Creative Growth and Achieving a Work-Life Balance

by Lenae Church | July 16, 2019

Mom of three and entrepreneur Rachel Herring may be the maven of multitasking. As her kids grew, she found herself looking for flexible online solutions to earn a degree and build a career. Fortunately for us, she found the Sessions College AOS in Graphic Design program, where she has been acing her classes and is on track to graduate in spring 2020.

We interviewed Rachel and learned a lot about working efficiently, growing creatively, and choosing a typeface with confidence, without sacrificing a work–life balance.

When did your passion for Graphic Design begin? And how did it lead you to pursue an online degree?

My passion for graphic design began in High School. I’ve always been a creative person – it’s just who I am – but when I was in school I was able to attend a vocational school where they offered graphic design courses. I studied marketing and web design as well and my passion was ignited. Since High School I’ve been designing things for churches, friends, and family. I didn’t initially pursue a career in design, I just did it for fun. I was a stay-at-home mom and I was mostly busy taking care of my kids and helping in my church. One day I found myself in a situation where I was a single mom with three kids, no job, and no college degree. I was very unprepared and clueless as to what I would do with my life, then it came to me: Graphic Design.

I was definitely unprepared to jump into the work field. I had a basic understanding of Photoshop from classes I had taken a decade before, but I’d never even opened Illustrator or InDesign. I knew I was going to need to learn more before I could make a real living. In the meantime, I moved closer to family so I could have help with my kids while I figured out the next step. I have always been passionate about raising my kids myself, and being with them as much as possible. My mom died when I was young and I think that’s why I have such a strong desire to be with them as much as possible. I decided I wanted to earn my degree online so I could still stay home with them. As I began shopping for online schools, I realized that a lot of them were well out of my price range as a single, broke, mom, and honestly there weren’t very many options to begin with. When I stumbled upon Sessions I immediately knew this was the school for me. It was affordable, but still accredited and I could work at my own pace and turn things in weekly.

Rachel Herring identity design

You run two businesses. Can you tell us about them. How will earning a graphic design degree help you be more effective at what you do?

Yes, I run two businesses! My first business is a naturally based hair care business. It kind of fell into my lap one day and I decided to run with it. I make most of my income from this, and it’s not very demanding so I still have time to do school and work my other business. Design has been crucial for this because I’ve been able to design my own graphics, as well as graphics for my team and others in the company. My other business is Curly Design Co. I mostly do work for churches and small businesses, and I also run an online shop where I sell vinyl decals and T-shirts of my designs. I’ve really been able to tie these two businesses together to grow them both. Specifically my shampoo T-shirt designs not only promote my personal shampoo business, but I’ve been able to promote my designs to other people in the shampoo community, therefore growing both businesses. It’s been a fun ride so far and it’s so exciting to see where I started, and where I am today. Hard work really does pay off!

As a mom of three and a businesswoman, how do you manage your full time school schedule?

Well that’s a really good question. I have a tendency to want to do everything, and sometimes I find myself just running out of time. This semester in particular has been more of a struggle because both of my businesses have grown recently, and my kids are out of school for the summer (that’s like tacking on another job!). One thing that has really helped me is the pomodoro technique. Basically you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one specific task until the timer goes off. Then you take a 5-minute break and when that’s done, you work for another 25 minutes. Timers have always helped me, but taking frequent breaks helps even more. I find that I’m able to complete larger tasks in a shorter time, just because I’m letting myself take a break every once in a while.

Another thing that I have found to be very important is making sure to have work time and personal time. Going to school online and working from home means that I’m in charge of my time. This may sound like a dream but it can also turn into a nightmare. When you’re working a regular job outside of the home, you get to clock in and clock out but it’s not that easy when you’re working from home. I think it’s healthy to set a regular work time for yourself and then when it’s done you can walk away. Otherwise, it’s easy to get burnt out and that stifles creativity and pretty much everything else. Sometimes I just have to step back and see what needs to change so that I can maintain a healthy balance in my life.

Rachel Herring course projects

What’s the most fun or enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

I love designing and I especially love the projects we get to do in school because they push me beyond the normal projects I would normally have the opportunity to do. I think one of my favorite school projects was for Typography II class when we had to create a poster using song lyrics. It was such a unique approach to using text and I thought it was a lot of fun! As far as personal projects, my sister and I recently hosted a party and I designed invitations to hand out. I had the printer run them through the copier on 11x17 card stock. It wasn’t anything fancy but when I got home I cut them out into squares with a white border. I was kind of going for a polaroid feel and I had fun creating them because I got to call all the shots!

What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen in your work so far?

Increased productivity and efficiency. Hands down. When I first started school I had an elementary understanding of Photoshop. I had all these ideas swimming around in my head but it would take hours of YouTube videos to barely crank out a rough likeness to my idea. There is no way I could have taught myself everything I’ve learned in school. The programs are so vast and basically unlimited, you have to have someone walk you through them in an organized way. The classes build on each other and you end up using things you’ve learned in previous classes for following classes.

Learning the programs has helped my productivity because I know how to bring my ideas to life now, but learning the programs is just the tip of the iceberg. Each class has been invaluable to learning design skills such as composition, typography, color theory, print production, I could go on and on. As I gain more and more understanding of the methods of design, it makes coming up with new designs much faster and more polished. I used to scroll through different typefaces for ages looking for the one that would “click” in the design. Now I have an understanding of what makes typefaces work well in different settings, so instead of scrolling through thousands of them I can look for certain ones that I know will work well in the design. These classes give a sort of method to the madness that has helped me immensely.

Rachel Herring graphic design artwork

What do your goals look like post-graduation?

I think I’ll take a really long nap, then I’ll continue building my design business. The time that I spend doing my classes now will be time spent doing more freelance work after I graduate. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to go to school and I know my business wouldn’t even be possible without it. When I first started school I had a vision of running my own freelance design business, and now a year and a half later it’s a reality that is coming true. Doing school online has allowed me to slowly build my business while I’ve continued learning what I need to know. Sessions has done so much for me and my kids and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Visit Sessions.edu to find out more about our Graphic design degree and Graphic Design certificate programs. Talk to our friendly Admissions team to find out more about our completing your application, available financial aid, and more. 

Lenae is a Student Advisor. Lenae has spent her entire life making, loving, and appreciating art of all kinds and understands what it is like to pursue your dream of an artistic career.

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