Angela Mckay

Angela Mckay is a surface pattern designer and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. Originally hailing from the sunny shores of Australia and the humid tropics of Thailand, she brings her unique illustrations together to create a fun and diverse range for Ohkii Studio

Angela draws her inspiration from many places including the natural world, overseas travel adventures, folk tales and old murder mystery novels. We are loving the handmade quality of her work. Above all, Angela enjoys creating things that make you smile (they sure make us smile!).

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

I worked for a few years in Sydney as an inhouse textile and print designer for a swimwear label. After my husband won a green card in the lottery we decided to pack up our lives and move to New York. I had been wanting to start my own thing for a while and decided that moving to the States would be a great way to start and establish myself as a freelancer. Initially I started freelancing for a local print studio a few days a week whilst also working on my own projects. A while later I started ohkiistudio - a label under which I could be free to experiment with ideas and produce my own products. I now split my time between client work and ohkiistudio projects. I’ve only been working as a freelancer for less than a year so I’m still learning so much!

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

As I was relatively unknown when I arrived, I tried to create an online presence through the different social media platforms. I made sure I was posting regularly with lots of illustration and print work, ensuring that I was putting out the kind of work that I would like to be doing. I spread the word through people I knew and slowly people are getting to know me and find my work. Word of mouth is super helpful. It is a long process, so you have to patient!

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I am a huge advocate for lists. I make a list every morning and get a huge sense of satisfaction when I get to tick things off. Try not to overload your daily list with every single thing that needs to get done, just what you think you can realistically achieve in a day. This way you feel great about completing your list and it also helps to prioritize the commitments you have. It’s also important to have monthly and yearly goals which you reference often to make sure you’re keeping on track with your own life path! Also take time out for rest when you can which can help get you through the really busy times.

"It’s also important to have monthly and yearly goals which you reference often to make sure you’re keeping on track with your own life path!"


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

One thing I have struggled with is getting paid a fair price for the work I do. Potential clients can try to get away with ridiculously cheap rates and it’s really disheartening when you have to turn down work because they aren’t prepared to pay you what your worth. I had a couple of bad experiences in the past where I was totally ripped off and since going through that, I’ve learned to turn down those jobs no matter how tempting they may sound.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

I love the flexibility! I love being able to set my own hours and take time off whenever I want to. I love traveling and exploring new places so having the freedom to do that whenever I can is huge. Travel is a huge part of my personal inspiration so it compliments my work too.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Through word of mouth and I think having a strong online presence helps. If your work is being seen in the right spaces then it’s likely you’re going to be approached by the kinds of clients you would like to work with. If you are unable to find client work which is directing your career in the way you would like to go, set yourself some personal projects that you think your ideal clients would be interested in. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and show your work, you never know what could happen!

"If you are unable to find client work which is directing your career in the way you would like to go, set yourself some personal projects that you think your ideal clients would be interested in. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and show your work, you never know what could happen!"


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

I’m still fine tuning this process! I find using programs like quickbooks helpful, as well as keeping track of other business stuff through google spreadsheets. I have a lot of spreadsheets haha.

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

Flexibility, self determination and willingness to continue learning and growing.

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Cristina Martinez

This week we are so excited to talk with Cristina Martinez, a graphic designer and art director currently residing in Madison, WI. Cristina creates thoughtful designs that capture the voice and personality of each one of her clients by working closely with them every step of the way. Though she specializes in branding, Cristina is also known for her lettering, illustration work, and beautifully minimal product styling. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Zooey, Bust, and Dote Magazine. You may also know her work from her popular blog and gorgeous instagram: Cautiously Obsessed. Cristina, thank you for taking the time to chat! 

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance graphic designer, art director, letterer, and illustrator.

I began taking on a few unpaid freelance projects here and there a year before I actually graduated just to gain some experience and to build my portfolio. After I graduated with a B.A in Studio Art from The University of Mary Washington in Virginia, it felt completely natural to transition into freelancing full-time. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of working and connecting with a number of talented and creative individuals.

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

In the beginning I really began to attract clients through social media, specifically through Instagram. My blog (Cautiously Obsessed) also played a huge role since I would regularly blog about recent design projects which in turn lead to some of my readers reaching out and eventually becoming clients. Also, regularly updating my portfolio with new projects has helped me attract my perfect clients.

"...regularly updating my portfolio with new projects has helped me attract my perfect clients."


Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Get organized! It sounds so simple, but having a decent planner as well as a system to prioritize tasks/projects helps tremendously. I also try to wake up at the same time everyday in order to keep a consistent routine, though I’d be lying if I said I weren’t tempted to sleep in now and then since I do work from home.

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

My biggest struggle as a freelancer has to be trying to find that perfect balance between my work and my personal life. I’m definitely guilty of working super late nights at times.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

My absolute favorite thing about freelance is the freedom that comes along with it. I love that I’m able to travel freely without it affecting my work.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I continue to attract ideal clients by being consistent on social media as well as networking with other creatives. I find that connecting with fellow designers or illustrators often can lead to collaborative projects or referrals.

"I continue to attract ideal clients by being consistent on social media as well as networking with other creatives. I find that connecting with fellow designers or illustrators often can lead to collaborative projects or referrals."


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

Do your research, I firmly believe that what works for some individuals may not work for you so it’s important to first find out what your business needs are and then research what’s out there as far as programs that may assist you to keep all of those important business details in order.

"Do your research, I firmly believe that what works for some individuals may not work for you so it’s important to first find out what your business needs are and then research what’s out there as far as programs that may assist you to keep all of those important business details in order."


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

I’m honestly still working on this! I think it’s especially difficult to separate your business/personal life when you work from home, but hopefully one day I’ll get there.

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

Determination / Patience / Passion

Get Social with Cristina

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Lindsay Pruitt

We could not be happier to chat with Lindsay Pruitt this week! Lindsay is the WordPress Developer behind Made to Thrive, a small front-end development studio that partners with graphic designers to build beautiful, easy-to-use WordPress websites for creative small business clients. With 5 years of freelance experience and nearly 100 websites under her belt, Lindsay has a wealth of knowledge to share. Oh and did we mention she is a mother of two?? Yep, she's doing it all, and she made time to talk with us. Thank you for chatting Lindsay!

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance web developer.

I actually fell into web development completely by accident. I finished my college degree in Business Management without having any idea that I had a knack for computers, coding, or an eye for design. After college, I got married to an Air Force pilot and we moved from California to Mississippi. Being so far from family, I decided to start my first blog to keep my family and friends up to date on our adventures, which then led me to playing around with my blog design and discovering that I had a natural ability to pick up web code. With a little encouragement from my husband, I decided to go back to school for web design & development, and everything just fell into place from there! 

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

Getting a steady client load definitely didn’t happen overnight. I spent a solid 2 years working for free, building small websites & blogs for friends and family to build my portfolio, while also working my 40+ hr a week “real” job. Once I had a decent portfolio in place, word started to spread organically and the clients/projects began to come my way. Then after another year of working both jobs, I was finally able to transition solely to freelance web development.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

For me, it’s about focusing all my attention on one task at a time. I actually book up my calendar a little differently than most others in that I code one website from start to finish before moving onto the next. Because each website is so different, I’ve found that its more productive for me to throw my whole self into one project at a time. The outcome is that I finish the website faster and with fewer mistakes than if I try to bounce between projects and clients. Another thing I do that helps is turn off my email and social media while coding. Stopping to read an email can really throw my productivity into a downward spiral! 

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

Definitely the comparison factor. It’s easy to be hard on yourself in such a saturated market of talented designers and developers. At times I have gotten stuck focusing on what others are doing or how successful/creative/skilled I think they are in comparison to where I am, which then distracts me from my own goals. Comparison is a simple trap to fall into and can be detrimental to your business, making you question whether you’re “good enough”. Focus on your own path, and assess business growth on your own curve/timeline! 


What is your favorite thing about freelance and/or web development?

Aside from the fact that I am obsessed with the job itself (seriously though, sitting down with a coffee and coding for 4-5 hours is my happy place), I love being completely in charge of my schedule. In the past while working corporate jobs, I felt like I was on this hamster wheel waiting for the weekend to roll around, feeling smothered by the routine. Being able to work on my own schedule and work from any location has been the most amazing shift. It keeps me from feeling “locked in” which ultimately makes me way more productive.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Since I’m strictly on the development side of things, its a trio of choosing the right designers to code for, who have the right clients, who have the right projects. For a while I was just taking on any project that came my way, and my portfolio reflected that. It was not cohesive and there was no clear vision for what type of client I was trying to attract. So I decided to start asking myself 3 questions with each new project inquiry: 
- Is this project something that I’m personally interested in/inspired by?
- Will this project grow my skill set, teach me something new, and/or challenge me as a developer? 
- Are the client and designer both kind people and fun to work with? 
If the answer to any of the above is no, then I decide to turn down the project and wait for a better fit to come along. Once I started being intentional about the projects I took on and following those 3 guidelines, my portfolio began to reflect that and my business benefited so much! 

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

Since I originally went to school for business, I was a little bit over confident when I started freelancing and thought that I could easily do it all myself (accounting, taxes, marketing, drawing up contracts, etc). I learned the hard way that hiring both a lawyer and an accountant should be non-negotiables in getting your freelance career off on the right foot. I now have an amazing lawyer who has given me confidence in my client contracts and my LLC business setup, and an awesome accountant who makes sure I’m getting my quarterly taxes and yearly taxes done just right. Since hiring them, it’s been such a load off my plate, one that I didn’t initially even realize was there! On a daily basis though, I do my own bookkeeping (via Xero) and invoicing (via Pancake App) which helps me stay on top of everything and keep business organized. 

Since you are your own boss and a momma to two little ones, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Becoming a mom right as my business began to really take off (and now having two little ones) has been both the hardest challenge and biggest blessing. I was so worried that my business would suffer after I took on my new role, but surprisingly it turned out to be the best thing for it! My time now is much more limited so that means that when its time to work, I’m forced to be super focused and productive. Having babies has also helped me to balance my work and family time because now I don’t have the option of working straight into the night like I used to in my pre-baby days. So overall I guess my advice to freelancers that may be nervous about how kids will affect their work life is: don't stress about it! It will all work out just fine and your business may even benefit from the new work/life balance that the little ones bring. 


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

Passionate, Organized, and Authentically kind.

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