Excited to bring you an interview with the boss ladies behind branding & web design studio, October Ink. Morgan Rapp and Jayne Swallow are childhood friends that re-connected over design and their passion to bring brands to life. On top of founding and running their business, both women have two beautiful children. Read on for incredible advice about design partnerships, running your own studio, balancing baby and career, and so much more!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and business owner.
Morgan: Jayne and I grew up down the street together, and always did creative things together from scrapbooking, art classes, dance, and even formed a two-man band in high school.
If you were to tell me while I was in college I would be working for myself, I wouldn’t have believed you. I always assumed I would work for a corporate company and work 9-5. I majored in Communications, and minored in art, business, and sociology. Kind of a random mix, but actually it’s the perfect combination for what I do now. I think that if I could go back and tell my 18 year old self what to do, I would have majored in Graphic Design. But oh well. Haha.
Towards the end of my major I took a web design class and learned basic html, and then became obsessed with learning how to make design changes to my blogger blog. Thanks to lots of google searches, youtube videos, and hours of trial and error, I able to teach myself the adobe programs and am self taught in both graphic and web design. Majoring in graphic design would have given me more of a jump start, but it’s totally possible with some extra hard work to teach yourself new skills and make your dream job happen for yourself.
Jayne: Meanwhile, I went to school for graphic design and started designing wedding invitations. That started to grow and Morgan began helping with design and marketing while we both worked our graphic design day jobs. Eventually we were working more on branding and web projects and freelancing separately, and decided to switch the focus of our business to client work and rebrand to October Ink.
Within a year of rebranding we were both able to quit our day jobs and work for ourselves full time. I walked out of my day job clicking my heels the day I quit.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
J: I would say only showing our best work and favorite projects in our portfolio was huge for us. Sometimes as freelancers we feel like we need to show everything we have ever worked on, but tailoring down your portfolio to only your best projects will attract more of those type of projects you love. Quality over quantity is everything.
M: We have also fine tuned our client on-boarding process to make sure we work with clients who understand our process, appreciate our expertise and design point of view. Getting to know your prospective client before you decide to work together is huge when determining if me you are a good fit in order to catch those red flags.
Just because someone is willing to pay you doesn’t mean you should always work together. It is a little bit more time invested upfront, but it’s worth it if you want to attract good clients.
"...showing our best work and favorite projects in our portfolio was huge for us. Sometimes as freelancers we feel like we need to show everything we have ever worked on, but tailoring down your portfolio to only your best projects will attract more of those type of projects you love. Quality over quantity is everything"
You are both mom’s to two beautiful children. How has becoming a mom changed how you work or the types of projects you take on?
J: It definitely makes me focus on what we really want and what's really best for business. We have to be crazy efficient with our time since we only have specific times of the day we are working.
It also has made us pickier with projects since we have to weigh whether a project is worth the time away from home and some late nights.
As a busy mom and business owner, what is your best advice for finding a work-life balance?
M: Working from home has been a huge blessing with the flexibility, but with 2 young kids it’s so tricky balancing work and family, and still something I struggle with. Some weeks I think man, I got this! And other weeks I get crazy overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel. Haha. It’s a constant juggling act I don’t think anyone has nailed down 100%.
One of things that have helped me is to do my best separating my time and being really clear on setting office hours for myself. When I home I am focused and present with my family and not checking emails or on my phone. When I intermingle the two throughout the day it’s harder for me to focus, I’m less efficient, and not able to give quality time to either my work or my family.
Also, give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. Sometimes I have gotten in the trap of comparing with other entrepreneurs who are making 6 figures in their biz and pumping out tons of content, client work, and coming out with a e-course a month. I’ve realized as a mom it’s ok to not be moving as quickly as other business owners and take things more slowly in your biz.
Will I look back and think, man, I wish I took on more projects? I highly doubt it. Kids grow up so fast and you don’t want to miss it. Find your own pace in your business and own it.
"Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. Sometimes I have gotten in the trap of comparing with other entrepreneurs who are making 6 figures in their biz and pumping out tons of content, client work, and coming out with a e-course a month. I’ve realized as a mom it’s ok to not be moving as quickly as other business owners and take things more slowly in your biz."
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
M: Creating a daily checklist of your to-dos and being organized helps so much with efficiency. One of our favorite programs is Trello. You can easily create checklists that are shareable and you can drag and drop tasks. It’s awesome, and free!
For years I would stay up late working on projects, but since I have tried to keep my evenings dedicated to family time, it’s helped a ton. Occasionally I will work an evening since that is my main time uninterrupted, but overall I try not to stay up too late, or I get major burnout.
J: Do one thing at a time. Sometimes I'll have 50 internet tabs open and waste tons of time just because I get distracted. I've found I have to close everything down besides what I'm working on to stay focused.
"Do one thing at a time. Sometimes I'll have 50 internet tabs open and waste tons of time just because I get distracted. I've found I have to close everything down besides what I'm working on to stay focused."
Do you have any advice for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
M: We have found it beneficial in investing in a project management program to track time, invoicing and all conversations about a project. We use a program call Mavenlink because it helps save on paypal transaction fees, but there are so many good ones out there.
J: I also recommend carving out time to do your finances at least once a month. That way when tax season comes around you won’t have to be stressed about doing a year’s worth in one sitting.
You are a partnership. How do you work to keep your working relationship from interfering with your friendship?
M: Creating a contract and setting up expectations before you get into business together is essential for keeping your friendship, even when you get into business with friends. That way you talk about hard things like how you are going to split up finances, what happens if someone wants out of the business down the road, ect,. before you get into business together.
J: I think it's like any relationship - just have to keep open communication to make sure everything is good and then be flexible and keep the other's best interest at heart.
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
M: I was surprised by the learning curve with the running the business side of a creative business. We’ve realized that clients not only hire us for our creative skills, but they also value professionalism, organization, efficiency, and meeting deadlines.
You might be able to create a pretty logo, but if you don’t focus on constantly improving the client’s experience, you’ll create unhappy clients, you won’t create your best work, and you’ll lose business.
What do you enjoy most about working for yourself?
J: The motivation to do your best because you directly see the results from it. It's invigorating to work hard in something you love and see money come in from it to help support your family.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
M: Drive, professionalism, and a teachable spirit
J: Hard-working, brave, passionate
Get Social with Jayne & Morgan