One of the best things I have experienced from starting this blog is connecting with creative and risk-taking business owners. I was lucky to work with an amazing woman in business who developed and coded 24 East’s custom web design by Bre of Rowan Made. Janine Isabelle is a developer from Canada who also does identity and print design, plus art direction through her small design studio, Kindred. She brought the site to life plus has endured countless questions from me about how on earth this thing works! She was a pleasure to work with and I was excited to talk with her about starting not one but two (!) businesses, her favorite features of this site, and what she does to remind herself not to get too lost in code. Read on and enjoy…plus see gorgeous photos of her new studio!
24 East: What is your background?
Janine Isabelle: I did my undergraduate studies in Sustainability and Environmental Politics and quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted for a career, so I went back to school for design & front-end development. Like Bre, I started freelancing pretty much straight out of school. Full-time freelancing was always my goal, but I figured it’d be at least a five-year plan kind of thing. I ended up just getting really lucky between deciding to move from the West Coast to Toronto, the support I had, and the clients that came my way in the first couple of years, that I managed to make freelancing work from the get go.
24E: What is important for you to know when beginning a web development project?
JI: The practical things like what kind of website is it (portfolio, blog, e-commerce, etc.), how many custom layouts are needed, what kind of functionality needs to be included, that kind of thing. Beyond that, I like to know a bit about potential clients: who they are, what they love about what they do, what a new website is going to help them achieve…
24E: How do you keep up with changes in technology?
JI: I’m a huge Twitter junkie. I follow a lot of other designers, developers, agencies — just people in my industry who know what’s up and share articles and information about new ideas, trends, technology, all that good stuff.
24E: When did you decide to start your own business?
JI: I like being in charge, haha. Particularly when it comes to creative work, I knew I’d never be happy unless I was my own boss. So I pretty much always knew I’d end up working for myself at some point, but as I said, it was kind of a fluke that I had the chance to do it from the beginning.
I also recently launched a small creative collective called Kindred Studio with my good friend, Yuli Scheidt. It’s a non-traditional studio in that everyone who works with us is an independent contractor, which gives us the flexibility to work on projects of all shapes and sizes, utilizing the people whose skills best match each client’s needs. We were really inspired by Ghostly Ferns‘ model when we were brainstorming how we wanted our studio to function, and it’s worked out pretty well for us so far. We like having the flexibility to keep our individual freelance practices while also having the ability to collaborate on larger projects.
logo and branding work (love this!)
24E: What do you love the most about having your own business?
JI: Oh man, everything. I love having my hands in all sorts of pots, from the day-to-day client work to the complicated business stuff like figuring out how we all get paid, haha. I thrive on multitasking. My boyfriend’s always getting annoyed with me because I’m the kind of person who answers emails on my phone while we’re watching a movie.
Mostly I love the flexibility of being my own boss. I really feel like creative work necessitates flexibility. You have to know that sometimes, sitting in front of your computer beating your head against a problem isn’t the most effective use of your time. Quite often, stepping away from what I’m working on and going out and doing things that are seemingly unrelated to work is what makes something click for me and solve a problem or get inspired. On the other hand, if I work multiple 14 hours days in a row, it’s because I’m passionate about what I’m doing, not because I have anyone else to answer to (besides clients, of course).
Kindred Studio nook
24E: What are the greatest challenges to having your own business?
JI: There are definitely daily challenges. The biggest one for me in my first few years was honestly loneliness. I moved to another city right after school, into an apartment I lived in alone, and worked mostly from home. I like my own company more than most, so I totally didn’t expect it to be so hard to be alone all the time, but it definitely got to me. Fortunately, there’s an incredible community of young creatives in Toronto and people in the city are generally really welcoming of newcomers. But I had to really push myself to get out and make connections those first couple of years.
24E: What are your favorite types of projects to work on?
JI: I love working with other female entrepreneurs. Teaming up with Bre has been amazing – because she’s amazing, but also because most of the clients who come to her are also female creatives. Development projects are fun because I kind of just get to be a little code monkey behind the scenes, but I also love design. I described my aesthetic to a client once as “wabi sabi meets Scandinavian minimalism,” which seemed really pretentious at the time but it’s still pretty accurate. Basically it means I’m drawn to things that are clean and simple but also real. Perfection is boring.
24E: We talked once and you mentioned that coding is something that you can get lost in, and you don’t notice the time passing by. How is this peaceful or stressful?
JI: It can definitely be a bit of both. It’s peaceful in that you can get into a kind of flow with code, but it can also be harmful because I often get lost in it to the point where I forget to eat or even get up from my chair. I’ve got an app now that reminds me to get up and move around every hour, which has been really helpful. Sitting in a chair all day is really bad for you, and even after just a few years I can already feel the effects of it. I don’t want to be one of those workaholics that ends up with health issues because they didn’t look after themselves.
Inspiration at the studio
24E: Let’s talk about this project! What are some of your favorite features of the 24 East site?
JI: 24 East was super fun to build! There are a lot of outside-the-grid elements that are kind of a throwback to print layouts, and that kind of thing is totally my jam.
24E: What made developing this project unique?
JI: The web has a tendency to be boxes in boxes in boxes, so anytime I get to break that up and do something different is always fun.
24E: What is something interesting about the 24 East site that people might not notice initially?
JI: Everything is coded from scratch. I think, especially with blogs, people are really used to seeing websites built from templates and frameworks. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think there’s also a time and place for them. For something like 24 East, you need it to be completely unique.
24E: What do you want to know about the East Bay?
JI: When can I come visit? 😉
For more on 24 East’s web developer, Janine Isabelle go here.
For more on Janine’s new business, Kindred Studio go here.
For more on 24 East’s branding and web designer, Rowan Made go here.