advice

Satsuki Shibuya

Satsuki Shibuya is an energy painter and spiritual thinker, living and working in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Her work is based upon intuition, energy, and spirit, exploring the realms of the unknown to bridge the gaps between the traditionally tangible and the unseen. With each watercolor she takes us on a personal journey into our own souls leading us towards greater appreciation for the world in which we live. We especially love her focus and emphasis on simplicity. 

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

After receiving a college degree from another University prior to graduating from art school and years of working in different fields, I knew starting my own company was the only direction I could foresee in my future. The company started as a graphic design studio, but quickly switched to product design. We created three seasons of home goods, then paired down production to one of a kind goods because creating with my hands was and still is of deep importance. We coupled all of this with creative consulting and social media engagements. Least to say, it was quite a roller coaster ride.

A sudden illness took me out for year and through this hiatus, all changed. It was never my intention to work with watercolors, nor painting, for that matter. After receiving a message to paint and months of procrastination, I decided to try different mediums to see what might come through. Several attempts later, I happened upon watercolor and never looked back. It was love at first sight and although the connection may be stronger on some days than others, it continues to lead me down my current path.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients (or buyers)?

If I concentrate on just the painting aspect of my work, the focus has always been to present myself, authentically, through everything that is shared, whether it be artworks, words, thoughts, and beyond. Although I am never sure how people, companies, clients find me, I believe they find me with the right intentions and consciousness. Although sometimes not immediate, opportunities come when timing aligns.

Be humble, but bold in sharing what you believe in and what rings true to your heart, for we are all built with a soul, which vibrates with love.

"Be humble, but bold in sharing what you believe in and what rings true to your heart, for we are built with a soul, which vibrates with love."


Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I have learned that we are all truly built uniquely, a one-fits-all approach does not seem to work, but for myself, it has been conscious presence in the now, not spreading myself out too thinly and saying no more often than yes. We can only be focused on one thing at a time and by leaning deeper into each moment, what comes into fruition is saturated with our visions, expressions, and spirit in the way it was intended.

What has been your greatest struggle running your own business so far?

The greatest struggle has been continuing down a path that one believes in regardless of what others may say or think. It is a constant struggle honing in on what matters and making sure that the direction taken adheres to one’s vision.

A method I constantly use for direction mapping is imagining whether I would be doing what I do if all other factors were subtracted — money, social media, people, praise, love, attention, and any other incentives that may drive myself to continue down a particular path. Would I still want to continue? If the answer is yes, I know I’m still hitting the bull’s eye.

"If all other factors were subtracted - money, social media, people, praise, love, attention - would I still want to continue? " 


What is your favorite thing about working as an artist?

Having the freedom to bring to life anything imagined. Freedom of expression, of being, is a very important ingredient for happiness.

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

Implement a system early, utilize great online tools and delegate whenever possible. By doing so, it frees up time to concentrate on the core of what your business is built upon, your talents.

Some online tools that have really helped are Xero for accounting and bookkeeping, Gusto for payroll, Slack for inner-office communication, and Asana for project management and scheduling. What a world of difference!

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

As my energy is limited, simplifying allows me to focus on the important and appreciate the everyday. From purchasing clothing that is designed with a minimal aesthetic and made to last, it not only saves time when picking out an outfit, as each item has been tightly curated prior to entering the closet, but also assists in using less of our earth’s resources. When cooking a meal, simple dishes not only enhance the flavors of each ingredient used, but also the appreciation of the life force of each ingredient becomes easier; not to mention, also aids in digestion, freeing one from a long bout of food coma.

Not all will agree with these methods, but for me, it has helped me to focus in on the meaning of life and through this, an abundance of gratitude, for work and life.

Fill in the blank: The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Authenticity, Humbleness, Focus

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Jane Reaction

Jane Riley of Jane Reaction is a Dallas-based designer, art director, blogger, and mother of two young boys. She operates her own full service graphic design studio, specializing in brand development, website + blog design, print design and art direction. Jane has worked with several publications including Kinfolk magazine and the popular women's lifestyle publication Verily magazine. Her clients include small business and creative professionals, and she has collaborated with hundreds of creative professionals around the world styling photo shoots, designing for print and launching websites. 

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

I decided to go freelance right out of school because my husband and I lived on the North Shore of Oahu and there just weren't a lot of job opportunities out there (like none). I knew I wanted to do graphic design and I didn't want to settle for a job that didn't have anything to do with that path. Freelance was really my only option those first few years after graduating so I just jumped in with both feet and never looked back. 

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

I blogged a lot. Way more than I do now. I blogged almost every single day for a year! That really helped people see what I was doing, what I was capable of and let people get to know me as a person. I blogged about my personal life, I blogged about things I was interested in, and I blogged about any design project that I was working on at the time. Another thing that I recently realized was huge in helping me get clients - I was really supportive and passionate about my friend's creative endeavors. By supporting and cheering others on I got more work. Once they got too much work they would refer people to me, or once they started getting more business people would ask them who designed their logo. Invest in your creative friends and clients and they will invest in you.

 

"Invest in your creative friends and clients and they will invest in you."

 

Verily Magazine | Art Direction by Jane Riley

Verily Magazine | Art Direction by Jane Riley

Verily Magazine | Art Direction by Jane Riley

Verily Magazine | Art Direction by Jane Riley

If you work from home, do you have any tips for being your most productive?

1. Create a space that is inspiring and comfortable to work in. Keep in mind functionality! Make a space that really works for you.
2. Get ready for work everyday. Don't go to work in your pajamas. 
3. Set regular work hours and stick to them. 
4. Eat breakfast before you start work in the morning. This is huge! I am way more productive if I'm not thinking of food the whole time I am working.

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

2 things - 
1. Perfecting the creative process... having a creative process that works for me and every single client I ever work with has been a challenge. I still make adaptations to the process every once in a while but figuring out a process that you can guide every single client through was difficult at first. When I first started, my process was never the same. I was all over the place and often felt like I was leading my client down an endless rabbit hole of design ideas. Now, taking a client through the process is a lot more smooth. We can both see a clear direction that the project is taking.
2. Owning that I am my own boss. I get really tripped up trying to make myself seem bigger and smaller than I am all at the same time. It's hard to find a balance between super confident and kind/authentic/humble. Especially for women! The world wants women to be both at the same time and sometimes it is very exhausting. 
Woodnote Photography | Design by Jane Riley

Woodnote Photography | Design by Jane Riley

Bleubird Blog Design | Design by Jane Riley

Bleubird Blog Design | Design by Jane Riley

What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?

I love that I can work when I need to, and take a week or two off when I need to slow down and focus on my children (or myself). Honestly, I really thought all I ever wanted in life was to be a mom (and don't get me wrong, it is still my best work to date!) but it's not always the most fulfilling or fun thing to do. So, being able to have a career while being a mom has been the best thing for my confidence, happiness, mental health etc. I am SO thankful that I can work with fun, creative, interesting people everyday and still be a mom. It's seriously one of the best things!

Any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Something that has saved me tons of time and stress is a media kit. I never wanted to have a media kit in the past because I wanted to be able to give every perspective client a custom package and quote based on their needs. As the inquiries started flooding in last fall I knew that I couldn't keep doing that. It was too overwhelming to respond to everyone's email with a custom quote and then answer all of the inevitable questions that would follow. So I put together a media kit. Any time I get an inquiry I send them my media kit and let them know what my next availble date is. The kit is a 6 page PDF with information about me, what I do, how I work, how much I charge for basic services and has a FAQ page. It has been a huge time saver! 
Mother Magazine | Website design by Jane Riley

Mother Magazine | Website design by Jane Riley

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

I am a mom to 2 really young boys (2 and almost 1) Honestly, there isn't a whole lot of balance going on over here, just a lot of surviving! haha! Any advice I do have is really more for the freelance mom:
1. Get a nanny or daycare or some sort of reliable child care ASAP! Do no rely on nap time or bed time to get your work done! I learned that the hard way. Several times. Sometimes a nap just isn't in the cards for your day and you have a ton of stuff to get done, so you either don't get it done or you stay up all night working. You deserve to go to bed at the same time as everyone else in your family, chances are you need sleep the most. 
2. Don't rely on your significant other to watch the kids while you get work done. I used to have my husband watch the kids while I finished up work that I wasn't able to get done while the nanny was taking care of our kids. The result was that we never spent any time together as a family. One of us was always working or getting something else done. I now only take on work that I can get done during my set work hours. 
3. Make time for dates and don't work at all during the date! Don't even check your email once! My husband and I used to be notorious for being on our phones constantly! We have really come a long way! We now go on a date once a week - we put our phones away and just focus on each other. It's made a huge difference in our relationship. I would say this goes for mommy time too - I don't even try to work while I am with my kids. I might check my email, but most of the time I just turn everything work related off and focus on being a mom.  

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

Excellent communication skills, confident, and organized.

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Erin Loechner

This interview is part of Freelance Wisdom's Mama Month - a month long celebration of freelancing moms. 

Erin Loechner is a midwest-based blogger behind popular lifestyle & design blog Design For Mankind. A former art director/stylist in LA, Erin’s been writing and speaking for years for clients such as The New York Times, Martha Stewart and Dwell and has created a following of over a million design-loving fans. She hosted a 2-year/24-episode web series for HGTV.com and has designed products for a number of companies. Erin's heartfelt writing and amazing eye for design has garnered her a loyal following that stands up to the test of time.

 

Blogging has changed a lot since you began 10 years ago, how do you work to stay relevant?

You know, the hardest work I do in terms of relevance, for me, is convincing myself that relevance is meaningless. There are millions of ways to stay relevant: writing about controversial topics, researching trends, incorporating search terms, linkbaiting your headlines, but none of these feel natural to me. None feel sustainable, either.
As a result, I'm very slow to spend my time looking at what's beyond the bend and, instead, I focus on what's here. What I love, what I have and what I see. What is true to me, what my life is like today. It's less relevance and more reverence, I suppose. But it's the only way I can enjoy what I do.

"I'm very slow to spend my time looking at what's beyond the bend and, instead, I focus on what's here. What I love, what I have and what I see."


Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Yes! My friends taught me about the concept 'golden hours' a few years ago, and it's transformational. The idea is that your body and mind are geared to work at a set time each day, and there is a 2-4 hour window where you are naturally at your most productive. (To find out when your golden hours are, figure out when you find yourself coming up with your greatest ideas, or when you have the most energy, or when you're the most excited about creativity. Those are your golden hours!)
Mine are in the morning, so I protect them with every ounce of my being! Rearranging my day to work during my golden hours means I can get more done in less time, because I'm not fighting with my body. I'm naturally alert, focused and creative in the morning, so it's easy to complete the tasks I need to. My husband, however, is a night owl, so he protects that time. Everyone is wildly different - the key is listening to your body/mind and figuring out what might work best for you.

"Rearranging my day to work during my golden hours means I can get more done in less time, because I'm not fighting with my body. I'm naturally alert, focused and creative in the morning, so it's easy to complete the tasks I need to."


What has been your greatest struggle as a self-employed business owner?

Swimming upstream. There are a million opportunities as a blogger, and there is never a shortage of products to promote, lifestyles to curate, topics to discuss. The inspiration abounds, but as an easily overwhelmed person, it's important for me to keep my blinders on and stay focused to what I want, rather than what others want from me. I'm a mother to a toddler and a soon-to-be adoptive parent, so family comes first in my home. It's difficult to turn down what feel like incredible opportunities because they either don't align with my current goals, or because they'd leave little energy and/or time left over for the ones under my roof. 
The Internet can be a frenetic place, so it's important for me to sometimes ignore the noise and pave my own way by showing up here, in real life, for the ones who love me at my worst and know me at my best.

What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?

Hands down, the flexibility and the quiet! I'm a disciplined introvert by nature, so I love that I can get what I need to get done on my own time, rather than having meetings where we talk about getting things done. ;)
I love that I can cater my schedule to a routine that works best for my family. Currently, that means getting up at 4:45am, sneaking out to a morning coffee shop and writing until a 8:30am yoga class, then home for the day! I like that, with focus, I can finish my work day before the rest of the house is up and running. Best of both worlds!

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients and partners?

I'm the worst person to ask this! I have an admitted tunnel vision where I blog what feels true to me that morning, rarely thinking about readers or stats or clients. But in a way, I suppose that's the best advice I can give --- put out work that you love, work that feels honest, work that feels true. That's attractive by nature.

Do you have any advice for balancing motherhood and your business?

This, currently, is my balance mantra.  This, too! And an old letter to my daughter I wrote about the subject. ;)

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