Balancing a full-time job, a side-business, and making time for self-care is no easy feat — but Dallas-based designer Jessica Molina has a way of making it look easy. Go behind the scenes into her daily hustle and get inspired by her amazing work ethic!
Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).
During the day, I work full-time as an in-house graphic designer for a higher ed-tech company. In my spare time, I run a business as a letterer and illustrator. Both of these jobs happen in the same space — a tiny 3-foot wide desk in the living room of my apartment in Dallas, Texas.
My full-time job used to be at an office, but we were made remote employees back in May. Luckily I had just bought the desk and chair for my freelance work. Before this, I usually worked sitting on the floor in front of my couch at the coffee table. My body started paying the price, so I broke down and got the desk to have a proper workspace!
What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?
I’m lucky to have an Apple Cinema 32” monitor from my full-time job, as well as a 15” MacBook Pro. I also have my own 15” MacBook Pro for personal work. Last year I bought an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil specifically for lettering; I use this more often than anything these days, as it’s light, portable, and easy to use. My other valuable lettering tool is a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet, which I use with my laptop.
When I’m on a desktop, my go-to program is always Adobe Illustrator. I learned to vector my lettering very early on. I like the flexibility it gives me so that I can use my artwork for multiple purposes without losing quality. I use Photoshop to adjust any photos I take of my work and to create simple animations. I also use Premiere Pro to edit short videos for Instagram, which are usually timelapse videos of myself working on my projects.
Lastly, I use InDesign occasionally in my personal work, but mostly I use it in my full-time job for brochures, flyers, white papers, and similar text-heavy work. On the iPad, my main tool is Procreate (with the Apple Pencil). I love the flexibility of this tool, and it’s been mostly easy to use.
Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?
Since I do have a full-time job working from home now, I’ve realized how important it is for me to have a routine. I think a lot of people assume that working from home means you’re in your pajamas and kind of fooling around all day long. While there are certainly some people who don’t mind working this way, I am not one of them. Every morning I get up and go through the same routine as I did when I was going to the office. The new benefit of working from home is now I cook breakfast for myself nearly every day; I used to have to prep it beforehand and heat it up at work. Making breakfast for myself has become a really relaxing activity to start my day.
No matter what kind of work I’m doing, I always start with my task list and any emails or messages that have come in. From there, I have a general sense of what takes priority for the day and start on that work first. If I’m lucky enough to have some spare time in my full-time job, I take advantage and do some work for my business; usually this means sketching in my notebook. Otherwise, the majority of my business work happens after hours.
I usually take a break at the end of my workday with a meditation or a nap so I can have a mental reset. Then I have dinner, and I get to work at my second job. My favorite thing is working on weekends, though, because I can do that pretty much interrupted. I take advantage of the extra time by tackling any photography I need to do (so that I can get plenty of daytime natural light) or starting projects that I know are going to take me a long time.
How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?
I enjoy working from home because it affords me lots of flexibility with my schedule. It may sound trivial, but I genuinely feel good about being able to do some laundry, wash the dishes, or run a quick errand whenever I get the chance, rather than having to wait until after work or on the weekend. The one thing I didn’t expect, though, is how lonely it would really be! Even though I’m an extrovert, I tend to be in the zone when I work, and I don’t really go out of my way to chat with people, so I figured I’d be fine. I’ve had to really put effort into seeing friends and co-workers so I can get that social interaction that we all need.
I am working on running my lettering business full-time eventually, so it’s been nice to have a trial period of what it would be like to work from home every day. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford sharing a studio or a co-working space at first, but that is something that I think would improve my mental space quite a lot. Running a business is messy and hard, and I think having other like-minded people around you is really important to get through the rough patches. Someday I would love to have my own studio space, ideally with other creatives nearby to collaborate with.
The most important thing I’ve been doing recently to grow a sustainable business is maintaining good self-care habits. I’ve never been the kind of person who wants to work 24/7. While I do enjoy what I do for a living, I have found that it’s easy for me to get burnt out and overwhelmed when I don’t take time for myself.
I’m working on building what my business coach dubbed “a business with balance” by establishing good daily habits now to keep me from overworking myself later. I have chosen three self-care activities that I do every day: a morning and night skincare routine, a meditation session (via the Headspace or Insight Timer apps), and five minutes of stretching before bed. They’re simple and don’t take a lot of time, but I commit myself to making time for them like I would any appointment. I hope these activities can help keep me grounded while I work to make my side business my full-time job.