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Freelancing on‑the‑go with designer and illustrator Carra Sykes

Meet Carra Sykes, a freelance designer and illustrator based in Texas. With a home renovation going on, Carra is fully embracing flexibility when it comes to where she works. Get inspired by Carra’s can-do attitude as she shares her favorite make-shift workspaces and the positive aspects of her temporary, inconsistent routine.

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Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).

Hello! My name is Carra and I like to make neat things as a freelance illustrator and designer. I get hired for all kinds of work ranging from small spot illustrations to full campaign and identity work. I love the challenge of editorial illustration and hope to continue to get work in that field as I grow as an artist and person. For the past year and a half, I’ve worked on pretty much any surface that could be made into a workspace. Really—I’ve even set-up my entire workspace on a filing cabinet in the middle of moving.

The kitchen counter and a local coffee shop have been my go-to workspaces lately.

My partner is a photographer and we live in a small town between Houston and Austin, Texas. I travel and help her on shoots in different cities. If I’m not on set, I’m working on a client project somewhere that has Wifi and snacks to keep me going. We’ve also been renovating our home, so the kitchen counter and a local coffee shop have been my go-to workspaces lately. I love thinking about the different spaces I’ve worked on projects in and how I could say, “Your project was created at my kitchen counter while my cat was adorably curled up sleeping in the corner.

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What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?

Lately, a lot of my work has been created on the iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil. I was always a sketchbook-in-hand kind of person and never thought I’d like using the iPad Pro as much as I do now. Programs on the iPad Pro like Procreate allow me to use endless materials all at the click of a button within an easy to carry surface (unless your Apple Pencil dies on you mid-work!).

When I’m working on projects and need to use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, I typically connect the iPad Pro to my MacBook Pro using the Astropad App
. I’ve been obsessed with using it and it’s been a project-saver. To keep organized, I use all of the Google apps as well as a time-tracker app called Tyme
.Other tools I utilize are: iPhone X, Sony A7 rii, AirDrop, sketchbook, pencils, and so much more.

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Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?

Oh dear goodness! I wish I had a routine, but we are on-the-go so much, it’s hard for me to find a constant. It’s like workspace-roulette, where will I be working today? I’ve always been someone who likes to change things up, so this helps keep me creative—but it’s definitely stressful at times.

Most days start with coffee and breakfast in bed with too much phone screen-time. Then I check what I need to do that day and schedule everything I can accomplish. Thankfully, with our house renovation being just completed, I’m going to be building out a studio office where I can create and make to my heart’s content.

I'm coming to a point in my life where having more constants in my work-life would be nice and also help with productivity.

I kind of have a dream routine in mind—we’ll see if I stick to it. The ideal would be to wake up around 7:00 am, make coffee and breakfast, go to the studio and draw or sew for at least 30 minutes to get out ideas, check and answer some emails, make a list of what needs to be completed, dive into client work, and then have a hard stop around 5:00 pm. I want to set aside time to work on personal things or learn a new skill. Currently after a long day, I go to Zumba or boxing because it’s where I can let loose and feel free from pretty much everything. I’m coming to a point in my life where having more constants in my work-life would be nice and also help with productivity.

You’re probably wondering how the heck I get work done with this chaotic approach. No matter what, I get things done. I am a perfectionist when it comes to meeting deadlines and keeping communication with clients. Where there’s a project to be finished, there’s a way!

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How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?

Being on-the-go so often, I’m thankful creative technology has become more mobile. I can travel knowing I’ll have all of the tools I need to get the job done. AirDrop from my iPad to phone is perfect for personal projects and quickly posting to Instagram while on-the-go.

Even though I’m good at deadlines, I tend to push work back because I work better under pressure. With a tight timeline, I don’t have time to second guess, but this can also lead to a lot of unwanted stress and anxiety. When I check things off of a list and get somewhere, I feel less anxious. I’m hoping that by building a workspace and stricter routine, I’ll learn ways to prevent that type of stress and anxiety. Also, the more I workout or do things I love outside of work, the happier I am. If I can continue these habits alongside my work routine, I’ll feel positive, powerful, and ready to take on anything!

Want to keep up with Carra? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, Twitter, and at carrasykes.com.

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