Pomegranate: Issue #7

Pomegranate celebrates one year!

Today, I'm celebrating my birthday and the one-year anniversary of publishing Pomegranate. It seems hard to believe that a year has passed since the first issue saw the light of day.

Many readers ask me about the title "Pomegranate."  Here’s where it comes from:

When I was in elementary school, I was the editor of the school paper. That was one of my favorite parts about school and an experience that most likely set the path to my future as a graphic designer and marketer. I loved the process of taking ideas, stories, poetry and illustrations and putting them together into a beautiful whole.

The school paper was titled "Pomegranate" — the perfect symbol for the eclectic content and rich ideas in each issue. Pomegranate also happens to be one of my favorite fruits. It is rich in goodness and represents abundance. Each kernel is a new juicy idea. I wanted my new publication to have the same richness, and to recreate for myself the fun I had as a newspaper editor all those years ago. Thus, the title was resurrected and the new and improved Pomegranate was born a year ago today.

I'm in deep gratitude for every one of you who are reading these words right now. Pomegranate is helping unify a powerful community of creative entrepreneurs worldwide and is providing inspiration and information to make a difference in the creative industry.

In the spirit of gratitude and giving, this issue focuses on the work you do pro-bono. It's wonderful that so many creative businesses donate their time and talent to support important causes.  Here, I share some ideas that will help you avoid the pitfalls of pro-bono work, and make sure your good gift ends with good feelings for everyone.

With love to you,


Donating and working pro-bono

A recent question posted by a design firm agency owner on LinkedIn asked: “What do you do when a client suddenly asks you to do pro-bono work?” 

The responses were a collection of horror stories warning the person not to give in to the client’s request. One person even wrote: “I have found that anytime I have worked pro-bono, the project ends up being a never ending process, and the revisions tend to be three times as much.”

Sound familiar?

Many designers and creative agencies donate their work for all the wrong reasons. If you have a big heart and a desire to make the world a better place it’s hard to say no. My advice: If you want to support a cause, take out your checkbook and donate some cash.

But fleeing in terror doesn’t have to be the only response to a pro-bono request. If you see a real business opportunity in a pro-bono client, rather than a “save-the-world” opportunity, go ahead and take the job. Just make sure you treat the work in a professional way that serves your firm as much as your work serves the client.

Pro-bono projects are a great way to showcase your work and promote your business. For a new designer, donating your work can quickly build a portfolio of good design for good clients that you might not otherwise have been able to work with. 

And sometimes pro-bono work can be the foot in the door that leads to paid business. When I first started out, a small favor for a friend who worked at a large nonprofit organization ended up becoming one of my biggest clients ever, leading to more than 15 years of high-paying work. We donated our initial services, got the attention of the higher-ups in the organization and were given the opportunity to pitch a big project that ended up landing and retaining the client.

For that kind of success story to happen, you must lead the process from beginning to end. You’ll need to have clear guidelines around accepting pro-bono work and a defined strategy for managing the client.

Here are eight ideas you can immediately implement into your business that will help prevent that friendly-seeming pro-bono client from becoming a monster at the next full moon.

Being well-positioned in a defined market with a clear mission and vision for your business is your best guide to knowing when it’s appropriate to give away your work. Mission-relevant work will be connected to your heart and to the core purpose of your business. You’ll know why you’re saying yes, and you’ll say no without guilt.

Don’t rush to accept pro-bono work without making sure there’s a good match between the client and your business. Nonprofits are used to applying for grants for financial support, so they’ll accept the extra step. By having an application process in place, you send a message that what you offer is valuable and that your free work is limited. An online application helps market yourself and creates a buzz around the pro-bono work that you do. And the application gives you a tool to judge the professionalism of the client before you agree to work with them.

Limit the amount of pro-bono work you accept. Set a personal limit that respects your time and talent, and protects you from client demands that become abusive. One pro-bono client per year may be your rule. Or decide how much monetary value you’re willing to donate each year and set that as your limit. If 10% of your income feels good to you and that happens to be $20,000 in services, be clear on what $20,000 can buy your client.

Need I say more? This is the professional way to operate no matter who you’re working with. A pro-bono project is a real project, and real projects require signed contracts. Don’t assume that your client knows how you work or what you’re willing to give. Have a clear agreement around schedules and means of communication, and a clear exit strategy if the client doesn’t play by the rules.

Pro-bono means no pay (literally pro-bono publico is defined as “for the benefit of the public”) but you can receive benefits of other kinds. The biggest potential value for you from doing pro-bono work is marketing and self-promotion. Use the project to tap into your client’s resources and connections. Ask for press release mentions, introductions to board members, extra samples of the work or referrals. Be creative.

As with paid work, don't waste your time and resources if you aren't working with the final decision makers. Find out who these people are as part of your application process and insist on working with them directly. If you aren’t granted access to the top layer on the client side, it should be a big red flag that you’re about to enter a danger zone.

Get a clear agreement up front on how much money your pro-bono client is able to spend on producing the work that you do. Don’t waste your time and energy creating work that the client can’t afford to produce. A production budget will help set a creative direction and keep you and your client in check.

This is my favorite strategy to help pro-bono clients understand the actual value of your work. Ask the client to pay the retail fee of what your work is worth, and then write a check back to them for that same amount when the project is completed. Your services will now be paid for and will become an added budget item for your client in their overall operational budget. Although from an accounting standpoint this will be a total wash, it will ensure that your donation is properly recognized.

Pro-bono work has a lot of pros. Work for nonprofits can feel a lot more heartwarming than for-profit projects. You’ll often be given more creative control in your design. Pro-bono work can be a quick way to build a portfolio, and can sometimes lead to paid work within the same agency, or be leveraged as marketing leading to good paid work elsewhere.

No one wants their business life to look like a scene from a horror movie. Instead of a garlic necklace, arm yourself with a clear mission, a defined giving limit, an application process and the other strategies outlined above. Instead of pulling the blankets over your head, come out into the light of day, and bravely say yes to pro-bono work.

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work

Many of the people I mentor sign up for coaching with me to improve their work-life balance. This talk by Nigel Marsh speaks to everything I believe in when it comes to doing just that. Take a 10 minute break and listen to this inspiring talk.


OK, this may not be the healthiest recipe from my kitchen but it is the holiday season and this cake is so easy to bake, you'll kick yourself for not making it sooner. This is by far one of the most baked cakes in my kitchen. By now, I know this recipe by heart ... It's a hit at every dinner party and will last for days to enjoy. Just the right kind of snack with your afternoon coffee or tea. 

Prep time: around 20 minutes

Bake time: 50 minutes at 350 degrees F



2 cups Granny Smith green apples - peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange juice

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 cup raisins 

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt or tube pan. In a medium bowl, combine the diced apples, 1 tablespoon white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups white sugar, oil, orange juice, vanilla and eggs. Beat at high speed until smooth. Stir in flour mixture. Fold in chopped walnuts. 

Pour 1/2 of the batter into prepared pan. Cover the batter layer with the apple mixture and sprinkle the raisins on top of the apples. Pour the remainder of the batter on the apple layer and spread evenly. 

Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes (to check if the cake is done stick a butter knife or wooden skwer into the middle part. If the knife come out dry, the cake is done!)

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. 

Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Take a bite and beware, you will find yourself making uncontrollable yummy sounds.