I was one of the unusual few who knew what she wanted to do for a living at age 13. Art, writing and syntax came naturally from the outset, due in large part to my parents taking the time to encourage and support these skills. They bought what few art supplies they could afford and spent a great deal of time reading to and with me; among my fondest memories are my mother's spelling bees where I was the only contestant. I also acknowledge excellent teachers, within a strict work ethic-oriented school system, for my continued improvement in the visual and written arts. In short, I was taken seriously when it mattered the most.

However, I had formed the early opinion that something else other than the fine arts had to be pursued to earn a living. And so, I graduated high school with the intent of blending two careers: commercial art and writing.

Prior to art college, I learned Graphic Arts Production on the job under a Work Experience Program at The Wagner Reid Group, Calgary. Here, I learned invaluable technical tricks that I would not learn in college - this knowledge was instrumental to my ability to design work that was more easily printed and therefore more versatile and cost-effective for clients. In other words, I was taught to think of the many others who came after me in a project's production line and strove to make their jobs easier.

In 1987, I graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design with a four year Visual Communications Diploma, with minor studies in Woodcrafting (so I come by my zealous interest in Heart and Hands honestly). Immediately after graduation, I founded The Freelance Network Inc., a consortium of creative professionals contracted on a job-by-job basis to suit each client's specific communications project.

My first professional award was for copywriting for an exclusive new Calgary community, affirming my choice to blend my career interests. Many clients have gone on to trademark slogans I have written and, although this work does not provide personal acknowledgement, I find it very satisfying to see the long lifespan of a few well chosen words memorably strung together.


  1. Encourage and provide quality, clarity and accuracy in written communications of all types. (The 'fast-track' trend of the 80's did much to erode this; the Internet, although in many ways a godsend, is not providing much trend reversal.)

  2. Heighten awareness of what a professional editor or writer can bring to a project, even for clients who are accomplished writers and have found their own 'voice'.

  3. Help clients plan and create unified, relevant web site content through design, research, and editing.

  4. Defend animal rights and promote proactive pet health care by aiding in the dissemination of useful, non-propagandistic information and case studies.

  5. Work with a reputable literary agent on viable publication concepts.

  6. Increase literacy; help adult learners make sense of the English language by devising a better system or rediscovering an old one which is more effective than current methodologies.

Insights for the Client

  1. It's an old saying for a reason: 'first impressions are lasting ones'. Ensure that your projects speak well of you by devoting the necessary time required and delegating to competent people who will complete them with integrity.

  2. Avoid rush jobs - the results will be superior, less costly, and easier on everyone's health. Creativity happens at all hours and the best work takes time to complete correctly. You can respect the process without being a pushover-set milestones the artisan can commit to.

  3. If you must work with people whose skillsets are unfamiliar to you, have the candidates interviewed by a qualified, unbiased person who can ask essential technical questions (and know the right answers!). You can still be present during these meetings, since what you hear and observe will likely help you with your final selection.

  4. Another old saw: 'You get what you pay for.' You can't have it cheap and elegant.

  5. Get it in writing. This is not so much about trust as it is about my favourite topic: clarity. It is impossible to remember every detail agreed to on a project, let alone speculate whether your meaning was clear during your last meeting.

Contact Joan Dooling

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