This post is part of Flywheel’s “Designer Spotlight” series, which features an interview with a designer/coder/mover/shaker we think is really awesome.
Introducing Cath Beaton
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a web designer and WordPress groupie. I moved from print design to web in 2007, where I scored a job as a web designer for a national commercial radio station. After my son was born, I found working for a big, demanding team wasn’t flexible enough for me to be with my son when he needed me so I resigned at the end of 2012 and reignited my Phase Creative business, which had been on ice since 2004.
I now focus on providing creative, custom built, results-driven WordPress websites and branding solutions for small businesses. I also provide 1-1 training for people who want to learn or improve their WordPress skill set.
I love my work, my clients, and being involved in the WordPress community.
What’s an average day look like?
There is no average!
My day usually starts at about 6:30 am with my gorgeous 5 year old running into my room for a cuddle before he starts demanding breakfast. As anyone who has kids knows, there’s no sleeping through that. We’re up!
I drop him at school at 8:45 then head to my desk in a gorgeous warehouse (more about that later). I usually spend the first 30 mins (after coffee) reviewing email and social media and then attempt to update my to do list (currently flipping between Trello & Asana for this).
I try not to tackle too many jobs in a day. If I’m working on a site build then I like to block the whole day out and concentrate on it. Similarly, if I’m starting a design project, I enjoy the time to get immersed in it rather than spending an hour here and there.
On days when I have training or meetings, I’ll schedule some of my smaller chores in between to be more productive. Being a one-woman-band, I wear ALL the hats. So I usually have a number of bookkeeping chores, proposals, design edits, website updates, maintenance tasks and general enquiries that I’m juggling at the same time.
I pick my son up at 5:30 and I’m mum again until 7:30pm. I try not to work after hours as this leads to burnout.
What does your ideal workspace look like?
I’m lucky enough to be working in what I consider to be my ‘ideal workspace’ right now. For the last year, I’ve had a full time desk at COMMUNE, a creative co-working space just 6 km’s from Sydney CBD.
The design of the space could be described as rustic boho. There are no shiny surfaces or designer lamps. It’s an old warehouse with exposed beams, raw walls, hanging light bulbs and lots and lots of plants and natural light. We have a garage door painted by Sydney street artists every quarter, and that opens to a little picket fence separating us from the passers by.
I describe this as my retreat, my happy place, and therefore the perfect environment for me to get my work done, and to train my clients. I’m inspired by the community that supports us, the other creatives I work with, and the people that run the space with such integrity and authenticity. It’s pretty special.
My actual setup is pretty minimal, I work off my laptop, and have a screen and Wacom tablet set up on my desk. All my work is stored online and as long as I have a wi-fi connection, I can work anywhere.
Working on anything awesome right now?
I’ve got a few projects on the go right now, but one I’m particularly excited about is a facelift of www.designermancave.com.au, for my friend and client Kate Abdou. Kate’s an interior designer and specialises in masculine spaces, hence her audience is quite niche. We’ve been working towards mimicking her personal design styling into the aesthetics of the website and the result is stunning – the typography, image treatments, and content come together seamlessly; even her Instagram feed is used to enhance and reinforce the consistency of her own style. It’s been a great challenge, and got those design juices flowing.
Is there something specific that sparked your interest in web design?
I was always creative, and interested in computers and the internet. So it seemed like a natural progression. I’ve worked as a graphic designer since 2001 and made the move from print design to web in 2007. I love everything about designing for the web, including the rapid pace in which it evolves, constantly requiring us to rethink and innovate to meet the changes in technology.
Where do you find your best inspiration?
I don’t think I can define any one place. Like most designers and web people, we are surrounded by influences in our daily life; it’s everywhere you look. Of course I read books and blogs and attend events and exhibitions, but generally, when it comes to my client work, I’m mostly inspired by their brief and business needs. I know that sounds corny, but honestly, it’s amazing how much you can get from the client if you listen carefully to their problem.
What are three things you do to get the creative juices flowing when you hit a roadblock?
1) Step away from the computer. Sometimes for a good amount of time. You can’t think properly about things under pressure. Moving on from it for a while, taking a walk, listening to some music, anything that switches the thought on that project off for a while is good.
2) Take a shower. A cliche, but it’s true! I’ve solved countless problems with ideas I’ve had in the shower. I don’t know what it is, maybe the 10 mins of relaxation gives me the clarity I need to think more objectively. Maybe it’s the running water?
3) Talk to my fellow creatives. I’m lucky enough to work with other talented humans. We talk everyday and when the opportunity arises, we combine forces and help each other. I can ask an opinion, get a fresh set of eyes on something. I really respect my peers and their suggestions are usually all it takes to drive a project forward.
What’s the best part of your day?
If I have a training client, it’s usually the time spent with them. I love being able to empower and help people understand the technology, and training people to use WordPress has become a passion of mine.
Other than that, I like the mornings, they are the most productive for me.
What’s the hardest part of your day?
Keeping up with the business side of things – I’m not a fan of bookkeeping, or chasing up invoices and stuff, a necessary evil. I’m looking into outsourcing this part of my business in the near future.
What’s one tool/software/resource you can’t live without?
WordPress baby! My bread and butter. What can I say, without WordPress, and the community that builds it, I wouldn’t have this business. #WPfangirl
Have any favorites?
I confess my time for trawling the internet for inspiration is low at the moment. I follow more business/WordPress related blogs than I do design ones. I listen to the WP Elevation podcasts in the car and when I’m doing exercise. And I really enjoy the WP Curve blog. I guess I’m focused more on creating a good workflow for my clients and the design inspiration happens more peripherally outside work hours.
I’m a big fan of the team over at StudioPress. I build my sites on the Genesis Framework, so I do tend to keep a keen eye on what my fellow designers and developers are getting up to in that space.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give others in your field?
If you’re a freelance, a sole trader, a soloist, whatever you identify yourself and your business as, the best thing you can do for yourself is join a community. Getting involved in WordPress here in Sydney has seen me build not only some strong networks with other people, but also some solid friendships. We learn from each other, help, and celebrate each other. These relationships foster confidence and support and when you have days where nothing is going to plan, it’s so good to be able to ping someone ‘somewhere’ and get some advice, because the chances are they’ve been there too.