One thing that we love about what we do is that each day brings something different. Whenever we can, we start the day together with coffee in our studio. We put on some nice music and talk about what we need to accomplish that day and assign tasks to make it happen. Running a small business takes a lot of admin work, so we try to split it up and support each other. If we’re doing a lot of solo desk work that day, we always stop to ask for someone else’s input—feedback is a constant in our studio. We’ll usually break for lunch together and take our studio dog Billy for a walk.
Then the afternoon is more coffee, music, and work. One of us might run out to meet a client, someone might be researching, and someone else might be photographing our latest project. After finishing up whatever the day has thrown at us, we try to head home in time to maintain a reasonable work/life balance.
Well, my working day or night (I’m a bit of a night owl) starts with a big cup of black tea, followed up by picking up the music for my current mood. Once that’s settled, I check the status of the projects I’m working on, and I take it from there. Could be pen and paper, sketching at the iPad, or final touches on illustrator / photoshop. Break, snacks, browse for new music or pick up the guitar to play around a little bit just to clear my head, and get back to work.
Since there are no distinctive roles in our team, there is a set of typical days: they usually start with checking e-mails and making a to-do list for the day. Often times the same longer list applies to several days, so we’ll pick up where we left off the previous day, unless something more urgent has come up.
The tone for the day is often set by whether we have a meeting or two or not, as preparing for them, plus the travel take a lot of time and attention. For bigger projects, there is often a weekly meeting, which can take up to several hours – on such days it is harder to get focused on conceptualising, layouting etc., so the rest of the day it is easier to do corrections and improvements where needed, or send e-mails. Although I have to say, composing emails can also be hard work, demanding your whole attention. And, for example, putting together a quotation can take two or three (or more) days, since every project is different, and analysing the needs and weighing the options take time.
When we are at the beginning of a new project, we start out by discussing what needs to be done, and agree on some keywords, based on which we can start conceptualising idividually. After some time (can be the same day, but also a couple of days later) we’ll compare ideas, and decide on further steps.
When there’s more sketching, layouting or illustration work to be done, it is better to focus on one thing for a longer time at once.
All in all, although all this might sound rather hectic, and it is not always a piece of cake, switching between roles is actually quite enjoyable and even helpful, as it provides having a fresh look at a task each time we return to it.
A typical workday for me usually starts with getting hyped on other peoples’ work or what my coworkers are jamming on and often ends with a few laughs. The meat of my day requires a lot of juggling between projects, whether it be building out design concepts for a big pitch or working with clients to figure out how to bring their vision to life. There are a lot of moving parts and different stages to all the projects we work on at Mucca, but that’s what keeps the day interesting. I love being part of a small studio because you’re often thrown into the driver’s seat and given the opportunity to build out a project from start to finish. With this kind of work dynamic, my typical day often extends beyond just design to client relations, implementation, and strategy. While the days can get stressful, I couldn’t see it any other way. Especially when you have a team that supports you each step of the way and reminds you to trust your gut.
Four months ago I quit my day job and started freelancing full-time. Previously I had hardly any free time due to day job + side hustle combination, so now I’m living the honeymoon phase of going freelance. Having all these extra hours in the day feels intoxicating!
I usually get the most work done early in the morning and very late in the evening. The first and last four hours of the day are the most productive. I’ve tried to combat this tendency but nowadays I’m learning to embrace it. During the day I often go walking in the nearby forest, do some reading, some grocery shopping and cook a nice meal. Maybe a little nap after food. I love how deserted the whole city is during the day when everyone else is at work. We recently found a nice studio space with some friends and we’ll be moving in soon. I’m curious to see if having an actual office will make my schedule more disciplined.
I usually wake up at about 8. I make coffee and breakfast, and start planning my day according to whatever workload I may have. I try to spend at least a little time each day warming up in my sketchbook, but if I’m feeling a lot of pressure I’ll just jump in. I work from home maybe 95% of the time, but will occasionally go into a client’s office, or if a studio books me I’ll go work there. Ideally, I take a break around 3 to walk to the gym and get back to work towards 6 after dinner and a shower. I’m pretty bad at having a true, hard stop from work, and usually, just end up petering out and calling it a day at 9-ish. What actually happens during working hours depends on the project I’m working on, but I imagine it’s what most other illustrators do: sending sketches, waiting for feedback, and then working on a final draft.
Our days are generally quite varied, which keeps things interesting. One of the main reasons we started our own studio was the importance to both of us of being really involved with all the stages of the design process — to really get to know and understand our clients and their businesses. We approach the initial phases of all of our projects together; this includes client briefings, client workshops, ideation and concept development. From there we try to split tasks evenly between ourselves, which includes a lot of the day-to-day running of the studio (things like accounts and record-keeping, quoting, production management, general emails, press checks, attending photoshoots etc.) and work to our individual strengths depending on the current workload.
Most of the time I work from home. I am very organized- I wake up early just like “regular” people who go off to work and try to work during the hours where I’m most productive.
I must say am a tiny bit obsessed with cleanliness and therefore the first thing I do every morning is clean the whole house- only then can I really feel ready to concentrate, start the day and work.
When my desk gets unorganized in a beautiful way, I take a picture and then immediately reorganize it. I need to hear some type of background noise while I’m working, whether it’s the radio, talk shows, or some good trashy music. I break down my daily tasks to deadlines, reading and responding to emails and I really try to dedicate at least one hour a day to draw or illustrate for myself.
Our working days can go through several moments. There may be desk work, craft work, photography and meetings. Usually, each of us is in charge of a single project, and larger projects end up involving the whole team in its final stage of construction and assembly. We usually have lunch at the studio, preferably in the garden when the weather is warm, and we might even have some friends to have lunch with us.
We arrive in our bikes and our first steps are to turn on the lights, the radio and to open the back door to let the neighbours’ cats inside (they love it in here!).
After these simple gestures and some quick e-mail answering, we put our hands to work. The beginning of a project always starts with a small brainstorming discussion either with the client or between ourselves, we quote the project and after it is approved we start designing. Usually, we start by making some hand sketches and then we transport that into Sketchup (the most simple 3D modelling program). After we are happy with how everything looks and the clients approve the digital model we flat the 3D objects and start transporting it to paper or cardboard. If it’s small stuff made out of paper, we have these little cutting machines that ease this process and cut everything. If it’s a bigger object we use a beamer to project the drawing into a wall and we sketch the design onto a cardboard piece and then cut it by hand. After we have the plans we start glueing everything, once again by hand, until we have the final shape ready. After everything is done, it’s ready to be shipped to the client. If it’s something that doesn’t require build up then we just ship it directly to the client. If however is something that requires us to build things on sight, we have our transportation partners that help us getting the pieces safe and sound to the place where they should be and we go there and start building up. If it’s a store window or similar usually a few hours is enough to have everything ready. If it’s something bigger, it usually depends on what the client agreed, but it might take us one to several days on site building everything. The longer we took in a build up was 5 days (and nights!) at Thought for Food Summit in Lisbon. That was quite a challenge.
On any given day I split my day between emails, telephone calls, client presentation meetings, putting together proposals, bookkeeping, site visits, press checks, directing our designers and working on design projects of my own.
I work into the evening most nights when the phone has stopped ringing and the email has stopped dinging – when there is silence. At this time, it feels like the pressure is off and I can be more creative, taking my time fussing over the details and thinking everything through without distractions.
With our team growing gradually (we are currently a team of 5) we are trying to implement better systems, using technology where we can to make life easier and finding ways to keep everything in balance.
My working routine starts at around 9 a.m. and never without the first, quick espresso of the day. I then plan the daily activities and projects I need to work on, together with my team. Finally, lunchtime. It’s a very inspirational moment for me, an opportunity to talk about design trends and to let myself be inspired by different visions. The second part of the day is usually dedicated to internal meetings and creative reviews.
At the moment it’s just myself in the studio, as last year we had a really big year mixed with not understanding how to attract the work we wanted to work on and working any job that came our way. So this year has been really about refining that radiation and being much more selective in the projects we take in. My day has changed dramatically from this time last year. I’ve learnt how to embrace time and not chase time, so generally starts with planning out what the day looks like and reading the guardian over coffee. From there it’s just about trying to keep in contact with what work is on the plate currently while also giving myself a break every 2/3 hours for a 10min spell. I’ve found that it’s pretty critical for me to step away from the screen every 2 hours, and do something mindless. I’ve started juggling to create that contrast in thinking. The day ends usually with something lighter work wise, or more often than not creating for the studio, if that be instagram stuff or posters – just something to move my head away from the problems I’ve been trying to solve most the day.
As a creative entrepreneur, I’m able to organise my schedule pretty freely, although I’m a big believer in habits and routines. I think that routines are especially important for creatives because by putting tasks on auto-pilot, you can free up a lot of mental space that is essential for being creative and productive. So I start almost every day in the same way. I love breakfast and I never leave the house without eating something. After breakfast, I meditate for 10 minutes and then leave for the studio space that I share with other creatives in Helsinki. My client work ranges from branding and web design projects through to book design, illustration and motion graphics. For example, at the moment I’m working on an illustration triennial branding, designing a web page for an art museum, and making an animation for an international eyewear brand. If my day is not jam-packed with client work, I spend more time learning new stuff or with the administrative side of my business. I really love learning, and one of the reasons I enjoy being an entrepreneur is because I’m able to prioritize my time and invest in learning new skills when I feel like it.
At the end of each day, I’ll go into a short gratitude practice and try to find 3–5 small or big things to be grateful for. I also meditate again for 10 minutes. When you love what you do it’s really easy to get wrapped up in work and forget about taking time for yourself. Still, the most important lesson I’ve learned over this past year is the importance of self-care as an entrepreneur. Paying attention to the habits that help me on a daily basis has been hugely beneficial in my life, as has finding the ones that are counterproductive — such as spending a lot of time on social media. But it’s worth pointing out that as much as I love routine and a predictable schedule, there are definitely days where things come up and I am glued to my laptop until late in the evening with no breaks. Sometimes with overseas clients I also adjust my schedule so that I work later into the night.
I write a lot. General communications. Concept rationalisation. Naming. Creative copywriting. Quotes. At any given time, I’ve got multiple windows open with a few paragraphs of text from different projects. Typically, this scatters my brain and it suddenly malfunctions around 3pm. Often, without thought or reason, I’ll have distracted myself with Cinema 4D or After Effects; creating something purposeless that will never see the light of day. Sometimes, but rarely, I design. That’s a bad habit.
We are a small studio so we start with a daily check in to plan what we’ll do for the day. Then it mostly involves sketching, reviewing work on the wall, researching a job, grabbing a pork roll for lunch, and getting into InDesign and digitising some ideas. We all tend to work on separate projects under Chris’ direction. However for the big stuff we will all contribute together to get the most amount of ideas out there.
Being freelance, my working day has been a system of trial and error, and I can’t stress the word ‘error’ enough. Recently however I’ve been getting into a groove that works for me. I’ll normally get up early, eat a quick breakfast and try and get out the door to and to the studio as swiftly as possible (it can be easy to be a little liberal with your time when no ones going to tell you off for getting in a little late). When I arrive, I’ll have a coffee and make a plan for the day/reply to correspondence. After that you just need to get to it. I’ll stay till around 8PM most days, with a break in the middle for food and maybe a run to get outside, little self-care things. The key is to put yourself in an environment you can be productive in, and stay there until you are. If you haven’t got any commissions on, you should be passionate enough in what you do to make something anyway.
Whenever people answer this question, they say there is no typical day. In my case, I don’t even have the luxury of where I start my day, where I’m waking up. It could be the airport floor, someone’s couch, a tent, a luxe hotel or a friends house. As a nomad I’m constantly looking for somewhere to sleep, somewhere to shower and somewhere to use the WiFi. If it has all three, that’s a good day! After figuring out basic functions like where to brush my teeth or eat, my day is usually a mix of meeting with Creative Directors to learn more about their design studio and the design landscape in that city, talking at universities, emailing (boo!), running workshops, trying to do something local in the place I’m currently in (e.g. a Turkish bath in Turkey), running the business side of TDK, gathering TDK content, day dreaming up new things and directions for TDK and working with our sponsors. And catching planes. I catch a lot of planes.
I try to arrange all my meetings in the morning, starting as early as 8:30. I like to meet with prospective and current clients, network with other female founders and also make time to mentor creatives who have reached out to me. I’m part of The Wing, HER, Lower East Side Girls Club and will often be connected with people through those communities. I get to our office in Flatiron around 9:30/10am, review work in progress and jump into lots of creative meetings. Often we have photoshoots or video production happening any given week, so my time can be spent on set too.
Now that I’m remote freelance, the biggest things I try to achieve each day is some semblance of structure.
Typically I’ll be up and have had breakfast before driving my wife to the train station at 8:00am. Back to the home office and responding to emails or sending out bids in the morning and trying to get a few hours of illustration or animation work in before lunch.
Over lunch when the weather cooperates I take a break and walk our dog. I’ve made a rule that I turn off notifications and don’t let anything interuppt our 30 minute walks. It’s a nice break in the middle of the day and let’s you reset before the afternoon.
When we’re back it’s time for lunch and then working for the rest of the afternoon. Depending on my workload I try to end the day by 6:00pm so we can relax in the evenings but often times I find I’m still working late into the night. I’ll get better at this eventually.
I’m a morning person and I normally wake up around 7:00 AM. I do a big breakfast in the morning, reply to emails, and get ready for the day. I used to share a studio in Brooklyn, NY but I don’t anymore. My work station changes every day. I decide each morning where I would like to work at. It could be the cafes nearby, at the parks and harbors if the weather is nice, on the subway train, school library, or in my bed in my small room. I try my best to listen to myself and be happy each day. And then I draw and draw until my hands get tired.