Creative Friends – Forming A Tribe


This weekend I drove down to Austin to spend the night with some graphic design girlfriends. I met Chelsea and Becky at Designer Vaca a few years ago and have been friends with them ever since we connected in Palm Springs. Lately, I have been feeling really restless… I want to move and shake and go crazy. I want to start new projects and add elements to my business and just build something with my hands. But it is hard to do all of that when you work from home and don’t see a lot of other people on the daily. It’s also nice to get away from the kids every once in a while and have adult time.


I asked Chelsea and Becky a few weeks ago if they would want to get together and talk about all of their ideas, bounce hard situations with clients off of each other and get advice about how to move forward, come up with ideas to collaborate… etc. They were totally excited so I drove down just as soon as I could manage some time away from my kids. The weekend was exactly what I was hoping for!


We kept our agenda really really simple. Chelsea has a beautiful house (see her full house tour over on TheEveryGirl) and is an excellent host. We ate a small lunch at her house, went shopping at Spartan, and just hung out. That afternoon we went into her office with our computers and sketch books and talked over some of our ideas and current projects. We gave each other book recommendations and online resources to check out and shared advice about managing clients.

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That night we drove around Austin being silly, twerking in parking lots and climbing abandon warehouse walls. It felt good to just get out and be a little immature for a change. We continued the conversation about work but also got more personal and talked about our real life challenges and celebrations. We went to a few different restaurants but Easy Tiger was my favorite! If you are in Austin, or going there soon, you have to try it. They make pretzels and sausages and lots of other interesting yummy things. The atmosphere is casual and there is a large outside dining area by the water that has a big ping pong table for people to play and have a good time. I really liked it!

IMG_7674 As I drove back to Dallas I felt so good about the time I spent with these amazing girls. I look up to both of them for their creative bold personalities. I can’t wait to spend more time with them! I am toying with the idea of putting together some kind of casual creative get together for women in Texas. Just throwing that idea out there in case there are a lot of people out there that might be interested? Let me know! I think it would be really fun to just get together for a day and share ideas and resources and network with other creative professionals – designers, photographers, stylists… Nothing too formal – not a workshop and not a conference – just women getting together to make friends and share insight into their creative process and running a business. Who’s in?

Freelance Mama: Creating a Media Kit

Last month I spent a few days with 100 creative graphic designers in the desert at Designer Vaca. I’ve blogged about it several times and will probably put up another post with my favorite images from the trip soon…I love going every year! It fires me up to be around other creatives, hear their stories, listen to how they deal with tricky situations, celebrate their successes and just get inspired. Afterwards, I always kinda go through this low period. I miss my friends. I miss the excitement and it sort of feels like Christmas has just come and gone way too fast.

I decided one way to remedy this would be to share more of my journey as a freelance designer on my blog so I can continue to connect with creative individuals and share my story even though we might not all be together in person. Hopefully, some of my stories and advice will help someone out there who is in the same place I was in a few years ago – searching for answers, trying to become a better freelancer and just feeling a little lost. So look forward to more posts like this one – where I share some of my tips and tricks for being a freelance designer (and for me that also means being a mom at the same time). If you are a designer, work from home or just want to chat about how to stay inspired while wiping bottoms all day, please ask! I want to keep this conversation alive!

DESIGNER VACA 2014 from Ellay Films on Vimeo.

At Designer Vaca I mentioned to several people that I send a Media Kit and Process Sheet in response to every inquiry I get in my inbox. Since then I have had several requests to share my media kit and tell how I use it. Now, I have to give a lot of credit to my friend Shauna of the blog Nubby Twiglet who put up a post about having a media kit for her design studio We Are Branch around this time last year. It was soooo helpful and really changed the way I do business on so many levels. Like she says in her post a lot of small businesses and creative professionals could benefit from having a media kit – it just depends on what you want to accomplish with it. Here I will share my process for putting together my media kit, how I use it and how it saves me literally HOURS and hours of time writing emails everyday –

Last year the inquiries in my inbox went from about 1 every 2 weeks to 1 or 2 a day! (How I managed to do that is another blog post). When I got 1 inquiry every 2 weeks it was possible to respond with a really personal message, comment on their project and provide a custom quote for the services they were interested in. Notice I said, possible. It was possible but it wasn’t easy by any means. It always took quite a bit of time and the perspective client either had a million more questions that I didn’t answer or they simply didn’t respond at all. I knew it wasn’t the most efficient way of doing things and it was often very frustrating when I didn’t even get a response after putting so much time and effort into getting them a custom quote. When inquiries started flooding in it became completely impossible to respond in that way. I decided it was time to make a media kit to send to everyone who inquires about my work.


Before creating my media kit I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish with my kit.  I wanted to first, save time, secondly, up sale some of my services that people might not even be aware of and last of all to introduce myself and let them get to know me better.  Your list might look like mine or it might look a little different but getting clear on what you want your media kit to accomplish will help you determine what pages you need to include. Here are my goals and the pages I created to meet each goal.

1. I wanted to SAVE TIME! Potential clients can be super vague and really detailed all in one email. I usually have a lot of questions for clients and they usually have even more for me. I wanted to send something that explained a lot of the little details and got a lot of information out of the way up front to cut down on all of the time I spent emailing back and forth. So my media kit has a Frequently Asked Questions page. All of those questions that I had spent hours responding to individually were now all in one easy to read place. The questions vary in importance from things like , “What should I call you, Erin or Jane?” to “Why is my 50% deposit non-refundable?” and “What happens if we get to the end of the process and I don’t like what you designed for me?” I also created a short and sweet process page. I broke my process down into 6 chunks and included information in each chunk about when money would be due, how files would be delivered and how many revisions they would get.

2. I wanted to up sale some of my services in order to increase my earnings. Often clients inquired about a specific service – like logo design for example. I wanted to let clients know that I was capable of doing more for them and their business than they had originally intended. They might not know how valuable an entire style guide could be to their business until they see the service offered and see some examples. So I created a specialties page where I list all of the areas of design that I truly shine at – Branding, Print, Art Direction and Web Design and explain how each can help their business.  I also up sale my services on my packages page by offering different price ranges. I am able to work with clients who might have a tight budget by offering smaller packages – while clients with a higher budget might see the value in investing more into their brand.

3. I wanted to let my clients see behind the scenes a little bit and get to know me better. I want them to understand that Jane Reaction is a really small design studio consisting of me, my developer and maybe 1 or 2 other professionals that we might get involved in the project like a printer or a photographer – but mostly it is just me, and I am human. I created an about page that introduces me, explains how intimate our engagement will be and gave some  examples of my experience to reinforce that although I am one person I am indeed professionally trained to take on their branding project and will give it the time and attention it deserves. If clients understand that you are a small boutique design studio they are less likely to take advantage of your time and they are more likely to give the project the amount of time and attention that you do.

When I get an inquiry in my inbox I simply write back thanking them for getting in touch with me, make a few quick comments about their project and let them know when my next open slot is. Then I simply say – In order to help you get to know me better and see what types of services I offer and how much I charge I am attaching my media kit. Clients love it. They are able to get most of their questions answered in an easy fast way. They are also able to see more examples of my work and understand the process they are about to embark on. I have even had clients tell me that they wanted to work with me even more after looking over my media kit.

Wayne’s Birth Day / GIVEAWAY CLOSED



*I know I said I would post the winner on Friday but Halloween festivities got the best of me! So drum roll please… The winner of the Wild Dill giveaway is Taryn! Please email me with your contact information and you will receive a $50 shopping credit to Wild Dill! Congratulations! 

My little Wayne turns 1 tomorrow. I could laugh and cry at how fast the year has gone by. With Henry I was constantly growing and learning and stretching as a new mom. It was messy and hard and I have to admit I struggled. A lot. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do that whole year over again. Knowing what I do now I would have been more patient with him, more kind to myself – a better, more experienced mother. But such is the nature of being a second child. You get all of the benefits of having someone else pave the way before you. I was prepared to stay up late with Wayne when he had a cold. I held him a little longer every night before he went to bed. I didn’t stress over him eating a little dirt at the playground… because I knew in the blink of an eye it would pass me by. The hard stuff – the sleepless nights, the dirty laundry, the insane amounts of poop…. they just don’t last forever. And it’s really a shame – because neither does their smallness. Their little squeaky yawns and their ever twirling arms. The tiny little sneezes and the way their breath feels on your neck as they drift off to sleep. If I could stop time and keep it in a shoe box in my closet forever this… THIS moment would be one that I would constantly re-live. Nursing my newborn babe in the sunlit window of our first home… poor, happy, tired and so complete.

To help us celebrate Wayne’s birthday we have teemed up with Wild Dill. Wild Dill is an Organic, eco-friendly, fair trade, baby product store. We are giving away a $50 gift card to one lucky reader. To enter the giveaway visit their store, take a look around and leave a comment letting me know what you would spend your $50 on. We love their cute toddler hedgehog pillow! What would you buy? Winner will be announced HERE (on this exact blog post) on Friday October 31, 2014.

Gifts for a 1 year old



piano / shirt / jammies / coat / xylophone / booties / animals / leggings / book

I can’t even believe that my little baby is going to be one year old already! Wayne will be 1 next week! This year has certainly flown by! Way too fast. I love planning the boys’ birthdays. It has got to be one of the best parts of being a mom – planning a special day just for your child that makes them feel like they are the most important person in the world. In Hawaii everyone always made SUCH A BIG deal out of 1 year old parties. The whole family would come camp out and they would get several bounce houses set up next to the beach and just play for days! I loved seeing that tradition, and while we are not camping out with our whole extended family we are planning a special get away just for Wayne. For his big day we are going to go stay at Great Wolf Lodge – a giant indoor water park/hotel. I have never been before so I am super excited to go! He will get to eat a little cuppy cake and open his presents. Over the last few months we have discovered that Wayne loves music. Like, a lot! Whenever a beat comes on he starts shaking his hands in the air like crazy and bouncing his booty! It NEVER gets old. He also loves animals and is fascinated by doggies at the park and our chickens. He carries his little plastic animals around the house with him. So we are having a music/animal themed party. I can’t wait to spend that special time with my family! Seriously, I’m counting down the minutes!


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About 2 years ago I was invited to the first Designer Vacation (2012) in Palm Springs. I was so flattered to be among that group of women invited to attend. We were moving from Hawaii to California, I had a 10 month old baby and we were pretty poor but I just knew I was going to go!

A few days before the retreat I had a miscarriage… we had just moved across the ocean, we didn’t own much, our future was uncertain and then I had this huge loss. I felt broken and sad. I took Henry and Conor with me that year. At first it felt like taking my mom to the first day of school with me. I felt like everyone could tell I was suffering and needed to bring my security blanket. Everyone else seemed so young and free and wise beyond their years and accomplished all at the same time. Somehow, inspite of my sadness and my comparing myself I still managed to form what is now my creative tribe. The girls that I met that year are now among the first people I call when things aren’t going right. They are the first to tell me that I did an awesome job on my latest project. They know when things aren’t going well and they offer advice and empathy when I need it.

This year me and some of my favorite girls drove out to Salvation Mountain. It was incredible. I was so amazed and inspired by the size of the work and the devotion it must have taken to create it. My friend Kathleen had a baby this last year. Just like I did 2 years before she brought her young babe and husband. Kathleen (with her son tied to her in a sling) and her husband walked in front of me as we made our way down the side of Salvation Mountain. At one point it got kinda steep and she looked as though she might fall. Jeremy grabbed her arm and at the same time she said, “let’s go down together.” They walked slowly down the side of the mountain with their arms around each other. As I watched  them I started to cry. I think it was a combination of missing my own family, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for this creative tribe that I have found and the spiritual energy of the place. It was the feeling you get when you know you are exactly where you should be at exactly the right time.

I’m so glad that I have stumbled along this path. This creative freelancing path has not always been easy. It might look kinda glamorous from the outside world… Like I just travel and paint letters all day? HA! While it has been really great it has also been hard. I’ve had a few difficult things thrown in the mix like loss, and accidents, and clients telling me they hate everything I am showing them… and just life. But having a tribe of people who get it, who get me, who I can be myself around, who bring their babies to retreats and still act like bosses when they do it, has made all the difference.