Sara Boccaccini Meadows

Sara Boccaccini Meadows is a print designer and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from the rolling hills of the Peak District, England, she graduated from Leeds Collage of Art with a 1st class Hons in Textiles and Surface Pattern. Sara takes inspiration from nature and the tiny details in her everyday surroundings to create unique and quirky print illustrations. Her prints have been used by top fashion brands including Etro, DVF, Zara, H&M, DKNY, Urban Outfitters, Rebecca Taylor, Oshkosh, Prism, Guess, and Rebecca Minkoff. We just can't get enough of her work! 

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

After studying Textiles and Surface Pattern at Leeds Collage of Art, UK, I traveled around Asia and eventually moved to Sydney, Australia after being offered an internship with Karolina York studio. Karolina York taught me a lot about the fashion and textile world and after my internship I was offered a job in the studio. I worked with Karolina York for almost 2 years and after I left I continued to freelance whilst traveling. This gave me a lot of freedom and inspiration with my designs.
I am now settled in NYC where I divide my time between freelancing/consulting in house with brands and working on my own design projects.

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

Many clients have reached out to me through word of mouth, I've been lucky to have some great connections in the print world.  

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I am a very good procrastinator. I'm my most productive when I wake up early, grab a coffee, and keep a structure to my day. Lots of lists!  

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

I love the hands on side to my job- painting, drawing, designing. I struggle with everything else and have to push myself to stay on top of the non creative stuff!  

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Freedom to choose my own schedule. This has been extremely important now I have a daughter and I like to be able to travel and take trips during the week. Most of my inspiration comes from nature and exploring new places. 

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

This is still my biggest challenge. I hire an accountant to help with this as much as possible. 

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

I like to collaborate with friends and designers who inspire me. Having people I believe in keeps the balance and stops work from feeling like work! I am always open to new collaborations and projects, from university students to established brands. 

"I like to collaborate with friends and designers who inspire me. Having people I believe in keeps the balance and stops work from feeling like work!" 


Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Imagination , ambition, a positive attitude.

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Sarah Schulweis

This week instead of chatting with a freelance creative, we are so excited to turn the tables and share our interview with business consultant Sarah Schulweis of Anchor & Orbit. Sarah works with business owners (most are freelance creatives!) to uncover goals, set timelines, and implement forward motion to create a sustainable and successful business for her clients. Sarah was so kind to share her incredible wisdom - be forewarned, after reading this you may just want to book a session (or 10!) with her. 

Tell me about your path to becoming a business consultant

Thank you so much for having me! I’ve been thinking a lot about my path lately. After several years and iterations of my business, it seems like all of the winding, bending roads are finally leading somewhere – and let me tell you, the scenery is getting much better. I’ll give you the long version below, so you can see how everything ties into the present.
First of all, I’ve always been a freelancer. Even when I was on “payroll,” I was technically a contractor, so a sense of time and budget has always been built into my workflow.  Babysitting got me through college and  taught me how to develop client relationship skills, ask for what I need, set boundaries, and, most importantly, work for people who advocate for my success.
The transition from being a student of Communication and Entrepreneurship to a professional was a long one! I was an aspiring dancer, but that path was derailed by injuries. So, when I decided to go back to school, most of my peers were graduating.I found that Entrepreneurship, and the program at San Francisco State, made me creative in ways I never had been before.
After school I needed a job and wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to start my own company. The PR / Communications position I took on filled in all the implementation gaps that the Entrepreneurship program was missing. My position was eliminated a few years in, which turned into the perfect opportunity to move forward with my budding business idea. When I started working with small businesses, helping them with problem solving, goal planning, decision making, I felt like I was using my entire brain. I was making a difference. Would I have liked to have more of a financial nest egg? Sure. But, as they say, pressure is good for you. I leapt at the opportunity.
People took a chance on me and my ideas. They invested in my business as much as I did in theirs. Even now, every client that I take on also takes me on.

 

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

Every client I have worked with was a referral in one way, shape or form. If the client is happy, and my friends know what I do, they talk about me. If they’re talking about me, I have people coming in the door and from there it’s up to me to keep the cycle going. Overall, that means exceeding expectations.
Not every project goes exactly as planned, but I aim to give much more than my clients are even expecting. These businesses have tight budgets and usually I am a big investment — both financially and logistically; I require their time and attention.
Launching my website this month was a conscious business decision. I’m excited to let the world know about my work. Until now, it wasn’t necessary or even the right thing to do. I needed to focus on my work and my clients. Now I know more about the specific value I can bring. I still hold firmly that each client and situation will be different, but now that I’ve worked with 30+ clients, I have a better idea of what will be most effective for a given project.

 

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Productivity is fascinating! I spend so much time thinking about and working with people to uncover what’s best. I read books, articles, and listen to podcasts as much as I can — It seems  business owners are as fascinated by  the art of working better as they are doing  actual work.
Routines: I reference Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit, as my first foray into the genre of “honing one’s creative prowess.” She expands on the merit of ritual and routine. Simply, we humans are routine and structure driven animals, so embrace it.
Self Awareness: The Zingerman’s book, Managing Ourselves, outlines “12 Tips for More Effective Self Management” (this book is way more fun than its title suggests). Get to know yourself. What do you need to be most productive? Where do you need structure? Where can you be more lenient? What do you need outside of work to be your most productive?
Calendar(ing): We have those two ideas — routine and self awareness. To make those two work you need a calendar system.
I plan my week in conjunction with my meetings and deadlines. I input the hours that I have promised (or feel are required of me) to complete a project, which all revolve around fitness classes and friendship time. If I don’t put the time in the calendar to do projects (or take time off), they won’t get done.
Three-hour blocks seem to be a good amount of time to get into flow for bigger projects.
Be Realistic: If I wake up restless or don’t sleep well, I won’t be productive until I take a hike, read a book, freewrite, or sit at a cafe and people watch. Clear your mind, do something different than what you’re struggling to achieve. For example: I wrote the answers for this interview in my head on my walk around Lake Merritt! I needed time to process my thoughts, strategize the tone and, most importantly, figure out a way to talk about my work that will help other people with theirs. But this comes with a price — taking the morning off to get into your groove might mean your evening plans are cancelled. Being your own boss is hard.
Colleagues & Friends: A morning phone call or coffee chat with a like-minded friend will help sort through road blocks. Everything you do is your craft. Share and listen to others. It’s endlessly inspiring to have people in your corner.
Other good ideas:

 


"A morning phone call or coffee chat with a like-minded friend will help sort through road blocks. Everything you do is your craft. Share and listen to others. It’s endlessly inspiring to have people in your corner."



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

Business Development: Maintaining the balance between current clients and future clients is always a struggle. Simple as that!
Client Systems: Coming up with systems that work for me and my clients simultaneously has been challenging. Just because I work best in the morning, for example, doesn’t mean that my clients do too. Everyone’s work style is different. At first, I thought my systems were the gold standard (ha!), but figuring out how people learn and think is  one of my favorite parts of the  job. So, instead of implementing what I think is best, I look at what they have and try to improve it. They’re the ones that need to be in their business everyday! If the best way I can help is to organize their paper lists rather than try to convert them to an online system, then I’m here to help in any way they need it.
Guilt: Letting go of the guilt of not having a “9-to-5” has been a challenge.  Like I said before, if I can’t get into flow in the morning and I have to push off plans, I only have myself to blame. I do find that evening (or morning) plans help structure my day. If I commit myself to not canceling unless absolutely necessary, the pressure is on to complete the work. A little bit of pressure doesn’t seem to hurt productivity.  But it’s a struggle to hold yourself accountable for the work and to maintain other parts of your life. It would be much easier to blame your boss because you’re working late …
Guilt Part 2: I had to let go of the guilt of both my long days and my short days. Some days I only bill one hour, some I bill 6 or more. Once I figured out that I only have 6 productive (read: billable) hours a day felt enlightening! But those are fully-focused, productive hours. But, oy, the guilt!

"Instead of implementing what I think is best, I look at what they have and try to improve it. They’re the ones that need to be in their business everyday!"


What is your favorite thing about freelancing?

I love running my own business. Its benefits outweigh the difficulties. At this point, freelance life is ideal.
Some people say it’s about controlling your schedule, but for me I feel like I have control over my own destiny. I guide my career with every new project and with my long-term clients. Being a part of their growth is a huge part of the sustainability of my business, too.
The intentional variation of my clients keeps me on my toes as my creativity thrives within inconsistency. If I’m working on financial projections, switching to strategy feels fresh and exciting. I take the knowledge I have about one aspect of their business and apply it to the other. Business is a beautiful cyclical adventure.
I genuinely enjoy people and I am curious about who they are and what makes them tick. When I work with my clients, it’s heavily based on understanding them, their industry, and their vision. I’m a big picture thinker so to complete the whole picture I have to learn and understand. By knowing them so deeply, I turn into their business partner.


How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

My ideal client is someone who works as hard as I do. It’s pretty simple and I think we feel the “fit.” They want more for their future and they’re dedicating themselves to doing just that.  I can quickly tell who will be able to work with me and who won’t.
Overall, my ideal client wants to create a happy existence. We work to sort through their goals and create a plan to achieve them.  

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

This is my wheelhouse! I could talk about this all day. Some big things that are on my mind lately…
  • Figure out what you don’t do well, not just the things you don’t want to do. Do not give anyone else the work that you enjoy. It’s tempting (and maybe not conscious) to hire someone whose work you understand instead of someone who will complement your work. Instead of a junior designer, maybe you’d be better off with a project manager or copywriter. Better yet, hire someone who sees the weaknesses in your business, the things you literally can’t see, and let them run with it.
  • Don’t lose what makes your business special (oh, hey! That’s YOU)  Everyone wants an assistant so they can give away answering emails or client inquiries, but If you’re winning work because of who you are or how you work with people, letting go of that will be the death of your business (or worse, you’ll have to clean up after someone else’s mediocre work)
  • Maybe the “nitty-gritty” has nothing to do with your business directly. For me, if my house is clean I will feel calm and accomplished. Knowing that I make sure to have the extra help of a housekeeper. It makes me feel taken care of and, most importantly, I get my limited time off to really relax or see friends instead of scrubbing the tub (though that’s satisfying sometimes)
  • Hire a bookkeeper. Just do it.

"Figure out what you don’t do well, not just the things you don’t want to do. Do not give anyone else the work that you enjoy. It’s tempting (and maybe not conscious) to hire someone whose work you understand instead of someone who will complement your work...hire someone who sees the weaknesses in your business, the things you literally can’t see, and let them run with it."


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

The two sides of running a business — the one where you’re doing the work and the one where you’re maintaining the business. Oh, and don’t forget the other personal stuff like staying in shape and relationships. That’s three full-time jobs, my friends!
My first piece of advice for balance is to actually like your work. I think of it as a life-life balance.  If you’ve chosen to go out on your own, I hope you’re choosing work that you enjoy. Running a business is so hard, why do work you don’t love? Of course, not everything about work will be fun, but I hope you find joy and motivation in at least half of it. If you happen to know how, but don’t actually enjoy the work, please don’t take it on. If the work you want to do can’t pay the bills, then we have a bigger issue.  
Systems also help with balance. If you are your business (you are) create the systems that make you feel in control. Do the work that needs to be done and go after the jobs that make you feel like you’re in the zone. Then be done. Do whatever it takes to be done with a project. Track your time, know what’s coming, keep yourself on that schedule. This usually takes experience and foresight to understand what’s on the horizon and completing the aspects of the projects that get you closer to DONE; you’ll know when to stop working. This also means that you have to figure out how many hours you are productively working a day. Is it 3? Is it 6? 12? (it’s not 12, trust me)
I could spend (have spent) all day spinning, looking at numbers, projecting, analyzing, planning. But my happiest days are when I’ve completed my (reasonable) to do list. Create the lists, cross things off, don’t move them to the next day, know what’s in store and deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. That’s when the life balance begins.


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

A desire to hone your craft, tolerance for ambiguity, a sense of humor.

Credits: Website design: Chelsey Dyer, Photography: Rachelle DerouinIllustration: Karen Schipper

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Jamie Starcevich

Meet Jamie Starcevich, a graphic designer and the owner of Spruce Rd., a boutique design studio. At Spruce Rd. Jamie and her team specialize in establishing brand identity systems for organizations that leave lasting impressions on their audience. This encompasses everything from the logo, typography, color, pattern, print collateral and web design. Jamie and her team consistently push beyond aesthetics, and develop creative solutions. Read on for some wonderful freelance insights. 

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance graphic designer.

Early in my graphic design pursuit, I was confident I would never pursue a freelance career. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, and I saw the countless hours they worked (and still work!), and just knew that wasn't a lifestyle I wanted for myself or my family. I remember my professor was convinced I would own my own studio one day, and I just laughed at the notion — confident that wouldn't ever be the case!
Yet, here I am today SO thankful that freelancing is the path I took. Before recognizing that freelancing isn't so bad, I worked mostly as an in-house designer (for a church and then for a university). This is what built such a strong foundation for me and gave me unique perspective into holistic branding beyond design. Don't underestimate those in-house designers — I learned a TON from my co-workers there, and gained valuable experience!
Following a few years of in-house jobs and freelancing on the side, I worked at a design studio, unable to freelance due to my contract. Long story short, I was uncomfortable with the business practices there and left after a few short months. Knowing we were leaving the city in less than a year, I didn't want to commit to another full-time job — so I took the jump and started Spruce Rd. full swing (with no overlap)! Not the path I'd recommend for everyone, but so thankful it's the road I've taken. 
Since opening Spruce Rd., I now work with a team of freelance designers + illustrators on client projects and love where this journey has taken me!

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

Blogging! Throughout my years of in-house design, I was diligently researching how freelancers were able to work with such dreamy clients. One common thread I found was through their blogs. I took note, and decided to make the commitment to blogging right out the gate with Spruce Rd. Soon enough my posts were shared on Pinterest, and clients were coming my way. 

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

It's really different for everyone, and changes based on circumstances. Right now, I've found I need to get out of the house to be productive. Whether that is at a coffee shop, Panera or a co-working space. I think there's something to be said with associating a certain place with your focus. For me, that place is not in my home. 

"I think there's something to be said with associating a certain place with your focus. For me, that place is not in my home." 


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

The greatest struggle is my overwhelming desire to do #allthethings at once. I'm such an idea person, and when I get a new idea for an offering, class or product I want to drop everything and work on it right then. Instead, I know it isn't wise to rush these things, so I take a much longer term approach to my brand. It is a struggle to have this constant itch to move forward, yet knowing that I need to finish what I've started first.
Because I know this about myself, I've built in one day a week dedicated solely to side projects. No client work, emails or social media, and just pure brainstorm or execution on these wild ideas. Sometimes they don't make the light of day, but that part of my process is so crucial to me so I embrace it to prevent frustration.

"I've built in one day a week dedicated solely to side projects. No client work, emails or social media, and just pure brainstorm or execution on these wild ideas. Sometimes they don't make the light of day, but that part of my process is so crucial to me so I embrace it to prevent frustration."


What is your favorite thing about freelance?

My absolute favorite aspect of freelancing is the freedom in exploring new ideas, concepts and strategies for my business. When working as an employee, I always had to fall within an established process or system. Not to say those systems were terrible, but I definitely have a unique + narrowed perspective when it comes to the branding process. It's a much better fit for me to dictate the standards than to follow a pre-set path.
I've really enjoyed exploring new avenues for Spruce Rd., such as collaborating with other freelancers, offering classes, and shaping our branding process. I no longer feel stifled by existing systems and theories, and instead feel rejuvenated in the exploration.

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

Rather than list a series of apps I use and love, I would mostly recommend focusing on your process and find systems to help streamline it. With so many new bookkeeping, project management and social media apps it can get overwhelming. Instead, create your own process first and find the app that simplifies it for you, rather than trying to create a process around an app. Your clear processes are what will bring the most ease in your business. 
Aside from setting clear systems, I highly recommend collaboration. Through working with an accountant, an assistant and freelance designers, I've allowed more breathing room for myself. Not only has this relieved me, it's opened doors to new clients and allowed Spruce Rd. to grow tremendously. It truly is a win/win/win for myself, my team and the clients.

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

Focus, endurance and humility — with humility at the top of the list.