Woke up at 7:00 AM
Right after opening her eyes, Neela drank a cup of hot water with lemon and apple cider. To prep for the day, she also packed her lunch and coffee in a reusable coffee mug (sustainability FTW).
An essential part of her morning and business is posting to Instagram. This day was no different. Usually on Monday’s she batches all of her social media content creation and schedules the posts regularly in the morning.
Because her business is graphic and so visual, it becomes important to showcase her process, style and aesthetic to the world. She wants to showcase her craft to build her brand and grow her business. Social media, in particular, Instagram is the best way to reach a massive audience.
Left for work at 8:15 AM
While listening to music, Neela walked to her co-working space on the lower east side of Manhattan.
Arrived to work at 8:45 AM
KettleSpace is a a co-working space that transforms unused restaurant space into shareable office space between the hours of 8am-5pm.
On this day, Neela chose the KettleSpace at a place called Baar Baar. She set up shop on a large table, filled her mug with some complimentary coffee and got right to work.
The beginning of her working day started with some admin work. When running your own business, the scheduling, the follow ups, the organizational work is all up to you.
Perhaps these types of tasks can be outsourced eventually, however, at the early stages of the business, don’t underestimate the time you may need to budget for this type of work.
Now it was time for the fun stuff. Neela needed to begin working on a custom wedding invitation for one of her clients.
She has a process for wedding invitations where she being with the initial custom illustration. This is simple a black and white, hand-drawn sketch. Next she’ll work with the client to decide on a color palette and bring the illustration to life with custom water colors. In this case, her clients opted for a neutral palette and floral illustration. In the “Final Design” phase, she adds the typography and the details of the wedding.
She likes to flex her creativity, however, she understands that in the wedding business, it is all about what the client wants. It’s their day. Because of that she makes wedding branding an extremely collaborative process.
Remember that lunch she packed? Well it was time to cash in on that. Neela always makes it a point to log off of everything and take at least a half hour to truly enjoy her meal. On this day, she enjoyed her lunch in the park.
She had a client call scheduled that stemmed from a business inquiry. This was an email inquiry, but sometimes these come from channels like Yelp or Google Business.
A lot of times, potential clients will ask for a price, and Neela finds herself needing to educate them and explain that she really needs to dive into specifics to really understand the full scope of work. Only then can she propose a price for her service. Because of this Neela takes these inquires, and schedules calls so she can learn about the clients’ needs and get the details she needs to draft a proposal.
In this case, it the inquiry was about a new web design and site build out project. Using all the details she got from the call, she was able to then draft a proposal and send that along to officially kick off this new business project.
Another part of Neela’s business that she’s trying to nourish and grow is services around Bachelorette weekends. During this time, she focused on work for a Maid of Honor who reached out and asked if Neela could help with branding for their weekend in Nashville. It started off with designing the itinerary, but quickly evolved a logo and swag design that really gave the weekend a unique and personalized experience for the bride and her bachelorette party.
As with her other services, she makes it a collaborative process with her clients. So on this day she revised a draft of the itinerary and sent it back to the client for comments.
For design work, she uses various apps included in the Adobe Creative Suite.
In a career where Neela is constantly working on other people’s brands, she can’t forget about her own brand.
She posts biweekly articles to her blog about business and wedding branding.
Check some of her posts out:
Another part of working on her own brand is to build a community and get conversations going about topics where she has expertise and can add value to people’s life. She does this through her Facebook Group: Wedding Tips for Bride & Tribe.
After she concluded her work day, Neela headed to the gym for 45 minutes of weights, 15 minutes of cardio and a 10 minute stretch.
After the gym she headed to the grocery store to stock up for the week.
She ate dinner and caught up with her roommate.
After dinner, Neela made it a point to relax WITHOUT her cell phone.
To cap off a her productive day, Neela laid in bed and re watched Grey’s Anatomy until she fell asleep.
Fell asleep at 11:00 PM
What were your first career goals and how have those goals evolved over time?
When applying in schools, Neela always knew that she wanted to study Graphic Design. Inspiration for this stemmed back to one of her favorite high school teachers, who was a graphic designer.
Back only 10 years ago, a lot of people still didn’t know what it meant to be a graphic designer. The term was still pretty vague. Luckily Neela had the advantage of having a few older friends who were real graphic designers, so she was able to observe what pursuing this career would entail.
When it was time to apply to different universities and art schools though, Neela looked for a more well rounded college experience. She found what she was looking for in Northeastern’s co-op program. There they made enabled and encouraged their students to take part in 6 month internships.
If you take a look at her experience on LinkedIn, you’ll see internships at many different types of companies, some large, like Bose, and some small. Because she was able to experience working in all different environments, Neela was able to make a much more informed decision that she rather work for smaller businesses and on smaller teams.
Her realization, lead to an internship at a boutique wedding branding shop in Manhattan, which she says, “was an essential experience” that shaped her design skills. It was during this internship that she determined, upon graduation, that she wanted to work with small businesses.
As you can see, over time and through allowing herself to be exposed to different work experiences, she was able to get more granular in her goal setting. Yes, graphic design was always the anchor, but it took time and effort to understand that he wanted to be a graphic designer who works with small businesses.
Can you name one experience that significantly impacted your career?
After graduation, Neela worked for a small branding company on a team consisting of four people. She loved the work she was doing, but unfortunately, the workplace became toxic and she felt that her skills were being looked down upon. Let’s just say it wasn’t an environment that exactly inspired confidence… As many can attest to, if you’re surrounded by this type of energy for too long, you might begin to question yourself. And that’s what happened. Her goals, her abilities, her worth, Neela began questioning all of it.
“A true rock bottom moment.”
These feelings pushed Neela to consider, and eventually jump into the life of a freelance again. A life she was always much happier pursuing.
How did you get your current job?
It all began when Neela took a leap of faith and transitioned her freelancing work from side gigs, to a full time endeavor. After opening the LLC, Neela’s first client, was her father’s business. Neela saw that his business branding was outdated. Her mission was to revamp it. Which she did.
From there, the story of Neela’s talents spread through word of mouth.
“It was a lot of small things that lead to exciting bigger projects. And then properly learning how to promote your own business”
How do you define your best work?
Neela’s best work comes from the relationships she builds with clients. Not everyone is as visual as she is, so she provides the most value, when she’s is able to solve design problems for her clients.
What is your advice for those who aspire to be like you?
Never stop learning! Especially in this industry. It’s always evolving, growing and changing. There’s so much more new information out there all the time and it’s easy to get stuck in your own ways.
“Always have the mindset: this is interesting, but how can I make it extraordinary.”
What would you tell your 18 year old self today?
One of the most valuable things you can experience in life is surprising yourself with what you can accomplish. It gives you confidence. Plus you won’t know what you’re capable of until you go out, try and surprise yourself.
“Seriously… You can do anything you set your mind to.”