Kim Lawler combines her creative talents to produce both beautiful websites and cute-as-heck laser cut jewellery; an expert in helping companies with their digital endeavours, she also turns dogs, polar bears and plants into necklaces, brooches and more over at Finest Imaginary. Here she talks about her first steps in web design, how to deal with nightmare clients and making the time to do what she loves.
Hi Kim! Tell us a little bit about you.
I’m Kim, and I’m a web designer/developer (amongst other things!) living and working out of my home in Yorkshire. I’ve been working for myself for nearly 5 years now, and absolutely love it. When I’m not tapping away at a keyboard or playing with a laser cutter, you’ll most likely find me drinking coffee and bothering my cats and dog.
How did you first get into web design?
I used to always tinker with web stuff when I was growing up, whether it was tweaking my LiveJournal layout or creating a Geocities site for housing random gifs, I’ve always been interested in the nuts and bolts behind what you see in the browser. I did my degree in something akin to Fine Art, and spent the majority of my time building websites for my projects. After discovering WordPress in my final degree year, I somehow managed to get a full time job as a junior web designer! The rest is history.
You guide other businesses with their digital and creative endeavours – what made you take on that challenge?
In short, I was once that person. I needed websites for my own endeavours and there was no one there to tell me what I needed to do, it took me months – if not years – of figuring out. I wanted to help speed up that step for other people in my position, and help then elevate their online potential in the fastest, easiest, least stressful way possible!
Have you had any nightmare clients? How do you deal with them?
I’ve had a few difficult clients, for sure, but it’s usually solved by sitting down and getting to the bottom of the problem. I also have quite a reliable gut feeling, so if I think it’s not going to work with a potential client then I’ll explain that we’re not a good fit. I’ve also been really strict with myself for keeping office hours, which has helped. I have a clause in all my project contracts that states what hours I’m contactable, and explains that websites aren’t a life or death (or breaking into my Netflix time) issue. I’ve had a couple of projects where me and the client have parted ways in the middle, for one reason or another, and it’s always been quite amicable.
I’ve been really lucky to avoid mansplaining (so far!), and I’m sure that’s a combination of the majority of my clients being women, and the guys I’ve worked with within the web design industry being awesome (I was the only woman in the agency I worked in before going freelance). I’m not one to take any form of sexism lightly, so if I ever have to deal with mansplaining, it wouldn’t end well for them.
You also make jewellery – have you always done that? Or was it a way to be creative that you couldn’t with web design?
I’ve always done it! I started my jewellery brand, Finest Imaginary, when I left uni. Making the website for that (on Zencart) was one of the reasons I got further into web design than I ever thought I would. When I started working full time as a web designer, making jewellery was something I could do in the evenings and weekends to use the more hands-on part of my creative brain. As time’s gone on I run my two businesses nicely side by side, and there’s a lot more crossover between the two than you might think. I’ve had a surprising number of clients who’ve come to me for their web design needs because they know I’ll “get it” with their own small creative businesses.
How do you juggle everything?
It can be hard, and I definitely drop a few balls every now and then, but I’m usually pretty good with scheduling. I book my work out for a few months in advance and try not to book too much in just in case I get any work from current clients or something fun comes up. I keep my October-December pretty dedicated to Finest Imaginary (Christmas can get insane!), so I push web design work into the new year.
My day-to-day schedule is quite flexible, I can be working on web design stuff in the morning, all day, or not at all, it just depends on what I’ve got on. I’m also a big advocate of stopping working at 5.30pm, and not picking up my laptop all weekend. Everyone needs downtime.
What advice would you give to others wanting to branch out in the tech and creative industries?
Just go for it! Play around, experiment, start your own projects for no reason whatsoever, who knows – you might make a career out of it.
All images: Kim Lawler
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