China Kautz is the boss lady behind Olive Paper Co. a modern lettering and design studio currently based in Cincinnati, OH. She is also a member of our Creative Lady Directory! We're loving her warm spirit, calligraphic hand-lettering, and grounding productivity tips. Thanks for sharing with us China!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance designer and letterer.
Becoming a freelance designer came around full circle for me. When I was in high school and even in college I wanted to have my own stationery business. I was always doodling and crafting things but never really knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” After bouncing around through jobs I knew I needed to be in a business where I could be creative and be my own boss. So fast forward to 2015, I got engaged and took the challenge to DIY and hand letter everything that I could for my wedding. I started documenting my lettering journey through Instagram and found this amazing community of letterers. After putting my work out there and getting great feedback from people I decided to get a business license in 2016 and do this thing for real, even if there was a possibility for me to fail. It’s crazy to me now when I look back at my past self who wanted to have a stationery business cause now I sorta do!
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
I attracted them through Instagram. I never really knew the power of social media until I started a business that uses it on a daily bases.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Staying productive has got to be the most challenging aspect of running a business. Here’s a few tips that I do to stay productive even when I am unmotivated.
1. I have a to-do list every morning that I draft the night before. This really keeps me on track. Whenever I skip doing a list I find myself doing random tasks in the morning and my mind doesn’t start to really focus until 11am.
2. I always eat breakfast. I have to thank my parents for instilling this in me when I was in high school. Having a good breakfast really just starts my day off right and puts me in a good mood. I mean, who doesn’t love a healthy avocado toast first thing in the morning?!
3. Now this tip is something that I am still trying to work hard on. It’s staying off social media throughout the day. There’s been days where I know I have work to get done but I find myself scrolling through Instagram and 30 minutes flew by.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
My favorite thing about freelance is that I control the direction of my business. Every victory and failure is on me. I love being able to have that power. Another bonus is to be able to spend time with my corgis.
"My favorite thing about freelance is that I control the direction of my business. Every victory and failure is on me. I love being able to have that power."
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
I think it is important to take time for yourself. A few things things that I've done is make my husband's and amy bedroom a tech free zone. When we would get ready for bed I would continue to check emails. Now I put my phone on the other side of the room so I can’t even reach it. Also depending on the day I have started to set a time for when I stop working, regardless if I still have things on my to-do list. Once I am done working for the day I make a new list of the tasks I didn’t get around to and pick up right where I left off the following morning. My husband has definitely helped me create a work-life balance as well. He works a 9-5, so when he gets home he knows I’ve been cooped up all day and he encourages me to leave the house for a little bit, whether that’s taking a short drive through the city or grabbing a beer at our favorite spot.
"I have started to set a time for when I stop working, regardless if I still have things on my to-do list. Once I am done working for the day I make a new list of the tasks I didn’t get around to and pick up right where I left off the following morning."
What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
I love to explore the city. I really have been blessed to live in Cincinnati where small businesses are popping up left and right and the creative community here is incredible. All of the creatives who I have met here so far are so supportive and we feed off one another. Everything about this city I live in keeps me inspired. Trolling through Pinterest also doesn’t hurt to spark that creative buzz.