Wholehearted Wednesdays with Jess Levitz of June Letters
Hi Jess! Please tell us a bit about yourself and June Letters Studio.
Hello! Thanks so much for having me. I am a freelance graphic designer that specializes in hand-crafted branding and design for small business clients. I love hand-lettering and illustrating, so I have worked to build a studio brand that attracts client that desire my by-hand skillset. And on the personal side - I am a wife and mom to an 18 mos old son and living in New York City.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
My favorite part is almost always the brainstorm portion of a branding project, I am a “big vision” kind of person so I really enjoy researching and sketching out tons of ideas. But I also love at the end of a project when a client is happy with their design and excited to build the business of their dreams. It’s the best feeling!
In your branding process, how do you help your clients make their ideas and dreams come to life?
I like to start with an in-depth questionnaire and then work collaboratively with the client to map out a strategy moving forward. The strategy includes their target demographic, brand mission, business services, style mood board, and a list of keywords for their brand values and design style. Having all of this work done up front helps the client to feel secure and invested in the design process. It also makes my job a whole lot easier, and very rarely do we need more than one round to settle on a final logo!
What do you think makes your branding different? What do people come to you for?
I think people are attracted to my hand-lettered style, feminine sensibility, and clean approach. I love that I have the opportunity to use my own hand-lettering in my designs because it ensures that they are unique and purposeful.
The online world can be a noisy place sometimes. What does “being authentic” mean to you?
This is a tough one because inevitably we are all influenced by everything around us. It is hard to be truly authentic. But I think being open and honest about your life, and being true to your personality and voice - can really help attract people to you and your brand.
As creatives, we often have a lot of old stories and beliefs that we carry with us. What are some fears and limiting beliefs you had to overcome? And how has that helped you?
I think a lot of the fears and insecurities you have just starting out never totally go away, you just learn how to better cope with them when they pop up. I deal with the comparison trap, feelings of overwhelm and questioning my career choice, guilt about working while my baby is with a sitter. Somedays I look at my work and think everything is terrible, and other days I feel pretty great about it all. I think as I have matured and I have more confidence in my talent I am able to talk myself out of these dark corners. Sometimes just going outside and taking a break can be all I need to get out of a funk. Now that I have been freelancing for 3+ years I know that even if I am feeling pretty low one day I will always wake up the next day feeling better and often inspired.
As women, we are often afraid of being open and honest about our life experiences, offline and online. Why do you think this is?
I think it is because as women we are fighting so hard to prove our equality that when we show emotion we are perceived as being weak and unqualified. We also set such high expectations for what it means to be a woman “that has it all” that being less-than-perfect feels like you are failing. I do feel like the tides are turning though, more women are working for women and therefore less afraid to be honest about their feelings. And I also think that the whole “perfect Instagram woman/mom” is starting to get old, and people are turning more to the accounts of people that share real thoughts and struggles.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received from someone else?
My parents used to always say “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and I think of that phrase all the time in my life and business. I think it is an especially important phrase for women to hear, because we are often told that we should just be happy with what we get and discouraged from speaking up. This phrase has motivated me to e-mail my design idols for interviews on Freelance Wisdom, network with people I would normally be too scared to talk to, negotiate a raise, send out submissions to high-profile blogs, and even little things like a hotel room upgrade or a better table at a restaurant!
Do you have any advice or nuggets of wisdom to give to women who are thinking about being a freelancer?
I think my biggest advice is to practice a ton before you take the leap. Create self-initiated projects, reach out to friends or businesses you admire and offer to do work for free or little money. Work on building up a portfolio that expresses your style and the kind of work that you love doing. Then blog about it, share your learnings along the way, pin your work, make design friends - and then when you have a steady stream of inquiries come in, take the plunge!
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
I have been working for the last 6 months on an online course that helps designers to develop their personal style and create a portfolio that they can be proud of - it is called The Hand-Lettered Brand, but will be great for designers not interested in hand-lettering as well. I was supposed to launch this month, but life and work got in the way! I am planning for a late spring launch now, but in the meantime you can download my free toolkit with my favorite lettering and business tools.
In addition to my own business and course, I also run a website called Freelance Wisdom that showcases interviews with female creatives. That website has spurred two additional projects - the first is a directory and resource for creative women called The Creative Lady Directory (join us!!) and the second is a facebook group called The Creative Lady Collective. The facebook group is brand new but already a supportive and helpful space for lady creatives to network and get advice.
In my little bit of spare time I have been designing a fun collection of graphic organic clothing, and cuddly things for babies and kids. It is a fun outlet to combine my mom-side with my design-side.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Jess. One last question before we leave, what does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman means staying true to myself, and helping to lift others up.
Rapid Fire Q’s:
- A woman who inspires me: Grace Bonney
- Favorite place to hang out online: Instagram
- Best book I ever read: Tough one, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- My core values: Kindness, honesty, caring, being helpful