Tispr Stories: Cari Schindler is Designing Her Perfect Career

Every Friday we check in with a freelancer or small business person who is following their dreams and doing what they love. This week, we’re chatting with Cari Schindler, a graphic designer based in Tacoma, Washington who specializes in brand identity and logo design.

Here’s what Cari had to say about the soul of her business, standing up for her ideas, and a how single yogurt container helped shape her career.

Who you are as a person or what makes Cari...Cari? 

Good question. I've taken many a Buzzfeed quiz to find the answer. Apparently, I'm an ENTJ, a Gryffindor, Steve Harrington, Princess Leia, and Princess Tiana. My love language is Acts of Service, my Strengthsfinder strength is Arranger, and if I were a kind of bread, I would be a pretzel.

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career?

Much like the thug life, my freelance career chose me. When I started my design career, I spent some time working short-term contracts in various jobs. Then I moved to working in agencies, and I moved pretty quickly between a few of them, trying to find my best fit. All the while, people were always asking if I did any freelance work and I took on more and more of it. Pretty soon, I had a steady stream of freelance projects coming through and it meshed incredibly well with raising my baby boy. So here we are. 

How did you get into graphic design?

A yogurt container caught my eye. I was maybe 13 years old, and had always been creatively inclined. I liked the design on the package and asked my mom who makes the art for yogurt containers. She told me that was a graphic designer's job, so I sought out a family friend who taught graphic design at a nearby university to give me the scoop on this career. It sounded too good to be true. Getting paid to design beautiful things that people actually use every day? Amazing! Fifteen years later, I'm still in awe of how cool this job is. Although I haven't yet landed that elusive yogurt client…

How long have you been doing graphic design?

I've been doing graphic design professionally for about five years.

“Work hard, be humble, be kind, be honest, don't take yourself too seriously. ”

Why do you do what you do?

My clients keep me motivated. Especially when I'm working on a branding project, I always talk about the heart and soul of the organization. Digging deep into research and uncovering that with my clients, that is the heart and soul of my own business. I'm always learning, always expanding my horizons, and always making something new. I love it.

How do you feel when you’re working, doing what you love?

I actually feel very energized and inspired by my line of work, but from the outside, you might not guess that I'm doing what I love. I can get into this sort of vortex of hyperfocus and feverish excitement that pretty much just looks exactly like stress. My RBF (Resting Bitch Face) probably doesn't help. But I promise I'm really in love.

What’s it like being in your line of work?

My day-to-day is always different. Partly because graphic design can take so many different forms, and I work with such a variety of clients. For example, some days I might be at a discovery meeting with a new client where they give me a tour of their facilities and a rundown of their operations, not unlike an orientation at a new job. The next day I might be filling a sketchbook with a thousand variations of one letter as part of a logo. The next day I might be hunched over my laptop for hours, obsessively adjusting pixels in web design mockups. The other part of why my day-to-day varies so much is because I have a one-year-old son who lights up my whole world but is terribly distracting. Sometimes I wake up early and stay up late working on projects so that I can spend the middle of the day at the park with him.

How has graphic design changed your life?

Graphic design has allowed me to craft a career path that is really all my own. I have constant opportunities to grow and challenge myself, but I also enjoy enough flexibility to spend time with my friends and family.

“When I'm working on a branding project, I always talk about the heart and soul of the organization. Digging deep into research and uncovering that with my clients, that is the heart and soul of my own business.”

What’s the biggest thing you’ve gained from freelancing?

I've learned where my strengths lie. I've learned to take criticism. I've learned to stand up for my ideas. I've learned how to write pitch emails and lead discovery phone calls and schmooze at networking events. I've learned how not to do taxes.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Work hard, be humble, be kind, be honest, don't take yourself too seriously. 

To learn more about Cari and see what she’s working on, check out her website or Instagram.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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