For our final interview of 2016, we bring you another inspiring female creative from our Creative Lady Directory, Nicole Miyuki Santo, a lettering artist, graphic designer and teacher who specializes in the simplistic details and bringing individuals' and businesses' stories to life.
From working in house for Bash Please, to helping create the Wellen Women brand, to teaching calligraphy workshops in person and online for the Modern Calligraphy Summit and Brit + Co, Nicole Santo has had quite the freelance journey. With the new year on the horizon we are grateful for a dose of Nicole's enthusiasm as well as her productivity and self-care tips. Enjoy!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and letterer.
This freelance life is actually recent for me! I went fully on my own in January 2016 so I'm nearing my one year and boy has it been a ride! Looking back, I think my life has been paving the way for me to be a freelancer. Growing up, I've always been someone who juggled things, with sports, activities and even in college being a part of every association I could. I liked so many different things and being around different people and taking it all in. When I had a full-time job after college it was a hard transition to be at a 9-5 staring at a computer all day. I was inspired by my friend Jen B Peters (who you did an interview with you - hey girl!) who started a tumblr and drew an illustration everyday for a year. I've always loved quotes and watercolors so I decided to combine the two and Grounded on the Daily was born. Wow it's crazy looking back on that! This snowballed in to starting an etsy store and selling at Unique LA ( a craft show in LA). Then I fell in to the wedding world working in house for the crazy talented Bash Please as well as working part-time with a dream job to help design and create a brand called Wellen Women. A few years passed and when things started shifting, I knew it was the time to take the leap to do this on my own - so here I am now :)
Can you tell us a bit about your teaching? What inspired you to offer online courses and in person workshops?
Teaching, yes! First off, I am not someone who has liked public speaking or the attention all on me. I'm quite the opposite. But I think this has allowed me to embrace what I do love, which is one-on-one connection. My teaching style is focused on each person individually as it's my goal to help shine the light and for them to see that they too can do this! In my workshops, I do a group lesson in the beginning and then go around the room and help each student one-on-one. Everyone is different - maybe it's their grip, or the angle of the brush or the amount of water they are using. But I love helping each student work through it and when that AH HA moment happens and it clicks, that is the absolute best!
Now to online. I soon realized that if you weren't in the city I was teaching, there wasn't a way for you to take my workshop. And as life was doing it's thing, a special opportunity popped up for me and I was part of the first Modern Calligraphy Summit online where 9 of us recorded videos on our craft and shared it with over 2,000 lettering enthusiasts who signed up and joined us. This was a new challenge to make sure that these students would still achieve that same AH HA moment even without me being there in person. And scary, to say the least, that I would have to record a video! But it was a huge success and it's been so humbling to receive messages that my class was very approachable, that they enjoyed my teaching style and that they learned to love watercolor brush lettering! win win :) I also have another online course with Brit + Co, available now and that one is a great way to dive in to the craft for newbies and anyone looking to brush up their skills. Ha no pun intended.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
O yes being productive. Everyone is different and I think things will always be changing for me, but here's a few tips:
1) Listen to podcasts \\ When I'm lettering or doing something that doesn't require an email writing brain, I love to listen and just take in the awesome knowledge of others. A few of my favorite podcasters are: Jess Lively, Jenna Kutcher, Sean Wes, Liz Gilbert and so many Ted talks.
2) Break up the day \\ For me I work well in spurts rather than sitting at my desk for an entire 8 hours. I live right by a pool, so I'll often take a 20 minute swim break or go to lunch with a friend. It helps to break up the day and be productive for the time that I do have and make the most of it.
3) Keep a notebook with you at all times \\ It's nice to have something to jot your thoughts down. I recently listened to a podcast that was saying if you think of something to do and you don't do it right away, your brain will subconsciously keep popping that thought up in your brain throughout the day until you release it and let it go (writing it down) or actually doing it. Working freelance you have so many things going on at once so this has been super helpful!
4) Get sleep! \\ Recently I've been putting my phone on sleep mode when I go to bed (it allows you to still receive texts but your phone won't light up or buzz) and it has been the best, seriously. I used to think that I was invincible and that I didn't need sleep. Not sure if it's with age (might be) but I am way happier and productive when I get 7-8 hours of sleep!
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelancer so far?
Self-doubt. That little voice in your head that likes to creep in and tries to tell you that you don't know what you are doing or that x person is better because he/she is doing this. For anyone who can relate, please know that I'm right there with you and I can imagine SO may others are as well. What has helped me personally with these thoughts is actually doing yoga. This may not be for you, so I totally encourage you to find your safe space whether that be a physical activity or surrounding yourself with loved ones. For me, yoga has been that place that I return to on the daily and get out of my head and back to that space of living with love rather than fear.
"I totally encourage you to find your safe space whether that be a physical activity or surrounding yourself with loved ones. For me, yoga has been that place that I return to on the daily and get out of my head and back to that space of living with love rather than fear."
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
Connection. Being able to help bring other's visions, dreams and ideas to reality. It's getting to work one-on-one with a client who is taking the leap, starting his/her own business and needs help with bringing it to life. Or a student who is nervous to take the step to take on their first calligraphy job and needs someone to tell them "hell yes you can!" In addition, this freelance journey has allowed me a space to be connected to myself. When you are your own boss and no one is telling you what to do, you have to be hard on yourself to push through and yet still be kind and be your own cheerleader. This past year has been about learning to love myself and understanding that by following your heart and doing what you love, that too may shine the light on others to do the same.
Thank you Freelance Wisdom for having me here and being a space for creatives to come to. I am honored to be amongst such talent and wonderful spirit.