District Boss: Lisa Mathias Johnson

We are so excited to have Lisa on the Ringlet Market team! She is incredibly sweet and has such a heart for community. Lisa is providing some beautiful prints for our Marketing with Meaning workshop attendees! Read Lisa's interview below to learn how she developed her love for design into a thriving business

1// What lead you to where you are today?

natural drive to constantly improve, a willingness to try everything once, and flexibility. I'm a graphic designer for a large non-profit, and I freelance on the side, but I took a winding road to get to this point. I didn't always know that I wanted to be a graphic designer, yet looking back on my childhood love for art and creating, it all makes sense now. I started off wanting to be a journalist and initially studied that in college, but I realized I wanted to be even more creative with my work, so I majored in Video Production and English. I started off my career in video, but re-discovered a love for design along the way. So, a few years ago, I decided to take night classes at the Corcoran College of Art & Design (when it was still its own school). While I still love and respect the video production field, last year I realized I wanted to be less of a "Jack of All Trades," and try to master one discipline within the realm of visual communication, so I shifted my focus to just graphic design. Now, by day, I'm a designer for a non-profit; by night, I freelance, also in graphic design, working with small businesses and other creatives.

2// What is your business? 

Visual communication and strategy, and I work in both the digital and print realms. I do branding, social media content, editorial/layout design and stationery.

3// What brings you the most joy when you’re working on your business? 

The people, for sure. Which is funny, because you hear about graphic designers complaining about "clients from hell," and that certainly happens. But when I work with people who I just get along with easily, who are passionate about what they do, and with whom I can operate more like a team, it's an awesome feeling when that just clicks. It becomes clear to me that what I do has a purpose, to help someone else grow, succeed and do something great in this world. 

4// What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur?

I suppose it's the other side of the coin with the joyful part. Actually finding those dream clients is the most challenging part of freelancing. Essentially, I could work with anyone, but I'd end up spreading myself too thin in terms of my audience. Also, I'd probably end up working on projects that I really don't feel passionate about, and I could end up working with people who just aren't a great fit on a personality level. Being discerning and going through the process of making sure that I'm a good fit for a client, and they're the kind of client I really want to work with, is challenging and even time-consuming. But the effort is worth it in the end.

5// What’s your nighttime routine?

After my day job, I come home and immediately change into sweats! The office has a business-casual dress code, so it's nice to not only put on more comfortable clothes, but it's almost like a physical switch from "work mode" to "home mode."  If I'm working on a freelance project, I spend about an hour to an hour and a half on that while my husband cooks dinner. (Yes, he's a huge help and I'm very lucky!) But if I'm between projects or taking the night off, I help cook. We eat together, unwind with some Netflix, and then between 9:45-10pm I get ready for bed (brush and floss teeth, wash face, take out my contacts). Getting a good 7-8 hours of sleep is really important to me. Since I wake up at 5:45am to work out, I try to be in bed before 10:30pm. If I'm tired, I just go right to sleep. But if I'm still feeling awake, I read for a little bit until I can't keep my eyes open.

6// What’s one piece of advice you would give to other business owners?

Get very, very specific about your dream client. That may mean just working with several different types of people for awhile and figuring out who you work best with and who you don't. That may also mean investing in business and branding courses that will help you figure that out. (I've done both - and I'm still figuring it out a bit!) But definitely get really honest with yourself and who you are, and dig deep into the reasons why you do what you do. That should help you figure out the kind of person who will get you excited to take on a project.

Elise Crawford