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How unused client collateral can drive new business

Updated: May 6

Repurpose unpublished to highlight your skills for future clients.

A group of domestic animals in dna

Turning disappointment into opportunity

Anyone who relies on client-based work to earn a living understands that projects can disappear unexpectedly like an ephemeral whisper of smoke.

By disappear, I mean like in the midst, while you have already completed some or most of the work.

This situation happened to me recently.

I had secured a lucrative opportunity to write a blog series for a prominent biotechnology company. The objective of the series was to showcase the breadth and depth of the company's scientific technology segments, aiming to attract new business development partners.

After crafting three highly researched blogs in this blog series of six, I was shocked to discover that the entire team I was collaborating with was laid off.

I was so upset for the team because they were all blindsided. This type of unexpected event is not uncommon for a third-party contractor like me, but never a welcome surprise.

My disappointment was multifold. I was disheartened for my clients, frustrated over the lost income, and also dismayed at the realization that my meticulously completed blog articles would never see the light of day.

If you provide services to people, the key to survival is what you do in the face of disappointment.

In this scenario, I knew I couldn’t post any of the blogs I wrote, but it inspired me to make something new.

I enjoy the process of making digital pictures. How about crafting an original JEFS picture as a tribute to the blogs that are destined to stay in client purgatory?

This exercise achieves two things:

  • Gives me a purpose to create.

  • Provides another opportunity for a future client to see my work.

The dummy brief: a creator’s friend

I practice creating all the time. I create in a lot of different ways, but one of my favorite things to do is to make images that share a message.

Without a client prompting me, I like to make up my own briefs (e.g. dummy brief). My fake briefs pull from a variety of considerations depending on where I think I need practice.

Here is the brief I created inspired by one of the aforementioned unpublishable blog posts:

A billion-dollar biotech company needs a blog written to educate their audience about the many different animal health testing products they have available. A.) Write an informative, researched blog and B.) create a companion blog cover photo highlighting varied domestic/ farm animals while including a touchpoint to genetic testing.

Part A. is completed, so I dove right into Part B.

Designing a photo with Adobe Photoshop generative fill

I have been using generative AI in my design practice since I first tried applying DeepDream code to my own art in back in 2020.

Now, generative AI tools have permeated anything and everything, including the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools.

My current favorite generative AI application is in Adobe Photoshop. One can generate amazing new imagery with a good starting image and the PS generative fill tool.

To create Part B. of the brief, a custom animal health testing blog image:

  • I started with a purchased stock photo of nucleic acid strands on a dark background. I know DNA is a touchpoint for genetic testing and wanted it forward in my design.

  • Then, I proceeded to select and generatively fill sections surrounding the DNA strands with domestic animals that my blog post highlighted. This process takes a bit of time to get the right outcome and placement.

  • Finally, I pulled the photoshopped image into Adobe Illustrator to finish with my own styling and font title.

The result is a Chiaroscuro-styled tableau about animal health testing asking for a scroll pause.

A group of animals in dna
JEFS Animal Health Testing blog image

Next steps

Now that I have my own inspired custom image, I can use it in a variety of ways for feedback or to bring visibility to my services.

Not all client work is shareable, but all your client work can inspire new work, new leads, and additional services.


Disappointment is a common companion of a creative freelancer, but perspective is the salve that creates opportunity.

When you find yourself facing a lost project, do a retrospective on what work you have performed, and find a creative path to keep pushing it forward.

Your next client will thank you.


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Julia Fletcher is founder of JEFS Storytelling Arts, a graphic design studio, where she uses her unique research skills and artistic talents to create custom visual stories that help clients’ increase engagement and promote the education of their audience.

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