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It's High Time for Change


A branded infographic that reads: Why I Rebranded: a cautionary tale for underpaid freelancers"

I've been accidentally freelancing since I was in college.


To set the scene, I'm 19, majoring in Interior Design at the University of Kentucky. One of my design classes requires us to make a portfolio on Wix. I create an offensively basic logo that I refuse to reveal.


I published my first portfolio under the domain name Andrea Haughey Design. I participated in hypothetical briefs and 30 day design challenges, documenting everything on that site. There were a few interior design projects, a bunch of logo projects, resume designs—a perfect side hustle for a college student, as all of my friends needed jobs.

Andrea's early logo, a sans serif type for "ANDREA HAUGHEY" and a delicate script typeface for "design."

Consequently, a freelancer was born. Each gig took me approximately 2 Venti hazelnut lattes to complete. I had to work fast, as I was working a retail job between classes. What I would do for this energy now, 10 years later.


If this story is giving you anxiety, questioning how long one can keep this up, your are correct. It was pure chaos. This state of hyperfocus lasted for 4 years. In 2016, I graduated college and moved to Eugene, Oregon with my boyfriend. He didn't let me move to that eco village in Panama City after all. Working in interior design by day, moonlighting as a freelancer was my postgrad reality for years. Burnout was brewing fiercely under the surface.


When my boyfriend proposed, I realized that since I would be changing my name I also needed to change my logo. I set out on a months long journey to rebrand this exhausting side hustle into something real. I read Michael Johnson's Branding in Five and a Half Steps, as well as Johan Debit's Rebranding Design.


Andrea, snug as a bug in bed, reading Michael Johnson's Branding in Five and a Half Steps next to her open laptop.

Side note—as an industry, corporate branding has long been dominated by men. I struggled to take myself seriously, what with my penchant for flowers and the color pink. I had received feedback more than once that my designs were too feminine, unprofessional, dainty, cutesy, girly... I was constantly repositioning my design style for a target audience that I simply didn't relate to.


I took what I learned from the professionals, and I merged that knowledge with a purple color palette and scripty type, dotting my I's with hearts, to launch Andrea Woodlee Design in 2018. I like what I like, OK? AWD was the first sense of steadiness I had felt as a freelancer. Eventually, I left my day job to venture out on my own, keeping busy but narrowing my services down to brand design and stationery. Still faithfully using my Wix domain from 2014, I built a website that married feminine and professional. She was good to me, this rebrand. I experimented with product design, greeting cards, semi custom stationery, and small scale brand design for another 4 years.

But by 2020, something was missing. I became a mother March 15, 2020. To jog your memory, that was the Sunday after you got that email that said you would be working from home for the next "2 weeks." My husband was home with us for the next 17 months, working from home in various closets around our 2 bedroom apartment. Overnight, I escaped the rat race that I had been competing in for years. I went from constant wedding work to crickets for a time. Not just because the pandemic had cancelled nearly all of the next year's of wedding projects for me. I also had this precious baby to protect against a brand new world of unknowns. I had pictured life with a new baby in tow to be vibrant and exciting; instead I faced postpartum depression and isolation.


As I do, I turned inward. This time I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I wrote out what I did and didn't want for my life as a graphic designer. I changed my Instagram category from "designer" to "artist", as I wasn't designing much of anything, but I was releasing silly phone backgrounds that said things like, "This shit shall pass" and "At least we have Tiger King."


I was completely isolated with my little family, playing Musical Chairs as we continued to work from home, as our daughter grew bigger and bigger inside our nest. Eventually, the isolation tuned out the noise. With hardly any work on my books, I could hear my own inner critic rather than the endless feedback that clouded my ego. I developed my own voice, and that voice was silly, and not hellbent on "professionalism," whatever that meant in 2020, when wearing sweatpants and slippers beneath your Zoom-ready upper half was how the professionals were living.


I released a chaotic collection of snarky Christmas cards called "Holiday Jeer." My mom didn't love the negative energy I was putting out into the world. There's always feedback.




But I was having fun. My only audience was my husband and my daughter, who were belly laughing and loving every second of this shared Chaotic Good energy. Safe inside our love nest, I had the freedom to explore a style all my own. The next year, I released my first physical desk calendar, ironically named "This Is My Year", which had previously been an unironic phone background I released in January of 2020 that obviously did not age well.



This style was so outside the lines I had drawn for myself as a ~professional~. It became clear that this new voice needed a new home. It was time to hang up that portfolio page I had been editing for the past 8 years. It was time to start fresh. I hadn't been at Square 1 in nearly a decade. I was playing a long game of catch up, revising and tweaking and building on a brand that had shape-shifted alongside me, but never fully represented me.


By the start of 2022, I was in my 7th year of freelancing. Perfect, I'll take my sabbatical now. I took on half the workload of previous years, carving out time for myself, raising this precious angel girl without my husband to share the load anymore. He was back in the office, and if I thought I was alone in 2020, nothing could prepare me for work-from-home-with-no-childcare life. Something had to give.


A scalable business requires foresight, of which I certainly didn’t possess when I started freelancing at 19. I realized that if I wanted to build this thing, this brand that could carry me out of the exhausting day-to-day grind, I had to get comfortable with the word "no." I passed on the quick jobs I had grown accustomed to, making space for my big dreams. I pulled my semi-custom wedding invitations and holiday cards, income I had relied on for years. This makeshift sabbatical has been scary, financially and emotionally. But I truly believe in the new direction it's led me.



Enter Love Nest: a creative design studio dedicated to the dreamers. This is the place for the love birds with a flair for the sentimental. The entrepreneurs plotting a life changing business. The reliable birthday card senders, both aspiring and veteran.

For me, the concept of Love Nest was born out of necessity, during a time when home became an unpredictable, inescapable safe haven. Craving joy in the midst of tough times, I've traded in my "Burnt Out Freelancer" badge for a shiny new one that reads "Hopeful Creative." I love pink. I'm political. Sometimes I putz around waiting on the inspiration to strike, but I always find it. I know my worth. I trust my voice. I'm feeling good.


Thanks for reading.


XO,

Andrea


 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - And sore must be the storm - That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land - And on the strangest Sea - Yet - never - in Extremity, It asked a crumb - of me.

EMILY DICKINSON

 

Andrea is an independent artist, a wife, a mother, a crazy cat lady, and a Rupaul's Drag Race fanatic. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky, working remotely with brands and engaged folks across the country. Want to work together? Reach out here.


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