Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Introducing Debbie Labedz!

debbie labedz

Beyond excited to announce this lady who is helping me with design, development, and writing!

After reviewing close to 20 applications, Debbie stood out because of her existing experience with the trials of self-employment, but with a flexible enough schedule that it would be easy to find time to work together. I immediately felt comfortable around her, she has a trustworthy and calm demeanor, plus a can-do vibe. My badass 85-year-old aunt gave me some whip-smart advice at the start of this process: make sure who ever you hire, that they are better than you at whatever their role is. Amazing! In this case, Debbie possesses more writing experience, more investment in code, and better eagle eyes for those fine details that make or break a project. Especially under deadline! Already we are both benefiting from her fresh energy and support and can’t wait for more in 2016. Without further ado, here’s more about Debbie!

Let’s start with your background and where you’re from:
I’m a writer and web developer based in Chicago, and I build WordPress websites through my studio, Bibliofille Creative. I studied art history at Michigan State, and upon deciding the traditional PhD path wasn’t for me, slowly taught my self how to code until it became my job. I’ve lived in the Midwest for 12 years now, but I’m originally from Virginia Beach, VA.

How did you get into self-employment?
I’d never even thought about self-employment until it stared me right in the face! After college, I bounced around in several jobs that I enjoyed, but that were never quite the right fit. Finally, it dawned on me that I would never be happy in a traditional 9-5 job, and that I’d have to create this “dream job” that didn’t exist.

Without too much pre-planning (whoops), I made the leap in June 2014 as an independent web designer/developer and never looked back. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road since then, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

What’s your home office set up like? What sorts of tools do you use?
I work primarily from my home office, a sunny den right off the living room that’s painted a fresh mint. I’ve got the usual Ikea desk and mid-century Steelcase chair setup, floating shelves, and LOTS of books. My hardware setup is fairly simple: MacBook Pro, wireless keyboard, laptop stand for ergo purposes, nothing too fancy. For web development, I’m a huge fan of Sublime Text, CodeKit, MAMP (for local development). For general life organization, Evernote, Google Calendar, and Wunderlist keep me sane. I also read a lot of blogs/websites, and Feedly is my new favorite RSS reader (RIP, Google Reader).

What’s something unique or specific about you that we should know about?
That I’m half Filipino! My mom is from the Philippines and I was actually born there, and we moved to the US when I was three (Navy brat!). Sadly, I don’t speak much Tagalog, but I’d like to work on that. There’s a pretty robust Filipino community in Chicago and I’ve definitely got my favorite places like Isla Pilipina and Unimart when I’ve got a food craving!

Like many people who work independently, you have a dog. Can you introduce her and talk about how she affects your day and helps you stay focused?

SadieThis is Sadie, my four year old Wheaten Terrier. She’s teddy bear soft and has quite the spunky personality! Since I work from home a lot of the time, having her around forces me to get out of the house and get some fresh air several times a day, which is awesome. Some of my best ideas appear during her bathroom breaks!

Sweet or salty snacks?
Both! I’m a huge fan of the salty/sweet combo, like chocolate covered pretzels, sea salt caramels, etc.

What did you want to be when you when you grew up?
A paleontologist! I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid. I was, and still am, a nerd at heart.

What are some of your favorite self-care practices?
I’m an introvert, so self-care is a huge priority for me. I’m a huge fan of bubble baths with all the fixin’s (scented candles, oils, soft music, glass o’ wine). Massages are great too. I also exercise as well, usually hot yoga, kickboxing, or spinning. That’s my 100% me time. My work is so mentally focused, that I try and treat my body really well to counteract that.

What made you want to work with me?
I could tell right away that, on top of being an awesome designer, you were a straight forward and kind hearted person, which I appreciate so much!

What are a couple of your favorite podcasts, newsletters?
Podcasts: “This American Life”; The New Yorker Fiction podcast; “Longform”; “Death, Sex, and Money”; “Being Boss”.

Newsletters: Quartz Daily Brief is great for keeping up with current events; The Report from Jen Myers is great for tech ladies and general internet awesomeness;  Ann Friedman’s newsletter makes me laugh AND think on a weekly basis.

Thanks, Debbie!!

Call for Applicants!


And here goes my first post in a long time, let’s get this show on the road. Friend, I’m hiring. I’m doing it. The position will be a part-time paid Production Designer position for someone in Chicago. More on that in a minute, because first I want to explain why. In my unannounced but definitely intentional break from publishing much on the internet this year, I’ve been digging real deep trying to figure out what to do with this business of mine. After 7 years I was burnt out, overwhelmed, tired of the internet, and feeling like I’d hit a plateau. I couldn’t figure out what to do to get excited about any of it anymore. I considered quitting the whole field, several times. I read many blog posts and articles on business, dutifully filled my Morning Pages almost every day, made time to explore my own creative interests, and consulted my coven of biz lady advisors until my head swam with advice and ideas yet still nothing felt right. Eventually I had to let it go, let the chatter die down, and resign myself to the fact I might feel stagnant for awhile. Or that once I stopped looking, the solution it would make itself known.

That’s pretty much what happened. One idea that came up early on and continued to resurface was the idea of someone to manage the small tasks that pop up during the week. Initially this was a terrifying idea, such responsibility and pressure! But gradually, as I continued to explore it, while I slowly set aside small sums for funding growth, it became the thing that allowed me to breath for a minute. Right now 2-3 days of my week are absorbed with file work, small revisions, and various implementation tasks. It adds up to quite an expanse of time. And, with help there, I can do more for this little business. Things like write more, keep on building a body of personal work. Pitch more projects instead of only responding to referrals, and do some more of things that never seem get done. All I need is some fresh energy and I can keep going. As long as that happens, the rest will take care of itself from there.

As far as the type of working culture I strive for, I pledge to bring my best self everyday. I operate under this assumption, but am also understanding when the occasional off day happens. Because humanity. Together we will work out a system for feedback so you can speak freely without fear of reproach. I also won’t expect you to work with me every day IRL, or even hang out with me outside of work. Unless you want to. You need your own life and I want to facilitate that as well. I like to celebrate accomplishments, but because I’m more introverted, not with drinking or partying hard. I like to be home at a reasonable hour and can’t afford to feel hungover. When it’s time for Treat Yo Self, it’ll be through a financial bonus, a nice meal, visiting a cultural event, or a spa day. That kind of thing. I’m interested in your ideas for ways to add expand on all of this too!

You can learn more about the specifics of the job, time & schedule guidelines, pay scale, inclusionary statement, as well as submit yourself here.

Please share, I would love for you to spread the word or invite anyone who yourself or whomever you think would be good for this. I’ll be reviewing applications over the next 10 days and will be scheduling interviews the week of September 21st. I hope to complete the process by the end of the month.

Thank you for reading, I know this long dormant blog doesn’t have the traffic it once did, but maybe one day we’ll get back there. In the meantime, know I’m grateful for any and all eyeballs taking a few minutes with me here today. <3

Artist’s Way Update

Y’all. I’ve been putting off writing this update for weeks. WEEKS. Initially, going through the Artist’s Way process and writing morning pages every day was such a shock to my system, it usurped writing for any other reason that wasn’t email or for my own personal and creative growth. I was worried about squeezing MORE writing into the day without compromising life and client work and even if I did, it would read as embarrassing and vulnerable. That and it was so early in the process that I didn’t know if anything was even happening yet. I was blown away that I could make my own creative time *every day* but wasn’t sure I would be able to keep it up either. So, a fair amount of mental gymnastics as you can see.

But 8 weeks into this 12 week program it’s safe to say this has helped be feel more clear on what I’m doing, given me a greater appreciation in doing work for myself, and helped me sort out some creative demons that have been holding me back. I’ve been able to follow through on the main themes and write every single day (with a few exceptions) which is a huge surprise to me. I was really nervous at the beginning that it would be something I dread or that it would totally implode my life. But it’s easily one of my favorite parts of the day and nothing’s caved in. Only small gradual positive changes.

Aside from filling up a notebook and a half and counting of writing – the most I’ve ever written in my life – I’ve done some sketching and taken myself out for “artist dates” as they’re called in the Artist’s Way. So far this is only just scratching the surface though, 8 weeks is enough to start a habit, and I’m cautious to declare any of this a done deal at right now. I’ve still got ideas I want to work out and I’ve given myself until the end of the month to design and print a small piece to commemorate this time. Hopefully it further continues to inspire in the months ahead!

In the meantime, here’s some bits I have gotten to do/see so far this year and I’ve got some more exciting news planned for April but you’ll need to sign up for my newsletter for that reveal (oooh, I know what I did there, ha.)

Andy Warhol’s Shadows at LA Moca:

andy warhol

I’m not the world’s biggest Andy Warhol fan, but this grouping of work is different than anything he’s done and it’s breathtaking. To be in a room surrounded by nearly a hundred of these works was a highlight I’ll remember for some time to come.

poolside draws

winter walks

billie holiday

kaizen circles

Poolside draws and winter walks at dusk. Special edition Billie Holiday record shop score, with metallic printed sleeve and re-issued on luscious white vinyl. And then neon red circle painting meditation, highly relaxing. (I almost typed medication instead of meditation, but well, sometimes they work similarly.)

And finally, last week I was on the’s Dispatch talking about design, commerce, and culture which you can stream here or through iTunes here (no embeddable feed).

That’s all for now folks, newsletter update coming in the next couple days with updates on what I’ve been reading recently too.

This week 12/15 and year recap


Pretty quiet for me on the internet this week, but I do want to tell you about this fundraiser my friend Jen Myers is running to buy Chromebooks for her Code & Cupcakes workshop. This is a mother-daughter website code basics class and right now attendees are required to bring their own laptops which not everyone has. Providing computers means anyone can participate!

Also if you’re seeing old friends during this holiday season, maybe this hilarious post on the types of friendships really gets it.

As for recapping the year here’s some facts:

Travel was big for me in 2014. I went to LA, where I got my first tattoo, and spent a weekend in the desert with some incredible feminist women. I went to the White House to help fight sexual assault. In August I traveled to Cleveland for Weapons of Mass Creation which was a grand time as well. In September I was in NYC to film my newest Skillshare class and more recently was the trip to Guatemala which I’ve written about as well.

Other stats:

Designed and/or built 10 websites. 

Designed 11 logos

Designed one book and had work work in two gallery shows

Here’s the books I read this year:

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers and the Self-Employed by Joseph D’Agnese  and Denise Kiernan

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsk

Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing New Domesticity by Emily Matchar

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Game of Thrones (finished, started in 2013. Oof.)

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

Margaret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s Tale

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I Work from Home by my former teacher Michelle Grabner

Annnnd! That’s it for me from the rest of the year. Have the best holiday with your nearest and dearest! Wishing you all the best and more in 2015!

*Image of delightful colorfield painting by Maximillian Rödel. Via Ernests.