Juliet Meeks

This week we have the pleasure of chatting with another Creative Lady Directory member, Juliet Meeks, a designer based in New Orleans, LA specializing in surface design, patterns, branding, and product design.

Juliet's journey to surface and pattern design has been full of inspiring shifts, from starting as an English major in college, to transitioning to a graphic design track in her senior year, to finding a calling with surface and pattern design through the 100 Day Project. This interview is a great reminder to give into the process and see where it takes you.

Thank you Juliet for sharing! 

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer.

I started out in college as an art major, but by the second semester switched to English. I don't think I was ready to take art seriously as a career choice, but I don't regret my time as an English major at all. By senior year, a new digital media concentration within the English department got me taking graphic design classes. Design felt like the perfect way to marriage words and art - we even did a fun project typographically illustrating a poem by Pablo Neruda!

By graduation I was completely into graphic design as my career. It was tough finding a full-time job in a relatively small city (New Orleans) with not much experience, so I first did an unpaid summer internship at a local branding and web agency. I loved the branding, but web design was not my favorite. I then moved onto a second (paid!) internship with an independent designer. I was inspired by her freelance business but did not feel ready to do the same thing yet, and about one year after graduation I landed a full-time design gig at a local weekly newspaper. I stayed with them for two years, but one year in I started to realize I needed to do my own thing. I took a business plan class, saved money for almost a year, soaked in lots of blogs and podcasts, and took the leap!

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I was working on freelance design projects even while I had my full-time job, though they weren't consistent. I got a great client because of my job, but then right when I quit they unfortunately hired an in-house designer. That would have been really helpful as the first 6 months were tough; luckily my previous job hired me during busy weeks as a contractor. Most of my clients in the beginning were referrals from friends, family, even my design professor. Then I started to get clients from people finding my website/blog, through local efforts like networking events, and finally more through Instagram.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Have healthy work habits; Make time to do whatever it is you need to do to feel like you are taking care of yourself. For me that is always enough sleep, appreciating the extra time I now have with my boyfriend and dog, yoga, and checking myself when it comes to work-related pressure. 

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom
Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?

It is hard to have time to do everything you want to do, and unfortunately time is often tied to income as a freelancer. In order for me to have space to work on more personal creative projects, I'm setting up "passive" income avenues like online classes and royalty-based projects. These all take time, too, though! I also really enjoy designing and creating my own products, but these take money to produce as well so I'm very selective and working on creating even better designs with each new product.

What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?

It's having the flexibility in my schedule to spend more time with loved ones, take an afternoon off to recharge, or just run an errand when I need to! 

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

It seems like the 100DayProject and 30DayProjects have played an important part in your career. Can you tell us more about those creative journeys and their impact?

When I started out as a full-time freelancer, my client projects were all brand design based. I still work on those types of projects, but the business plan class I took was all about designing my own line of pillows! I haven't made pillows yet, but I realize now that the crux of that intention was designing my own patterns and textiles. I wasn't even designing many patterns at the time, but I have always gravitated towards them. I knew I needed to create A LOT of work to figure out my design style, so on a whim I took an online watercolor class and immediately was excited to start #100DaysofPaintedPatterns on Instagram. The commitment was intense, but it was what I needed at the time. Looking back those patterns are simpler than my current work, but necessary for it to evolve. Since then I have finished a few 30 day challenges on Instagram, with another starting soon. I like the structure and 30 days feels like the perfect amount of time (but I suggest anyone to try 100 days, even if it's not every day!).

The impact of these challenges has been instrumental to my career. I feel encouraged to create lots of new work, which helps me get seen by potential clients on Instagram. I still remember the moment when Design*Sponge regrammed one of my early patterns; I know we should have validation from ourselves for our work but it helped me feel so inspired to keep going! Most of my surface design clients have come from Instagram, or snowballed because of previous clients or online press. I feel so lucky to create the work I have always wanted to make.

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I actually love these details! Here is what I'm currently using: For bookkeeping I use Freshbooks, Google Sheets, and TurboTax. I label all of my yearly expenses within my email since most of my receipts are emailed. HelloSign for contracts, CraftyBase for product costs and inventory, and Todoist is what I use every day for organizing my tasks and even working with branding clients on group tasks. I try to save 30% of all income to pay estimated taxes quarterly and as a cushion for when annual taxes come around.

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

This exists on a minimal level for me. My boyfriend is also creative, and we work in the same space, so we are both always ready to get to work on our projects. We have to make sure that we take time together to do fun things like just go to the museum or Aquarium. We do, however, take our dog on lots of walks and adventures! So I would say, you probably know what the balance should look like for you, so just take little steps that you can to get there.

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired?

A vacation at least every few months, even just a drive to visit family, seems to do wonders when I get back. Once a month would be ideal!

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Self-direction, and a balance of confidence and modesty.

Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom
Juliet Meeks | Freelance Wisdom

Portrait Photography by Darian Kayce

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Liz Kuball

This week we are excited to talk with Liz Kuball, a photographer based in Los Angeles with roots along the shores of Lake Michigan. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and editioned through 20x200. Liz's clients include the Ace Hotel, Condé Nast TravelerThe New York Times, Refinery29, and The Wall Street Journal. AND we are so lucky to have her as a member of our Creative Lady Directory!

Thank you Liz for sharing your captivating photos and empowering insights. 

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer.

I majored in English, worked in house for a publishing company as a copyeditor for a couple years, and then went freelance. Editing was never a job I wanted. As a freelancer, I stuck with editing a lot longer than I would have if I'd stayed in house, because I enjoyed a lot of the perks of freelancing (mainly, the freedom to live where I want and set my own hours). For a while, I thought I wanted to be a writer, and I went to grad school for writing in my late 20s, but I wasn't feeling it and I was floundering a bit. I took an independent study course toward the end of my time in grad school, and at the beginning of the semester, the professor told me he wanted to put together a reading list for me, to try to give the semester some focus. He asked what I was interested in. I said, "I've always been interested in photography," and that changed everything. He had me reading Susan Sontag and Janet Malcolm and thinking and writing about photography, and by the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to be a photographer, not a writer.
After I got out of grad school, while continuing to work as an editor, I started teaching myself how to use a camera and also studied the history of photography. I took a couple classes at a local community college, but really just started taking lots and lots of pictures and looking at the work of other photographers. I started a blog in 2007 and fell into the fine art photoblog community. I started showing my work in group shows and editioned a couple prints through 20x200. But something still wasn't right. I didn't like the split between my day job and the thing I loved to do. For years, I had worried that if I made photography my job, I would hate it because I had hated my day job for so many years. But finally, in 2014, I decided I would start going after photo assignments.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I started by making a list of all the publications I wanted to shoot for. Most of the publications were places I had in mind already, but I also looked at the client lists of photographers whose work I admired and felt some connection to or thought shared a similar aesthetic. I did test shoots (basically, self-assigned stories along the lines of what I hoped to be assigned someday), and I shared those images with the photo editors I wanted to work with. I put together a print portfolio, and I went to San Francisco with it, and then to New York. Slowly, I started getting assignments. I started sending out postcards once a month, with handwritten notes on the back. I went to New York again, this time with a much better book, and took more meetings.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Can you tell us a bit about what your photography process looks like?

For my personal work, it's largely about heading out the door with my camera, usually on foot, but sometimes behind the wheel of my car, and just looking for photos. If I'm doing it right, I'm not in my head too much. Thinking is my greatest roadblock. Being in my head too much, second-guessing myself and what I'm doing, can be debilitating if I let it.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance photographer so far?

Having confidence in myself, not allowing self-doubt to creep in, focusing on my own work, not getting distracted by what other photographers are doing.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The freedom.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

It's really more of the same: making good work and getting it out there. If I feel like I'm not getting the clients or assignments I want, I never forget that it's because my work just isn't there yet, and that means I need to work harder and shoot more. Never losing sight of that means I'm solely responsible for my failures. I think some people have trouble with that, but I find it comforting, because it means it's within my control. If I make great work, the clients will follow.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Liz Kuball | Freelance Wisdom
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Do you have advice regarding choosing the clients with which you work?

For editorial photography, I think it's really about knowing your work, and knowing the magazines and newspapers that would be a good fit for you. I don't think it hurts to go after clients who might not at first glance seem like a good fit for your work, but then you should be able to talk to those editors about why you're approaching them.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Because I've been a freelancer since I was in my mid-20s, I feel like these details are second nature to me. I don't have an accountant. I do all my own taxes (using TurboTax). I keep a spreadsheet of all my assignments, how much I invoiced for, and when I invoiced. I keep another spreadsheet of all my expenses and scan all my receipts. I save a percentage of every check I get for estimated taxes. (The first year I freelanced, I didn't know I was supposed to pay estimated taxes, and I've never made that mistake again!) The past few years, I've used YNAB for my budgeting, and that's made a huge difference just in terms of not stressing about money and making sure that I always have enough to cover the kinds of expenses that crop up unexpectedly.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I often hear from friends that they wouldn't be able to work from home. They think they'd never get any work done. For me, that's never been an issue. In terms of making sure I don't work too much, when I was editing, that wasn't hard because I didn't love the job, so I just did as much as I needed to do to pay my bills. As a photographer, I actually don't even want a work-life balance. I want photography to be my life, so I never feel like I'm working too much. I love it! I just want more!

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Usually, it has nothing to do with looking at photographs. I'll see a movie or read a book or take a trip, and that gives me new ideas. 
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are: 

Confidence, discipline, and an open mind.
© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

© Liz Kuball, do not repost without permission

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Kelsey Hutchinson

We are excited to be taking the conversation international again this week, this time with Creative Lady Directory member Kelsey Hutchinson from Australia. 

Kelsey is a designer & illustrator who creates handcrafted identities, printed matter, illustration and lettering for kind people. She brings together a perfectly imperfect design sensibility and a personal transparent environment — one that results in thoughtful design and sustainable outcomes. Thank you so much, Kelsey, for sharing your wisdom with us!

Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and illustrator?

Shortly after graduating from a design degree in my homeland of Australia, I set off to travel for a few months and found myself residing in London. I was invited to intern at a couple of fancy design studios where I was contributing to concept ideas for pharmaceutical companies and banks. I instantly felt this wasn’t the road for me. That being said, I soaked up the experience and felt it was a good place to start before I decided what was next. Shortly after, I landed a full-time position as an in-house designer at a high-end lifestyle brand. My role here was incredibly broad and included styling, assisting in photo shoots, marketing media, textile print design as well as producing creative graphics required for an international brand. The experience I gained here was overwhelming and I will be forever grateful for what the position taught me. Towards the end of my time in London I went freelance for the very same company and worked on a retainer. I began to source my own clients for the days I had available. When I wasn’t working, I was taking short trips to Europe and spending my time exploring the city and generally making the most of being a twenty-something. It was an eventful time in my life and not how I imagined transitioning into full time freelance. I’m now back home, living and working from a little Beach Shack studio smack bang by the sea on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

EMAIL. Whether I was cold-emailing someone that I admired to casually meet for a coffee or reaching out to a friend of a friend or even a previous work colleague. I also asked friends to introduce me to people within their circle via email, this encouraged a more natural conversation! Sure some came back with ‘sorry we are not interested’ or ‘we don’t think you're the right fit’ and of course some didn’t reply at all. However many people did get back to me and provided me with the opportunity to produce some of the work I am most proud of and relationships that have been invaluable.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

We love how you call your design sensibility perfectly imperfect. Tell us a little bit more about your style.

I’ve always been naturally pulled towards objects and things that are a little off. I grew up with my mum collecting beautiful trinkets and ceramics so I have a feeling this may have something to do with it! I like the asperity and asymmetry in design and have always been drawn to the overtly handmade. With the current makers movement this may be in my favour, but it will always be my personal taste and I feel overjoyed when clients reach out seeking this.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance creative so far?

It would have to be comparing opportunities I would have living in a bustling city versus a surf town (thank you internet!). Also, not knowing when enough is enough is something else I struggle with, there is always something else to work on after you have crossed off all your to do’s for the day.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

1. Direct contact with clients and the satisfaction of seeing a job through from start to finish.
2.  For a short trip this month I can simply plan to work evenings for a week so I can explore Tasmania by day.
3. Days at home with my Aussie Shepherd pup Birdie!
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Without a doubt, travel! Last year I went backpacking with my partner for three months. We made it through Morocco, Spain, Sicily and Portugal, always aiming for places considered off the beaten track (places like Azores and Tafedna). I love seeking out the unexpected. I also live by the ocean and hinterland, so getting away from the mac and going for a drive through the mountains or swimming in the sea over the Aussie summer cures just about anything.

What advice would you give to a fellow designer who is thinking about going out on her own?

When I was completing my design degree I would envy designers blogging about the freelance lifestyle. Back then I didn’t realise the resilience, persistence, careful email wording, tears, the guilt of missing a deadline and the general highs and lows of the job. Don’t get distracted by the beautiful social media outlets and remember that anything worth doing takes a lot of hard work.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Be persistent, stay humble & don’t take yourself too seriously.
Kelsey Hutchinson | Freelance Wisdom

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