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LYDIA GILLIS

Freelance Graphic Designer | Andrea Woodlee

April 29, 2020

I’m so thankful for sunny days and all the amazing ladies that are part of the 52 Women Entrepreneur Blog Series. Today on the blog is Andrea. Andrea is a freelance graphic designer from Eugene, Oregon.

I love stories. What’s your story?

I’m Andrea Woodlee, a twentysomething artist and small biz owner living in Eugene, Oregon, founder of Andrea Woodlee Design.
 
A little about me and the history of AWD: I come from a long line of card senders and makers. I have an appreciation for old-school etiquette, like sending handwritten notes and doing more than writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall. Every birthday and holiday, for as long as I can remember, I’ve received a card or care package from my parents (including one lonely Valentine’s Day in college when they attached a clump of my cat’s hair inside of a card and signed it “somebody loves you”).
 
Originally from the Midwest, I moved from my home state of Illinois to study interior design at the University of Kentucky. In one of my graphic design classes, I was required to create a branded online portfolio for my college projects, and thus Andrea Haughey Design was born. That website was originally my portfolio, but it became a way for me to share my words, projects, goods, and services, no matter where life takes me. After graduating in 2016, my then-boyfriend and I made the move from Kentucky to Oregon while he pursues his doctorate, and I pursue my medley of creative interests.
 
Life has moved pretty fast since then: I had a handful of informative but ultimately unfulfilling part-time jobs while always chasing my own freelance work on the side. He’s kept his head down and earned his masters and has only 2 1/2 years until his doctorate. We got married in July 2018, I launched my business with my new name that August, and by October I had quit my day job to chase this dream full time. And it’s not slowing down any time soon, because now we have a baby on the way!

Tell me about your business?

Andrea Woodlee Design is a one-woman graphic design studio offering branding and stationery services to folks across the country, always designed with you in mind. From wedding invitations to a new small business, skip the stress, and allow me to curate the story of your charming new adventure in a way that truly represents you. My style is whimsical, eclectic, and unapologetically feminine, and my goal as your designer is to gift you with a low maintenance, transparent, adaptive client experience, as well as an end result that you’re proud of. I love watching your story unfold—literally, on paper!
 
Founded in 2018, Andrea Woodlee Design has served small businesses and engaged couples all over the country, but home base is in Eugene, Oregon for now. In Eugene, I’ve connected with many other small biz owners through my role as chapter leader of our local Tuesdays Together monthly group. There’s no telling where the future will take me when we’re done here, but one thing is for sure: Andrea Woodlee Design is along for the ride!
 
I’m so grateful to those who have worked with me over the years as this little passion project buds into the business I’ve always wanted: one where we connect on a personal level to put into existence the concept you’ve dreamed up in your mind.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

My “creativepreneur” story is a bit messy, but it’s real. When we moved to Eugene in 2016, I struggled to find a reliable job within my field. Adjusting to post-grad life in an unfamiliar town with a high unemployment rate was extremely challenging, and throughout my string of part-time design jobs, the one thing that remained consistent was my desire to create for myself on my own time. There were countless early mornings and super late nights that ran into mornings as I juggled freelancing with whatever job I could get.

Eventually that got to be too much, with my burnout at an all time high as I tried and failed to keep my two worlds separate. I knew I had to commit fully to one thing, and choosing between my passion and my day job was a no brainer. There’s something incredibly freeing about being my own boss and determining exactly what I want my name to represent.

Once I made the decision to work for myself full time, everything about my work ethic had to change and, for the first time, it felt possible. I finally had the time to research credible vendors so I could take on more diverse projects. I was able to thoroughly plan out my business instead of flying by the seat of my pants. Side hustling is hard and messy, and I was determined to get it together! I spent the summer before our wedding working on my massive rebranding, researching what makes a successful brand and taking a crash course in business ownership. After we got married and I changed my name, my first course of action after the honeymoon was to register Andrea Woodlee Design as an LLC.

Now, I’m a little over a year in and I’m blown away by the change in my business since taking the time to properly invest in it. I’ve still got a lot to learn as a business owner, and truthfully it’s a role I never saw for myself, but I’m committed to the journey.

Who is your ideal client?

My ideal client, whether it’s a wedding or a branding project, is this: An ethical consumer, working a full schedule with no time for nonsense, who wants me to take care of everything for them, values my creativity, and appreciates attention to detail. Age doesn’t matter to me as much as personality. While I do sometimes appreciate the feeling of a team effort with ideas bouncing off the walls, my ideal client respects that I’m at the wheel, just as I respect their role. They shop at Madewell and they know a good pair of jeans is worth $135. They’re playful, trendy, and committed to quality over quantity.

As an entrepreneur we face a lot of challenges, what has been your biggest challenge?

Hands down, learning to manage my time. Transitioning from burnt out side hustler to full time business owner revealed a lot of bad habits I’ve formed working on crazy tight deadlines. I’m still not sure how to use my days off, I’m still working weekends, I’m still in my studio later than I’d like to be most nights—though nowadays that looks more like 8PM than 2AM. Being my own boss does have its challenges, like no one telling me to clock out at the end of my shift. Realizing that my schedule is now 100% within my control has taken some serious adjusting. I’ve certainly improved, and one thing that has helped me do that is to set launch dates for my ideas and say them out loud. That way I’m kind of forced to get it done. A goal I have for 2020 is to gain control of my weekends again!

What has been you biggest accomplishment in your business?

My business is still a baby, and I think it’s so important to celebrate this scary and exciting phase, so I’m going to say surviving my first year full time is my biggest accomplishment to date. A lot of groundwork was laid this year, and I’ve learned so much about what exactly it takes to run a business. I was in no position financially to leave my previous job. I didn’t have a beautifully calculated 5-year business plan to lay out what the future of Andrea Woodlee Design would look like… but I had more of a plan than I’ve had in the last 3 years and a lot of heart.
 
There’s a term for this in branding: wayfinding. Wayfinding is just like it sounds: finding a way to reach your goal. That weird floaty time where everything feels hypothetical and no real plans are made—just a hunch of how to get there. The antidote to wayfinding is navigating, which involves a linear set of instructions that leads directly to your goal. This past year I’ve made major strides to shift away from my wayfinding mentality and into the mind of a navigator.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself as an entrepreneur?

I’ve learned how incredibly vital it is for my self-expression to feel connected to my work. Choosing to start a business with my actual name was an intentional decision: I want my clients to know me, just as I grow to know you. As a business owner and as a person, I’m in constant pursuit of the things that I believe in. For example, I believe in ethical product sourcing and packaging, so I’m committed to educating myself on sustainable options for my clients. I believe in inclusive representation within the wedding community (and beyond), so I’m committed to prioritizing equality within my business.

Since leaving the typical 9-5 work environment to work for myself, my mental health has totally transformed. Even with all of the stressors of running a business, the fulfillment I have from doing what I love keeps me grounded and so inspired. Burnout used to be a normal part of my life, but after choosing to pursue the things I believe in, I’m in a better place. When you choose to work with me, you become a part of these pursuits. Connecting with clients who share my values as a business owner has created a portfolio that I’m proud of as well as a life I truly enjoy, even when it’s hard.

What advice would you give someone who just started or wants to become an entrepreneur?

It’s been said so many times, but I’ve found this cliché to be so true: just start. Don’t be afraid of the failures that will come—and they will come. Just keep doing it. Growth can be a cringey process! I look back on my earlier projects and I wince at the quality and professionalism I was giving to my clients, but it’s the only way I learned how to do what’s working now. As hard as it is, I try to show my past self grace, and I hope you do the same during the early days. Set realistic goals for yourself, but set big, scary ones too, without the fear of failure holding you back. And whatever you do, don’t expect your first year of business to compare to someone else’s 10th year. Or their first year, for that matter! Your journey is yours, and every step of it deserves your respect.

Share one fun fact about yourself?

I’m a total cat lady, and I always have been. In fact, as a 4H kid I showed my pet cat and I won Best in Show! I’m pretty proud of that.

What’s your favorite quote?

An excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic:

“I believe that enjoying your work with all your heart is the only truly subversive position left to take as a creative person these days. It’s such a gangster move because hardly anybody ever dares to speak of creative enjoyment aloud, for fear of not being taken seriously as an artist. So say it. Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”

How can my readers connect with you?

You can follow me on Instagram @andreawoodlee, where I share all the latest happenings in my life: weddings, branding, my cat, my dinner… all the important stuff.

I’m also on Pinterest as Andrea Woodlee Design. And for all other information, my website is andreawoodleedesign.com.

To book your free Personal Branding Photography photo session click here.

To view more blog posts from the 52 Women Entrepreneurs Series, click here. 

LYDIA GILLIS PHOTOGRAPHY is Denver based and Destination Wedding Photographer, Seniors and Personal Branding Photographer.

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comments +

  1. Amanda H. says:

    I love hearing about how other “creativepeneurs” have gotten their start, and how a lot of us just fall into it. Balancing a schedule while running your own business is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have faced too. Thank you for sharing your story, and best of luck!

  2. Anna Bruce says:

    What a great feature! She is so talented and I love her crazy cat lady mug haha

  3. Corey says:

    I love what Andrea has to say about learning by experience and how she didn’t just start out with stellar ability and professionalism right off the bat. Congrats to her about the baby! She seems like she would be a really inspiring mom!

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