just try my best to edit it but also not make it look fake because it's very easy to go, like anything, say with design, you gotta know when to stop if you keep designing or keep editing a photo. It's either going to look bad or fake. but it's nice that like, say I have those photography friends that have been in the industry for a lot longer, they get paid to do that stuff. So I can just send off to them and be like, okay, does this look good or have I done something wrong?

Radim Malinic:

That's amazing, yeah, just another community to sort of fall back on and ask questions.

Robert McCombe:

Yeah, exactly. It's a very expensive hobby, but fun one.

Radim Malinic:

I think everyone who's gone into photography has pretty much said those words, it's either expensive job or expensive hobby. again, sorry for the portfolio review, but it's nice to see the progress of like how it's moved on to where it is now. so it's incredible. And I'm really fascinated. in the right way about your girlfriend's family, about going to Chester Zoo every other week. that is quite something. I mean, I always take my kids to the zoo and I'm traumatized. We don't go for like a month or anywhere else.

Robert McCombe:

I think for them, it's more that they would probably go like once a month. And then because I got into photography, then we would go like once every other week and then it I think I was going not too long ago, like once every week, because then I could just wake up on a Saturday. the zoo opens on 9am. So then, if I set the goal, I'm going to the zoo on Saturday or Sunday, I've got to be up at half seven. I've got to be out the door half eight. So then when I come back, I say 12 or 1 o'clock, I'm already awake. I might as well then just come. I'll know if I'll be awake to come back and do some filming or some social media work or something like that. It's not like I'm going to be just, rolling out of bed at 11 o'clock. So I

Radim Malinic:

there's definitely. that's amazing to hear. yeah, I mean, it's funny because obviously you say I got up at 7. 30, obviously as a parent, 7. 30 to me is a lion, which is a good one. No, don't you worry. with my kids, I take them to Hampton Court Palace, which is, totally different sort of kettle of fish, but obviously it's the sort of. old building, Henry D. Ace used to live there and it's beautifully done and looked after. And we used to live pretty much just across the road, so it felt like, we used to go to a second home, which was a palace. I can definitely understand. the feel like the second home, but also how it can be spoiled by other people. And everything that's public is usually spoiled by the public because it's just too many people doing the same thing at the same time. But, with the work that you've been doing recently, I can see that you brought us some assets for, for designers. And I know that we collaborated, was your design sort of screensaver wallpaper pack. Was that your first thing that you published?

Robert McCombe:

No,

Radim Malinic:

it something like, because I don't know the sequence fully, because actually you've got your wallpaper, your iPhone wallpapers and other things. how did that start?

Robert McCombe:

I can't remember how it started. I think it was again of just, I saw other people do on Instagram and. You know, I'm obviously a designer. So I was like, I can do that if they're making money off it and and it also came because I was making all this desk set of content and then, I had a wallpaper on my computer, like everyone, and I was getting comments saying, where's that wallpaper from? And I was linking, saying, Oh, I'll post a link to on my story. And, people obviously downloading it. So I was like, It just kind of makes sense, like why am I making all this setup content, but I'm not using my own wallpapers. I can easily design one and just put up for like a couple of quid and if it makes me like enough to, I don't know, pay for an Asda shop, I'm happy, you know, happy days. so I think it started with I did one wallpaper pack and I also did a social media template. Those, I think I released them pretty much at the same time. and then it kind of just snowballed, but even those, they take so long, to make, because say you make one wallpaper design, you could leave it as that, but you always feel that if you're going to charge someone, say, I don't know, 8 for digital pack that in a month's time or a week's time, they could be like, I'm bored of it. You want to make sure that if they're buying something, you want it to be a good product. I guess same with like you making your book. I'm sure you could put in any information that you wanted to, but the better the information you put in it, the better it will do. And the more happier customers will

Radim Malinic:

it's great to hear that you've thinking about the quality and not the attention to detail because you're right. I've been looking at this portfolio review. I'm sorry. I'm looking at your work and it's still, it still looks good. like when sometimes you think that, as you said, like there's trends and things and the work dates quite quickly. Whereas, I think you've reminded me of the sort of stock Apple ones, but you've taken it in a nice sort of direction where. You know, if someone doesn't need to change it within a month, even though it's like in the time and era we live now, what we had yesterday, sometimes it's boring already, like what we had a month ago, it was boring. And I said, because things and trends move so fast. yes, it's really well done. I mean, I haven't bought your pack,

Robert McCombe:

that's fine.

Radim Malinic:

but

Robert McCombe:

it to. Hmm.

Radim Malinic:

admired it from afar and I thought it was aesthetically really pleasing, but you recently, what I helped you with was the portfolio templates. And how do you see yourself? How do you see your platform for? helping up and coming freelancers, up and coming people like yourself, like, obviously, because for example, in my case, I did the books because I wish they were written 20 years ago, because I would have used them. And that was my very much the guiding light of okay, that's, this is what we're going to do. But with your portfolio template and the stuff that you're doing, what was the drive and what's the plan going forward?

Robert McCombe:

I mean, drive wise, I think it's just if you type in portfolio templates online, and I think every designer in their career has probably done that, whether you've been in the industry 30 years or you're just getting into it or coming out of university, I think we've all searched it just to compare, and what you'll find is that there's nothing really great out there. And like I bought one just for like more market research so I can compare. I think it cost me about 28 and that was on sale. And it was literally just a layout template. There was no like information or guidance. It was just, basically a grid. And I'm just thinking cause I'm still, relatively quite young and this industry, I've only been a professional designer for four years. I think, the whole drive was, coming out of university. If I had a portfolio template that had a bunch of information, I would find it 10 times easier putting it together. Especially when if you're coming out of university, you've got a class of like 30 people. Teachers and tutors can only give you so much time to put together your portfolio. So you've got to do a lot of yourself and it's such a stressful time, especially like I remember I was working in Primark and my girlfriend just saw me like, midnight, one o'clock, 2 AM, constantly updating portfolio and applying for jobs. Cause I just knew I didn't want to. Be working at Primark when I finish university and I have to go back home and swap. So that was the whole thing really. I just wanted to like make people's journey a bit easier. I know if I had something, like I've created and you've helped me create. It might not, guarantee me a job after university, but it would give me a much better chance of getting one. and I think say, I'd price mine as 15 because I know I'm aiming at students. They're not going to have a crap ton of money. And I think anything above what I've listed mine as is just ridiculous. I know I could charge 20, 25, 30 for the portfolio templates. And it probably would sell just as well as it's doing, but I don't want students or someone to be like, is it going to be worth it? Cause you know, even 50 pounds, it is, you know, can be quite a lot of money for some people, but I want it to be so that middle ground, like it's cause I put a lot of time and effort into it. where I'm getting my rewards for it, but they're getting a good product out of it. So long story short.

Radim Malinic:

No, no, it's a great story. And I think you've got a very interesting point there, because. Just like with everything, obviously going back to Instagram, with anyone can do anything. It's unregulated. I'm absolutely fascinated with digital products because I make paper products because of the feel and I might be old school, that's something that. Will and hopefully should withstand the test of time. like it will exist in some of the form for next, 10, 20, 30 years, somewhere in, in some someone's attic. But it's the tactile nature. Obviously. My background is in, in graphic design and very much, subscribing to creative review and the print and that kind of stuff. Obviously, I have to be careful about wholesale prices and on sale prices, like how much you sell it in the store, like with the books, and then I go on Instagram and I see someone selling like a branding PDF, and I'm going to be honest, it's a fucking piece of shit. Literally, it's absolutely dreadful, and it's like 70 pounds, 75 pounds, and it's like, Okay, we've got unregulated world and obviously there's no gatekeepers, more or less. That's why we can have this conversation and broadcast it to the world and no one's checking this and how good this conversation is or ever going to be. But, so that's the bonus, but on the other side, like there's so many sort of, I would say almost like traps for young designers, because It's for people like if you shout loudest, then you can get your products promoted, sponsored, you get someone to buy it. And I just sometimes feel like it's a tough sort of trade off because Unless you've lived and worked a little, you're not going to have the fundamentals of what you're actually talking about, And, and it sometimes seems to be, I'm 45 now, and I've been doing this for 23 years, nearly 24, it's, course, I was an idiot in 23 or 24 years ago, I was getting everything wrong and I thought I knew it all and I think that's the nature of humanity, like when we are, we've got this optimism bias got highly dialed in when I younger age and then when it comes to being older, you're like, yeah, okay, that's not quite right, is it?

Robert McCombe:

I'll touch on that. I think what you're saying about if you go on Instagram or if you just look online and you say you see a branding template or something and they sell for 70 and the bad thing is it does sell like no matter what they sell at it, I bet you like it is selling like I thought that's a wallpapers. I didn't realize how well something like that does sell. I'm not gonna be able to buy a house, another house by selling wallpapers, but it, it helps. But it's especially, say like the position I'm in, where I've got, 120, 000 followers. I know if I put something out to sell, the likelihood is people will buy it because I do have that, I've got that community now where people know me as if I release something, nine times out of 10, it's going to be a pretty good product. So you've, especially with mine, there's a lot of pressure on that. That's why I think I reached out to you. Because I've only had four years experience, you've had almost 24. But, also on that, say like the portfolio templates I purchased, you go onto their store and you'll see three other portfolio templates. Because they're not, so say like even Brand Guideline templates, they'll have 10 different versions of it. Like they're selling each version for 20. Because they're just literally tweaking the layout and sell it tweaking the layout seller So there's a lot of like more like I hate using words, but it's like kind of a scam it's like a money laundering technique of just changing this design slightly and then just Changing, you know, the cover images and there's a new product.

Radim Malinic:

it's very interesting because you can see the success of creative market obviously that There's good assets, there's like with everything, obviously you got your premium stuff, you got your medium stuff and you got, the bottom end, but you know, that's the journey of life. Like we're not always geniuses from right from the start, but it's interesting what you said, like how things change, because what I'm getting from this conversation, like how much you actually care about what you do, obviously, what is your pride of your work and what your reputation could be based on what you've created, which is interesting because, sometimes I just feel like people are, on the social and on those kind of creative markets as for rinse and repeat and disappear in a way. And I think in the time, and I'm repeating myself here, but in a time when you can put out anything for anyone, it's like, how do you give people the filter? For, you know, knowing what is the good asset and what is not a good asset, like what you can do, because I don't know if I'm too old school, but we used to buy like when I was starting in the industry, we're buying stock imagery and to use a stock image it was like, let's say it was five pounds or two pounds, whatever, like, and it was like, Ooh, you know, am I going to buy this image? And you you were thinking like Adobe created a tool when you can have comps in your document and you can buy them from there. Like it was, everything's changing so fast, but we were I feel like we were with, uh, with stuff, like we're cautious with technical badges because there were never sort of open ended and endless unless, until I started working in advertising, it was different having an open Getty account image, you know, Getty images account. I was like, Ooh, wow, okay, this is how this works, but it just strikes me that. Like the people make purchases, especially for the stuff that I've seen on your site and it sells and you go on Etsy and you see like people selling like a digital wallpapers for TVs and stuff, you're like, but there's clearly market. Like, again, I can go back to the point of we vote with our money. People vote with the money and people have, and there's a response to that request, I will buy this because it's obviously you lower that threshold. But it's interesting. How it all operates because you've kind of given us that sort of creative freedom and actually opened people's sort of likelihood of making money from their creative pursuit. So I've learned to learn to be wrong about things and accept that's how the world operates because as you see it from a traditional perspective, like I was sweating about a pound on the book, like, Oh, should be 16. and everything costs money. And you go Oh shit. And then you see something nice, as I mentioned earlier, which is. Most likely of inferior quality with seven pages and it costs five or six times more. Okay, well, it's fair play. You know, like that's how people do it. And I've been recently learning about how video content is so popular because it's so much easier to consume because I've learned, from making books for the creative industry that the more creative book, the more picture pages I had, the more of a book was successful. Because if you give people 40, 000 words to read, they don't really want to read that much. You know, I'm learning about how many people I've heard from. That, are slow readers. You know, you've got some of the famous names in the industry who've had my books and they're like, Oh, actually, I appreciate it's written in the smaller chunks because we look like superheroes on the outside, Oh, look, I can use all of this creative stuff. But, we had, people are dyslexic, people are slow readers, people got learning disabilities, obviously our sort of facade of a, picture makes us look. Not interesting, but you know what we've done behind the scenes and it's just, I think it's the sort of studying of the industry and the people and the humanity behind what we do that's giving me I think the most insight. But with the portfolio, so when I go back to the portfolio, it was actually interesting because as someone who runs a creative studio or branding studio and creative studio, I've been getting so many on almost daily basis, so many portfolios coming through and that kind of giving me a retrospective feel of like a, what have I learned from, copying other people's portfolios and like learning what should be there and the footer and that kind of stuff. And it's quite interesting to to have. That knowledge of a snapshot, okay, is your name on the page? Is your contact on the page? it's like, just imagine how it's being used because I remember having a website, one of my websites in 2008, I was on a call with a creative director from BBH in New York. Or another design agency, I think it was BBH, and it was on my website, it was like, where do I go next? And I'm thinking, crikey, he's a creative director in an advertising agency and he can't find a showcase button on my website. It's all going on a homepage now, it's just like you're trying to find always these. useful sort of desire paths that, how do you get people to actually find you and do the right thing and like making stuff interactive? And I don't know about you, like, with our work in the studio, we just always try to make a PDF, almost like a website, like just everything's clickable, everything's there just because that's we work now, you know?

Robert McCombe:

Yeah. I think it's hard because say, for you, like you're a director when you couldn't find like a showcase button, but if you give it to someone else, they'll have a different opinion. And then you give it to someone else and they'll have a different opinion. So that's another thing. It's like when you're making like a template, like a portfolio template. What works for one person and you send it to them and they'll, and you know, whoever's offering the job and they look at it, they'll be like, Oh, yeah, that's amazing. Then you send it to someone else and be like, well, this is crap. I'm never going to hire you. So it's really hard that even just that because design is just Everyone has their own taste of what they like and what they don't like. It's like where I work now, like it's only me and the two bosses that are in the company of designers. But all three of us have completely different tastes. So then we're just bickering about I want it minimalist. I want it more abstract. I want it like this.

Radim Malinic:

yeah, I think in my age, I've learned to be wrong because I see something come up online and I'm like, yeah, not for me. I look at it and people go crazy. oh, this is amazing. This is that. And there's certain agencies that. kept in line with the trends. And I think we've got a sort of brand, deja vu, that lots of things look the same these days. And it's it's the same stuff, but now you're getting like, is it amazing? And people hate stuff that you've expected to love. No, like you love it and people hate it and you love something you hate. Like I don't hate, but like thinking this could have been better, it just seems quite safe. And there's millions of people going out. I'll absolutely love it. I'm like, okay, that's good to be. But I think. What is great about aging as a designer, like I'm actually aging as a person and you can, you accept that you don't always have to win, that, there's always a space that, you know what, actually, let me listen to your argument. Let me see what you can add to the conversation because. There's a break point in, creative's life, especially I think I would love to believe to claim that you stop wanting things to be a certain way, because you thinking, okay, I think I've got the best idea. I think I'm married to this idea. I think it's amazing. Like everyone should buy into it. But it's always like created in seclusion when you're thinking like, okay, this is my idea. And then you realize, if you open Google or if you open whatever creative portfolio website, now you find I was being done 17 million times. Like it's not unique. the competition has got the same colors. They know they've got the same fonts and they're using the trendy styles and you're like, okay, it's fine just to create work that actually just suits the client. That's who suits the work. Because I'm getting from this conversation that you put lots passion and care into your work and you know, you put, as you said, you put the pressure on yourself like, okay, this needs to keep up and this has to be set in a way because, being part freelance and I was freelance for most of my sort of adult life and undue pressure when you think you're like, I has to be good all the time. I can't drop the ball. And then you end up burnout and stressed and thinking, I'm fighting battles here and they're not listening to me. And I remember it's kind of changing the career from being an illustrator for more than a decade, just because I thought that people who were briefing me were not necessarily experienced enough. Whereas that was just literally my projection of wanting to win. Like obviously I'm here to do this right, I know how it should be done. Whereas what I could have done, I could have been like, actually I'm curious because I'm mixing with a different opinion. I'm mixing with different ideas, which are cross pollination. Whereas I was like, look, I've seen this done 20 times before, for the 21st time, it should be done this way. And. That's not always conducive to creative work. what's your setup at your day job? You got a day job, is that right?

Robert McCombe:

so my day job is just a graphic designer, working from home, so that's like a task in itself, you know, doing social media on this after work, you're just in this same room from, about 9 o'clock or 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock, so it can get quite tough just doing that.

Radim Malinic:

and how'd you manage the cabin fever? How'd you manage, the timings?

Robert McCombe:

like just stopping social media and actually starting work, it's. It was hard, before I bought my house because I was living at my dad's house and, it was hard there because they always, they took over the living room. So basically, my bedroom was where I slept. So I basically just lived in that room 24 7, more often than not, so it's only recently now that I've got my own house that I've got a dedicated room for an office and then, I try and take my lunch down in my living room and I live near a park so I can try and get, out a bit more. I've got Chester Zoo, so that gets me out a bit more. but it's tough'cause especially'cause like my say, part-time job as social media is on my phone and my phone's always next to me.'cause it has to be. So then I'm always saying if I put a post out and it performs poorly, I can easily say it. And then all I've got my mind sometimes during work is, what's my next post gonna be when I should be focusing on a logo And I try not to lay effect. when I'm working on my day job, because we're in the process of getting into an office space at the moment. So I think once we get to the office space. I'm around people. It'll be a lot easier.

Radim Malinic:

the nudges are terrible. because. in the way you're quite subscribed to what you do, obviously this is, your secondary income, secondary stream of interest. It must be quite hard because I think you're still at that age where it can get to you if something doesn't work. is that right?

Robert McCombe:

yeah, I mean, I try and not to let it be, get to me as much.'cause I know that it's hard'cause I, still feel like I have no clue what I'm doing on social media because I follow so many people that are, either much better designers on me or they're better videographers on me, or better photographer than me. and I think probably what I've got going for me is that I don't really shy away from doing something. I'll just try and give it a shot. So I think that's why people follow me and why I'm able to grow my page. But I think it's more pressure that I put myself on because you know, spoiler alert, like there's, a lot of designers don't get paid millions for their job, you know, we're not doctors or lawyers or that, so especially, with, how your bills and everything, just having some sort of secondary income. And once that starts, you're like, okay. If this all goes away, what else am I gonna do in my spare time?

Radim Malinic:

you mentioned in passing, and thank you for this answer. you mentioned, and I'm going to follow on this. A diary of the CEO, in my previous answer. And I watched an episode recently, when Stephen Bartlett said that there's this sort of theory of one in 60, that if a pilot, deviates from the flight path by 1%, or one one degree, in fact, then they'll miss the airport by 60 miles. And I think what you're doing here is like actually creating. a value like in like obviously where you create and what's the what would you started today? It's gonna pay off in 10 years time. And let's do what you're creating now, which is interesting what is your 10 year plan?

Robert McCombe:

I don't even know what my next post is gonna be, so, I dunno, about 10 years but I've recently started, a YouTube channel, which that's one thing, one reason why I want to get much better at planning ahead, because just from doing two videos on YouTube, you realize that it's not like Instagram. You can't just record in a day and. it takes weeks and weeks. 10 year plan. I don't know.

Radim Malinic:

sorry, I mean if there's a sort of a new question, but like what is your north star? What do you see your purpose? Like, what would your ideal thing be in, you know, as an end result? cause you can't be making portfolio. Like you can't be thinking about next two portfolio. cause it's like being almost imprisoned in that cycle of like constantly thinking about this. imagine like people who scan things on Intel's and Asda don't necessarily think about the next scan or I wonder when my next customer is going to come. Of course, I'm trivializing the thing, but what kind of feel like, where do you, because this is in some way, this is going to pay off. Obviously you've created something. And what, from what I see, what you're posting is you create value for people that you're not like showing off and you're doing something silly, being a comedian, as I say, it's quite a feel. And, as a designer and something before Instagram, what was the sort of plan that want, you know, to become?

Robert McCombe:

Yeah. well before Instagram took off, my whole thing was I wanted to be just as good of a brand designer as possible. I wanted to just keep learning and I think That's what I love to do. I just love to learn. So before Instagram, I just want to be as good brand design as possible. Keep learning, get into a really good company and just grow within a company. Now that Instagram's taken off, it's changed my perspective a whole bunch because even though I'm a graphic designer, I personally I don't like doing freelance work. I don't know if it's just from personal experience or I think it's because, say, I've got quite a lot of anxiety so I put a lot of pressure on myself and second guess everything that I do. So I think if I was doing, say, freelance as a job, just by myself, I don't think I'd be able to cope. and I know, say, a lot of Instagrammers that are designers, that's what they do. They use their social media to bring in more clients. so I know I probably with my following, I could be a semi successful freelance designer, but I just love content creation now. I follow all these YouTubers and Instagrammers that do like tech and products, so probably a dream job would be to be a content creator, just, wake up and, I don't know, film a cool webcam or a cool monitor or something like that or just film a day in a life. but then there's also pressure on that because I know a lot of the people that follow me for design stuff. There's people that follow me for desk setups, there's people that follow me for products. So it's quite a hard balance because usually people just make a page for one thing in particular, whereas I've got quite a few things. So I'm trying not to shake the boat too much, try and keep everyone happy, but like have a balance. level of content, but I think there might be a day where I'll have to be like, okay, this is the direction I want to go in, and if it pays off, great, if it doesn't, oh well,

Radim Malinic:

Very interesting answer. I'm always wary of social media after the website Vine was switched off. There were always people with millions of followers. So now. And I wondered, because obviously these websites won't fail, Instagram obviously no one's going to switch Instagram off, no one's going to switch, Facebook one day might go away because it's just rubbish now, but, do you ever fear that, you're living on someone else's server? Do you ever fear that something might happen and this could go away?

Robert McCombe:

yeah, I think especially because everyone just makes a whole big story about the algorithm and that how one day. they'll make an update to the algorithm like they always do. And then you'll go from say, at the moment I'm getting about 300 followers a day and they'll change the algorithm and I'll start like losing 100 followers a day. so there's a lot of that does cloud over you that like, say at the moment, if I have a brand partnership, I'm like, okay, I've got to make as much money as I possibly can within the next six months. Cause after that Instagram could change and I could be making no money from it. So you got to seize your opportunity, but I'm trying to get back in the mindset of where I started my Instagram started gaining a lot of traction because I was having fun and there got to a point where say I was, in the process of buying my house. And I, I actually started making a little bit of money just after I bought my house. So it came at a really good time and then because I started, I was getting all these bills, I was like, Okay, I'll say yes to that. I'll say yes to that. I'll say yes to that collaboration. While trying not to say yes to like, you know, a Barbie collection that wouldn't fit in with my content. but now I'm getting to a point where I'm like, okay, I need to stop putting so much pressure on my shoulders, not take on too much work. And just get back to doing the content that I really enjoy and not think, Oh yeah, that's a lot of money, but would my audience like it? it's tricky.

Radim Malinic:

You've summed it up. You've summed it up nicely, saying it was. Picking up because I was having fun and it's pretty much just like everyone's creative career, you get into it because it's fun because you're like, you're curious, you want to see around the corner, you will see okay, how do I make this happen? And then the client comes in. And the fun goes away. you mentioned that you're not keen on freelance work and, you and I think you find your feed in, in content creation and what you described making me think of, That, guy, which, his work is fantastic. he's just, he's got like a nice tone of voice and everything's kinda interesting and I always feel like. We still live on other people's servers. We still like creating work. When you think about it, like you're making Instagram more popular in a way, what you do is you keep the engagement for them, you know? And I always wonder like what happens when the lights switch off,

Robert McCombe:

Well, that's what Like, I know a few people that, have a lot of followers on Instagram and we talk, and they say that they try and, when they make a post, they'll set up an email newsletter and attract people there, or they'll attract people to their Twitter, so they're trying to, grow all their different platforms, or whatever, so then if one does go away. they are back up. That's probably something I should think about but I'm also trying not to because then you get into a marketing or like a salesman like you follow me on Instagram but come to my TikTok, come to my Twitter. I'm like, it's a good way to think about it but then I guess it's like the same of taking on a sponsored person then you're forcing yourself to make something just to save what you're gonna have. it's hard but having fun again.

Radim Malinic:

Having fun is good. Having fun is fun. well, what a genius sentence. Having fun is fun. My previous guests, Said that the power of saying things like when you meet someone and vocalize something that you want to do often pays off. And I'm a big believer of sort, you know, telling everyone what you do and what I do and what date on what I know what they do.'cause you wanna work with people, so, Before we close off, what would you say is your sort of, most coveted collaboration or something that you would like to, if you can have anyone on your channel, if you could do, all the tech reviews and stuff, what would it ideally be? Because I'm not going to ask you what's your advice for people, oh, if someone wanted to be an influencer, what should they do? Because People will get in there for the wrong reasons, but let's keep it at what you do, if you can do tech, if you can do anything, what would that be? What brands and what products?

Robert McCombe:

Yeah, I think the person, like you mentioned him, but Marcus Brownlee, like MKBHD, because he was one of the first to ever do it and he's probably the only person that, because I obviously subscribe to him, when a new post of his comes onto my YouTube feeds, like I just stop everything and watch that. Like he's probably the only person that'll do that because I know every single time he posts something. It's going to be a great video and it's going to be something that no we've never seen before because he has access to everything. So, I think that's like a bit of great inspiration for like, say even me, so then I know if I'm going to post something on my Instagram, it's got to be something that if people recognize it's type of, my post. It's coming from me that they know it's gonna be something good. So I think Marcus Brownlee, something like that. I can't remember the company, the company that does all like the robotics. Boston, is it Boston Robotics? They do the robotic. Yeah, they do like all the robots. I would just love to see all that in real life. he made a video about that. I've probably watched it about like 20 times. that doesn't seem like a lot, but I always just like randomly think about it goes three Boston Robotics, so I, would just love to see tech. That just blows my mind. It just makes me think, oh, what's this tech going to look like in three years time? that would probably be the dream.

Radim Malinic:

Yeah. I think that's your one in 60. Obviously you just keep on track. what do you want to do? Because I think it's going to happen sooner than you think, and what you're doing. So it's been a pleasure talking to you because As I said, we only know each other from Instagram messages and our collaboration. And I think you've achieved amazing branded look that I think is a sort of, as I said, in a introduction, it's a calming and that's a calming sanctuary and respite for all that noise that's out there. So I think, you can delete the other four Figma files because I think you've got it right and just keep evolving and it's been nice talking to you because I think in that noise of people out there. it's nice to know the person behind the pictures and behind the words and collaboration so thanks for coming on

Robert McCombe:

thanks for having me on this first podcast is definitely experience. So Thank you.

Radim Malinic:

Thanks very much All Thank you for listening to this episode of Creativity for Sale podcast. The show was produced and presented by me, Radim Malinic. Editing and audio production was masterfully done by Neil mackay,. from 7 million Bikes Podcasts, Theme music was written and produced by Robert Summerfield. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to support the podcast, please subscribe and leave a rating or review. To get your own action plan on how to start and grow a life changing creative business. You can get a copy of the Creativity for Sale book via the links in show notes. burning, and until next time, I'm Radim Malinich, your guide through this exploration of passion, creativity, innovation, and the boundless potential within us all.






Radim Malinic

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