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Adjusting to full‑time freelance with Seattle designer Marisol Ortega

Seattle-based designer and illustrator Marisol Ortega just transitioned out of her full-time job into full-time freelance. With this major transition comes major changes to her lifestyle and routine. Read on to learn how Marisol is adjusting and making it work!

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

I currently work in my in-home studio but flex my time between here and a coffee shop nearby. I recently left my full-time job to go full-time freelance, so I’m still trying to figure what works best for me. I definitely need people around me, so a co-working space might be ideal down the road.


Photos by Connor Surdi.

What does your illustration process typically look like?

I like to start with paper, so I usually create a few sketches for composition and gather a side of research material. Sometimes, if it’s just for fun or myself, I go straight into digital. After sketches, I like to do color explorations which usually happens digitally—unless I’m painting something as a one-off, and in that case, I’ll paint some color swatches.

I tend to make each piece separately and then piece them together on the computer. So I’ll paint each individual piece, scan it, and recolor in Adobe Photoshop.

  1. Flying Fox
  2. Fruit & Line Series: Pomelo
  3. Animals I wish lived in my background. A riso zine

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

This is particularly a hard one for me. I just went full-time freelance, and I’m struggling to structure my days. Right now, my routine looks like this: I wake up, make breakfast for my daughter, pack her lunch, and walk her to school. I come back to have some coffee and look at my ongoing list for the day. I like to start with emails and paperwork to get them out of the way and then I do about thirty minutes of drawing/painting. These usually turn into my personal projects. I have lunch and start my freelance projects. I take a break and walk to pick up my daughter from school. We have an art session together before dinner, bath, and bedtime happen.

I just went full-time freelance, and I'm struggling to structure my days.

The majority of my work gets done at night. I’m a night owl and there’s just something about having complete silence and uninterrupted time that gets me in the zone. Having said that, I’d love to work on getting all my work done during the day so that I can sleep a normal schedule at night.


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

I love listening to music while working. The wall next to my desk is my moodboard. I add or remove things as my mood changes or if I’m working on something bigger to keep me in the right headspace. I have my desk set up so I can do things analog (paint, ink, or linocut), with the scanner under my desk and work on the computer at the same time.

The flow is what I really wanted to focus on because previously I had to stop what I was doing and set it all up, so it’s much more efficient now!

Want to keep up with Marisol? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, and at Photography by Connor Surdi.

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