Sep 25, 2020

Meet Jenn Soloway– a designer and WordPress developer who we love working with! We are excited to feature her this month, read below to hear more about her freelancing journey.

What do you do, and long have you been freelancing?
I am a WordPress developer, website designer, and have a background in identity design and branding. I originally started freelancing in 2006 and made it my full-time gig in 2016.

What is your “exit” story? Why did you decide to freelance?
There’s two. My first is a story of being young, overconfident and untethered enough to take my first gig and dive in headfirst. I was running an errand for my day job and started talking to a DJ who needed a website. I took the gig, quit my job and joined the local chapter of AIGA. Through this membership, I met and contracted with agencies around Raleigh including Mellonaid, Capstrat and Strategic Insights—the last of which hired me on as their Art Director. 

After starting our family, I chose to go back to freelance for the flexibility and personal ownership over my work life.

Share how freelancing has been great and/or how it has been hard. 
I was young when I first started freelancing, only a year out of college at the time. I was raised by entrepreneurial parents and ironically swore I would never work for myself. What I found, however, is that the landscape was more familiar than working in an office or agency setting. It feels comfortable, even when I’m being pushed by the necessity of my business outside my scope of familiarity.

I’ve been fortunate to have made fantastic networking relationships throughout my freelancing career. Returning to work through freelancing was not easy, but the natural step after the experience I’d had when I was younger. It was amazing to have already laid the groundwork and be able to jump right back in.

The biggest challenge (apart from the feast or famine nature of project work) is that solopreneurship can get lonely. It’s important to balance solo work time with connecting with other developers and designers. Inspiration, camaraderie and having that community are all incredibly important to maintain, especially when running a creative business yourself.

What are some things you wish you would have known when you started out?
That the majority of running a business is having confidence in yourself. Because I was young when I started my business, I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels instead of promoting myself for fear that it wasn’t good enough. With time, I learned to trust in my experience and sensibilities to go after the right clients.

What is some advice you would share with soon-to-be or wish-to-be freelancers?
Look for work when you’re busy, because waiting until you’re free is too late. Dedicate time for your business as if it is any other client. Know your worth and find others who recognize it as well. Never take on a project you don’t feel good about. 

Lastly, what do you want to be known for in the freelancing community?
I love working with companies that have been around for a bit and are ready to turn their attention inward to solve existing problems. Companies I’ve worked with, like The Warehouse and Bandwidth, that fit this mold have been the most rewarding. With both of these clients, I didn’t originate their websites, but was responsible for their evolution. 

In Bandwidth’s case, they were looking to infuse more of the vibrant personality their company has become known for into their website. I was brought in to recommend opportunities for this with a design exercise known as a style tile. Instead of focusing on the overall layout of their website, we honed in on the individual elements—typography, color, patterns, etc.—and really got to explore the opportunities in each of them. This intentional approach to element design heightened the personality of their website.

For me, that’s the exciting part of working in a medium like websites—it’s fluid. Instead of designing a piece and letting it exist in the world, a website is constantly evolving with its environment. That’s both exciting and challenging.

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