Collaborating on Side Projects: Conversation with Femke van Schoonhoven

The following is a transcript of the fourth episode of the Indiedotes pocast. In this episode, Suzan interviews graphic designer and self-described side project addict, Femke van Schoonhoven. We talk about starting a podcast, naming a side project, collaborating on side projects, time management & side projects, being an and, and, and person, the StrengthsFinder assessment and following your gut.

Suzan:    Hello, and welcome to The Indiedotes, the podcast for independent creators. Today on the podcast we have Femke Van Schoonhoven, I think I said that right.

Femke:    Nice.

Suzan:    Pretty close?

Femke:    It was pretty close. You did well.

Suzan:    Pretty close, yeah. Pretty close. I'm very proud of myself. Those Dutch names are a little challenging. Anyway, Femke is a side project addict, and full disclosure, I am in love with her graphic design work. She's done some work for Bet on Yourself, so full disclosure, that's part of why I wanted to have her on the show. Welcome to the show.

Femke:    Thank you. I'm so happy to be here. It was so nice when you reached out to me. It was such a lovely surprise.

Suzan:    Oh, good! There's always that moment where I think, "Oh, will they pick me? Will I be that last kid at kickball who doesn't get picked?" They're like, "No, I'm sorry. I'd rather not play the game than go on a podcast with you."

Femke:    No, I love being on podcasts. I've done a couple of guest interviews on podcasts, and it's always so much fun to talk to these different people. Everyone has a sort of different, unique spin on their show, so it's always cool to jump on different shows and talk about different things. It's always really exciting.

Starting a Podcast

Suzan:    Yeah, it is fun, right, and you have your own podcast.

Femke:    Yeah, I do. I run a podcast with a friend of mine, Charli Prangley, and our podcast is called Design Life. It's a podcast about design and side projects for motivated creators. We started it about a year and a half ago now, which is kind of crazy to think that we've been doing weekly episodes for a year and a half.

Suzan:    Wow.

Femke:    It's been such a cool side project to do collaboratively with someone else, has been really, really fun. We talk about design and side projects and how to stay motivated, and we talk about things like procrastination and task management and really how to be the person you want to be and how to manage and juggle your life. It's been a really fun side project, and we're showing no signs of slowing down, so really exciting things coming up soon.

Suzan:    Well, I'm curious, what made you decide to start this, start doing a podcast? What was sort of the genesis of this?

Femke:    Yeah, Charli and I, first of all, we both really like podcasts, so we were both listening to a lot of different shows. We have lived together in the past, and because we've lived together, and we're both designers, we've formed this really nice friendship between us. We both were sort of consuming similar content online, and we would always have these sort of fireside chats and discussions about the things that we were consuming and how we wanted to bring those into our lives.

We'd talk about design and at the time we were both really into hand lettering, so we would do that together as a sort of side project drawing letters while watching TV. We'd always have these really intense discussions. We'd talk about our goals and our dreams and our ambitions and how we hoped to get there. We sort of started realizing that these conversations could be valuable not just for us and for each other, but for other people, too. One day we decided to just basically press record and record our casual conversation, and that eventually turned into a podcast.

Suzan:    Wow. That's so great. I was wondering. This podcast I decided just me and one other person. I don't know if I could have a co-host. Perhaps I could, but it never really occurred to me, but I was wondering about that co-host dynamic. Because you guys had already lived together, and you were already doing all this stuff, it sounded like such a natural evolution.

Femke:    Yeah, it really was. It was sort of a no-brainer for us. I think at the time we were both sort of looking for something to do and something to get our hands stuck into. We were both looking for some kind of side project that we could sink our teeth into. It just sort of turned out that we were both looking for that something at the same time. It wasn't like we wanted to join forces and do something collaboratively together and thought, "What could we do?" It was just more that we were both looking for something and realized that we already had this sort of great thing or foundation and figured why not turned it into a thing together.

It's really cool to work on a side project with someone else. All of my other side projects that I have, I do independently, so it's really nice to have this one thing that we do collaboratively. There's a bit of accountability there towards each other, and we can rely on each other. We split up the tasks and the things that we have to do. I take care of the editing, she takes care of drafting the newsletter and things like that, so, yeah, we split the load, and it works really well for both of us. It's been really good so far.

Suzan:    Well, that's such a good point, too, about side projects. Doing it as an individual versus doing something collaboratively. I was about to say all of my side projects are basically alone. I think there's a theme here I like. I'm independent.

Femke:    Yeah, and that's totally okay. If you enjoy being independent and sort of holding on to the reigns yourself, that's super cool. I think for the podcast, we both felt like we had this good dynamic talking to each other, so it just worked out that we decided to do it together.

Suzan:    Yeah, I really like that. I think in part one of my side projects is just like this digital Magic 8-Ball. It's where basically ... It's not online yet, and I worked on it with my partner. I guess we're going to work on it collaboratively. Basically I came up with all these quotes from like hip hop and the Matrix and Shakespeare, and you basically type in your question and when you shake it up, it gives you some answer, kind of like although ...

Femke:    That's cool!

Suzan:    ... hopefully more interesting than the Magic 8-Ball. Rather answers like, "Go for it," "No!" "Looks doubtful." it's more than that.  I just need to name it. I keep talking about it on the podcast. I'm like, "Okay. I really just need to name this and port it to the web and put it out in the world."

Naming a Side Project

Femke:    Yeah, naming something close to you is so hard. I don't have any children. I can understand that that would feel like a lot of pressure, naming a human being.

Suzan:    Oh, my gosh, it is.

Femke:    I just have enough of a hard time naming a project.

Suzan:    Let's discuss that. Have you heard of Fallout Shelter?

Femke:    No, I haven't.

Suzan:    You've heard of Fallout, right, the game?

Femke:    Yes.

Suzan:    Yeah. Fallout 4 I think was out recently. My partner was really into playing it, and I played a little bit, and I was like, "Okay. This is too much for me." Then they have a mobile game called Fallout Shelter, and so you have all these people. It's like basically there's a nuclear wasteland, and they're all in this little shelter, and you can make babies, and you can change their outfits. I like all of that. Then you build new rooms, and they go out on quests, and all of that's fantastic. I can kill a red scorpion or like nothing, but the problem I had was trying to pick their darn names. I'm not kidding, they're all like James. There's four Jameses, or four Marcos, or something like that, or five Sarahs, anyway so, yes, naming is really hard.

Femke:    Yeah, it's easy I think to let it hold you back from actually starting or actually doing something like you might have an idea for something that you want to start, and you're really stuck on the name, and that can hold you up for months. I had this problem when I wanted to start a Medium publication, and I was like, "What am I going to call it? What am I going to call it?" I had all this great content that I'd been writing, but I wasn't publishing it, because I needed the name, and it was holding me back. I thought, "You know, screw it. I'm just going to call it Femke's Thoughts for now, and I can always rename it later."

Because I'd got to the point where it was holding me up, and I thought it was stupid, and I just needed to start getting the stuff out. I named it Femke's Thoughts, and I guess it's been 10 months, and it's still named that. I don't care anymore. I just continue publishing to it, and maybe one day I'll give it a real, proper name, but for now, it's fine. I think the most important thing is to just get started and just put your work out there and don't let something as small as a name hold you back from that.

Suzan:    It's so true, right? Mine has been held up for a couple of years on this, although there was obviously other things.

Femke:    Sure. Sure.

Suzan:   Coding, it was pretty quick and pretty easy. I did it in Ruby and Shoes, and if you know anything about Ruby, people are like, "What is Shoes?" It's basically like training wheels for people who don't know how to do Rails.

Femke:    I love it.

Suzan:    I did it in Shoes, a ruby application, and it was a really fun experience. I've learned a little bit about Rails, but I've definitely not there to this point. Yeah, I think that the naming, there are those things where we can get held up by names, or trying to make it perfect, and it can really hold up projects. I think that that's the perfect solution. I love that you called it Femke's Thoughts, and then you just went with it, and you could move forward, and it's like, "And it's fine," right?

Femke:    It's fine. The world doesn't end.

Suzan:    Right.

Femke:    Nobody cares more than I do. Do you know what I mean? Nobody's going to not read it because it's called Femke's Thoughts.

Suzan:    Well, right. The thing is is that we think that it's actually going to affect the way that people perceive it or if you want to make money from your side project, and for the most part, yes, you and I both, we both love branding, and we both think that that's important obviously, right?

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    You as a designer, and I do a ton of work in personal branding and marketing with my folks, but it's also not everything.

Femke:    Right. And it's easy to forget that I think, or just put that aside. I think when you get so fixated on the branding, which, don't get me wrong, is super important, but what's the point in having a great brand but no content or value to provide or no purpose?

Suzan:    Right. Right. Well, yeah, it's funny because Bet on Yourself, I was just Suzan Bond for a long time on my, like working with my business and stuff, because I didn't really have a name that came to me, and then Bet on Yourself came to me. I think it's been, gosh, two or three years now, and it was the first. I was like, "Oh, that's the name." Then I pushed forward hard on it, but for a long time, I was just Suzan Bond & Co., because I was okay with that, and I don't think it affected my business that much. You know what I mean? I just pushed forward.

Femke:    Yeah. People are a good, people adapt to change as well, so I'm sure that when you changed it, the people who really care about the value you're providing and want to stick with you, I'm sure just accepted it, and the world didn't end.

Suzan:    No, totally. Now people say to me, "I'm betting on myself, Suzan,".

Femke:    Oh, that's so cute.

Suzan:    It's really cute, because I write, "Here's to betting on yourself," at the end of every newsletter that I send out, and now people will say, "I'm betting on myself, Suzan, and here's how I'm doing it." I love it. Yeah, it's definitely, I don't know that it's helped, I wouldn't say that the business took off because I changed the name. I do think people absolutely came along for the ride, and they love it, but it's interesting that like that whole idea of naming and how that can really hold us up in side projects.

Now, when you were doing the podcast, was that, did the name come up pretty easily?

Femke:    Yeah. We did a little bit of research. There was one that we really wanted. I can't remember what it was. I think it might have been The Side Project or something like that was the name that we originally wanted, but it was taken by another podcast, so it wasn't our first choice. We had to go through a couple in our list and a few iterations. You know you've got to check the domain name and is it available on Apple Podcasts and things like that, so it wasn't the first choice, but, yeah, we're really happy with the name. A lot of people really resonate with it and connect with it, so I think it's serving its purpose well.

Suzan:    Yeah, it is interesting. I know we had another name for this podcast, and I can't remember what it was now, and it's gone, of course, but then my partner came up with ... People are like, "What are indiedotes?" Indies is independents, and dotes are anecdotes, right, or stories, so it's the stories of independents.

Femke:    I love it.

Suzan:    That was my partner's idea. He's really good at naming things. My partner is Lar Van Der Jagt. I should actually say his name and give him full credit, because he names a lot of our projects and anything that we do. Yeah, when we came up with it at first, I was like, "I don't know," and now I love it. Now, I'm like, "Oh, it's kind of weird, it's kind of cool," so we bought the domain, and that was all great. It can take time, but for you guys, it was a little bit of process, but sounds like it was fairly seamless.

Femke:  Yeah, it was fairly seamless, and it's funny, because I feel like there's always that one person in the family or the relationship that's good at names. I'm definitely that person, I've named all of our three family pets, which is so funny, and we always, every time we get a pet, which to be honest is not that often, but ...

Suzan:    I was like, "How often are we getting pets?"

Femke:    No, not that often.

Suzan:    There's an iguana coming in next week, let's name him.

Femke:    No, it's funny, we always sit around the table, and everyone puts their ideas done, and mine always get chosen, so you know I must just have a natural gift for names.

Suzan:    I think so. Wait, okay wait, so we need to know the three names of the animals.

Femke:    Okay, there's Pippin, which is a cat.

Suzan:    What was Pippin named after, or how did that name come about?

Femke:    Pippin is one of the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings.

Suzan:    Yes, yes, yes. Okay.

Femke:    Yes, and then there was Coda which is our family dog and to be honest I don't know where that came from, it just came out of nowhere.

Suzan:    Well, that's a musical term, right, coda, like the coda of a song.

Femke:    Yeah, I think it is, yeah, I think you might be right.

Suzan:    Okay.

Femke:    Then our most recent cat is Meeka.

Suzan:     That's right, and where did Meeka come from?

Femke:    Again, I just don't know. Somewhere inside of me.

Suzan:    That's so funny. Do you get where you write down names, and then you vote? Is it secret ballot? There's only two of you, right?

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    I don't know if you need the secret ballot.

Femke:    Yeah. The first cat and the family dog was with my family, so there's five of us, my siblings and parents.

Suzan:    Ah, okay.

Femke:    That was like, okay, everybody put the names down that you want, and then we'll all think about it, yeah.

Suzan:    That was a bigger deal.

Femke:    Yeah, I won a bigger pool there, yeah.

Suzan:    That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, it's funny, I came up with Bet on Yourself, but that, and I've come up with a couple of good names throughout my life, but I wouldn't say it's easy for me. Once in a while if I hit it, I hit it dead on, and I'm great at it, but other times now, my partner, when I got to name something, I'm like, "Okay. We're having a session." We put up a ... We have these whiteboards that you can stick to the wall. They're like plastic pieces of paper that you stick to the wall, and then you can whiteboard on them, so we just sit up there. We call a meeting, and then we just whiteboard, and then he plays around with it in his head, and then he'll come up with it.

Femke:    Nice.

Suzan:    Yeah, I love that. It's true, those can be things that can absolutely hold you up to a side project, a business, anything. I love that. Naming is so important.

Collaborating on Side Projects

Suzan:   I'm wondering about with the podcast, were there any really hard bumps in the road to get started to the podcast? You hit record that one day, but have there been any really big, hard road speed bumps?

Femke:    Yeah, first of all, I had to learn how to edit a podcast, which was something new for me, and maybe you're learning that at the moment, too, and going through that a little bit?

Suzan:    Oh my gosh, yes.

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    Give me tips.

Femke:    Yeah, it's more time consuming than you think it is, so that was definitely an initial hurdle that I had to learn a couple of new skills there. Also, I think we experience those occasional hurdles that you get with working with each other, with two people. There's two people's opinions to consider, and so sometimes we do disagree on something. I might want to do an episode on a particular topic that Charli might not be that interested in or isn't comfortable talking about, and vice versa. You have to deal with that, too, sometimes of just understanding each other and being respectful of each other and making sure that you're always on the same page, which we try and do a lot with the podcast. As we each have our own commitments, we both have full-time jobs. She runs a really big YouTube channel, I run other things myself, so we always have to make sure that we're on the same page, and I guess are giving the same level of commitment, that's really important.

Especially, with side project partnerships, I think it's really important to establish up front how much you're each going to put in. I don't mean that financially, I just mean like mentally, and how much time you're each going to put in and dedicate to it, because if you're both not on the same page, then you're definitely going to experience some conflicts later on I think.

Suzan:    Well, yeah, I think that's one of the reasons I prefer to do things on my own is because the collaboration aspect can be a lot, particularly for something that may not be making money, or that's not ...

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    I assume that making money is not a primary driver of why you wanted to do this.

Femke:    No, not at all. We don't make any money right now.

Suzan:    Right. Right.

Femke:    We don't do sponsors, I think we did late last year. We did a limited edition run of some stickers that Charli designed, and that's been our only small source of income in the entire year and a half that we've been doing the show. Money is definitely not a driving factor of the show.

Suzan:    Well, right, and I like that idea of how much mental energy you're going to put into it, right?

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    Putting the time in and making sure you have the same level. Okay. I have so many questions. You talked about topics, and how there were topics that maybe you wanted to talk about and she didn't, do you guys ever have any things you go into a show knowing either you outline it, or you know we're going to steer clear of this territory?

Femke:    Mm-hmm. Yeah, totally. We always chat for a couple of minutes before we press record, and if you've listened to our show, if anyone listening has listened to our show, then you'll know that we start off the show with just a general catch up, and we talk about how we've been, and what's been going on in our lives, and the things we've been working on lately. There was a period last year where Charli was applying for a new job, and I knew that personally and wanted to hear all about how that was going, obviously as a friend, I wanted to hear how that was progressing, but we obviously kept that off the air, because that was a private thing that she was going through, and her employer at the time couldn't know, et cetera, et cetera. Things like that where sometimes there's things that we want to talk about off-air in more of a friendship way I guess, because we're both really good friends, then we make sure to do that off-air instead of doing it on the show.

I guess also there's been a couple of time I suppose where there's something that she doesn't want to go into that's maybe related to the topic, but maybe there's a reason that she doesn't want to go into it or vice versa, same for me. Sometimes we'll start saying something and realize that we're going down a path that we don't want to go down, so we'll just sort of stop and take a step back and restart again from a certain point or maybe change tactic a little bit. It's very much like a ... It's not like we press record and have this perfect episode that doesn't need any editing at all. I wish it was.

Suzan:    That's my dream.

Femke:    I think it's everyone's dream. Yeah, there's definitely things that we either agree not to talk about or we do talk about and realize later that maybe that shouldn't be on the show for whatever reason. There's a bit of give and take there I think. You have to use your discretion.

Suzan:    Yeah, that's great. What I love about that is that I feel like a lot of times where we get into trouble in collaborating with people, and particularly on something like a side project where let's say maybe we're really excited about it, and it's not making money, but we're really invested, right? Because we're really excited, and we're creating something that's for ourselves, you know what I mean? I do Indiedotes selfishly, it's a fun, creative task for me, and I love talking to people. I feel like in those moments, there can be, we're very excited and maybe we don't talk about, I love that you guys talk about the fact like what we're going to talk about and what we're not.

Then what about the commitment stuff? Do you check in on who's ... Does that feel equal? Do you check in on it, or does it sort of just flow that you're both giving the same amount of a commitment?

Femke:    Yeah. That's a really good question. When we started this project together, we both decided that we wouldn't do a 50/50 split on commitment and ownership, because we both felt and agreed that even if you have the best intentions and try and do a 50/50 split with someone on a collaborative project, there's always going to be one person who's going to end up giving more or being more invested or just taking more ownership naturally.

Suzan:    Yep, yep.

Femke:    We decided, okay, we should do a 51/49% split. We came to the agreement that I would have 51%, and she has 49. As I said earlier, we don't make any money off the show, so it's not like a equity split or like a financial ownership split thing, it's more just I guess commitment split. It's more just a way for us to be like, okay, who, not necessarily has the final say, but like who has more ownership of this and is going to be more of the driving force of the project. Based on, at the time, the commitments that we each had, and the passion and enthusiasm I guess we each had for the show and the project, we decided that I'd get the 51 and she'd take the 49.

Suzan:    I love that, because I agree, 50/50 really does not, they really just doesn't work.

Femke:    No.

Suzan:    It really is not very practical. I love that idea of 51/49, I think that's fantastic. You just decided based upon where you were at that that's how that was going to you were going to take more.

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    How has it worked out?

Femke:    It's worked out really well. At the time that we were discussing this, Charli was very focused on her YouTube channel, and she still is. She's been doing really well, she's gotten really good audience growth, and she's now speaking at conferences and going to VidCon in L.A. next week I think. She's doing super well with her YouTube, and she wanted to make sure that that stayed her primary focus, which I totally understand and respect and support. Yeah, she's still super focused on that, so we still are in the same split, that hasn't changed. I guess it just means that at the end of the day, if something has to quickly get done for the podcasts, it's most likely going to fall on me, and I'm fine with that. That's a decision that we made together, and so far it's worked well. We're still going a year and a half later, so things are going well.

Suzan:    Great. Well, I love that, too, that you talk, one thing that I'm really noticing is just how conscious you both were, going into the process, and how you talked about it, right, like, "Okay. We're going to avoid this topic about looking for a new job," right? That you do that continually. Then the fact that you articulated it out 51/49, and what that means, because I think a lot of times we go in with the best of intentions, and it doesn't quite work out that way, and then we're stuck with well, now I, crap, now I have to have an awkward conversation.

Femke:    Yeah. I've seen that happen so many times with side project partnerships where you're really excited and enthusiastic to start together, and it's all so exciting, something new, and you're both feeling really motivated and inspired. You get a little bit into it and realize that maybe you each had different ideas for the project and different goals and different directions that you want to go. We really made sure that with this project that we laid it all out on the table upfront, got all of our intentions out, and chose a direction that we both agreed with and both wanted to head in.

Suzan:    That's so fantastic. I just love that. What I also love about this show is before we went on the air, we had no idea what we were going to talk about.

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    I had no idea where this was going to head, which is what I love.

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    I love having conversations where you're just it's like you're chatting over a campfire or a cup of tea or something, and it goes to this unusual place that you didn't expect, and I love that. I think that's really interesting.

Time Management & Side Projects

Suzan:     You mentioned that Charli's YouTube channel was going really well and wanted to continue focusing on that, but I know you have other side projects, too, and you have a job.

Femke:    Yeah, I do all the things.

Suzan:    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you just afford ... Just because, I know a little bit about this, but for everybody can you just talk a little bit about the things that you're doing, just to give a full perspective? Because I feel like a lot of times people think, "Oh, I don't have time for a side project," and if someone like you who I know is incredibly busy has time for a side project, wow. Can you give us a sense of the things that you're working on and doing in your life?

Femke:    Yeah, sure. Obviously I do a weekly podcast of Design Life, and I also have a full-time job. I work in design and marketing at Atomic, which is a online design and prototyping tool for teams. I've been working there for a couple years now. I'm currently working remotely from Amsterdam, but if you have been listening this far into this episode and are still wondering where my weird accent is from, it's not Australia, because I know that that's what everyone is probably thinking, it's actually New Zealand. I'm originally from New Zealand, and I've been working remotely in Amsterdam for Atomic for a while.

Suzan:    Atomic is a New Zealand company?

Femke:    Yes, yes, it is.

Suzan:    Right, right, so the time different is?

Femke:    Brutal.

Suzan:    Yeah. Right. I'm saying right there, that is like a full-time job plus for you.

Femke:    Yeah. My teammates come online at about 9:00 p.m. my time, that when they're logging on in their morning, and that's really when Slack starts, if you know what I mean? That's when a lot of discussions start happening and things like that, so it's not really a 9:00 to 5:00 job, not just because of the time zone, other reasons, too, but the time zone definitely throws a spanner in the works on that.

Suzan:    How do you, wait, what's a spanner?

Femke:    Oh, a spanner? It's a ...

Suzan:    I'm like, "What's a spanner?"

Femke:    A spanner in the works. Have you not heard that expression? Maybe I'm being way to Kiwi right now? Maybe I didn't realize ...

Suzan:    No! Please give me the Kiwiness.

Femke:    A spanner is a tool, like a handyman tool, that you use to tighten nuts and bolts. It's like this metal, I don't know how else to describe it.

Suzan:    So a spanner in the works is ...

Femke:    Like you're throwing something in just to make it that more complicated and difficult, like you're just throwing something in there that's going to make everything turn into custard basically.

Suzan:    I totally want to use this now. That's such a spanner in the works.

Femke:    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Suzan:    Okay, I'm totally going to use this. Okay.

Suzan:   How do you collaborate then? Not that I want to go into depth, but how have you found what makes it easier to collaborate and work pretty well for you?

Femke:    Well, we take turns having meetings, in terms of like sometimes for me it'll be in my evening, and sometimes for them it'll be in their evening, so we try and take turns to make sure it's not always one person's burden.

Suzan:    That's great.

Femke:    Yeah, it works pretty well, and then they're pretty good about recording meetings and things like that so that I can catch up, because sometimes they just have to do it in their daytime when I'm not there. They'll record it, and I can catch up first thing the next morning, which is super helpful. I guess with Slack and just how online and digital we all are now, we just make sure all of our communication is online and available. I try and go with the sort of mantra of always over communicate, especially being a remote employee, like too much communication is never enough communication I think. If you always feel like you're giving enough information and communicating enough, but often it's not for the remote person. We always try and make sure that our communication is really clear and easy for each other to pick up the next day.

Suzan:    Well, are you the only remote person, or are there others?

Femke:    I'm the only remote person that's not in New Zealand. We have a couple of other remotees, but they're in New Zealand, so they're in the same time zone.

Suzan:    Yeah, yes. You definitely have thrown a spanner in the works on that one. Did I use it right?

Femke:    You did, it's good.

Suzan:    Sweet! I am a super nerd over here. I'm a word nerd.

Femke:    Gold star.

Suzan:    Yeah, anytime you give me a word, I'm like, "Oo, I want to use it now." Teach it to me.

Suzan:     Okay. You've got this full-time job plus, right, so you've got that?

Femke:    Yeah. I've got my full-time job, I've got the podcast, I also do a weekly blog post. I write a weekly article to my mailing list, which I've been doing for a little while now. That's been super cool to just be able to help other people and have these really interesting conversations with them, and build up this little community for myself has been really nice and growing this little audience.

Then I also occasionally, there's not like a strict publishing schedule at the moment, but I try every couple of weeks to post a new interview with a under represented, creative person. Someone who is super talented, super creative, but maybe not getting all of the credit they deserved. That kind of came from me just getting a little bit fatigued with all of these hotshot designers and creative people from Silicon Valley that we always see online, and they're interviewed on every blog and on every single podcast. I was just hearing the same stories from the same prominent people everywhere. I was like, "I want to hear stories from people that live in random places and are just starting, or they're trying to figure it out, and they are new or maybe they haven't quite made it yet, but they're doing really cool, amazing, and awesome things." That's sort of what the creative series' about. It's a interview series with creative people who aren't yet necessarily at their career peak, but they're doing super interesting and inspiring things.

Suzan:    Oh, that's really cool, and where is that hosted, or where is that?

Femke:    That is on Medium, so if you look me up on Medium, which is Femke SVS, then you should find it there.

Suzan:    Oh, very good, very good. That's different from Femke's Thoughts.

Femke:    Yeah. There's two different publications under my same Medium account.

Suzan:    Wow. You have two Medium publications, you have a podcast, a blog weekly, and you have a full-time job where there's a massive time difference, is that correct? Did I get it all?

Femke:    Yep. That's pretty good.

Suzan:    Yeah, that's a lot. I knew this because I know you, but I think that's a lot of things that you, and by the way also in the podcast, you drive your podcast forward, right? You're the 51% person at the end of the day.

Femke:    I'm the 51, yeah.

Suzan:    You're the 51. You're the last stop.

Femke:    Yeah. It's funny hearing you say that, because, yes, it's a lot, but I never feel like it's enough. I don't know if you relate to that at all, but I think, like how you introduced me on the show, being a side project addict, I just always feel like there's more I can do, or I have more to give or more to provide or more to explore, that I never feel like I'm doing quite enough. I'm that crazy person who is already doing too many things and also at the same time wanting to do more crazy things and add more things to her plate, so, yeah, I'm never satisfied I guess.

Being an And, And, And Person

Suzan:    Yeah, you know me well. You knew that I would relate with that, right, because we've had conversations. I'm like, "And I want to do this, and I want to do this." I call us and, and, and people.

Femke:    Right.

Suzan:    And this and this and this and this ...

Femke:    This thing.

Suzan:    Yeah and that, and then and that. I've been learning sometimes that subtraction is better than addition, but I am definitely still, there's never enough. I always wanted to do more. There's always more things that I want to do, so, yes, I completely relate with that. I feel like for people like that, in some ways having a fuller plate is better. Do you know what I mean?

Femke:    Mm (neutral).

Suzan:    For them they end up doing better because they have a fuller plate.

Femke:    I think so, like I feel as though I get a lot of fulfillment out of having all of these things that I have to do. I will admit, it's a juggle. Some weeks I am totally stressed out and thinking, "How the heck am I going to be able to fit in everything that I want to do?" At the same time that sort of stress and circus show also drives me. That's what keeps me excited about showing up and keeps me motivated and inspired to keep going. I'm not very good at being a boring person. I always have to have something to do. I'm not very good at relaxing, and my boyfriend, Owen, tells me this all the time, that I just need to learn how to relax and how to play. For me having all these side projects and being busy and creating all of these things, some people probably view that as work, but to me, it's my play and that's how I stress but also relax and find it really fulfilling. I really enjoy having that sort of topsy-turviness in my life.

Suzan:    I totally get it. It's funny, yesterday was my birthday, and everyone's like, "Oh, did you take the whole day off?" I'm like, "No, I had clients." It was fun. I did take some time off, and we went out to dinner. I did get a 10-minute little back massage and things like that.

Femke:    Oh, lucky you. How do I sign up for one of those?

Suzan:    I know, right? I decided to do a manicure-pedicure. I was like, "Things are gross. My nails are breaking, and they hurt." While my nails dried, I got a 10-minute back massage, and I was like, "Oo, that's nice. That was like perfect."

Femke:    Nice.

Suzan:    I did work that day. I wrote part of an article, and that was actually enjoyable for me. It was all stuff I wanted to do, it wasn't like work for an employer, but it was fun. What is your ideal day? Working on cool things, that's-

Femke:    Yeah, I totally get it. For me, that's my play, and it's fun and enjoyable, and I really love it. Yeah, what some people probably look at that as working, and why wouldn't you want to go in and go to the movies or something. I'm like, "Well, I'd rather just work on my podcast, because it's fun, and I get a lot of fulfillment out of it."

StrengthsFinder Assessment

Suzan:    Have you heard of the StrengthsFinder assessment*?

Femke:    No. I don't think I have.

Suzan:    StrengthsFinder assessment came out of Gallup, if you've heard of Gallup. They do a lot of polls. They're big in the States, but they also have this really huge sort of human capital consulting. I used to work for Gallup. They're an incredible organization. The work that they do, the book is called Now Discover Your Strengths. It's an assessment that looks at people's talents. It doesn't really look at personality, but it more looks at talents. For example, it'll give you your top five. They have 34, and they'll give you your top five strengths that you use. One of mine is strategic, so anyone who knows me, it's how I walk through the world. I'm going to go do this, and then I'm going to walk to the table, and I'm going to put that there, then I'm ... That's how I walk through the world. The reason I'm bringing that up is because there's a talent called achiever, and you talk exactly like an achiever

Femke:    Is it a good or a bad thing?

Suzan:    They're all good. It comes from the field of positive psychology. Basically it's more about using it in positive ways. It's more like making sure that you have an environment that that works. By the way, I come from a family of achievers, and mine is a little bit lower, I know my whole, they rank order all of them. Mine's a little bit lower than my top five, but it's up there. Achievers, it's not uncommon for them, like how many hours a week do you work? Seventy, 80 or 90 is not uncommon for them, but they're not exhausted by it. Instead, it fuels them. They're the kind of people that if they go to the beach, they're picking up seashells, or they have to read a book. They aren't going to just sit there in the sun.

Femke:    Oh, my gosh, yes.

Suzan:    Right. Right? Right?

Femke:    Can't just be.

Suzan:    Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's funny because I think a lot of times we want to tell them to calm down or slow down, or you're going to hurt yourself. Certainly there are extreme versions of it, there's no question, but for achievers, they really love to, being busier can really be helpful to them, and it's fulfilling to them.

Femke:    Yeah, I think that does sound like me. I should take this little test.

Suzan:    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it sounds like you, I know, then we could another show and talk about your strengths. I love them. I'm a certified strengths coach. I think it's really, really fascinating. The other thing about achievers is they love to have a checklist, and they love to check things off the checklist.

Femke:    Yeah. I recently started bullet journaling a month ago, and it's been so satisfying to be able to write things down and check them off.

Suzan:    What's a bullet journal?

Femke:    Oh, a bullet journal is this system of task management and prioritization. Previously I was just writing to do lists on pieces of paper, so it would just be a list with a little check box next to it that I'd check off when I'd done it, but a bullet journal is a systematic way of organizing your life basically and your to do lists. Things are split out into months and weeks and days, and there's a coding sort of system, like you do an X for if you did the task, you do a little arrow if you didn't quite get the task done, but you're going to bump it to the next day. There's a whole system as to how you complete and code your tasks, and it's been super useful for me.

Suzan:    That's so great. Yeah, there's nothing better than just checking something off of a list.

Femke:    So satisfying.

Suzan:    It's so satisfying. Like I said, I still have this, and I come from a family of achievers. My father is 85, no, I'm sorry, he's 86. My dad's 86, and he's working on a car that's going to go on the Salt Flats, the goal is to go maybe 200 miles an hour.

Femke:    Wow, cool.

Suzan:    Yeah, yeah, yeah, my dad's like an old dragster. He built cars, and that's what he did for a living. He's working on that. He also has a weekly email newsletter that is about stocks, so he has all these stocks. Plus he's really active in his church, and he keeps three of their cars running on top of rebuilding their deck and making sure the birds have feed. I mean he's 86, that's an achiever.

Femke:    Wow, that is an achiever. Amazing.

Suzan:    You know it's not good or bad, it's just when you said it, I couldn't help but think, "Wow. This is somebody who does a lot of things," but that it can also fuel you.

Femke:    Yeah, I definitely feel like it fuels me, and I feel like sometimes that is hard for other people to understand. Sometimes I can feel like a bit of the crazy outsider who prefers to be behind my laptop than going out with friends for dinner or something. That's not to mean that I don't enjoy going out with friends for dinner, and I don't do it, because I definitely do. I go out with my friends probably once a week to dinner, but just not every single time. Sometimes I've got other priorities and things that are maybe just more important at that particular time that I really have to or want to get done, and so, yeah, that's just how it is sometimes with me.

Suzan:    Well, I know that I relate with that. I actually think that there's a lot of people on our podcast who would really relate with that. The idea that there's things they want to get done, and they love the social and love seeing friends, but they really love what they're doing, and they love their side projects.

Femke:    Yeah, well, I think that's a good sign that you have this inner fire and this inner passion that drives you, and if that's how you're feeling, then I think it's good to embrace it and not to try and push it back down.

Suzan:    Yeah. I agree, of course, that's me, I'm the person who prefers to work on writing or some project. Lately, I've been working on learning how to make Kombucha, and how to flavor it.

Femke:    Cool.

Suzan:    I'm having so much fun. Last night after we went out to dinner, I made my partner run around Brooklyn trying to find lavender buds the right size so that we could ... Our new flavor is going to be lavender basil.

Femke:    Oh, that sounds amazing.

Suzan:    That was fun for me, then my next project is learning to grow plants from seeds rather than starting with little plantings.

Femke:    Nice.

Suzan:    I think for me, those are fun things and the driven things of life and are good for me.

On Following Your Gut

Femke:    I just think that if you really want to do something, then just do it. I think it's easy for us to have a hundred excuses as to why not to do it, and it always feels like a better idea as to why not to do it. Maybe your excuse is you don't have enough time, or no one will care, no one will read it, there's other more important things, but I think if you still really have that drive that's pulling you to do it, whether that's starting a side project, or I don't know, maybe it's something a bit more life changing like wanting to quit your job or something. I'm not going to sit here and tell people to quit their jobs, but if you have some strong desire to do something, then I recommend just embracing it a little bit and talking to it and seeing what it would feel like if you did make that jump or did do that thing that you want to do.

There's always going to be a hundred and one excuses why you shouldn't, but there might be that one really good reason why you should, and I think you should at least give that one reason a chance.

Suzan:    I love that. There's like all these excuses, and then there's like all but this one good, really good reason.

Femke:    Yeah, totally.

Suzan:    Like creativity or creative expression or taking a risk or whatever. I think there's like a million different reasons. I love that. I love that. Mine has been in the past, that I feel like, oh, it's already been done. Oh, well, see, I'll find-

Femke:    Oh, yeah. Someone's already done it.

Suzan:    I found one example, and then it's like, "Oh, well, now I can't do it."

Femke:    Yeah.

Suzan:    If I'm honest, that stopped me for a while. Now I don't really look. I look to see if I'm doing exactly the same thing, I check on names, but otherwise I kind of don't care anymore. I just move forward. I'm like, "You know what? Mine is what it is, and theirs is what theirs is, and I'm going to do this for my own creative expression."

Femke:    Yeah, it's all about how you see it. You could see it as a challenge, you could see that as oh, well someone else has already done it, so I'm going to do it better or something like that. I don't think it's a good reason to just stop right there. That's letting someone else determine your creative output, and I think you should always be in control of that.

Suzan:    Well, totally, and even if it's not better, someone can never do it the way you do it. I'm going to do my own creative expression, because I feel like a lot of times we're working with clients, or we're working for our boss or at our company, and we don't control the creative output, and we don't have a way to express it. I feel like that's just the nectar of life, it's so important.

Femke:    Yeah, I think it is important. Just follow your gut.

Suzan:    I love that. You know I love that.

Suzan:    Thank you again so much for being on the show. It was so delightful.

Femke:    Thank you so much for having me. This was so fun.


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