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Ways We Work

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Digital Entrepreneur / Founder of ilovecreatives & People Map

I first stumbled across Puno and her work because one of her sites had been featured in examples of awesome ways to use Squarespace templates. I immediately admired her hustle but also how much fun she seems to have doing her thing. Being a digital entrepreneur Puno's work looks different all of the time, but currently she is focused on ilovecreatives, a digital classifieds for creatives and PeopleMap, an Instagram marketing tool her and her husband built together recently. We immediately connected on the weird world of trying to make a living online and balancing freelance with personal projects. She also shares what the term "slashie" is and what being one means to her. Not only is Puno refreshingly open and candid, she shares some pretty great tips for keeping your career on track, financially and goal-wise.

As a digital entrepreneur, it seems like you always have multiple projects on the go. What’s your main role at the moment and what does it involve?

Right now I’m focused on ilovecreatives, which is a digital classifieds site for creatives. We’re actually in a bit of a transition period. Previously I’d been bootstrapping that while doing freelance work and I’m hoping that we can finally have enough revenue through ilovecreatives to stop doing freelance work. In order to do that, I’ve just got to focus. Honestly, we haven’t done any marketing for ilovecreatives, I’m really fortunate that a lot of friends are supporting it and it’s grown from there.

So I'm working on ilovecreatives and PeopleMap, which is our Instagram marketing tool that came out of MadeWithMap. Last month we put a paywall on it and June 1st Instagram made all these changes to their API, so we had no idea what was going to happen with that. We were basically freaking out, calmly, until June 1st [laughs]. Now we know we’re okay and I can focus on scaling and ramping up PeopleMap as a business.

So what does your role look like amongst those two businesses?

My husband is a programmer and I do design and marketing as my main focuses. Everything else is just little stuff in between. His skillset is programming, anything in that world is automatically his, and I handle everything else.

“There are so many people, especially our age, that are able to research, find a job, find a new job, find a new skill, or start a small business--all on the internet. People are becoming more curious, which is really cool.”

You use the term “slashie” on your website and on ilovecreatives. I’d love to know where that term came from, what it means to you and if you’ve always considered yourself a slashie?

It actually came out of frustration! When we first built out ilovecreatives, the whole idea was that I needed a place to get all of my friends to stop texting me, and asking me, "Hey, do you someone who can do this?" I thought, “what if we just had one website where everybody could go to, and we'd do a newsletter" and so I did that. When I was selling ads for the site, people wanted to know who the content was going to. Instead of just putting demographics, like age and sex, I wanted to put up photos of them. I asked for their name, their title, and their location. Everybody gave me these long ass titles, and I was getting so frustrated, because I had to keep increasing the div height, over and over again [laughs].

I kept saying to myself, “these damn slashies! Photographer / Writer / Designer.” Then I realized looking at my own title that it was all over the place too and I couldn’t be a hater. I had a realization that pretty much everybody on our site was a slashie in some way. Ever since I started telling people this, everyone felt relieved that they were able to put that many titles to their name. I think, that's just the nature of the internet, right now.

There are so many people, especially our age, that are able to research, find a job, find a new job, find a new skill, or start a small business--all on the internet. People are becoming more curious, which is really cool. I think that’s where everything is heading to, more freelancers and more small businesses.

As long as everyone has the ability to market themselves, really quickly, and deal with all this other crap that you didn't think you could get before, all of these things are literally accessible via the internet. There really is no excuse, there's so much opportunity now to just try something for six months if you want to.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the work you do, right now?

Not knowing if it’s going to be sustainable. One of my biggest goals for this year is to understand my work environment. What are the things in my day that I really need in order to be happy and successful? It’s about figuring out if what I’m doing is making me happy, and if it’s not what I need to do to change that.

Investment and time are also challenging. We don’t want to take investments, so it means that we are innately small, the things we want to do are small, and take forever to grow. That’s a conscious thing that we want to do, so the long haul is always filled with worry and doubt. It’s a lot of managing that and trusting that it will work out. That’s probably the biggest one, and then making sure that I am always happy.

“I just don’t believe in the eating ramen situation. ”

I can absolutely relate to that.

For example, because we decided to bootstrap, it means taking on freelance work - which makes sense because I can quickly and easily get design jobs. But, I was like, “Alright, how can I have enough time in the day to have design jobs, work on ilovecreatives and PeopleMap, and go out and have a margarita with a friend?” I needed to figure it out, so I made this spreadsheet. I put it on ilovecreatives, it’s called Do The Math. I took all the hours in a day, in a week and subtracted the things that I really cared about - like sleeping, taking a bath, eating, working out and hanging out with friends.

I realized that I only really had eight hours in a day, so I had four hours for all my side projects and then four hours for working. So the next step was figuring out how much money I needed to make in those four hours in order to be happy. I just don’t believe in the eating ramen situation [laughs]. I want to be able to look back at my life and think, “I really enjoyed that culinary resurgence in Los Angeles during that time.” I decided I needed this much money in order for my stomach to be happy, so I can live in a very echoey loft - so I backtracked from that number and determined what I needed to make an hour. Then I needed to find clients that would pay me that an hour, which I did, I pretty much killed it on freelance last year - the only part that was missing was that I was unhappy about not working on my own stuff.

Do you have any particular structures or routines that you follow to keep your day, or your week as productive as it can be, or is it more organic?

It's pretty organic. I think, once I have a marketing strategy for ilovecreatives, and PeopleMap, I'll probably have a more consistent thing that I need to do. Because that's what happened with MadeWithMap, when we were growing that Instagram account, and bringing users in, I basically had a team working with me, that's when I had to be more consistent.

Right now, I just have a to-do list that I have to clear. I go through it and make sure everything on it happens. I do have a system for freelance that helps me understand when I need to work again, or how long until I have to book work. That's been helping me in understanding, if can I just take a day off today, or not. That helps, too.

What are the main tools that make up your workflow, right now?

Squarespace - I design and build Squarespace sites my freelance work. It's also where I built my business,

Harvest - For time tracking and invoicing.

Adobe Creative Cloud - I use Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro on an almost daily basis.

Calendly - This one is huge for me, for booking meetings, calls etc.

Type Wolf - I use this all the time for fonts.

People Map - Helps us analyze our Instagram marketing efforts and strategically build a targeted community.

And then a shit ton of emails.

“The worst is when you’d have those three-month or annual reviews, that’s way too long! So much can happen in that time, you should be evaluating your work environment and habits on a regular basis.”

Do you ever sort of experience periods where you feel disconnected from your work or just burnt out? How do you deal with and bounce back from those?

Totally. I feel like when I'm in transition periods, and I'm not sure what the outcome is going to be, I just go through this evaluation time, where I'm like, "Why am I doing this?" I actually have a set of questions that I ask myself.

I’ll find it… [Puno pulled up a note on her phone here]

Okay, it’s called: What do I really want? I found it in some book, but I don’t remember the book. The first question is: What do I really want? Then you just say what you want.

Next is: What is important about it? How will I get it? What is preventing me from having it? How will I know if I’m successful? Today, I will…

I answer those questions and that helps re-prioritize things in my head. Then I try to work on it as soon as possible.

What's a major aspect of the work you do? Something you spend a lot of time doing that maybe other people don’t realize?

Learning things. Right now, I'm trying to understand Facebook ads, paid ads. I will listen to podcasts, read blogs, and articles. When I'm running at the gym, I'll watch YouTube videos of people talking about paid ads. I do a ton of learning. All the time. Then, I like to pick up jobs that involve me learning simultaneously. Someone might ask, "Hey. Do you know how to do Facebook ads?" and I’ll say, "Yeah. Totally." Then, I get paid and learn how to do it.

What would your advice be for young and upcoming people like you who want to do multiple different things, and don't really want to pick a single career path? What would you tell them starting out?

I'd go back to the whole workspace environment thing, and just understanding, and giving yourself the time, every day, to think about it. Because you had a boss when you were in a full-time job, and that boss, even though you might not like them, they were in charge of figuring out your work environment. They might not have been good at it, but the ones that are very good thought about what your strengths were and what made you happiest in your work environment.

Things like happy hours where everybody can just go have fun. They thought about if someone was pissed off or disengaged, or why they didn’t come into work. It's just all these things that you have to do to yourself, but people think that they know themselves so well that they don't need to give themselves the time to think about their work environment. I know that I have to work on it all the time because sometimes it's just like a period week [laughs] but sometimes I need to really reevaluate things. Now, I give myself so much more time to think about what makes me happy. What's going to make me successful, every day? The worst is when you’d have those three-month or annual reviews, that’s way too long! So much can happen in that time, you should be evaluating your work environment and habits on a regular basis.

“I love those extremes, and I love being able to continuously iterate and take whatever stupid ideas I have in my head, and just execute on them immediately. ”

Why do you do what you do? Why do you love it so much?

I really love making something that’s so fulfilling. I use to be in advertising, I was an art director. I got to be a designer, and learn how to do design, but I always felt like we would work on a campaign for six months, and then it's out there in the world, and then we don't care about it anymore. The consequences of what happened in that campaign wouldn't even affect us. I was always really bothered by that.

Then, I decided to get more into product, because a friend of mine was like, "You should be a UX designer," and this was right when UX design was just starting. I thought, "Sure. I don't know what the hell that is, but that sounds good." I got into that, because I wanted to get closer to product, and I wanted to get back to digital, too.

I landed a role at Call of Duty at Activision, and that was the first time that I had built a product from the ground up, and it's crazy because the product that we were building already had a twenty million fan base. We had a ton of money, and there was this high expectation from fourteen-year-old boys. It was a really great and hard problem at the same time.

The first year it was kind of a mess. There are so many things that go into building a product in a huge company. This one just didn't do as well, but it didn't mean that I was pissed off. I mean I was totally pissed off for other reasons, but I was so stoked to keep working on it. Our entire team was, too. That's when I realized that I loved that process of building, no matter how much it hurt. The extremes are like a wave of “this sucks,” and “this is freaking awesome!”

I love those extremes, and I love being able to continuously iterate and take whatever stupid ideas I have in my head, and just execute on them immediately. That is so fun. I get really, really frustrated when I cannot try out an idea, quickly.

Who would you want to see on Ways We Work?

Cass Bird, Ali Wong, Reggie Watts, Emily Weiss

Heather Lipner - previously founder of Clashist, now drawsta (augmented reality shirt)
Patrick and Amy - Spring Street Social Society
Chelsea Matthews - Matte Black
Ellie Dinh - Girlfriend Collective