Jena Holliday

We are excited to introduce yet another lady whom we've had the privilege of meeting through our Creative Lady Directory, Jena Holliday. Jena is an illustrator, designer, mother, and creative living in Minnesota. She founded Spoonful of Faith studio, where she focuses on crafting whimsical illustrations and designs as well as coaching mothers through their own creative journeys in her community Mother Creative.

Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance artist, illustrator, and educator.

Well I have always been creative. From a young age, I would sketch comic strips and draw people I did life with. I never took it too seriously until after I finished college with a degree in marketing. I decided that I wasn’t really doing what I loved to do, and then after the birth of my first child, I got an insane passion to go for what I always dreamed of. Art started taking root again in my heart and I started sketching illustrations and sharing them online. Immediately, people noticed and were asking me if I would sell them. I remember being so scared and working for pennies because I just didn’t believe people would really pay me to do something I really enjoyed.
From there, the work continued to come, projects came, and then even children’s book projects and proposals were being sent my way. At this point things were doing well, but I was still working full-time in social media marketing. I really enjoy marketing, but art and illustration is truly what I was made to do. At a really wild time, I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to take the leap to freelance and it’s been a thrilling, fulfilling, and adventurous ride. From there I’ve seen the need in the market for women, especially mothers, to be encouraged in being creative. I’ve also seen artists struggle with marketing and “selling” their work and through my past experience and passion for art – I started teaching tips and tricks to women through Mother Creative, an online community I launched in March of this year (2017).

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

I would say that sharing my work has always brought in good clients. I also have always used word of mouth and have never been afraid to ask people for work. I figure it’s my livelihood and if I am not willing to go out and get it, I could be missing out on an opportunity. I landed a future interview with a pretty big publication because I just asked for it. I also landed a book project with a nonprofit by just sharing my work and having the conversation of what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten more “No’s” than “Yes’s” but when that “Yes” comes it could be the chance you’ve been waiting for.
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Work in blocks. This could be hourly blocks or days. I like to set certain days for certain tasks. Because I work from home and often have my kids around, it’s better to have a set idea on what type of work I’ll be getting into for the day. It’s all still a process and ever-changing for me.

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

I would say figuring out what works for your business. In the beginning you are usually willing to try most anything to make money and to get experience. But as you keep going, you will have to start determining what you really want to do, and sticking to that can be difficult sometimes. When I first started, I had a shop and I didn’t really put much thought behind it. I closed it and just recently decided to relaunch it in a brand new way that is more in line with my brand. Find what works for you and your business and don’t look at everyone else! I will also just say figuring out the ebbs and flows of your business can be a struggle at first but when you discover the equation you’re golden.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Setting my own goals, plans, days! Being able to work from home and spend time with my kids when I want to. Working in my PJ’s or the local coffee shop! Freedom to work the way that works best for me.
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

Relative to illustration/design projects: I have to share my work. I share it on social media, newsletter, and sometimes on my blog. I try to show them what I am working on, so they can get a better idea of what I am working on and maybe it will spark a conversation or lead. Also, I am not afraid to reach out to past clients to see if they have friends or family that may need work. I think word of mouth is more powerful than anything.
Relative to my shop: My background is in marketing and I actually really enjoy analytics. So, that means I often do a lot of research on things. It can be as simple as what are my clients responding to in my shop or on social media. I then use that data to help me create products I think they will love.

How has becoming a mom changed how you work and/or the types of projects you take on?

Woo! Being a mom has totally transformed my work life, mostly my time and what is important to me. Time is scarce, so being productive is very important. I’m such a free spirit so this didn’t come easy for me, but overtime I’ve gotten much better with time management. I work from home and have a 3 year old and 1 year old around – so working is tough sometimes. I have had to set up childcare for certain days of the week so I can dedicate myself to work. I also have played the naptime game, where I get to things while they nap. I also try to bring them into my work. Showing my 3 year old what I am illustrating and setting up a space next to me that she can paint and draw on has worked wonders!
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom
Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom

You do a wonderful job sharing your personal life in a professional space. How does this openness affect your client relationships?

I actually believe it brings in my ideal client even more. Many of the people I work with are passionate, have strong faith and have strong ambitions or goals – which are a lot of the things I often talk about in my personal side of my work. I believe that the personal side makes us who we are, it is the drive behind what we do. So sharing my kids or my faith – has only benefited me. It has allowed me to align with likeminded people and brands – which has brought in clients I have only dreamed of working for. I also feel like because my clients feel like they know ME, they in turn trust ME. And upholding that trust through my work has continued to bring them back time and time again.

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

Before I was a mom, I could literally work around the clock – not saying it was the best, but I just didn’t mind it. Now I know for the good of my family I have to set boundaries. I would say that having boundaries has saved our family. Learning when to say “No,” or when to make the tough call that you are not going to work and you are going to spend time with the kids, it can be hard at first. But what I have learned is that there will always be stuff on your to do list. You can always find something that needs to be done, but your kids will not always be around. So cherish this season you are in, right now, and don’t forget to appreciate the little moments that are often passing you by.
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Jena Holliday | Freelance Wisdom

Can you tell us a bit more about Mother Creative and the motivation behind this community?

Sure! Mother Creative is a community of women and mothers to encourage and empower each other to go after their God-given dreams and potential. I believe women often get stifled and fear and doubt creep in, especially after having children – and I strongly believe that you can continue to walk forward in your passion and creativity in every season of your life.
What I strive to do within the community is provide resources with tips and tricks of what has helped me and other women, as well as provide interviews of other women who are totally killing it!

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Linda Dieschbourg

Linda Dieschbourg is one-half of the duo behind Kinlake, a full service creative studio that designs and lives on the go. We found Linda through our Creative Lady Directory and were instantly captivated by her story. If you've ever wanted to pick up, travel, and work while doing so, this interview is for you. Never considered it? We're pretty sure you'll be making plans for you next adventure after getting lost in her journey. Enjoy!  

Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming first a freelance designer and then a digital nomad designer.

It all happened quite organically, although somewhere inside of me, I always knew I wanted to do something creative with my life! I had always been the awkward one in my classroom who was too busy daydreaming or sketching something. I went to a design school because I thought it would be cool to learn about making beautiful posters!
However, for me the real learning process & creative growth happened right when I started working on my own projects. On a day before I graduated, a friend of mine asked me to design their flyer. Then, an acquaintance asked me to design a poster. Then, I was getting hired to design graphic identities for people who heard about me. Little by little, I found myself being “self employed” and filling my days with meeting like-minded people, designing, and even doing huge mural illustrations. It was a blast, although I was terrified that it would end at some point, that it was too good to be true, and that this wasn’t “really” happening to me. Luckily, my life naturally took a turning point. I had to quit my day job because my project schedule was getting too busy - that made it all feel very official to me. It also felt so right and gave me the confidence to just pursue it.
Later, my husband (boyfriend at the time) quit his job as a designer in a small agency, and started freelancing as well. We quickly realized that since we were practically working in the same field, that we could just “work together” instead. That took some guts, because we each had our very own style & perception of things, but…we put our egos aside and went for it. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done, because we quickly realized we were just made to work as a team! There was so much more we could do, together.
Becoming a nomadic creative studio was also something that happened progressively. After we launched our studio together, we had travelled several times with our laptops (when we had to work during holidays) and even while we were in Luxembourg, we had always enjoyed changing environments and working from a coffee shop, instead of being stuck in one place. We realized that this “nomadicity” was crucial to our inspiration and our ideas. We just felt so much more creative when we were moving around.
So, little by little, we started connecting the dots on how to turn it into a work setup & lifestyle for the long run. We figured out a travel-friendly way to work and to connect with our clients as well as a flexible schedule and a portable creative setup. We analyzed our entire life expenses in a really nerdy way, compared different possible lifestyle situations, we put up our place on airbnb and experimented with that for a while…We also happened to meet many interesting people through the process (and during our travels) so this gave us the extra confidence to just do it full time.
I love everything about it: the ongoing inspiration, the newness of moving to new places, finding our balance & routine on the go while being immersed in different cultures, continuously recording ideas & thoughts and cultivating creativity daily… So far we’ve worked from incredible places from Europe all the way to Asia & Australia. Just as each of our projects has added to our growth, so too have each of those places has added an extra piece to the puzzle. It’s truly a journey.
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

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

I still feel funny about it all (remember - I was kinda terrified and didn’t think this was “really” happening to me) but if I really have to take a step back and think it through, then I would say that I attracted the right people by simply sharing what I do. I mean this is where it can all start - people needed to see what I was capable of. And this is still valid these days - sharing what we do is a huge, huge part of our business.
When starting out as a freelancer, I think it’s very important to overcome your fear of “not being good enough”. Personally, from the moment I stopped being shy and started sharing some of my work from time to time, requests started coming in. At the beginning, not “all” of those were the right clients, but you need to start somewhere. They became the right clients when I started gaining some more confidence and started sharing more of the work that I WANTED to be hired to do again. For me this kind of work was: 1) Projects such as brand identities for small businesses, where I could be trusted as a creative and enjoy a long term relationship with this one inspiring person. 2) Any other creative experiments and arty missions where I could express myself through illustration, hand-lettering,  and art direction.
Any project that I wasn’t truly proud of, and that I wouldn’t want to do again if I had to, I would simply not share. I still really believe in this principle: if you want to get hired to do what you love, then you must only share what you love to do. It’s kinda like curating & shaping your creative destiny :)
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

As Kinlake, you are one half of a design team. Can you tell us a bit about what it is like to work with your partner?

Working with David has been a blessing for me. If he wouldn’t have joined forces with me, I would have probably still managed to work by myself, but having a partner like him is definitely a huge bonus.
It’s just so good to have somebody by your side, who shares your vision and is there when you need some feedback. David and I work on everything together, so when either of us doesn’t feel very inspired or productive, we are always there to motivate each other, to brainstorm and throw ideas around. Creatively speaking this is also very interesting because our two perspectives always fuse in the process of designing something, so everything that we do feels like a balanced blend of our personalities. We each pull our inspiration from different places, but we meet somewhere in the middle. The style & ideas that come out of Kinlake really feel like a fusion of both of us. There’s my playful & handmade side, and then there’s his balanced, detail-oriented side. We just complete each other in every way! I think that in the 9 (almost 10) years we’ve been together, we always have been - we were just too cocky to admit it :)
Kinlake is “us”. Our spirit lives through it. It’s …like our brainchild, our creative baby.

What advice would you give someone who is considering joining forces with a spouse, friend, or colleague to design as a team?

Teaming up with the right person can feel amazing and so empowering .
I would say you HAVE to feel like you can be completely honest with each other - this is the foundation of any healthy relationship but it’s especially important when you have a business together. Any bullshit, or misunderstandings, or passive aggressive tendencies (instead of sheer transparency) can quickly brew up a massive shitstorm. So choose your partner wisely: it should be someone you should be able to really communicate with, at any time of the day, to say whatever is on your mind. Or that makes you feel like you could do that in the long run. Bonus points if you both like the same music, same food and enjoy sending each other funny cat videos in between ;)
Another tip I could give to people who are working as a team, is to be aware of each other’s strengths, weaknesses & boundaries. You can figure those out by experimenting with many different working styles to see what works for you: Experiment with your schedules. Experiment with delegating certain tasks to each of you or doing them together. Experiment with being away from each other or working in the same room. See what works for you, and have fun while at it.
Our personal story is a bit strange because we spend 24h a day together, we never shut up and we keep bouncing ideas around like there’s no tomorrow. That’s our thing, but you do you.
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

You and your partner are always on the go, living or traveling to new places. Do you have any tips for being your most productive in this nomadic setting?

Absolutely! For us, one of the keys to living a nomadic lifestyle and running our creative studio on the go is to actually travel very slow. This means that we usually spend at least 15 days in each location we travel to. When you work while travelling, it’s important to make time to find a good routine in each new place. The first few days are usually absolute discovery mode as we like to absorb as much as we can from our surroundings, explore our neighbourhood, adjust to the culture and so on. It’s only after a few days that we start to feel comfortable around a particular routine. Not just knowing when & where to work, but also how to organize our daily lives, like where to shop, where to eat etc - and what cool places to go to, to get inspired. Then around that, a routine starts to form and our schedule starts to stabilize - we know how to structure our days between designing, replying to emails, following-up with clients & looking for inspiration.
We also make sure that our accommodation has everything we need, so we can work/live comfortably. We’ve lived in lots of different kinds of places, from modern condos, to shared urban flats, to jungle shacks. But we always like to make sure that those are well located in an interesting neighbourhood, have a decent bed, a kitchen (as cooking is fun and it helps us stay within our budget) and have a reasonable wifi connection as well as table/desk where we can spend some time creating & working from our laptops. Friends around the world, Airbnb & even house-sitting help with that :)
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

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

We are quite picky about who we work with, and that’s generally a very good thing. For us it’s very important to only accept projects we believe in - we go a lot with our gut, and our heart. It’s so essential to our process because we are essentially cultivating long term relationships and we just love to be our client’s creative sidekicks. We are really passionate about their projects, so much that we sometimes find ourselves talking about them & sketching ideas in the middle of the night or on the way to somewhere. We LIVE for that. It means so much to us to work with amazingly kind & interesting people who really connect with us, who love what we do, and who we have a beautiful mutual feeling with. They are usually small business owners with great ideas. We are so grateful to help people like that with our creative skills.
Once every blue moon, though (thank goodness, really only in rare occasions) we have to deal with a client who …turns out to be complete and utter douchebag. It’s devastating when that happens, because we do everything we can to avoid it and stay as polite as humanely possible. But it’s really the worst thing for our confidence, as well as the transparency, creativity & meaning we are trying to cultivate in our lives.
However, a rainbow always comes after a (shit)storm. Any time this has ever happened, the incident gets followed by another beautiful project request by someone new that’s incredibly kind, who we fall so much in love with and who becomes our bestie. These are the relationships that we live for!
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

I have quite a few!
- Not having to take shit from anyone (even from the rare bad client, haha), because you are your own boss and you get to choose how things will unfold, from your day itself to your entire life & career. There’s nothing more empowering. Being your own boss also means you have to wear many hats and be in complete control of where you’re going. I really hate accounting, for example, but it makes me feel so good to know how we’re doing on a financial level, and be aware of what we can improve on a day-to-day basis.
- This comes hand in hand with …flexibility. Oh boy, it’s so amazing to be able to work whenever you want, where you want and however the hell you want. For the sake of structure, (and work/life balance) David and I usually stick to a 9 to 5 schedule anyhow, but we don’t have to feel guilty if things switch around a little bit: if we feel uninspired, if we feel like we want to sleep in a little more than usual, no worries. Also, that means we can technically decide to have a mid-afternoon coffee date with a friend if we want to, or go to the grocery store at midday when it’s least crowded, avoiding all possible traffic jams and not having to ask anyone a special permission to “leave early”. The day is ours.
- Variety! We experience it a lot as a consequence to pursuing creativity.
David and I do this in a broad sense and like to fill our days with lots of different activities that inspire us. And even though we specialise in certain things through our studio (such as art direction & branding) our services and the work we do varies so much every day. No day is the same. On a single day, we may spend the morning brainstorming & sketching ideas around a client’s brand, then whip up a creative lunch, spend the afternoon designing a quirky website or meeting someone new on skype, go on an inspiring walk where we will take loads of photos or forage flowers to create some DIY decor with… maybe even edit some photos for our blog in between, or pin some ideas for personal projects and travels. We never, ever get bored.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients while you're constantly on the road?

As I mentioned before, sharing a lot of what we do is a huge part of our business. This doesn’t necessarily mean sharing only “studio” related stuff such as projects, sketches and so on, but also sharing a lot about us and our lives.
We do not only want people to see us as a “design studio” but as a couple of interesting, creative people that they can connect with. We want to be open and make people feel like they can get to know us personally. Our blog and our social media take a lot of work to maintain, but they have helped a lot in attracting an interesting audience of like-minded people, including some lovely clients who have become our best friends, regardless of where they are in the world. Many of our clients are still from Luxembourg (our home base) and we’ve met them in person, but these days we make meaningful connections with people globally, from the rest of Europe & the US for example. Being on the road doesn’t affect our work relationship at all because we have the right tools & process to handle all of our projects, independently of location. And our clients actually love to follow our travels :)
Linda Dieschbourg

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

Haaah the nitty gritty. The shitty bits ;)
I guess that in the long run, the goal as a business owner is to delegate anything that you hate doing or are really shitty at - such as …accounting. We had that taken care of from the very start and have a lovely accountant who is super supportive of our business and who always answers all of our questions. She’s also been very understanding of us wanting to be nomadic and these days we handle everything with her remotely - through Dropbox. That helps us keep a structure on our end, but also saves us a lot of time (not to mention physical SPACE) from having to give her our folders in person.
While traveling, we also have a “system” to take care of the mail that comes to our physical business address. We did request many of our bills to be paperless and sent right to our email inbox so we can access them from anywhere. Even though I believe it will be easier in the future, most of our mail still works in an old school way. So for that stuff, we have thankfully have David’s mom to help out. She’s like our little secretary, and we pay her with delicious dinners whenever we’re back home, haha! Every once or twice a month, she scans our mail & sends it to us by email. We file anything that is important, and anything that sounds like Chinese to us gets sent right to our accountant, so we can focus on the fun parts of our job :)

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

Yeeees. For goodness sake: have your weekends!!
The glorification of “busy” is …bad. We’re always told that being busy (even too busy) is a good thing. I see plenty of freelancers going on about their hustle, about working all day every day, not having a personal life etc. I’m sorry to break it to you but this is crap. It mostly means: bad management. And it doesn’t have to be like that.
Don’t say “yes” to everything and structure your work in a reasonable way. Plan your work, but plan your time off too. Put those projects in the calendar, but make room for those long brunches, yoga sessions, or netflix binging evenings, or afternoons of doing nothing. It’s not laziness, it’s self-care. A very necessary thing to re-boot and feed your creativity.
A book that really helped us find this kind of balance and to question what is noise and what is essential is called “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. It makes you think of all the things that you fill your life with, from work to other responsibilities, so you can de-clutter it from what is just “busywork” and make more room for what truly matters and what truly keeps you a happy, balanced human being.
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

It seems like some changes are on the horizon for you two. Can you tell us a bit about what you have in the works?

Oh yes! Remember I mentioned that we had put our apartment up on Airbnb while we were traveling? Well… we just SOLD it. It was a tedious, exhausting process but here we are, officially with no mortgage on our back. That was just one of the essentialist things that we had to do, to move forward with our desire to have a creative lifestyle. I could say that this time in our lives is really all about “letting go”.
Right now we are fully on the road. We do however, have the intention to buy a small house that we’ll turn into a creative retreat. We spent some time thinking about where this could be. When we were in Japan, we almost thought we would end up moving there. But we made the decision that we will find it in Crete. It’s a very special place - literally where our soul lives. Every bold, eye-opening decision in our lives was taken while we’ve been there, amongst the energy of the mountains and that incredibly mesmerising scenery.
That little house will be a whole creative project on its own. We want to do a lot of things by ourselves, and decorate it in the most authentic way, to really make it feel like an inspirational sanctuary. The idea is to keep travelling most of the year, but have this place as our base, for whenever we are tired of travelling and want to experiment with slow living. Next year we’re planning to be back in Japan and explore a little more of Asia.
In the meantime, we’re also releasing some new personal projects, such as online courses very soon! The first ones will be about handlettering & photography. I’m so excited about that!

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

Curiosity, intuition and a bit of craziness.
Linda Dieschbourg | Freelance Wisdom

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Cristie Stevens

Cristie Stevens is a collaborative Art Director and Graphic Designer based in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in creating and elevating lifestyle brands through brand identity, website design, and packaging and has worked for clients across the globe including: Hyatt and Marriot Hotels, Shiseido, Delonghi, Westfield, and Virgin Mobile.

We are so glad to have met Cristie through our Creative Lady Collective Facebook group and are especially excited to share her wonderful insights with you here today. Grab a notebook because you are going to want to write some of this down!

Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming an art director and graphic designer.

I was born in Australia but grew up in small New Zealand town located two hours south of Auckland. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved all things creative. At high school I took every creative class I could and would regularly skip maths, economics and science to develop photos, paint and practice my photoshop skills.
After studying Media Arts at university in New Zealand I landed my first design job at a digital agency where I was quickly thrown not only into design, but hands-on coding and developing for large scale web projects.
After 18 months I jumped at the opportunity to relocate to Sydney, Australia where a larger and more vibrant creative community exists. Initially I worked for a few churn and burn agencies where I wasn’t being creatively challenged. I was put through my paces and the experience helped me develop a sense of my strengths as a designer and the ideal type of work I wanted to do.
I managed to land my dream job at a high-end boutique digital agency working on clients such as The U.N, Westfield and Virgin Mobile. There I was mentored by Creative Director Jack DeCaluwe (currently Associate Creative Director at Instrument in Portland) who played an enormous role in shaping my creative skills. The agency folded during my second year there, falling victim to an industry wide downturn, leaving me to go it alone as a freelancer for the first time.
I spent some time freelancing for agencies and while the money was great, the work itself wasn’t feeding my creative appetite. A recruiter approached me with a senior position at Sydney brand agency, Squad Ink. They had the clients and projects I was dreaming of, plus the role was primarily focused on branding which is where I wanted to shift my focus. I was torn between the flexibility and financial gain of freelancing and the incredible opportunity to work on my dream projects. In the end it was an offer I couldn’t turn down and my time there offered me the opportunity to build premium hospitality, retail, food and beverage brands from the ground up.
Even while working at agencies I’ve always tried to work with a few select clients on a freelance basis. I think it’s important to build your own client relationships and test yourself outside of the agency model, even if you’re not planning to freelance in the immediate future.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Automate, streamline, schedule and batch as many tasks as possible. I’ve just implemented Calendly so clients can choose from preselected time slots of availability, eliminating unnecessary email loops.
Keep your mundane tasks for when you have the lowest energy - usually the afternoon and try to prioritise your tasks. What are the most important things you need to do today? Narrowing down to a max of three things makes big projects less overwhelming. I’m still working on this but having a clear goal in mind of what you want to achieve on that day is a good way to prioritise.
Another thing I preach for being your most productive self is to take breaks. I’ve always made taking a lunch break a priority as part of my day and not just sitting inside while eating your lunch but getting outdoors, breathing the fresh air, getting sunlight and moving your body. I’m a huge fan of lunchtime exercise and try to make it to the gym or take a walk, even if only for 30 mins. I can’t tell you enough the world of difference this makes to my mental state - especially if i’m stuck on something. Giving yourself distance from a problem can really help to put things in perspective and spark new ideas.

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

My greatest struggle so far has been related to my health. Most people don’t view an office job as being hard on your body, when in actual fact it can be. I developed a chronic pain injury about three years ago due to the repetitive nature of my work and constant use of a mouse. While I’ve mostly recovered now, it’s still something I deal with every day. This has made working on personal projects after hours difficult because I know if I overdo it I could hurt myself again. It’s all about setting boundaries and being realistic with how much time I’m spending behind the computer.
I think an industry-wide challenge is the rise in design crowdsourcing platforms promising top creative work for $29.95 and the online entrepreneurial ‘guru’s’ preaching the virtues of these services to paying subscribers eager to hear how easily they can launch a successful brand for next to nothing in a matter of days.
It’s not that they’re a genuine threat. There’s a place for these services but the reality is nobody gets a well-thought-out brand for $30 yet the idea that exceptional design comes easy or virtually free persists. Filtering out the bargain hunters from those who understand the value of the deep creative thinking and strategy that goes into any worthwhile project is a constant battle.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any advice you can share with regards to attracting ideal clients?

I think a lot of attracting good clients is knowing who you want to work with and the type of work you want to do. Getting really specific about your dream client helps to clarify things in your mind and allows you to filter out people who may not align with your core values.
By narrowing down on your target you’re able to put your full attention into seeking out those clients rather than spreading yourself thin looking for just anyone. Plus, setting your intention sends out those good vibes to the universe. Energy flows where thoughts go.
You want to make it easy for potential clients to find you so sharing your best work on any platform they’re likely to be looking is super important. I used to be really shy about showing my work other than on my portfolio site but over time i’ve learnt that it’s not a bad thing to promote yourself a little - because if you don’t do it, no one will. Be your own champion.
Also, like attracts like. When potential clients see you’ve created a successful brand for a business similar to theirs it alleviates some of the anxiety they face about deciding if you’re the right person for the job. My advice to anyone hoping to change the direction or focus of their work is to create something for the market you hope to reach, whether that be a self-initiated brief or taking on a client at a lower rate than you would normally charge, knowing it will help get you more of the same work in the future.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

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

I’ve been fortunate to work in small design studios for most of my career which has allowed me to get pretty hands-on in all aspects of business and design.
Get organised
If you’re about to make the leap from full-time to freelance make sure you have some systems and processes in place right from the beginning. You’re going to need to invoice, send proposals, write contracts and track your time. Paying for a service such as HelloBonsai or AndCo is something I would recommend. They have all of the features you need to start out plus you get to see when a client has viewed your proposal or contract.
Manage your finances
Create bank accounts specifically for your business. Have an everyday account, a tax account and maybe even an expense or savings account. Making sure you put 20-30% of each job’s earnings into your tax account so when that time rolls around you don’t get caught out. If you use your business account to pay for all things work related it will make an accountant’s job much easier (and save you time) when it comes to doing your taxes.
Automate your accounting
There are a bunch of cloud accounting systems out there but the most commonly used are Freshbooks, Quickbooks and Xero. These will help you automate tedious tasks such as bank reconciliations and expenses.
Use contracts and get deposits
It’s super important to have a solid contract with every client (especially as a freelancer) to protect yourself if a bad situation arises. Sites like Docracy are great. You can use their AIGA master agreement if you need something a bit more formalised than HelloBonsai or AndCo’s contracts. Get a 30-50% deposit before starting any work with a client and negotiate kill fees should they unexpectedly cancel the project.

How do you whet your creative appetite?

Inspiration is all around us. Getting out from behind the screen to explore the world around me is always so much more satisfying than finding it on your computer. I’ve recently moved from Sydney to LA so everything is new for me. I have a deep love for mid-century modernist architecture and design, so California has been a huge source of inspiration. I also get way too excited walking into foreign supermarkets and seeing the different products on the shelves.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

My advice to any freelancer would be to enjoy the downtime as scary as it may be. Use it wisely to regroup, recharge and refocus your energy on your next move. Being your own boss is amazing but it’s also super hard at times - you not only bear the weight and responsibility of running a business and all the decisions that go with that, but also the financial instability. If you’re able to create a source of passive income it can help take some of the pressure off. Knowing your rent is covered each month can have an enormous impact of your state-of-mind.

Are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?

I’ve slowly been writing a book for the past 8 months but finding the time to make space for it has been tough. I’ll get there one day.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

I’m really into business and self-development podcasts. I’m sure it’s been said repeatedly but the Being Boss podcast is great. Kathleen and Emily are so generous with their content which is genuinely helpful for any creative. I also enjoy The Side Hustle Show by Nick Loper - it’s so interesting hearing how people are making passive income on the side of their full-time gig. Pat Flynn’s, Smart Passive Income and Tara Gentile’s Profit. Power. Pursuit are also good ones.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be an effective self-directed creative are:

Persistence - Keep on keepin’ on. Persist in making good work, whether it be for a client or for yourself. Persist in showing your value, learning new skills, and knowing your worth.
Resilience - It’s hard not to take things personally. Keeping a calm, level-head and always remaining professional will get you far and keep your reputation in good standing. Learn from your mistakes and use these lessons to make things better the next time around.
Initiative - Work won't always fall on your lap so use your downtime to create self-initiated projects that could benefit you in the long run. Also, getting out from behind your screen to meet with as many people as you can is a great way to make connections and can lead to new and unexpected opportunities.
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom
Cristie Stevens | Freelance Wisdom

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