Sometimes I give myself a hard time for not being more of a business woman. It could have something to do with the fact that I never wear power suits and I don't belong to a single club with the word "leadership" in it's name. The truth is I don't belong to a single club at all. Or maybe it's because I can't help but make jokes suited for a 14-year-old boy ... in client meetings. And it could have to do with the fact that when I'm not dressing for the movie version of myself fighting some zombies in the post-apocalypse I'm wearing cut-offs and a hot pink bra.
So last Friday I decided to dress the part of business-Kathleen on casual Friday. It meant painting my nails the perfect shade of red (with just a hint of orange) and wearing a shirt with a collar. Even if said shirt is Jeremy's. And I have to tell you - I got a lot of business-y things accomplished. Scripts approved, collaterals designed, happy hour with clients, and a little bit of big picture thinking. But I had a change of clothes and a pair of boots nearby - just in case.
Sweater Vest - Target
Jeremy's Top - Blue 7
Jeans - 1921 (also from Blue 7)
Shoes - Aerosoles
Nails - Essie Lollipop
P.S. If you need a solid pair of jeans and live anywhere near Blue 7 go there. Now.
I went into Alt with very little networking strategy - so when I got there I was a little overwhelmed with the quick exchange of cards and the hustle that comes with making a good first impression.
What I did know is that I wanted to give my full attention to whoever I was talking to. I wanted to establish intimacy through warm smiles and solid eye contact. I wanted anyone and everyone who attended my round table session to feel included and welcome. Even so, I still felt a little scattered and spread thin.
I was happiest when I was exchanging stories and hearty laughs.
• Like making a stylish new friend on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.
• Like when I talked to Elisabeth and Miya about being creative entrepreneurs with kids.
• And when Meg and I bonded over wine and embarrassing pasts.
• Or when Melissa and I spent all day in the lobby drinking coffee and eating french fries.
• Or when I would find Danielle in a sea of people and sneak off to dinner just the two of us.
• And when Brandi slipped homemade Nutella in my pocket between sessions.
• And by chance sitting in an open seat next to the very fantastic Bradford at lunch.
• Finally getting to hug Jason's neck immediately followed by poop jokes with Cole.
• Meeting the hilarious (and fabulous)Elizabeth Aubrey (and her mom - I love that she brought her mom) who reminded me not to take myself too seriously.
• Important conversations about self love with Marisa and EZ.
• Finally getting to meet my long time friend (and one of the first J&K commenters), Jennifer - she's just the best.
• And Erin Loechner - who has the ability to make anyone feel special. She's kind of my hero.
Oh gosh - now I'm getting in too deep. I could name drop forever because I met so many fantastic people. In fact, check out the whole list at Mimi + Meg (also a very talented friend who shines her light on anyone she's talking to).
I came away from Alt with genuine friendships, new and old, and lots of beautiful business cards. So maybe I had a strategy after all.
There were about a dozen and a half banquet tables scattered throughout a very large, empty room. I found my seat at a table labeled “Your Blog As A Marketing Tool”. I sat down with my coffee and started doodling in my note pad. At :10 ‘til I was a little worried I might be like that kid sitting at the cafeteria table by myself.
I approached Alt Summit to facilitate a round table discussion on “Leveraging Your Blog As An Authentic Marketing Tool.” After last year’s conference I came away feeling a little funny about the fact that I don’t have sponsors or the metrics to justify ads. I felt like a failure of a blogger because I didn’t have deals with HGTV or HP. But since then I’ve made a living off my blog - and not because big corporations or indie designers are giving me money - but because my readers, you guys, support me both financially and emotionally. You support me when I’m feeling down and you lift me even higher when I’m feeling up. But you also hire me to develop a brand identity for you and to coach you into making the leap when it comes to your own creative career. (THANK YOU.)
So I made it my goal this year to make other bloggers who might not feel like a big deal to know that they can ask their readers (even if they only have 12 of them) to support them - that they can thrive without huge amounts of traffic, metrics, sponsors or banner ads on their site.
Photo by Just A Girl
So back to my round table. At about :05 ‘til my table started to fill up - so we started introducing ourselves to each other. And before I knew it we were squeezing more people in and at one point I looked up and had rows of people around my table. We chatted about mixing the personal with the professional and finding the balance. We talked about sharing your work in an authentic way. We talked about not using words like "lovelies" and "I adore" on your blog if you don't use them in real life. And at the end of it I had met some long-time readers, made some new friends and got some really great compliments. A SLC architect told me I had really great energy and he had learned a lot. My friend Emily told me it was her favorite session of the whole conference. I felt like I had really made a meaningful difference, just by sharing my own experience and a few tips, for a few people.
I have a recap on my round table tips over at Braid - along with a fun video my sister put together for tips on how to pepper business into your personal blog. Read that and let's continue the discussion on how to find the balance when mixing personal with professional.
Drinks & Self-Deprecation
I was at Altitude Summit last week with 400+ amazing bloggers. We all looked really super cute and had really smart things to say. The days were filled with panel talks where I quickly shifted from feeling inspired to feeling overwhelmed and back again. And in the evenings we would hang out in the lobby with drinks and self-deprecating humor.
Are You A ... Blogger?
The Outdoor Retailers convention was going on at the same time as Alt Summit. So the lobby bar was also filled with adventurers - naturally beautiful women with no makeup & cute wool hats and guys with beards & boots. I admired them and their puffy vests. One evening a group of tipsy outdoor retailers came up to a group of us Alt Summit gals with our top-knots and stripes and said "Are you ... bloggers?" - as if we were this rare species of over indulgent narcissists. So we reply "Yeah!" and they sarcastically ask "Do you blog about ... fashion?"
I'm done with their rude sarcasm and pipe in with a friendly "Yes. But I've also blogged about hiking to Mount Everest." (Somewhat of a "Let's be friends - we have more in common than you think!" plead mixed with a little "Oh hell, no.")
One of the cute Outdoor girls with blond braids and a wool hat rolls her eyes at me and says "Noted." and walks off. She thought I was making fun of HER.
We Are Hardwired To Share
So at that point I got self-conscious about being a blogger. A concoction of neurosis with self-analysis and a little bit of ego threw me into a tailspin of "What's the point?"
But here's the deal - I love my blog. It's this sacred place where I can shape who I want to be and share it with the world. Victoria said it best during her panel: "We are hardwired to want to share." So on the plane ride home I got to thinking about what it is, exactly, that I want to share. I want my life to be an adventure - from opening a small business to trekking the foothills of Everest (and soon the Carpathian Mountains in Poland) - and everything in between.
The week leading up to vacation is always insane. There is so much work to pack in - along with actual packing to pack in - prior to a early (like get-to-the-airport-in-the-middle-of-the-night-early) departure. But I'm not quite going on vacation, per se. I'm in the Denver airport getting some work done while on a long layover to Alt Summit. And I feel like I'm in the eye of the storm. A peaceful sort of limbo between bookends of a full schedule. I ate a generic breakfast in a generic airport pub and bought Tina Fey's Bossypants and a thin magazine about backpacking to thumb through while on the plane. I'm having a pretty good time being all alone in such a crowded place.
I wore this outfit to a couple of really great meetings yesterday. I feel like all that grey hardly did my colorful day justice.
Cardigan & Scarf - Urban Outfitters
Skirt - Shop Good
Leggings & Belt - Target
Boots - c/o Langston's Western Wear
Yesterday it was an unseasonably warm 70ºF in Oklahoma but my taste buds were telling me otherwise. I was craving winter soup and had some extra squash on hand. I've also been consuming obscene amounts of coconut lately. Coconut water after my workout. Coconut milk in my coffee (surprisingly delicious). And I've been cooking almost exclusively with coconut oil. I wasn't sure if coconut and butternut squash went together so I Googled it and came across this recipe. But I adapted it because I don't eat anything without garlic.
Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup
1 small butternut squash
2 smallish-medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 small apples, any variety, diced
2 cups water
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder (I get mine blended from Native Roots)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of ras el hanout
1/2 14-ounce can coconut milk (save the rest for your coffee)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Use your favorite method to roast the squash (I like to cut in half, scoop seeds out, sprinkle with olive oil & salt and roast in a pan with .5" of water for 45 minutes at 400F - until tender)
2. When there is about 10 minutes left on the squash saute the diced onion in coconut oil.
3. Mince the garlic and ginger in a food processor (or by hand - whatever floats your boat)
4. When onions are translucent add the garlic, ginger and diced apples. Saute for about a minute and then add your spices. When the spices become fragrant (after about 30 seconds) add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Scoop the squash out of the skin (this is the most labor-intensive part of the process) and add to the soup. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Add coconut milk - let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
7. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in your food processor.
8. Salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with coconut flakes.
This recipe is vegan and serves 2-4 people.
Ingredients in green are sourced locally.
Liz introduced this phrase to me once as I was describing something so perfectly imperfect that it made my heart hurt. I lacked the vocabulary to articulate my feelings about the subject when she interjected with "Wabi-sabi":
Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete"... Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. - from Wikipedia
Wabi-sabi is my old home that makes a hobby of collecting dust and cracks. Wabi-sabi is my jacked up toes and pimple on my chin. Wabi-sabi is the gap between here and there. In 2012 I will capture, shape and share the beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
A little over 4 years ago I felt trapped. Stuck. I could feel this little bundle of sticks and wool in the pit of my stomach. It was too painful to just let it sit there untouched. I tried to purge this kindling from my guts - but it just sat there - it quietly told me that it wasn't going anywhere. So I decided to set fire to it. To transform it.
I went on a quest to find a flame - and I took Jeremy with me. We looked for fire on the beaches of Mexico and on the coasts of Canada. But I couldn't quite find what I was looking for. I needed to dig deeper.
So we made a bold move and went to Mt. Everest. And on the top of a very cold mountain I found fire. A spark was ignited and a steady flame has been living in my stomach ever since but it's begging for more coal.
I don't want to be a tourist that collects souvenirs and postcards. I don't just want to look at pretty buildings and eat great food. I need to see the world through my fingertips and quadriceps and I want to find a little piece of home in the places I go. I want to stuff my well-traveled backpack with meaningful experiences and subtle stories.
I found my flame. I need more fuel.
Photo 1 / 2
If you're on Twitter you're probably already hearing some Alt Summit buzz. It's like summer camp for design bloggers - except in the winter.
I'm not only attending this year I'm also speaking! Last year I noticed that there was lots of talk about sponsorships and advertising - and while I think that's great I don't think you have to go down that route to make a living off of blogging.
I will be facilitating a round table discussion on Friday, January 20th at 9:00am about leveraging your blog as an authentic marketing tool (peppered with some discussion about personal branding). I want to talk about how to use your blog to help you make a sustainable living as an artistpreneur or microbusiness. It's about content - not advertising.
I'm also really excited about hanging out with some of my very favorite people and making new friends and meaningful connections. The Jealous Curator will be roomies (I'm telling you - it really is like summer camp). Ryan, Cole, Jason and I will probably build a treehouse and start a club. I'm going to make Alyssa become my best friend. And Meg - well, Meg and I have a lot to catch up on. And that's just to name (drop) a few.
Are you going to Alt this year?
If someone ever enthusiastically says something along the lines of "You can do it yourself!" I will come back with a hostile "YOU can do it YOURself."
It started in Home Depot (isn't that where it always begins) and a need for new desks. I had this brilliant idea of building two large desks out of hollow wood doors and lead pipes. I had the pipes cut and threaded to size by a disgruntled Home Depot employee. I pushed around a lumber cart full of materials like I owned the place. I was feeling so proud and resourceful. In fact, I had a brief flirtation with quitting my job and becoming a furniture designer because - WOW! it's so easy!
I get home and start drilling, assembling and DIY-ing. And by "I" I mean Jeremy. Flanges into wood. Pipes into flanges. It was a rather quick process but we immediately discovered that these brilliant DIY desks were actually wobbly pieces of shit.
I felt deflated. Disappointed. Annoyed. Wasteful. Sad. Jeremy and I started trouble-shooting and brainstorming ideas on how to salvage the project but I was done.
The next day my sister and I ordered two really sturdy dining room tables to be delivered tomorrow. So not only do I not want to DIY ever again - I don't even want to leave my house.
Until the next project...
In my first year of freelancing I really enjoyed sharing monthly updates detailing my freelance goals, successes, fears and failures with you guys. We had some honest conversations and I got some really great feedback from other designers, photographers and artistpreneurs embarking on their own freelance adventure.
Then in August I started up my own business with my sister called Braid Creative & Consulting. Though I've been blogging over at Braid but I haven't shared the underbelly of the experience - and how it differs from freelancing. About how my life has changed and what has stayed the same. I'd love to chat with you all about it today.
• I get dressed more often
I was totally slacking and wearing sweats or workout clothes 90% of the time before I partnered up with my sister. Now we have lots of meetings all the time. So I'd say I get dressed and put on makeup 4 out of 5 days of my work week.
• I don't Tweet as much
I just feel like I don't have as much to say in 140 words anymore. But I miss the abbreviated banter and witty conversations.
• I work more weekends
I thought I was busy before I started Braid - but I had no idea. Deadlines are tight and there are only so many hours in the day. This means working on the weekends from time-to-time. However, I never email on the weekends.
• I don't work evenings
I'm trying to stay diligent about shutting it down by 5:30 or 6:00PM.
• I still workout almost every day
My workouts will always be my most important meeting of the day.
• I'm more accountable
Working with a business partner and for larger organizations (and larger fees) means I'm more accountable to my deadlines and to continuing to push myself as an expert in my field.
• I'm getting smarter
Partnering with Tara has really pushed my level of thinking, strategizing and planning to a whole new level. It's not just about design anymore. A lot of my job involves writing and consulting and lots and lots of thinking.
• I make more money
That's nice (really nice) - but right now my time is more valuable than cash. So that's a balance I'm trying to find.
• I have a business partner
Tara and I have this saying where it's not like 1+1=2. For us it's more like 1+1=6 - we're catalysts for each others growth and sometimes that comes with growing pains. But most of the time it means having someone to say "Can you believe we're really doing this?" to.
• I have an employee
That's right. The ink isn't even dry on the deal but we just hired a part time employee. Tara and I will still be doing all the heavy lifting (designing / writing / etc.) but we need someone to help tackle the insane amount of work we've managed to pick up.
• I have a life coach
He helps me navigate the choppy waters (and emotions) that come with being an entrepreneur and holds me accountable to my goals. He also has a good laugh at me and gives it to me straight when I'm acting a fool.
• My job feels more like a job
Mondays feel like Monday and Saturdays feel like Saturday.
• Capturing, Shaping and Sharing is still my biggest priority
Everything I do - from personal to professional - involves capturing the details, shaping them to tell a story and then sharing it with the world. It's cool to integrate my personal philosophy into my professional process.
1. Two days ago he ripped a plant out of it's pot and dragged it across our freshly sweeped and mopped kitchen.
2. Yesterday he knocked a full cup of coffee over on Jeremy during breakfast.
3. This morning he tipped a vase full of water over. While trying to eat the flowers.
It's a good thing he's so damn handsome.
Why Mister Scooty Boots Is On My Sh*t List: Part 1
Today is one of those unseasonably warm days that calls for a mish-mash of unrelated articles of clothing. The day itself has also been a mish of lazy coffee and slow starts mashed with interviewing a potential employee (!!!), a thought-provoking conversation over tea and scones with a new friend (but the kind of new friend you feel like you've known forever) followed by a client meeting.
All while wearing a mish-mash of clothing including a really nice puffy vest that I got for Christmas. A really nice puffy vest that my 7-year-old nephew calls a trash bag. Which just makes me love it that much more.
Vest - The Northface
Tee & Shorts - BCBG
Leggings - Who knows
Boots - Fiorentini & Baker
P.S. The old Anatomy of an Outfit chalkboard wall is now covered by my bed (a new one is going up shortly). And my cowhide was taken from me by my brother while he was home for Christmas - he had loaned it to me. For like... 2 years. Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on loans like that?
I've addressed how to estimate and bill freelance projects. I've talked about the importance of getting paid for your work - because if you don't value your work, monetarily, neither will anyone else. But today I want to talk about when you SHOULD work for free. I get asked by other freelancers all the time about how I deal with "pro-bono" projects.
So here it goes.
Point 1. The only time you should work for "free" is when you can see the value of what you have to gain from the experience.
Here are a few instances where this value might be recognized:
• When you need to build your portfolio: If you're new to your creative endeavor and are building experience it might be worthwhile to work for free (or a very small charge). But if you do this - you better make SURE that project becomes portfolio worthy. Make it clear to your client that in exchange for your service you want them to trust your creative vision and guidance so that you end up with a piece you're proud to show off.
• When you work for trade: I love working for trade and never consider it "free". I like to view trade as an exchange of energy - so it's wise to make sure both parties understand the worth of the services or products being traded so it's a fair deal. It should be obvious but needs to be said: I will not work for trade if the other party doesn't have services or products of value to me.
• Working for charity: I've been asked to do pro-bono work for charities work a lot. I only say yes when the charity asking is meaningful to me - I get value from feeling like I was able to contribute to a good cause. If you accept pro-bono work and become resentful about it only creates bad karma for you and them. You do not have to say yes to every charity that comes knocking at your door just because they're a charity.
• You owe someone a favor: I've been blessed with lots of generosity from friends within my industry. Vendors and other experts who have gifted me with knowledge and goods. When they ask for a design favor I happily return it.
• Working for friends & family: This one is probably the trickiest. When it comes to wedding invitations or baby announcements I almost always say yes (or offer before they even ask) if I have the time. It's hard to say "no" to family & friends but the times I do they always seem to understand.
And that brings us to point #2.
Point 2. - Always make sure whoever is receiving your services for free knows what your worth in dollar value.
This might mean sending your charity or friend an invoice with the dollar amount of your services - but with a $0 balance at the bottom. You might even include a note saying "Happy Birthday!" even if it's nowhere near their birthday. This way they know it's kind of a special, rare thing that you're not willing to do all the time. (But don't do this if it really is a birthday / wedding / baby gift - that would be awkward).
I just want to leave you with one final thought when it comes to working for free and saying "no." If someone loves your work and services and wants to hire you but doesn't have the money to pay for your services then they are probably not a good fit for you. Just because they really like you and you really like your job doesn't mean you have to work for them for free.
What's your stance on working for free? Do you have a hard time saying no? When do you say yes?
P.S. I love Jessica Hische's Should I Work For Free flowchart.
It started the day before New Year's Eve - with a little tickle in my throat. It rapidly expanded into my head and tonsils. And today I'm dealing with the aftermath which involves copious amounts of snot and a raw voice.
I'm sad because I'm ready to get moving with Operation: Badass. But maybe this is my body's way of telling me to slow down for a minute. Slow down. Slow. Down. So opposed to my original plan of P90x2-ing my way into badassery, I'm going to be spending the rest of this week recovering with the company of green tea and quiet meditation.
I've been meditating consistently for a few months now. For someone who isn't traditionally "spiritual" I've found a good amount of peace in sitting silently for 20-30 minutes a day as I fill my body, home, planet and universe with light, love and good vibes. The old cynical me is laughing in my face and making sarcastic remarks about "that hippie bullshit" - but the part of me that wants to be optimistic, kind & wise is more powerful right now.
Just like everyone else I'm thinking about my goals, lists and dreams for 2012. Somehow that includes Googling images of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley.
Let's go back to 1991. I'm nine years old and watch Aliens for the first time - dubbed on a scratchy old VHS tape. The film moved me - partially because I looked exactly like Newt but also because I wanted to be Ripley. Especially in that moment when she makes her entrance in that power-loader suit. So cool.
And then Terminator 2: Judgement Day comes out. Because I have older siblings and rad parents I get to go see it in the theater. I became mesmerized by Sarah Connor's ability to do pull-ups. I wanted to be her too. At 9-years-old these bad ass heroines made a permanent impression on me.
So, in 2012 I'm planning on getting in my best shape yet. Yogis in standing splits and celebrities with 6-packs in bikinis are great inspiration for some - but I'm going to hold images of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley in mind as I work towards becoming a badass of my own. I want to be in the kind of shape that gets me up walls and to the tops of mountains, and in the event that the world does end in 2012 maybe I can get through that too (we know I have the wardrobe for it). I guess while I'm at it I might as well learn how to shoot a gun, stock up on little white undies and burn all my bras.
I'll be sharing details on my workout routine and how I plan on getting in my best shape yet in 2012 later this week. For now I want to know: who inspires you to be a badass?
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Business Time
- Alt: The People
- Alt: Round Table
- Are you a ... Blogger?
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Limbo
- Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup
- The Traveler
- Alt Summit
- Eff DIY
- A Braid Update
- Why Mister Scooty Boots Is On My Sh*t List. Again....
- Anatomy of an Outfit: A Mish Mash
- Freelance Matters | When To Work For Free
- Tea and Meditation
- Girl Crush: Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley
- ▼ January (16)
- ► 2011 (257)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings