They Call Me Marty!
Design goodness and other ramblings.

Posted on February 28th, 2010 0 Comments

A Short Conversation With Natalie Jost of Olive Manna

Natalie JostContinuing with our series “Short Conversations With a Pro” today I am talking with freelance web designer, wife, and mother of three girls Natalie Jost.

Natalie’s blog focuses on her passion to follow the highest standards in design and in life. Natalie also designs patterns for Olive Manna and has written and illustrated Whose Dollar? a children’s book written for her oldest daughter—whom she home schools—and used as a tool for learning about possessive pronouns.

Natalie’s work has been featured in css galleries like CSS Mania, CSS Glance and others. To find more refreshing thoughts on design and life visit Natalie at and don’t forget to follow Natalie on twitter.

Can you tell us a little bit about your first design job?
I have never had a formal design job; I’ve always freelanced.
How did you land your first freelance design gig?
I was cheap. When I started, I had zero confidence in what I was doing and didn’t feel justified charging a “normal” rate, so I pretty much worked for the exposure the job would get me. I offered to design things for people who had a fairly large following and when I delivered, they naturally wanted to tell people (blog) about me.

I think my first year I made $1000 on a dozen websites. And my husband bugged me a lot about all the work I was doing and nothing to show for it. Confidence is huge and if you don’t have it, the lack of it rules your business.
How much effort do you invest in finding new clients?
Because I blogged about design and was active in the design community, I was lucky enough to have people talking about my work, so after the first year, I had clients coming to me, sometimes in a queue, waiting to land me as a designer. It says not as much about my work but about how the community works. Very often it is about who you know.

I also don’t have the need to work that most people do because web design was never my first job—my first job was always Mom. That makes a big difference in the risks I take; I have much less to lose. I do this for fun and to pay for all the diapers and food the twins go through!
Related to the previous question, how do you maintain your current clients?
especially the ones that have nephews or nieces with photoshop on their computer—At what point do you say good-bye to them?)

Again, I could take bigger risks, and I’m grateful for that freedom. I often turned people away, but I was upfront about how I work. That’s the important thing. Clients knew going in (because they read my blog usually) that I won’t take on a job that goes against my faith or beyond my skillset. I’m highly skilled in design, not Photoshop. I know how to design. I don’t know how to “make it bigger” (

Once I’ve started with a client, though, if they begin to treat me like a “photoshop monkey” I make a couple of attempts to remind them that they’re paying good money for design expertise and it would be unwise to take on the role of designer themselves, essentially paying me to NOT do my job.

Usually that works the first time and they back off, but if they get bad about it, by that time they’ve already paid me a deposit and often the midway payment as well, so I have no problem letting them down easy. It’s up to THEM if they want to continue and get their money’s worth or toss away the money they’ve already invested. I’ve never had someone not want me to finish the job once they’ve paid for 70% of it.
If you could make one suggestion to someone about to jump into freelancing what would that be?
Same as jumping off a cliff. Consider it carefully, then commit to it all the way. There’s no undo.


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