client work

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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Maddy Nye

Maddy Nye is a Minneapolis–based designer. After studying graphic design and sustainability, she went on to work as an illustrator and designer in studio and retail settings before starting her own freelance business. She works as a designer and letterer with ban.do, Design Love Fest, and other creative companies.

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

 At 23, I basically "retired" (for a while). Out of art school and after a spell at a tiny agency, I got an old camper and set out on a wild trek across the Southwest. 
That freewheeling formative time ensured that I could probably never settle into a "corporate" job (though I secretly wish I'd had that experience too). Afterward I held several in-house positions around town while moonlighting on side projects. The freedom of self-employment was seductive so I transitioned to freelancing. 


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

I did (and still do) a lot of small projects locally. I like designing for people I know and one good gig will lead to more. A wider network of fellow designers is also awesome for referrals back and forth. And of course the internet is where it's at. I don't exactly have a portfolio online which is pretty irrational, but I've always felt that while I love my job, I could actually shift gears and open a yurt b&b in the desert. I should probably commit to my design career but I'm still figuring out what that is. Branding and websites is what many clients need and it can be your livelihood but I find my focus moving towards stationery, illustration, editorial ideas, and other collaborations.  I'm habitually "beginning."

 

"Branding and websites is what many clients need and it can be your livelihood but I find my focus moving towards stationery, illustration, editorial ideas, and other collaborations.  I'm habitually 'beginning.'"

 

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

Turn on, tune in, and jam on it. I could goof off all day so simply getting started on the task at hand is the only way to make progress. One can take advantage of bursts of creativity or concentration with a home studio. I admire the discipline of those who can seemingly flip their "productive" switch but it's very fluid for me. I do like the sentiment (adapted from Baudelaire) on Delfonics' folders: "Inspiration comes of working." It echoes what many prolific creatives have shared about their practices (Brain Pickings rounds up a bunch of fascinating stuff on this topic). But a lot of "distractions" inform my work as well. It's worthwhile to have well–rounded interests! 


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

The autonomy! I'm a lone wolf in many ways but I crave abit more interaction with colleagues. Sometimes it feels I'm reinventing the wheel when it comes to certain aspects of my business and could use another artist's eye or help with project management, so I'm definitely open to working under creative direction and with others who have compatible skills. 

What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?

The lifestyle! Flexibility for daydreamers. And the variety of projects. I like bouncing around between surface design, my shop, identities, personal projects, contributing to a blog, and just everyday living and partying. 


Tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?

Others have so many useful tips to share (5 Questions for 100Designers is full of pros) ;  I am winging it a lot of the time. The usual: streamline your process + keep track of everything incoming and outgoing in Google Docs + set aside a good chunk of your income. I'm lucky to have Fox Tax (in Minneapolis) which specializes in taxes for artists. 

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

Work–life overlap is very fuzzy. I'm totally not always working. I take on enough interesting jobs to sustain my (admittedly ordinary) life and what I enjoy. And work is just embedded in living so I don't draw a line between it and everything else I do… I think however you balance your time is fine as long as you make it happen! 

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

Ingenuity + diligence + audacity.

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Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato is a Brooklyn-based graphic designer. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Graphic Design from North Carolina State University's College of Design. Her professional experience includes working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the New Museum, North Carolina Museum of Art, and Hoffman Creative, as well as various non-profit organizations. 

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

It all just happened at the right time. I was feeling stifled at my full time job and was looking for an opportunity to do more purposeful design work. I applied for a six month freelance position and everything fell into place. Although I am a full time freelancer working mostly 40 hour weeks M-F I have much more flexibility. I am able to focus on personal freelance projects and my other passions (I am an avid crocheter and baker). I have always taken on freelance projects while having a salaried position. As a full time freelancer, it is understood that I have other design projects and my life is much more balanced. I don't have a specific amount of vacation days, so I feel less constrained and am able to take off days when needed

 

"It is understood that I have other design projects and my life is much more balanced. I don't have a specific amount of vacation days, so I feel less constrained and am able to take off days when needed."

 

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

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

It all seemed to be word of mouth. Keeping up relationships with old coworkers and friends helps too. I have gotten many projects because old coworkers couldn't take them on or thought they would be a better fit for me. In addition I have been contacted by many clients who have seen my work on dribbble. It really helps to tag your shots thoughtfully and accurately. I have done a lot of design work for recycling and composting initiatives, tagging this on dribbble has gotten me even more clients in the field.

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Although I come into the office most days, I love working from my home. I am most productive when I am surrounded by my customized work environment. I like a clean work surface surrounded by my books and direct access to coffee. I am also a master list maker. I get a sense of accomplishment checking things off my list.

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

So far I have been lucky. Because it has only been a short time since I left the salaried full-time world, I've had enough projects to keep me going. My greatest struggle has been finding affordable healthcare!
Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

Chelsea Amato

What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?

Freedom. With the ability to take breaks when necessary, even if it is just a walk around the block, I have found that I am much more productive and inspired. In addition, having the choice to take on projects that are meaningful to me, and saying no to those that don't seem like a good fit really makes all the difference.

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

Freelance is the best thing that happened to my work life balance. After having worked extreme hours at an agency where I felt I had no control over my life or work, I am finally able to breathe and create things I care about (graphic design and other).

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

Dedication, organization, passion for things important to you. 

Get Social with Chelsea

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