Sydney Michuda

Sydney runs Super Creative, a design shop offering services and products across illustration, design, and hand lettering
January 31, 2021

I'm a full-time freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and letterer. I've been in the industry for about seven years now. I worked at an advertising agency and then a design firm, and since March of 2020, I am now full-time on my own under my brand name, Super Creative.

I do a lot of branding projects for a lot of small businesses, that's pretty much my go-to niche in terms of freelance design, small businesses that have their own creative businesses where they sell jewellery, or they're a wedding photographer, or making different home goods, things like that.

And it's really wonderful to just work with people that are so passionate and on the same passionate, creative level that I feel I am. But then, outside of that, I am branching out and do a bit more of illustration work and lettering work. And then, I also sell my own prints and pins and different products in my online shop. That's a little bit about me!

That's awesome. I love the name, 'Super Creative'. That's that's so cool and so accurate as well. I actually have your shop up here while we're talking, I love the products. "Good for you for leaving the house today", I love that keychain! Such an accurate sentiment to these days isn't it?

Yeah, whenever I make those kinds of products, I like to have them sound positive, but they're still grounded too. They're a little bit snarky but not too mean or sassy.

It's the perfect mix. You're right, you've balanced that. I'm looking at the "Salty as fuck" salt shaker pin, but because it's a little cute salt shaker with beautiful lettering, it's such a great mix of little bit of a snark but really well-designed, it's such a great mix.

Were you doing similar work in your agency job as you're doing now self-employed?

I used to work at an advertising agency which was very different than what I do now. They would do a lot of experiential marketing. So, the company Intel, if they wanted to have an internal marketing campaign, they would come to us and then we'd propose different ideas of different things that they could explore doing to motivate their employee base.

But I didn't really feel creatively satisfied, I guess, in that role. Still, definitely very valuable work. It just didn't feel like the right fit for me. So then, I changed jobs to a local design agency in Milwaukee and that was a lot more creative, very quick, very fast-paced. And basically, one minute, you're going to be designing an event poster, the next minute you're going to be designing a logo, the next minute a menu design, planning social media campaigns.

It was a pretty small shop. So, if you're a self-starter, they just let you do everything and that's what I did. It definitely upped my game a lot working there because you are basically thrust into a situation where you have to really pick up the pace and work as hard as you can and be as fresh and creative and new as you can.

So, I grew a lot working there for the past three years and it definitely taught me a lot about branding and having that one-on-one connection with clients and things like that. Definitely helped a lot with what I do now and it's pretty similar work.

Do you think that informed the range of things you do now? Physical products, digital products, lettering, that kind of creative melting pot was started there, do you think? Or is that an interest you had before?

I think I'm kind of a person that can never put 100% of myself into one endeavour. So, I always like to spread it out through about a lot of different projects. So, I think that's just a part of me naturally, but I think working there definitely fuelled that because the owner is an entrepreneur. He has his main business, but then he also has a music production company on the side, and then owns real estate, he does a lot of different stuff. So, I think it was a good fit in that sense that he was doing a million different things, and I also wanted to do a million different things and we were similar in that thing.

What was the transition to self-employment like during the pandemic, were you planning on making the jump at the time?

Not fully. I've always done my own freelance work while working full time. So, I would always have at least one project running, sometimes a few too many where it would cause me to not sleep a whole lot. But I wanted to have that consistent client base and client recognition and recommendations and stuff, because my eventual goal was to be a full-time freelancer. I knew that that's what I was working towards, but I wanted to have steady full-time employment while I worked up to that.

My plan was to eventually build up six months worth of client work before I left my job and took that leap. But since the pandemic threw the entire world furlough, I was unfortunately let go of that position and I had to start my own full-time freelance business way earlier than expected.

When the pandemic hit, I didn't really... I had a couple projects, but nothing to fulfil my entire 40-hour work week. So, it was a few months of just reaching out to people, applying for more regular freelance positions, posting on social media a lot, so people can see the work that you're capable of doing in hopes that they'll reach out to you for that kind of work.

And then, I'd say in about August 2020, I was able to get those clients and get some pretty regular retainer freelance work to the point where I'm now working 40 to 60 hours a week regularly.

How did you learn everything you needed to know to run your freelance business and product business?

I guess it basically started serendipitously. When I worked at the advertising agency, I didn't really feel very creatively fulfilled. So, I decided if I don't do something fun and cool, I'm going to explode. So, I just started illustrating this stuff on my desk.

I did not consider myself an illustrator by any means, but I had to do something, so I just started doing monoline illustration and posting it on Instagram, just as a way to keep myself doing it and hold myself accountable, I guess, to do it regularly. I kept posting, kept posting and I mean, in the social media age that we all live in, the more you post, the more recognition you get, the more you want to keep doing it. But in my case, it was a benefit because the more I would post, the more people would reach out to me for client work.

And so, I'd say social media was basically the biggest catalyst to gaining new clients or getting any notoriety in any area. And then, I'd say in 2018 is when I wanted to start selling physical products and prints and pins, things like that. Because I'd seen a few friends do it and a few other designers in the area and it just looks so cool and I really wanted to do it, I've always wanted to create my own things, and sell them, and package them, and work on more of a retail-end of the creative industry.

So, I then created my brand name, Super Creative, so I could sell products without having "Sydney Michuda's enamel pin" on it. So, I created my brand name then and just again gradually built up more clients and kept selling things online through my Instagram, through different local stores where I wholesale to.


Did you take a specific strategy to your social media, or were you just posting what you enjoy regularly and seeing what happened?

Pretty much the latter. I just would post whatever I enjoyed. But I did have a strategy, but it was more so to just keep myself accountable. I would make sure that every other post that I would post would have to be design or a design post. I could post a picture of my living room, but then the next one would have to be a lettering piece or an illustration piece. That way I wouldn't fall out of the habit or the practice of it. Because it's really easy to do that especially as a creative when you have a million things that you want to do and going on.

So, I made sure to do that very consistently and very reliably. At least one post a week. And I think that that definitely... I mean, that's basically where I've gotten almost all of my clients. So, it's been a huge asset for me just posting my work, because one of my philosophies is always people don't really know what you're capable of until they see an example of that, so you might as well post the work that you're legally allowed to share. And then, people will recognise that and then reach out to you to hire you for those kinds of projects.

It's like giving a signpost, the type of work you want to be doing; create the work already and then you attract the clients that want that work naturally, and it just kind of snowballs from there, that makes a lot of sense.

That's interesting that you put it on the same account, as you said, as photos of your living room, because you're then mixing the personal and work. I guess clients start to see a bit behind the curtain of who you are as well, which makes them want to work with you, trust you a bit more, and add a personal touch to it as opposed to just work. It's a good mix, I think.

Yeah. That's one thing that when I first started, when it was just my personal account, because I switched from Sydney Michuda to, it was much more of a mix of living room, and then a lettering piece, things like that. Now, I feel like my account is a bit more business oriented, where it's lettering, logos, and then products.

I still mix in personal things here and there, especially within my stories where it's just me hanging out around the house with my cats every day. But I always make sure that people know that it's not an agency, it's just me. Even though it's like a company, it's still just me, it's a first person voice throughout the entire thing.

What's the best part of being self-employed, what do you enjoy the most?

I'd say being able to create work for yourself. I mean, granted it's for clients, but you're working for yourself, so you don't really have a superior that's guiding the direction. That can be definitely beneficial in some ways, but it's nice when you come into your own, you can trust yourself and trust your own creative direction.

So, it's nice that there's fewer steps in the process. You create something and you can just send it out because you are the final say because it's your setup. I'd say that's probably one of my favourite things is that I am my own boss. And then, with that, you can create your own schedule, pick and choose what projects you want to work on. And if you have a pretty free Thursday afternoon, you can just take the afternoon off if you want.

What's the hardest part of being self-employed?

I'd say the worst part is having to hold yourself accountable when you set your own schedules like that. Because I mean, working from home, there's just a million distractions and I sometimes feel less productive when I'm working from home compared to when you're in an office, you're basically forced to be stationed at your desk all day because that's where you work. You can't really just leave for two hours.

So, I'd say it's the productivity and accountability, keeping yourself at your desk working all day. And then, also, the lack of having co-workers to work with. At my last job, I really loved the people that I worked with and they were so fun and so silly and so great to be around. And so, it's a bit of a bummer not having coworkers to surround yourself with, but my cats will do fine for now.

What does your typical work day look like?

Pretty much every morning I try to clean up my house a little bit just so I can have a new, fresh start. I don't have to worry about clutter that's going to distract me later on. Do a little bit of a cleanup, get my coffee, sit down, put normal clothes on. I don't want to work all day in my pyjamas.

So then, I'll probably start with answering emails that have come in overnight or just things that I was maybe putting off by the end of the day before. Answering emails, getting some of those smaller tasks out of the way.

And then, probably mid morning, I sit myself down with whatever that day's project is. Usually, more of the deadline driven projects, things that need to go out by 2:00 PM or 8:00 PM that day. I try to get those done right away so I don't have to rush or have too much time crunched later on.

But then, in the afternoon, I'll probably work on something that takes a bit more time. Whether it's discovery for a logo or an illustration piece or things like that, then I'll tend to do that in the afternoon. And then, sometimes, since I do sell products on my site, I might take a break in the middle of that at around 2:00 or something and then print the shipping labels, package the orders, send it out.


That's great. You get such a nice spread of different tasks throughout the day to keep your mind active. I think this is a really good thing that you structure your day almost like a day at the office. You start in the morning, you end in the evening. A lot of, I think, self-employed people, especially creatives, get stuck in this loop of working until 2:00 AM, and then sleeping until midday and getting into a 'night owl' routine. I think that's great that you've managed to keep it quite structured.


Sometimes I do end up working until 8:00 or 9:00 at night, which is a big bummer sometimes, because you just... Sometimes you have to keep working, but you just run out of energy at a certain point, so that's kind of a bummer. But I try to structure it like a normal day at the office just because I like having my own free time at the end of the day. It's like a little reward to look forward to rather than burning that reward out in the morning and then having to work all night.

What advice would you give your past self to help them get to where you are today?

I would say no matter where you are, just keep pushing yourself creatively. Definitely avoid being burned out, because that's a real issue with creatives and I'm in the middle of a burnout stretch right now, but it's a hump and we'll get over it.

But I'd say just keep pushing yourself creatively. Don't give up on that, keep going for it. And any amount of hard work will always be paid off, whether how big or how small that reward is, it'll always come.

Given the fact with the whole pandemic and everything, I'd say, probably gain more and more freelance clients. But I mean, who could have seen a global pandemic coming? But then, I would definitely tell myself to just keep posting on Instagram, keep making work for myself and keep reaching out to that client base.

What's next for you, do you have any big projects you're working on at the moment?

I don't know. My goal for 2021 is to take on a bit of less work, actually. I have two retainer clients that require a lot of work. And then, I also have my own freelance clients. The two regular ones that I have are more like I'm freelancing for an agency, but then I have my own clients.

So, I would like to scale back some of the work with them every once in a while so that I can focus on some of my own stuff so I'm not working those 60-hour work weeks. But I'd say my biggest goal would be to balance my work-life balance a little bit more, because since this is all very new, I'm not super good at balancing that right now. Especially when we're all encouraged to stay home. It's really easy to stay home and continue to be stressed out about doing your own projects and work and stuff like that.

Let's see... I'd like to keep creating new products to upload to my shop. In 2020, I didn't really do a whole lot of that because I was focused on finding a job, things like that. So, I'd like to create some new products and probably find just more awesome creative small business clients, things like that.

Do you have any resources that helped you that you could recommend?

I have a hard time reaching out to other people or other things for help or for recommendations and stuff like that, I guess. So, I don't have a huge exhaustive list of helpful resources, but I did recently purchase the book by Hoodzpah Design. They have a freelance business starter book that covers everything from self-promotion, to accounting, to trademarking, things like that. And I'm only a few pages in, but once I have a little bit more free time around the holidays, I'm definitely going to dive into that. And I've heard from a lot of other people that it's an amazing book and an amazing resource. So, I definitely will recommend that.

Where's the best place to keep up with your work?

My Instagram is I post branding, logos that I've been working on, lettering pieces, illustration work, new products that I am adding to the shop, when we're able to safely travel in the world again, travel spots, things like that.

So, it's like we were saying, it's a good mix of business and personal. And then, in my stories, you can just see what I'm doing on a daily basis. Sometimes I'll post a bit about my process and you can check in on different projects that I'm working on.

And my website is the same as my Instagram handle, it's, and you can see my products there and see my portfolio and learn a little bit about me and reach out to me if you're ever interested.

Sydney Michuda

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