Interview

Timia Lewis

Timia Lewis is a Birmingham-based freelance graphic designer specializing in brand identity, packaging, print, and interactive design. We discovered her work through our Creative Lady Directory and seized the opportunity to learn more about her design journey. We love the insight she shares regarding attracting ideal clients through her slowly, but intentionally built, portfolio.

Timia Lewis | Freelance Wisdom

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

When I was a kid, my mom gave me the American Girl Room Crafts book. I think that’s what first sparked my creativity. The book led to me creating my own room crafts and falling in love with making and designing. The summer after my first year of college, I started my own DIY blog. After starting the blog, I realized that I needed a logo, so I made my own. I really enjoyed designing the logo and decided to redesign the entire blog. I had learned a few basic html and css skills from high school, but decided to read a lot of web design tutorials to refresh and hone my knowledge. Because of this personal project, I discovered that I really liked branding and web design, and I decided to pursue it part-time.

I started part-time freelancing my second year in college. At the time, I was also working as a desk assistant for the school’s residence life. As long as we did all of our desk duties, we were pretty much free to fill the time however we wanted. The system worked out nicely because I wasn’t really making any money freelancing. I had no portfolio and no experience so I charged next to nothing. While part-time designing wasn’t really sustainable, I fell in love with graphic design and decided to switch both my major and my university to pursue it.

During the summer after my third year in college, I freelanced full-time. I loved freelancing, but after that summer I thought it was too lonely to do permanently (I didn’t know many people in the area and I didn’t know coworking spaces existed). I decided to pursue working in a design firm and the summer before I graduated, I interned with a firm almost full-time. One of the things that was so great about this firm was their genuine desire to teach their interns. We were given our own projects, included in meetings, and taken on business trips. I learned so many lessons during my time there - the most important lesson being that I wasn’t meant to work in a firm.

While I was working at the firm, there was so much I missed about freelancing. I missed being able to talk to my clients; I missed being able to say no to projects that weren’t the right fit for me; and I missed being able to work every single part of a project. I decided that after I graduated from college, I would pursue freelancing full-time. I knew that working in a firm was not the right path for me, and I took the leap of faith on freelancing. The Lord was faithful, worked it out perfectly, and here I am today.

Timia Lewis | Willie n Wylie | Freelance Wisdom

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

One way I received my first good clients was through a freelancing network; but the other way (and the more important way) I received some of my first good clients was by treating the clients I had well and by giving them the best work I had to offer. It’s so easy to slack on a project that you’re not excited about or isn’t in your niche; but it’s really important to do your best work for every single thing you do.

One of my favorite clients was an entrepreneur who also helped manage people’s businesses. Not only did she come to me for work on her newest endeavor, but she also referred me to her own clients when they needed work done. I wouldn’t have had repeat projects or any referrals from her if I hadn’t done the best work I could have for her or for those she referred to me.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

For me, it’s not working at home. Of course working from home is sometimes unavoidable, but I try to stay away from it during my scheduled hours. When I’m at home, there are so many distractions for me. Leaving the house helps put me in the mindset of getting things done. Another way I stay productive is by having a notebook just dedicated to lists. I have lists on my project management system as well, but the physical act of writing things down and crossing them off has always helped keep me super organized and on task.

Timia Lewis | fork meets knife logo | Freelance Wisdom

What is one thing you can't live without while working on a project?

I would be lost without my sketchbook. It’s where I start writing about my project, where I go to put my designs, and where I return when I’m stumped on a problem. If a logo or layout doesn’t work out the way I envisioned it, there are always more to look at in my sketchbook. If one of those other designs doesn’t work, I can always go back to my sketchbook and try again. I used to be pretty bad about going straight to the screen to design something, but that almost always resulted in frustration. Using a sketchbook is much quicker and much more effective.

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

Probably work life balance. Because I get to do what I love, I find myself working a lot more than I should. I really don’t mind it all that much, but I think I should be stricter on myself than I am and give myself time to pursue other things I enjoy. I also allow myself to get distracted by other things pretty easily. For work I have to use Pinterest and Instagram and it’s easy to get sucked into never ending scrolling.

Timia Lewis | Rhapso business cards | Freelance Wisdom
Timia Lewis | Rhapso packaging | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

By having the best possible portfolio I can. I used to have a lot of projects in my portfolio, but I’ve narrowed it down a great deal and have become much pickier about what I put in it. If I have any doubts about whether or not something should be in my portfolio it probably means that it shouldn’t be. I look at each project in my portfolio and I think “Will my ideal client hire me if all they saw was this single project?” If the answer is no, I don’t put it in there.

I’m also super picky about what project pictures I post for my portfolio. I spend a lot of time taking and editing each of the photos, and I only share and post what I think is the best. It takes longer to update my portfolio with projects, but I’m okay with that if it means my portfolio is the best it can be.

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

Getting an email scheduler was a game changer for me. I truly love what I do and I constantly find myself working beyond office hours. Having an email scheduler makes it so I don’t have to worry about sending emails at weird hours of the night or forgetting to send emails in the morning. I personally use Boomerang; and it lets you schedule an alert if you haven’t heard back from a client within a certain amount of time. This is really helpful when it comes to unresponsive clients as well as client follow ups. 10/10. Would definitely recommend.

Timia Lewis | Mere | Freelance Wisdom
Timia Lewis | On what to include in her portfolio | Freelance Wisdom

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

Oh, absolutely. When I started design school, I abandoned my diy blog. I think it would be really fun to give it a rebrand and start it back up again. I didn’t know much about design while I was doing it, but I think that now, I could turn it into something really cool and unique.

And of course I have a very real and very long list of other projects that I would like to pursue.

How do you stay creatively inspired?

I stay inspired creatively by looking at the work of others. My go-to platform for doing that is Pinterest. When I look, I don’t only look at graphic design, but I also look at environmental design, illustrations, fine art, and photography. I also really like reading! Because I do overall branding, words are really important. Anne in Anne of Green Gables is so over dramatic and eloquent. I love it. Anne is able to give things beautiful names like “Idlewild” and I aspire to be just like that. She’s the perfect source of inspiration for words. Another way I stay inspired is by observing and documenting the world around me. If I really like the typography on an old sign, I take a picture. If the sky has a really rad color scheme, I take a picture. I eventually organize or delete these pictures, but it’s helpful in keeping me aware of my surroundings and their beauty.

Timia Lewis | The Brow Spa | Freelance Wisdom

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

This was actually a super tough question for me because I like a pretty big range of music (a lot of which are musicals), for now I’m just going to mention three.

1. Lily and Madeleine: lilandmad.com

Lily and Madeleine are sisters and their music is super good for working. Their music is mostly calm and floaty. I recommend them for watching the rain fall with a cup of tea.

2. Simper: simper.bandcamp.com

Simper is a pretty cool new artist. He has an album dedicated to some of the dreams he’s had. It’s an interesting concept and his other music is good and honest, too.

3. Empire Springs: empirespringsmusic.com

Empire Springs is my favorite local band. I’ve been to a bunch of their shows and they’ve recently started doing some space themed stuff. It’s pretty cool.

Anything else that you'd like to share?

I think it’s really important to celebrate the great work others do. It can be really easy to look at a project that someone else has done and react with jealousy and criticism, but comparison truly is the thief of joy. Just because someone else is doing something great doesn’t mean you aren’t too, and the success of someone else’s work can push you to create better work yourself.

I have to remind myself of this often.

Timia Lewis | Rhapso coupons | Freelance Wisdom
Timia Lewis | On comparison | Freelance Wisdom

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

1. A love of learning

2. Determination

3. Aptitude

Get Social with Timia

Website | Instagram

Brook Gossen

We are so excited to share the work and wisdom of Creative Lady Directory member Brook Gossen. Brook is an Australian surface designer, illustrator, and hand-letterer who found her way back to creative expression with the help of Skillshare and the 100 Day Project on Instagram. We love her hand-drawn style and the way she embraces color, and we’re obsessed with the mix and match bed linens she makes for more than ever, the company she started with her twin sister.

In this interview Brook sheds light on taking the leap to open a shop, collaborating with a relative, how a conversation about her personal portfolio resulted in securing representation with a pattern licensing agency, and so much more. Enjoy!

Brook Gossen | Freelance Wisdom

Tell us about your path to becoming a freelance surface designer, illustrator, and hand-letterer.

My need to get creative again after having 3 kids in three years led me back to study and on a journey of finding where I sit as a creative. I studied fine arts at university in my early 20’s but didn’t complete it as an opportunity arose to move to the Philippines for work. I’m so glad I took that opportunity, as although I didn’t really enjoy the work, I met my husband there!

We lived there for a number of years and then moved back to Australia to start a family. I wasn’t creative at all during that time, and I missed it. So once time allowed it, I started creating again, however it felt like I needed to relearn everything, and I had lost all confidence in my work. Around this time, I discovered Skillshare and took a few classes to brush up my skills. It was a lot of fun and I practiced a lot.

A few years ago, I took part in the 100 day project on Instagram. I decided on 100 days of pattern and while I definitely didn’t finish it in 100 days, I did make 100 patterns. That project brought back my creative mojo, pushed me to share more work, and helped me define my style. It also led to so many opportunities, along with being published in uppercase magazine which was a dream come true!

Brook Gossen | Face 5 Pattern | Freelance Wisdom

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

Firstly, it was friends, family, and word of mouth. Then Instagram. One of my earliest and favourite surface design projects was for cat collars and bowls after my client saw an animated cat pattern during my 100 days of patterns project. I still get clients via Instagram, and a couple through the Creative Ladies Collective Facebook group too!

You are half of the duo behind more than ever a mix and match bedding company! Tell us about the inspiration to start this shop.

More than ever is inspired by the love & chaos of family life. Life is busy, and it sure isn't perfect. Sometimes things get mixed up (hello odd socks!) and sometimes things just happen to match... We decided to embrace that idea and make a range of mix and match bedding that all goes together, so if you don’t get to finish all of your washing, who cares? Mix it up! It can go with what you have already in your linen closet or you can purchase sheets and pillowcases over time and mix and match as you can afford it. For that reason, we decided to sell everything as separates, as well as sets, so everyone has the option to create their own look, or just purchase one sheet at a time. We wanted to make buying bedlinen fun and easy.

Brook Gossen | more than ever | Zigdot set | Freelance Wisdom

The other half of more than ever is your twin sister Mandie. What do you love about collaborating with her and what have you found to be challenging?

It’s the best. We had wanted to do something together for the longest time, and when I decided I wanted to follow this crazy dream of mine into bedlinen, I asked her if she wanted to join me. We’re full partners and complement each other really well. Quite honestly the only challenge is that we live about 40 minutes away from each other so don’t see each other as often as we should. We talk all the time though!

Do you have any advice for fellow designers looking to enter into a familial collaboration whether it be with a family member, a spouse, or a close friend?

Just be really honest with each other, and always communicate if something is bothering you or doesn’t feel right. Treat the collaboration as a joint partnership, and use each other to bounce ideas off. You’ll get the best outcomes and always know where you stand.

Brook Gossen | more than ever | spot on | Freelance Wisdom

If you could give one piece of advice to illustrators/graphic designers thinking of opening their own shop, what would it be?

If you’re thinking about opening your own shop, do it! It’s so much better to have tried and given it your best, rather than years down the track thinking why didn’t I? No regrets.

You are now represented by Nerida Hansen. How did that partnership come about?

Nerida helped me print some cushion covers for my bedding company, and one day I called her to have a chat about my personal portfolio. She gave me some fantastic advice on where it could be improved, and what I could add to make it stronger. I was going to work on it for a few months and get back to her when I was ready, however she contacted me 2 weeks later to offer me a spot amongst a group of designers she was representing at Surtex last May. Needless to say, I jumped right in, and designed 7 or 8 collections in 3 weeks. It was a lot of stress, and lot of weekend work, but the experience was amazing and so worth it. From then on, I’ve been part of Nerida’s core group of designers, and now have a range of fabric in Australia’s biggest fabric store.

Brook Gossen | Illustrator | Oranges | Freelance Wisdom
Brook Gossen | Opening up your own shop | Freelance Wisdom

How has this representation improved your work flow?

I am more organised. I submit designs every month, and if Nerida has something come up that she’d like us to work on, she lets us know and we either use existing designs or create new patterns, depending on the brief, and usually in a pretty limited time frame. I try and plan out my month so that I’m not working all hours at the end of each month to get my design collections ready.

Do you have recommendations for fellow designers looking for representation?

Nerida is a surface pattern agent, rather than illustration agent, and it’s great to have someone showing your work to both existing clients and to a different audience that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach. Being a freelance artist or designer though, you really do need to have multiple streams of income, along with having an agent. I’m already underway on that, however I plan to look into more options for my personal work and am still trying to work out which will suit me best – set up my own print store, sell on Etsy, or else a platform like Society6 or Spoonflower. There’s just so many options to choose from. I would love to get an illustration agent this year too, and try to get some editorial work.

Brook Gossen | Colour + Shape Study | Freelance Wisdom

As a surface designer, illustrator, hand-letterer, and shop owner you are balancing a lot of roles and projects, do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Ha! I need tips! I am a serial list maker, and try my best to allocate time to different projects I have on the go each day, and prioritise what needs to happen first. Every now and then I feel completely overwhelmed though, and some days feel like I’m achieving nothing. I’ve learnt one of the most important things you can do when you work from home is to get up every now and then and go for a walk, do some exercise or take a proper break to recharge. You can’t work all day without a break, and its good to come back with fresh eyes.

What is one thing you can’t live without while working on a project?

In winter I start the day with a cup of black tea and go over what needs to be done for the day. In summer it’s an iced tea mid afternoon. It just makes me happy and is part of my routine. Simple things. Plus of course my art supplies & iPad Pro (which by the way was the best investment ever). That’s where all of my projects begin.

Brook Gossen | White Hair | Freelance Wisdom
Brook Gossen | Working from home | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer / creative business owner so far?

Selling me. I really struggle with selling myself and my work. Putting myself out there. It’s something I need to get better at.

What is the biggest creative risk you’ve taken in your career? Would you do it again?

Launching more than ever. We decided to manufacture offshore, and with that comes big quantities along with financial outlay and risk. Both monetary and creative. I’ve learnt so much in the process, it has been amazing. So if I was to do it again, I’d do it differently, and take on all of my learnings. But I’d still do it.

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

Admin is the part of the business I struggle with most (like most creatives). Having an accountant has definitely taken a lot of the pressure off us, it’s reassuring to know that side of the business is handled correctly.

Brook Gossen | Sweeter Cards | Freelance Wisdom
Brook Gossen | Illustration | Sweeter Cards | Freelance Wisdom

Additionally, is there anything you've learned that you'd be willing to share about working with international clients?

Setting up Paypal for international clients has made things easier. International bank transfers aren’t as easy as you’d expect and can be quite time consuming and often involve a trip to the bank. I offer all options, however most pay using Paypal now.

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

A long time ago I wanted to make a kids book, and made some really rough sketches for it. Maybe one day I’ll find the time to work on it again.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?

That admin is a killer. I had no idea there’d be so much! So the sooner you start getting help with that the easier it will be!

Brook Gossen | Illustrator | Freelance Wisdom

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

I usually have Spotify going in the background while I’m working. Lately have been listening to San Cisco and Jungle Giants (who are both Australian and awesome), Rex Orange County, Estelle, Skeggs. It’s pretty varied.

Anything else that you'd like to share?

I’m constantly inspired but the amazing artists, designers, illustrators, pattern makers and general creative types I come across through Freelance Wisdom and my Instagram feed. Sometimes I get hit with imposter syndrome, or just see so many beautiful posts that I start comparing and my self worth crumbles… Every now and then, I need to remind myself to stop comparing and just keep sharing! The world is a big enough place for all of us.

Brook Gossen | Bouquet for Bae Greetabl | Freelance Wisdom
Brook Gossen | Stop comparing and just keep sharing | Freelance Wisdom

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

Tenacity, patience, and faith in your abilities.

Get Social with Brook

Website | Instagram | Pinterest

Lindsay Kelly

Lindsay Kelly is the Founder and Creative Director of JaneMade, a full service branding studio that focuses on working with female-founded and female-led brands with an ethos of community over competition. She is also a member of the Creative Lady Directory!

We’ve loved watching her company grow and really enjoyed hearing how she’s handled that rapid growth. Be sure to read all the way through to Lindsay’s just starting out advice. We have a hunch that you’ll want to add it to your mantra list.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Freelance Wisdom

Tell us about your path to becoming JaneMade.

After working in-house for over ten years, I wanted to partner on projects with clients that shared my mission and values of women helping women and community over competition. I built up enough freelance work to be able to be able to take the plunge to working for myself and never looked back. After 6 months or so of freelancing full time, I officially established the company and have poured my heart into it since then.

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

After working for so long, I had built up quite a network over the years. Those former co-workers gave me work, and referred me to other folks. In this sense, maintaining strong relationships was really important. I let former colleagues and friends know that I was out on my own, and got a lot of referrals that way. I also learned, very early on, the benefits Instagram has and receive a lot of inquiries through it after posting work. I’d say about 90% of our inquiries still come from Instagram, which is wild, but we definitely use it to our advantage and post what seems to work.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | By Rosie Jane | Freelance Wisdom

When did you make the decision to grow your team and how has that growth been?

I’m not one to say no if there’s a project I want to do, and knew it was important for the growth of JaneMade to say yes to everything that aligned with us. This meant finding the support of designers I’d worked with over the years and bringing on a writer in the early days. Since then, I’ve brought on a partner who leads strategy and marketing and several gals who help out with design and copy. My client relationships are very important to me, so it’s been a tug and pull to find team members that completely mesh with us, but we’ve found several along the way and have a solid team in place.

As your team has grown has your role within JaneMade evolved?

Truthfully, not really! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I’m still touching every project, every logo, working directly with all of our clients. Our reputation is really important to me, and I want to make sure that every client feels as important as the next, regardless of project size. I’m trying to be better and let go of some responsibilities, and have brought on a studio manager to help with those efforts. As we grow, there’s more phone calls, more emails to answer, and less time to design, so I’m really trying to take some steps to get back to doing what I do best.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Citrine | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for creatives who are looking to expand their team?

I think it’s paramount to make sure that you work with people who “fit”. Everyone has different skill sets, strengths + weaknesses, but what’s most important is that any team member you bring on is working for the greater good of your business. Make sure that your supporting team members are clear on what’s expected of them, what your process and timelines are like, and if you have any “rules” they need to follow. But if you’re getting busy, find the help sooner rather than later. This will definitely remove some of the stress of being overwhelmed and needing to find help in that moment.

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

My partner, Kerri, has started doing some really great outreach to like-minded women in categories we want to work in or build up our client base in. I also try to go above and beyond to make sure all of our clients feel their needs are met, because a recommendation from a former client is a huge mark of success for me. We get a lot of referrals from past clients, so we really try our best to make all of our relationships smooth and successful. And, of course, still Instagram! We make sure to push relevant content, both visual and strategy wise, to really reflect who we are as a brand: aesthetically and value-wise.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Coveted Market | Freelance Wisdom
Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | hiring team members | Freelance Wisdom

What has been your greatest struggle as a creative business owner so far?

I’m a right-brained thinker, through and through. Owning a business means managing clients, taxes, payroll… all the things that aren’t intuitive to me. I’ve hit some bumps along the way (all of which I’ve learned from!) but definitely still struggle with some of the more “business” related side of things. I got myself a new accountant, brought on a studio manager, and started to put more processes in place to help with the management aspect of it. Rapid success is definitely met with growing pains! But we’re constantly evolving our ways of doing things for what’s best for us.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive individually and as a team?

Making lists definitely helps me. Sometimes thinking about everything I need to do gets really overwhelming, so I’ll list out what I need to accomplish each day. It keeps me focused, organized, and feels great when I start to check things off. I also try to not schedule too many calls in one day, so that I have enough time to do “actual work.” As a team, I try to make sure everyone has the information they need to work efficiently and to the best of their ability, which means getting things organized before they get started. There’s nothing worse than wasted time when there’s so much to do, so keeping everything documented is great. We use both Trello and monday.com to help us from a project management perspective.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Hauswitch | Freelance Wisdom
Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | HausWitch storefront | Freelance Wisdom

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

So many! My biggest advice is definitely to get an accountant. Like immediately. I’m 3 years into being self employed and am still messing up (less now!) and wish I had known what I know now back then. Also, make sure you’re protected, which means using a contract for every job. And.co makes a great free one. I track everything through Quickbooks, which is an easy way for me to forecast financially.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?

Truthfully, I wish I’d known it would all work out. I had a lot of anxiety around taking the plunge -- we’ve got kids and a mortgage so i needed to be able to contribute my share. Projects would end and I’d get nervous from time to time that there wasn’t enough work in the pipeline. But everytime, something amazing would come along and my worry was for nothing. It’s been a lot of work and I’ve certainly been spread a little too thin on occasion, but it’s so worth it.

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Still we Rise | Freelance Wisdom

How do you stay creatively inspired? What do you like to daydream about?

My team does a great job at keeping me inspired. Our newest designer, Ashley, is a breath of fresh air -- she’s so thoughtful in how she thinks about design, and it’s refreshing to see things through a different set of eyes. I love to look at photography for color palette and layout inspiration, and all of our branding projects stem from a huge gathering of images. I do my best not to go down a bunny hole of design references -- sometimes it’s hard to get them out of your head and stay original (especially in the Instagram world), so I really like to stick to studying photography and typefaces to get my juices flowing.

I love to daydream about the future! I’m always asking “what’s next?” for JaneMade and brainstorming with Kerri about how we can constantly grow and evolve. Our hope is to leave a successful, thriving business to our daughters so it’s important to us to always strive for greater.

Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?

I get way too distracted to listen to podcasts, though I try sometimes! Reading is also a luxury I unfortunately don’t have, with two small kids and a business. But! I’m really into Spotify’s daily mixes and discover weekly. I listen to music all day long while designing. Faves include Alt-J, Langhorne Slim, Keaton Henson, and old folk music.

LindsayKelly | JaneMade | Follain | Freelance Wisdom
Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | Creative Inspiration | Freelance Wisdom

Anything else that you'd like to share?

If you’ve thought about / are thinking about becoming a freelancer, do it. There is so much work and opportunity out there, and I wish I had taken the jump sooner. Full time jobs will always be there to apply to, but you were born with talent for a reason!

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

humility, tenacity, kindness

Lindsay Kelly | JaneMade | HausMagick | Freelance Wisdom

Get Social with Lindsay

Website | Instagram | Facebook