This feels particularly appropriate for the back-to-school season: a Q&A about a book that teaches all types of creatives how to build a successful business doing what they love.
Check out this power creative duo: Meg Mateo Ilasco of Craft, Inc fame, and Joy Deangdeelert Cho of Oh Joy! You might have heard that they paired up to write the uber-useful and inspiring book Creative, Inc: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Succesful Freelance Business. Well, I’m lucky enough to be part of their blog tour so we can all learn a little more about them and just how they came to be so creative and successful. So, without further adieu, here's Joy. Meg will drop by later in the week to answer the same questions:
Kelly: I’m so curious about the relationship between you two, since you’re both such inspiring, creative entrepreneurs. How did you meet each other, and do you use each other as a sounding board beyond working on this book together? Can you talk about the value of finding like-minded people to surround yourself with?
Joy: We met in 2007 after we did the Stationery Show together and quickly became long-distance friends. Since we're both not afraid to give constructive criticism, we often looked to each other for feedback on our work. Meg is probably one of two people who I send stuff too when I need honest feedback! Because of our openness and ability to work well with each other, we had always discussed working together on a project in the future. After the success of Meg’s book, Craft, Inc., Chronicle Books wanted to expand it into a series. We began brainstorming for ideas and with our joint backgrounds as freelancers, it was natural to write about that topic. We also felt there wasn’t a go-to bible in the market for any creative type looking to go freelance.
Having Meg (and other self-employed friends) who I can not only get feedback from but who I can always vent to (or celebrate with) about various ups and downs in my business, has meant everything. I think that's probably why most of the new friends I've made in the last few years have all been business owners...we just get what it's like...something that your friends with normal 9-5 jobs have a harder time relating to or being able to understand.
Kelly: I also wonder about how you came to find your career. For me, I wandered back and forth among a few different fields before cobbling together a sort of mish-mash career of journalism and craftiness. This sounds kind of dumb and obvious, but the realization that I could do both was a revelation for me. If I will be satisfied and make enough money to pay the rent, then I’d actually prefer to be a “slashie” as you call it – (i.e., illustrator/designer, photographer/director/stylist...or in my case, journalist/crafter). Did it take a while to uncover your own career?
Joy: A few months after graduating (from Syracuse University's School of Visual & Performing Arts with a major in Communications Design and a minor in Printmaking and Fibers), I got a job in New York as a graphic designer at a boutique advertising agency. It was a hardcore (super long hours) yet fun introduction to being a young designer in New York. I also got a lot of exposure to the fashion industry and had the chance to go to a bunch of Fashion Week shows (loved that!).
After a couple years, I grew tired of designing flat print pieces and wanted to make something more tangible. I transitioned into home accessories and textile design at Cynthia Rowley, designing a variety of home accessories (from bedding to pjs to bath products to stationery) for her Swell line at Target. It was there that I became much more comfortable designing patterns. It was a great introduction to designing products and it gave me the itch to one day design products of my own.
In 2005, I left NY to move to Philly. As I looked for new jobs, I also had to freelance to make ends meet. As I continued to interview, I wasn't able to find anything that was the right fit. At the same time, the freelance work kept growing until I reached a point where I discovered that if I worked hard enough, I could freelance full-time AND do a mix of work with the best parts of the previous jobs I had. I had never really considered starting my own design business, so this really was an unexpected happy accident. So I decided to venture on my own and Oh Joy! Studio was born.
Kelly: And finally, I wanted to ask about the life-work balance that you write about in your book. My husband has a small business that he runs out of our second bedroom, and I often work at home, so we’re not as good as we should be about stopping working. There's always more work to be done when you work for yourself, and if one of us is willing to keep going, it’s likely that we both will. It's a bad habit but often feels really necessary when you work for yourself.
So I wonder, how do you force yourself to stop? Is that something you have to continually reinforce?
Joy: When you work from home, it's definitely hard to stop working when it's up to you when to turn off the computer and lower the lights. I think most self-employed people are workaholics for that very reason! For me, I definitely work beyond the standard 9-5, but I do try and start and stop my day at regular times. It's kind of the only way I can maintain a "life" outside of work. I usually plan to finish work by the time my husband gets home from work. While there is, of course, times when I have to work late into the night or on weekends, it's really important for me to maintain a bit of separation. (Afterall, that kind of freedom to set your own schedule is one of the joys of being self-employed) Also, one thing that helps...I don't bring my laptop into "personal" spaces like the living room or bedroom. Otherwise, if I did, I'd find myself on the computer and "accidentally" working while I should be relaxing. I think the best way to maintain some separation, especially, when you're both at home and there isn't one person telling the other to stop working for the day, is to force yourself (you can even dare each other if that helps) to stop working by a certain time. Set a reasonable time and stick to it for one week. By making yourself stick to that time, you'll also find you'll become more productive when you don't have extra hours into the wee hours of the night to work.
Kelly: Thanks so much Joy. And I just wanted to add that in addition to the book, check out Joy's other new project: her amazing wallpaper designs for Hygge & West. I mean, come on. Those gold flowers are killing me.