Lauren Hom

We are fan-girling hard over this week's interview with designer and lettering legend Lauren Hom.

Known for her bright color palettes and playful letterforms, Lauren has created work for clients like Starbucks, Google, AT&T, YouTube and TIME Magazine. Her work has been recognized by Communication Arts, the Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club, the One Club, and the Webby Awards. Lauren is also the author of the popular blog (and now bookDaily Dishonesty.

We could not be more grateful for the wisdom she shares below, including a brilliant tip about how salsa can solve your productivity woes!

Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

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

Me becoming a hand letterer was a happy accident! I actually went to art school for creative advertising and started my career at an ad agency. I always had an interest in lettering, but it was just a hobby...until it wasn't! Senior year of college, I started a blog called Daily Dishonesty as a fun project to practice lettering, and it ended up going viral, landing me a book deal, and circulating my work around the web. Within about a year, I had enough freelance work to comfortably leave my full-time agency job, and I've been paying the bills with lettering ever since.

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

I attracted 99% of my first bigger clients through the exposure I got from Daily Dishonesty. My first editorial job was from Los Angeles Magazine. The design director had seen my work on a popular type blog, and he hired me to do some hand lettering for a feature article. Shortly after the piece hit newsstands, I had other magazines lining up for editorial work! That one magazine spread started a chain reaction of luck: within the year, I’d lettered 10 covers and 7 interior spreads for magazines like Time Out New YorkWashingtonian Magazine, and TIME Magazine.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

My productivity tips are pretty simple: make realistic to-do lists, focus 100% of your energy on one task at a time, and eat light, healthy meals (big meals tend to make me sleepy haha). When things get really dire and I can't seem to focus or get motivated, my weird secret weapon is to stop what I'm doing, go to the kitchen, and chop vegetables to make salsa. People usually laugh when they hear this, but it's my tried & true method for getting into a more productive mode! I think that productivity compounds, so if I complete a small task like making salsa, it makes me feel good and that feeling carries over into my work day. Oh and also, now I have a delicious bowl of salsa, which makes the day even better.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The flexibility! I love being able to have autonomy over when and where I work. I'm definitely a night owl, so I love that I can make my own schedule. If I feel a creative spark at 11pm, I can follow it down the rabbit hole and not worry about having to wake up early the next day.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

The same way I attracted my first big clients: organic exposure through my passion projects! I'm a firm believer that you don't need to wait for a client project to come along in order to do the work. For example: a few years ago, I wanted to get hired to do chalkboard lettering but didn't have any of it in my portfolio, so I came up with this project called Will Letter for Lunch to build up a portfolio and get my name out there. I offered to do "daily special" chalkboards for local restaurants in exchange for the exact menu items I wrote out, and the project got a ton of press and booked me lots of paid chalk work over the next years. I've noticed that the more passion projects I create, the more paid projects I receive.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

What do you do to stay creatively inspired?

Haha I feel like I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the answer to this is ALSO my passion projects. The same way a little productivity inspires more productivity in me, a little creativity inspired even more in me. Working on passion projects lets me explore a bunch of different styles, ideas, and mediums, which keeps me creatively inspired. I'm a big believer that every experience in my life contributes to my creative work. I've been just as inspired by sharing a bottle of wine with a girlfriend as taking a trip around the world. 

You've written some great articles on your blog and on Medium regarding freelance work. What inspired you to share this wisdom?

When I was in design school, I used to love reading blog posts from designers like Gail Anderson and Jessica Hische, so I feel like it's my duty to share everything I've learned with the next generation of creatives. I used to feel like I was too young and inexperienced to have anything valuable to teach others, but one day I realized that you don't have to have 20 years of experience under your belt to teach; all you need to know is a little more than someone else. I try to share information that I would've loved to know 5 years ago! As designers (especially female designers), we're all on the same team. No one HAS to share their creative process or business tips, but so many people choose to. Why? Because smart creatives value community over competition. If you've ever benefitted from someone else sharing their wisdom freely, you should do your part and share yours. This quote from Kevin Spacey sums it up really beautifully: "If you're lucky enough to find success, it's your responsibility to send the elevator back down for someone else." 
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

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

I've never been a fan of paperwork, so I actually got an agent to represent me as an illustrator right before I began my full-time freelance career. I noticed that all of my favorite designers had agents, so I thought there must be something to it. Before lettering was my full-time thing, I was managing my freelance work by myself and spending just as much time managing invoices and contracts as I was actually designing things. While I think it's good to have a basic understanding of how your business works, it can be draining to have to do everything yourself. I think it's smart to hire someone who specializes in the areas that you don't. I have an illustration agent, an accountant, and a marketing coach. Trusting them to do what they do best helps me focus on what I do (and love to do) best: make cool shit.
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom
Lauren Hom | Freelance Wisdom

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Lorraine Nam

We are so glad to have found our next interviewee through the Creative Lady Directory...without further adieu...introducing Lorraine Nam, a Paper Illustrator, Designer and Prop Artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is whimsical and intricate and will certainly brighten your day. Lorraine is also the co-founder of Illustrated Impact, a platform dedicated to spreading awareness on charities through illustration.

Thank you so much for sharing, Lorraine!

Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance paper craft illustrator and prop artist.

I have always been interested in paper and while I was in school, I first started playing around with paper as my medium. I interned at a bookbinding studio, made lots of art books by hand, started paper cut illustrations and dabbled with pop-up books. When I started paper cuts, I really fell in love with the immediacy of the technique and devoted myself to it for several years. Then about 3 or 4 years ago, I felt restless with the medium and started working with paper 3-dimensionally in paper craft. I was working out of my apartment and eventually rented a studio space while I was working as a full time textile designer. The separate studio space really changed my approach to work and after 5 years as a textile designer, I finally took the opportunity to work as a freelancer doing what I love!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

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

I wasn't very good about promoting myself for work in the beginning. I was however posting my self-initiated projects on Instagram and that's how my first clients approached me. In the beginning, most clients found me through social media and some reached out to me after visiting me during Bushwick open studios.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I have found that as hard as I try to be a 9-5er, I work best in the evenings and sometimes really late into the night. It is when I'm my most creative, energetic, and enthusiastic about new ideas. I also feel ready to work when I talk with other creatives or go to see art at museums or openings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I feel the most un-productive when I look through social media so I try to limit how often I check my feed.
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

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

Balancing my time between the fun things like creating and the business side of being a freelancer. As a freelancer, you are selling your time and I'm learning how to manage my time in the best way. Another struggle is to always feel motivated. There are some days where doubt creeps in and it is harder to get started. Since I am typically working by myself, talking with peers to get out of my rut is not always an option. I've learned to push through the doubt and the feeling of being productive will eventually encourage me.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

Being able to work on awesome projects with cool clients. Every day is a different day and that excites me!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Can you tell us more about your side venture Illustrated Impact?

Illustrated Impact started off as a conversation between my friends, Susanne Lamb and Laura Korzon on how we could use our talents to help out with charities. We quickly found out that other illustrators felt the same need and from there, it was born! Every month we feature a different theme. May was Family Month and we chose to share stories and interviews from different people on their perspective on families such as balancing being a mother and a business woman, how to overcome loss in a family, or talking about miscarriage.

For Illustrated Impact you work as a member of a founding team. Do you have any advice for handling communication as a partnership?

Communication is super important and luckily I work with my closest friends. We were friends since our days in college! I can't say that our communication is perfect and we are constantly looking for ways to improve. We have bi-weekly and sometimes weekly conference calls where we start off catching up on each others lives and then talk about who is tackling what for Illustrated Impact. Since this is a non-profit project, we trade off on who is the "leader" for the month so no one person is left with the bulk of the work all the time. We also share a google document that lays out the plan for the month and like other friend groups, we have an ongoing group chat where topics vary from work related stuff to cats :)
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

Since you are your own boss and juggling more than one venture, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I'm not so sure that a work-life balance exists or at least in the sense that it's been traditionally defined. For me, I can't picture a life where my creative work is separate. My boyfriend is a painter where we share a studio so work is always a topic in our conversations. I try to do the basic things like listen to my body when it's tired or hungry and make sure in between projects, I take a day off for myself to walk around and enjoy New York.

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

Passion, business sense, persistence. A good peer group who supports you doesn't hurt either!
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom
Lorraine Nam | Freelance Wisdom

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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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