Being Boss MIAMI

being-boss-miamiI spent last Thursday through Sunday at a conference/vacation called Being Boss in Miami. I didn’t know a single other attendee and shared a hotel room with a total stranger. I still kind of can’t believe I went, because it’s so not something I would do. But I did, and yes, I’m proud of myself. But more than that, it was actually FUN. Like, so fun that I’m already wondering when I can do it again.

I went from being someone who would never ever attend a conference to someone buying a ticket and booking a hotel room in the span of 5 minutes. I’ve been a fan of the Being Boss podcast for over a year and am active in their Facebook group, but I had never at all considered going to any kind of in person thing. Sitting behind a computer is a lot more comfortable, you know? But they announced their next vacation was in Miami and it suddenly felt like something I should do. Miami’s only about 4 hours away, so how could I not? I really don’t know what motivated me exactly, but I immediately bought my ticket. I didn’t think about the trip much up until the week before, when I started to get nervous. I sent a few “what was I thinking??” texts to my bestie and probably would have canceled it if I could.

But Thursday morning came and I loaded my suitcase and drove south. 4 hours later, I knocked on my hotel room door to meet my new roomie, Liz Garcia. We hugged and all was well. I really recommend having a roommate even though that might sound scary. It was so nice to have someone that I could lean on a bit in the beginning.
As soon as I started to meet the group, I totally relaxed. Seriously, everyone there was so friendly, so easy to talk to, and just plain cool. Every single person I met was someone I’d like to know better. I think we just got lucky and it was a great group. It was such a good mix of bosses — I met coaches, lawyers, a nutritionist, a chef, social media strategists, a wedding planner, writers and authors, fellow designers and developers, a visual recorder, photographers, branding experts and more. It was really fun to talk to people who totally get the working for yourself gig. You know, being boss. The whole event was mostly a vacation filled with talking, walks and wine on the beach, a party on a yacht and eating yummy food.
It was a total game changer for me in how I perceive networking. It truly eradicated any yucky feelings that I have long associated with that. There was no selling here, it was just about connection. And that’s how it should always feel, I think. I’m going to start getting out there and attending more networking events locally and try to recreate a little of the magic.


Part of the vacation was watching a live recording of the Being Boss podcast. It was so fun to watch Emily & Kathleen do their thing. They’re such naturals and the podcast is a great mix of fun entertainment and truly good advice. I even asked a question during the live show!

I’m so glad that I jumped way, way out of my comfort zone. And so happy to have met everyone that I did.

What does a web designer do?

Whenever someone asks, “what does a web designer do?”, it’s often prefaced by “I know this is a stupid question, but…”. Let me stop you right there, it’s not a stupid question! In the big wide world of design and development, there’s print designers, logo and brand designers, icon designers, app designers, editorial designers for print, editorial designers for web, advertising designers, book designers, illustrators, font designers, and even more. If someone says they’re a designer, they normally specialize in one or two things. For me, that’s branding and web design.

So what does a web designer do exactly?

Web designers are the lovely people that *make the look of* the websites you look at. That means that they have Photoshop documents where they have created the layout of the website. Depending on the purpose and size of the site, that usually means a layout for the homepage and a layout for the interior pages and maybe a blog too.

Here’s the homepage layout I designed for Modern Acupuncture:

Web designers put every element that they want on the site into their layout. So we are placing and sizing the logo, placing and determining the fonts for the navigation, headers, body copy and whatever else appears on the site. We are figuring out the best layout to share what needs shared. Sometimes brand designers come into play with this too. So if a client had a brand already created for them, the web designer would use their brand guide/specs to inspire their web design. So fonts and colors may already be chosen, as well as different brand elements that can be incorporated. The web designer still uses their design sensibilities to make all of those elements work together in a way that makes sense for the web and the purpose of the website.

The whole point

The first question that I ask when I get a new web design project is “what’s the purpose of your site?”. I have lots of other questions too, but that’s the most important one. The whole design revolves around the purpose of the site. Maybe the purpose is to get people to sign up on a mailing list. Then the site would have multiple calls to action and sign up forms to direct uses to see them and sign up. Every page of a site should have a call to action, or somewhere to go next. So that when you get to the end, you have another place to go to stay on the site. I call that the flow of the site.

So after the site is designed, the next step is taking that design from Photoshop to a live site. That’s called development. There are many ways and different platforms that help you do that. Usually, the web designer and web developer are not the same person, but they can be. So the web designer would then hand off their Photoshop files to the web developer to build and create the (already designed) site. In my case, I do both the design and development. So I hand off the files to myself. I’m going to go into detail about what web developers do in a future post.

8 Essential & FREE WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest advantages of WordPress is the wide world of free plugins. There are so many. It’s hard to know what’s worth using and what’s not. It’s also good to keep in mind that using too many plugins can slow down your site and cause theme conflicts and make your site more vulnerable. Eeeek. BUT, I still recommend using them, just judiciously. There are some seriously great ones that I don’t want you to miss out on. Here are my favorite:

Askimet: essential comment spam blocker.

Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode: This is my go-to plugin if I’m making major changes to a site or building it live. You can quickly create a simple and nice “coming soon” page so people aren’t completely thrown off by your site in disarray.

Contact Form 7: This is a simple contact form that has tons of flexibility. It’s completely stripped down, so you have to have styles already set up within your theme for a form or you need to custom style it. It’s the only form I use.

Disqus Comment System: This plugin is just way better than WordPress native comments. It’s a lot prettier and easier for people to use and keeps people updated on replies. It also adds additional content to the footer of your posts if you want, like related posts.

Instagram for WordPress: There are a lot of Instagram plugins and I’ve installed and tested many of them. For some reason, this is the only one I’ve tried that actually works. You can configure it in a grid or in slideshow mode.

Widget Context: For those times when you only want certain widgets displayed on certain pages, this plugin makes it really easy.

Widget Importer & Exporter: I love this plugin. I use it when I’m transferring site contents (like from a test site to a live site). But it’s also handy if you want to change themes. For some reason, when you change themes in WordPress, all of your widget settings go with it. So this is a way to actually save and export your widgets and settings and then re-import them. It’s great to have for a backup.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox: A lot of backup plugins (especially free ones) for WordPress often backup to a folder hosted on your site. So if your site goes down or is hacked, then, oops. With this plugin you schedule a backup that goes straight to Dropbox.

My Life as a Freelance Designer with 2-year-old twins

sylvie-theo-kiss-webI love knowing what people really do all day. Like, hour for hour. Everyone’s daily life has an air of mystery to me. One of my favorite questions in conversation is “what is a typical day like for you? The more details the better, please.” So here’s mine, at the moment. This is an update to my post last year about my life with 1-year-old twins. So many things have changed since then, but mostly just because their schedules have evolved. Let me tell you, the difference between two naps a day and one nap a day is a big deal for parents.

I’m surprised and happy to say that my business has actually grown this year. Through my partnerships with She Oms, adding some great clients like Ripley’s (yes, believe it or not!) and my long-term clients, I’ve had more work than I expected coming in. I do all of my work from my home office, which also houses a gigantic train table and a play kitchen.

This is what a typical day for me looks like:

8am Kids get up. One time-saver about having kids is no longer needing to set an alarm! I haven’t set one for exactly 2 years and 3 months. A few months ago, my kids stopped waking up before sunrise and started sleeping later. It’s a change that I’m very supportive of. I hang out with the kids while Kris makes breakfast, then we all eat together.
9am-11:30am: My Mom comes over. Yep, she comes over for a few hours every weekday and it’s super nice and a life changer for me. Depending on the day of the week, she may bring them out with her for an hour or so, stay home and play or we go to Gymboree. So most of the time, I get about an hour of work done in the morning.

11:30am: Lunch time.

12:30-3:30pm: Nap time. Ahhh, nap time. My kids are good little nappers, thank the heavens. Depending on what’s on my plate and how I feel — I work, watch tv, workout, take a nap, read, scroll Facebook, or whatever else I’m in the mood for.

3:30-5:00pm: The kids wake up. We normally play at home or in the backyard or walk down to our neighborhood playground. We stay close to home.
sylvie-and-i-at-park park

5pm: I start making dinner. This is usually tv time for the kids because they haaaate it when I’m cooking dinner. Hate, with a passion.

5:15pm: Kris gets home from work, yay!

5:30pm: Dinner time. I’m still at the point where I find it a little funny that I eat dinner at 5:30. My pre-kid dinner time was usually 5 hours later than this.

6:30pm: Get the kids ready for bed.

7pm: Kids go to bed. Early bedtimes are a big plus in my book, it allows Kris and I to have time to unwind together. After the kids go to bed, we usually both find ourselves back on our computers for another hour or two. So a little more work time if I need some, or just reading articles and browsing around. After we’re done, we almost always watch a show or two and then we go to bed around 11pm.

So that’s my day. I can imagine you’re reading this and thinking “but she hardly works!”, “but she relaxes a lot!”, “but she has it so easy!”. I know, I know. It’s true. I honestly think my life is a good as it gets and I’d change nothing about it. I’m grateful every day. I don’t work a lot of hours. But when I do, I’m very efficient and get things done quickly. And I love my work, it’s seriously my dream job. I prioritize down time and relaxation. I don’t feel too busy, I feel just right. I have a feeling I’ll look back on these years as the best years of my life.

Mother Nurture

I worked with Katelyn a couple months ago to help her brand (and name!) her new postpartum coaching business. She came to me with her business ideas and we focused and shaped her brand into something concrete and purposeful. We started by deciding on her business name and tagline and after lots of brainstorming, settled on Mother Nurture. Katelyn wants to help first-time mothers who feel daunted, overwhelmed and underprepared for their new roles. She wants to help them identify their life priorities and reach their goals by creating routines, plans and providing calm support. So really, she wants to nurture mothers. Here’s her full brand guide: