work life balance

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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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. 

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Hoodzpah

Amy and Jennifer Hood of Hoodzpah are a Los Angeles-based twin sister creative duo specializing in branding and design. Their unique aesthetic pulls inspiration from vintage textures, tattoo lettering, and rock n' roll. Past clients include Google, the Tribeca Film Festival, and Column Five, Hot Wheels, and more. They are also co-authors of the e-book "Starting a Design Business," and are currently teaching a course at Laguna College of Art & Design on how they started their design firm.

Hoodzpah | Screenshot from their promotional film

Hoodzpah | Screenshot from their promotional film

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

We started out on our own at first due to necessity. The magazine we had been working at folded, as many at that time were. We were left hunting for a job and were up against some serious odds. We were very young in the industry (only 3 years experience) and we had learned design on the job, not in school. Most companies would't even look at our portfolio until we sent a resume in showing a degree and at least 5 years experience. After duking it out on Monster.com with designers who looked much better on paper than we did - all in the name of jobs we weren’t that thrilled about - we put our foots down. We had always been entrepreneurial and both had our own side businesses for years, so we decided we would form our own design firm. Friends had been asking us for years if we were taking on freelance projects. God was clearly telling us that this was our chance to jump in and give it a go.

How did you attract your first good clients? 

Honestly, it’s ALL about who you know. We have met so many amazing and talented people in our lives - many of which we are lucky enough to call friends. When we first started Hoodzpah, we had no marketing budget. So we immediately adopted social media as our means of getting our work out into the world. We posted our work to Facebook, instagram, dribbble, pinterest and our website. We wanted everyone to know we were open for business and that we could make some pretty bitchin’ work. Social media was pivotal to our growth in the formative months. As we posted and shared, all of our friends began emailing and calling about their employers or current projects that they needed logos and branding and websites for. It just so happened that we had some friends doing some pretty amazing things and they invited us to help them. After that, word of mouth spread and now we work with friends and strangers alike. These days, we get so so many great leads for quality clients through dribbble as well.  
Hoodzpah | Oh, Honestly Branding

Hoodzpah | Oh, Honestly Branding

Hoodzpah | Merek Davis Branding

Hoodzpah | Merek Davis Branding

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

We have a live-in/work-in scenario. The bottom floor of our beach house is Hoodzpah HQ, the top floor is home, and on the roof you’ll find our kiddy pool/conference room. We wouldn’t have it any other way. For us, we find that it’s harder to step away from the computer than to get started. Our first year in business we worked every weekend and we’ve slowly gotten down to a M-F scenario. But it’s hard! Especially when you do what you love. There’s the temptation to never stop, or to feel guilty when you just turn off for the weekend, but it’s essential to staying sane, keeping friends, and refreshing creatively. When we get stuck or land a case of cabin fever, we’ll just take our laptops to the nearest coffee shop or to a friend’s co-working space (usually Batch or CostaMakers) to get a new perspective, a change of scenery. We’ve found that a change of scenery does wonders for creative block. Other tips to being productive? We time track as much as possible using Toggl. Besides helping us gauge how much time goes into jobs we do regularly, it helps us stay focused. When you see that ticker adding hours up, you’re less likely to mosey over to Instagram on your phone and get sucked into the eternal scroll and double-tap black hole. And lastly, coffee. 

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

The greatest struggle in forging out on your own as a designer is learning the business side of things. We’re creative beings that don’t want to have to worry about contracts and licensing and invoices and quoting. But unfortunately, being good at all those things is KEY to being a successful small business owner/freelancer and maintaining your sanity. We started out very naive about business and have had to learn the hard way on a few things. It’s why we ended up writing a book on how we started our business: So that hopefully we could help other freelancers/small business owners avoid some of the pitfalls that arise when going out on your own. We’ve found that when it comes to running a business, you have to have a mentor. We have quite a few who have always been so accommodating in listening to our questions and offering guidance. They are people who have been where we are, grown on and up, and are now doing the things we hope to be doing in a few years. So they can help us with pricing, judging how to handle certain client relations issues, and growth ideas.

 

"Having a mentor is crucial. You need that outside perspective of someone who knows where you’re coming from."

 

Hoodzpah | Jennifer & Amy Hood

Hoodzpah | Jennifer & Amy Hood

Hoodzpah | Oh, Honestly Branding

Hoodzpah | Oh, Honestly Branding

Hoodzpah | Matthew Morgan Branding

Hoodzpah | Matthew Morgan Branding

What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer?

The freedom! If you need to take a break and walk to the beach to clear your mind or mull over ideas, no big deal! You run the show! It’s also really nice having the power to choose what you work on. 

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

For invoicing, always take a downpayment. We use Xero and love it for our accounting, payroll and invoicing. A great free app that has a great interface, super rich features, and great add-ons to paypal for online payments, is Wave. For contracts, we like using Helloing to get e-signatures and safely file away all our signed docs in the cloud. It makes signing contracts easier, faster, less painful. It pulls in the contracts we’ve drafted in Google docs and then let’s people e-sign. We have contract templates we’ve created in Google docs for common jobs we do, and then we customize them to fit any specific client needs, then upload to Helloing, send to client. Boom. Done. We like to do our own day-to-day accounting because it’s really easy with Xero and helps us stay on track of how much we’re making, if we’re meeting our budget goals, etc. Then we have a CPA do all our taxes and the work that we can’t wrap our brains around. We use Trigger to help with our project management. It integrates with Xero, our accounting and invoicing software. It let’s us keep track of all our active clients and leads, track our active and archived projects, assign tasks to our team and subcontractors, set deadlines and time goals, etc. It’s been great so far. We’ve only been using it a few months, but really like it so far.  
Hoodzpah | Cosy & the Gange Branding

Hoodzpah | Cosy & the Gange Branding

Hoodzpah E-Book:  Starting a Design Business

Hoodzpah E-Book: Starting a Design Business

Hoodzpah

Hoodzpah

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

As much as you can, don’t work the weekends! We’ve been going to a lot of conferences recently, and we realized that there is this strange battle for who is the biggest workaholic. You constantly hear people one-upping each other on how many hours they worked consecutively to launch their app (one guy said almost 72 hours?!). That is not how it should be! We should work to live, not the other way around. There is definitely a period of paying your dues. No doubt. You’ll have to work weekends for a while probably. But don’t let that become status quo. You should be slowly raising your rates and improving your work to attract better and bigger clients that know the appropriate cost and timeframe for quality work. This will allow you to take weekends off from design to experience life and the world around you! The more you live your life, the more well rounded you become, and the better designer you become. Don’t get stuck just hanging out with designers and developers only. Remember how real people live, because those people are who you are designing for. To train yourself to respect your off-time, train your clients to respect your off-time too. Let them know in your initial contract that you don’t work weekends, remind them of this fact when starting a project, and don’t make a habit of emailing them on weekends or off hours, or you’ll project a double standard. And last thing, do at least one active thing for yourself! Move around. Work on your posture. Get your heart rate up. Designers are so sedentary. Being active will make you feel better, and the endorphins might cook up some great ideas. So get out there and sweat a little!

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

Organization, Self Discipline, Good Work Ethic.
Hoodzpah

Hoodzpah

Jennifer & Amy Hood

Jennifer & Amy Hood

Hope you enjoyed my interview with the talented ladies of Hoodzpah!

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