Meet the designer

Natalie White

Nat White,
Magic Fingers Graphics Ltd

When did you start your design business?

Officially in 2017, though I had been building it up for a few years ‘moonlighting’ as a freelancer.

What were you doing before you started your design business?

I was working at a small design studio/agency in Cambridge for 10 years, as the senior designer. It was a great place to work, with lots of learning opportunities in design and business aspects too. I typically designed projects and web designs, handing websites over to a web developer to build - this was partly good and partly tricky to speak ‘designer’ to a developer! We also hit the ground running on mobile design too, as iPhones arrived the year I started working there!

Where are you based? Country/city?

The Far (far) North! Near Cape Reinga...

What do you like about living and working there?

Living in the Far North ... We love the rural lifestyle we have living on a large family beef farm, we love the locality to some amazing beaches and generally being able to live in a large open space. It may be geographically isolated, but it's a little slice of good ol' kiwi outdoors up here. Thankfully, I do have relatively good internet - only just though, it’s still a bit in the sticks up here - no fibre or fast broadband!

Why did you decide to start a design business?

I started my own biz to work around lifestyle and family choices, and to carry out a dream I'd always had of running my own biz. It also happened that I'd be the second generation of a family business, carrying on the name and design industry!

When you’re working solo, where do you go for moral support, coaching or community?

Typically online - to the 'instagram fam' or on the phone, to select friends and creatives that can share and encourage and create community when needed. Living an hour out of town makes it a little trickier to have that instant people/community contact.

Lately it’s been more of jumping onto messenger or DMs, to a trusted select few for a chat or to bounce off a sticking point. Other times, it’s chatting to a friend on the phone to iron out any kinks in the process!

What are the services you offer to clients?

Branding and web design are my key services, however I do everything else too - stationery, advertising, packaging, social media and more. Branding a client properly gives access to the rest of these things.

What does a typical work week look like for you?

A typical work week would involve 3 days of daycare - these were the work-at-home days between 9.30am-2.30pm. I found working at home with a toddler wasn't really successful, so I created work boundaries and kept home life and work-life separate. It also allows me to be present when hubby comes off the farm after a long day's work.

From time to time, I'd catch up on my own admin work late at night, but seldom do client work 'after hours'. In those 3 'work' days, I'd work efficiently, reaching out to clients in the morning and working on projects until the afternoon. On the downtime days, I'd have a mental list running or thinking of ideas on current projects, sketch them down sometimes in those in-between moments, ready for a work day.

Occasionally, life happens and sickness or regular medical appointments for our toddler (at 3 different hospitals and a locations) would mean re-arranging a work week or scratching it off completely.

These days in 2022, with a young baby there is no work! Currently, I am taking an extended break to focus on raising our second child. Eventually I will return to work later this year and will likely fit in between nap times until a spot opens up at the local daycare for her.

It's a juggle some days, but we found the balance that works for us!

Love Letter Express

Do you work with other partners/specialists on projects and what do they do?

Yes, I have a few specialists I call in from time to time to work with me on projects - whether it be a photographer or a copywriter or someone else - many hands make light work!

How do you find balance between work and lifestyle freedom?

Balance is subjective! Haha. Some days I feel like an elephant balancing on a ball, waiting for the monkeys to drop - other days, I'm efficient and running a well-oiled ship and crew! I think creating work boundaries has helped separate the work and the life balance - which making room for my family is the first priority. Being a mum, I find there’s no ‘true’ balance, but rather a seesaw that gently tips one way (eg: work), allowing the other (eg family) to come back up in due course.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Anywhere! I'm one of those people who see inspiration wherever I go. From a walk through the farm or on a beach, to a supermarket with fresh branded products... to being inspired by visuals online (Social media/ pinterest/ websites etc). There’s so much out there, it’s just how you perceive it.

How do you invest in growing as a designer?

In lots of ways - I might take a course to upskill an area or, I'll attend a workshop. Last year I did a floral workshop which gave tangible practice with colours and arrangements, something that isn't something we generally can 'hold' as a digital designer.

Riverside Adventures Waikato

What’s the hardest thing about working with clients/managing projects?

Time... mine and theirs.

I keep my clients on a checklist - giving them a balance between enough time to decide or come back to me, but also within timelines that I need to complete things in. Over the years, I've honed my processes so that I can do this more effectively. I don’t fancy waiting 3 months for a client to get back to me, so I make sure that doesn’t happen.

What is a recent project you’re really proud of?

Riverside Adventures Waikato - late 2021 project.

A long-standing client, who (finally) gave me the green light for a full rebrand - heaven! They trusted me to work with their short brief/requests and give me the freedom to really push it further than they imagined. I'm really stoked about that one, especially as we juggled a couple of lockdowns, sick kids and a fast growing belly, quickly looming with a due date!

What do you love about running a design business?

Xero and my accountant haha!! The day-to-day running of design things is absolutely my cup of tea, I love to be organized and have a game plan for the week. I absolutely LOVE the variety my work brings too. I could never be an in-house designer for one company, I’d get bored fast. Being able to structure my days gives me joy, and being able to let my accountant do the boring stuff is even better!

"I absolutely love the variety my work brings too. I could never be an in-house designer for one company, I’d get bored fast."

What are your other creative outlets?

At the moment.. art and craft with my toddler, gardening between naps (trying to establish a decent vege and flower garden!), and creating a more of a hygge approach and feel to our home! Usually I love a good book or listening to a captivating podcast while out walking. Hobbies are somewhat reduced living out in the country - there’s no art classes or kid-friendly activities up where we are + it’s not my season whilst raising little ones.

Do you have a dream client/industry?

I've done quite a few dream projects so far, but I'd love to work with a photographer, florist and more boutique types of businesses.

What advice would you give to a graphic designer looking to add web design to their services?

Do it! But first, please practice and learn web design and usability - there’s a whole world of UX out there to think about. Build your own website and maybe do the first couple at a more affordable rate, as you're starting out. It's a win-win for you and your client. Know your systems and it'll build your technical knowledge too.

How has partnering with Rocketspark helped your biz journey?

Being able to partner with an NZ based company has made it so much easier to “sell” a website to anyone. I’m all about supporting local, NZ made and I love that this partnership supports my ethos - and that’s before I’ve built a website! Working with Rocketspark gives either credibility for me, or brings awareness- there’s still so many people who are not aware that NZ has an excellent web builder with true support, like nothing overseas.

Rocketspark allows me to have a hands-off approach to the entire coding side of web design life, and complete ease of use for my customers. They don’t want to see things that they can break and I have more time to support them through maintaining and keeping their brands on track.

I also know the web building system well enough to often guide customers over the phone without logging in- something that ensures them that I do know what I’m doing; and have the experience and knowledge to recommend it.

I’ve been able to meet and connect with so many other likeminded designers at events over the years, it’s been great to create community instead of competition. 

A Facebook group for brand and graphic designers wanting more business confidence