In this Digital Nomad Jobs interview Series, we are going to learn about Penelope Sloan’s amazing story and how she learns pretty much everything that comes her way. She is a force of nature indeed. A clear example of entrepreneurship and determination.
Penelope is a real hustler. She’s been like that since she was 7. Her story is inspiring and motivating. I have learned a lot myself from this interviewed and I have already bought some of the books she suggests. I am sure after reading this you will feel ready to conquer the world too.
NAME: Penelope Sloan
COUNTRY OF BIRTH: CANADA
PROFESSION: Brand Strategist, Interior + Graphic Designer, Creative Director, and much more…
Let’s learn how Penelope worked her way to the successful entrepreneur she is now at only 33 ys, and learn how you can do it too, by following her precious tips.
- Study everything you are passionate about
- Keep a positive mindset
- Visualize your goal
- Do networking
- Spread love
Read Penelope’s full interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself first? Where are you from and what you do for a living right now?
I am Penelope and I am the owner and lead at Penelope Sloan Design.
I’m a multi-faceted designer, consultant, and serial entrepreneur from Vancouver who loves business and design. My WHY is driven by my passion to help people create their dream space and or business, and ultimately to enhance people’s lives and businesses through innovative strategy-based design.
I’m a natural connector, creator, and idea generator, and besides design business stuff, I love to explore and adventure, cook, dance and make art.
My team and I offer full-service creative direction and production for projects/clients that need a Brand strategy, Identity Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Content Creation, Brand Photography + Videoography, Creative Consulting, and Marketing, as well as business and product development.
What is your background? your education and your previous job?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, making greeting cards when I was around 7 years old and selling them to my neighbors. I then did bath bombs, fimo jewelry, and then I started working part-time in a cafe at age 11. (with my parents’ permission – I was a driven lil hustler from an early age!)
I put myself through design school and by the time I was about to graduate, it was the recession and I was jaded from working for other people. I was already ten years deep (lol) – and thought, I always give my boss’s good ideas on how to improve the offering, so maybe I should just do that for myself.
Since there were no good jobs and I wasn’t willing to settle for a minimum wage, I started Penelope Sloan Design soon after graduating from the Design Formations Program at Langara in 2009.
My entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and ambition have allowed me to find success as a freelance designer, and now, I work with a team of talented professionals to bring a variety of projects in different design fields to successful completion.
My main focus is branding and interior design, but I love all aspects of the creative process. As the lead creative director and designer, I bring an upbeat attitude and positive perspective to my projects.
Having a well-rounded set of skills in several forms of design, having launched several of my businesses helping others launch theirs, and now doing in-depth brand strategy makes me hyper-creative – but based in logic and a definitive direction.
I’m a concepts generator and extractor of ideas! I really love helping my clients take their ideas or visions to the next level. I’ve worked with many types of entrepreneurs and businesses, including tech start-ups as their design director – where I took a very vague idea (what he wanted the brand to be known for) and presented my ideas on how to model the concept and company.
With that, I helped them secure 7 million dollars in funding, and designed a crucial part of the business model, then lead the planning of their marketing initiatives for the launch, which got them featured in House+Home magazine and a title sponsor spot at Vancouver’s most respected design trade show.
A few other notable moments in my career thus far have been winning Urban Barns Next Top Designer, being a finalist in BC’s best young designer, and working with a flooring company where I made their biggest sale (140k) in their then 7-year history.
Over the years I have designed many homes, restaurants, shops, cafes and retail locations, including a market in the Yukon, and I have worked with dozens of other small and medium-sized businesses to help them visually brand, rebrand and launch, communicate their offering, or reach their target market.
Fun fact: before being an online influencer was a thing, I was a real-life one, working with a corporate events company as a brand ambassador and promotional model. Introducing their products to the masses, selling their brand and products, and creating brand awareness and loyalty.
The most fun was repping liquor brands and giving out free drinks, hosting pub parties, and making sure everyone there had fun.
I was also a club promoter. I was paid to bring people to parties, promote counters and events and make the parties pop off…and this gave me a lot of great sales and interpersonal skills which have helped me build my network over the years.
What made you decide to become a digital nomad?
I love to travel and my favourite feeling is being free to go work from where ever I want! I am in love with exploring new cultures, architecture, design and art in cities around the world.
Have you always worked remotely?
I started my company fresh out of design school, as I graduated in 2009 when the recession was pretty bad and there were no good jobs. I have been an entrepreneur since I was about 8 years old so by the time I graduated I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone but myself.
I did do a year of 9-5 at the tech start-up, while I was still running my own projects. It was exhausting and I burnt out hard. I won’t be doing that again. 🙂
What do you think are the main skills needed to do what you do?
I have a vast education – I studied graphic, interior, and 3D design, as well as many business classes, as well as some fun electives like floral design and event planning.
I have read a lot of books, found mentors, and use online platforms like udemy, youtube, and conferences/events to stay cutting edge.
Skills you need to do what I do:
Brand Strategy – You need to know what makes a great brand, and how to make it look, and how to communicate its essence to the right people. It’s basically a big chunk of the business plan the covers the who, what, why, how, and for who…which leads to the creative parts like design, marketing, and product development. I have read a lot of books on this topic from the greatest branders, and I took the brandmasteracademy.com course.
Interior Design: I learned the fundamentals in school but I really learned the most starting by doing home staging, then small reno’s then big ones. I found a mentor who was a feng shui master, architect, and interior designer and created a design firm with him, and learned about construction, high-end custom luxury home design, and interior architecture while working with and shadowing him. I use Sketchup for drafting and 3D modeling, Cahoom for renderings, Morphio Board, Procreate, Pinterest, Indesign, and photoshop to create my designs and presentations.
Graphic Design: For graphic design, you need to understand symbolism, the design principles, have a healthy font library, understand marketing and advertising, what is visually appealing, attractive, and knowing about trends, branding, sales and phycology really helps. I use the adobe suite (Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator) as well as Canva sometimes, Procreate, photography, and my own art to create my graphic design assets. For all of my creative practices, I use mood boards, sketching, mind mapping, research, and save a lot of resources in Pinterest or project folders. I use an Ipad pro + apple pencil, MacBook pro, 27ii, iMac, a Canon mark 7 g1 X, and my iPhone to create on.
Those are the main three areas I am focused on so I will end it there lol…but I will add that you can learn any of these skills for free or for cheap online. 🙂
You have done a lot of self-studying and you mentioned you read a lot of books. Would you mind sharing some of the books that you considered game-changers both for mindset and business? Also any special course besides the one on branding that you feel confident in suggesting?
Yes, I would love to!
The four-hour workweek by Tim Ferris really inspired me. It made me realize anything is possible. Same with Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
This is Marketing by Seth Godin (a Genuis IMO), Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon, Branding is Sex by Deb Gabor, Brand Aid by Brad VanAuken, Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, Mini Habits by Stephen Guise, Grit by Angela Duckworth, Captivate by Venessa Van Edwards, and Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday are a few of my more recent fav’s in the last year or so…
Right now I am really enjoying the Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, and my next read is going to be Neuro Design: Neuromarketing Insights to Boost Engagement and Profitability by Darren Bridger.
Course-wise, I think it just takes research and finding a teacher whom you resonate with.
There are a ton of good courses on Udemy, and even Youtube is an amazing resource, I learned a lot from Chris Do’s channel. He has courses as well, I haven’t taken them but I would feel confident to recommend him and his company as a reliable source to learn from just based on the high-level / high-value content he provides for free on youtube.
Can you please explain your creative process? what do you do on a daily basis?
Oh man, wake up and get to it. I time block in google cal, use TODOIST and my creative process starts with a nice setup, my water, tea or coffee, snacks, and everything I need in reach so I can stay in the zone.
Then I make a to-do list of my priorities and get going and try to stay put until I really need to pee hahaha.
Then I stretch, make more tea and do the next things on my list.
How do you stay focused and motivated while working on your own? how do you organize your day? Do you use any apps?
Having a nice clean and comfortable place to work, doing a little mediation or something fun and creative like digital art to get me in a flow state.
I try to remember to visualize myself finishing the project or task before I do it and how it feels to complete it (tricks I learned from a hypnotherapy course I took) and I use a notebook, google cal, to-doist and timers/reminders and alarms on my phone.
How do you find new clients or new jobs? any particular platforms you use?
Meeting people has always been my best strategy. I get referred a lot. I use social media and networking events.
Where have you been traveling as a digital nomad and what is your favorite country (or if you have more than one)? and why?
Some of the places I traveled to and worked from include Barbados, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, Guadalajara, Paris, Lyon, Malta, London, Stockholm, Miami, New York, LA… I am currently in Miami and I love the tropical beach + nature vibes with the big city + cool art scene all in one.
How do you balance the traveling and the working duties? doesn’t get stressful? Do you stay a long time in one place? Or you move often?
I work from my iPad, laptop, phone, and camera. So, I can move around pretty easily. In 2019 I traveled a lot, in 8 weeks, I did Paris, Lyon, Paris, London, Malta, Stockholm, and then Paris again. Then I was stuck in Vancouver because of the pandemic until I couldn’t do it anymore and tried my luck at customs and got into Miami, where I decided to stay as long as I am allowed, I will head to the next place after this. I do prefer to stay somewhere for at least a month.
I don’t get easily stressed in new places, I just need a good quiet place to work. It can be hard to balance when I first arrive because I LOVE to explore and can easily spend hours wandering in a city…I want to see it all.
But overall these years being self-employed means you learn how to balance. Work, then adventure. Sometimes I spend all day and night working so I can take a few days to just be free to go with the adventure flow, have fun, get tipsy (LOL), and not feel guilty or miss work deadline.
Did the present pandemic affect your work/business? How did you face the challenges?
Yes, I had opened a co-working space in my home city of Vancouver which I had to close. That was depressing because I really wanted to create a collaborative space and community for creatives, and start a collective / agency there. I will turn GemHouse (the name of the space) into GemHouse Collective – a digital agency sometime in 2021.
Many of my interior design projects got paused or canceled and I decided it was time to pivot into marketing myself more of a creative director, consultant, and brand strategist, so I spent a lot of time getting up to speed on that industry, took the master class and deep dove into a ton of books on brand strategy.
I am currently re-branding myself so I can make my new website to market that skill set as well as my design services. It was good and bad for me but I always try to face challenges with a smile and open mind and find a way!
How much can somebody earn with your profession approximately? Can you give a range?
There is no limit, as what I do can be charged based on the value you provide. It depends on how much time you are willing to commit to working, how hard you hustle to find clients, and how dedicated you are to staying cutting edge. I started by charging 50/hour and now charge between $125-200. A designer and brand strategist can make anywhere from 30k-200k or more.
And last what advice would you give to those who want to follow your path? Can you share three tips or as many as you want?
An IG follower recently asked me how I started, and what to do and I told her this:
- Take the courses you are passionate about.
- Find a mentor
- Go to a lot of networking events where you find the types of people you want to work with.
- Tell EVERYONE what your goals are. They will manifest faster this way, as people will connect you and want to help you however they can.
- Learn about limiting beliefs and how to shatter them.
- Fear is the only thing stopping us from reaching our full potential.
I started my biz fresh out of design school, in the recession in 2009, in debt…trust me it was not easy. I’ve been through it all. But I knew if I kept trying eventually I’d figure it out and become successful.
It’s a never ending journey!
And last but not least:
NEVER STOP TRYING!! AND SPREAD LOVE!
Penelope Sloan is a multifaceted brand strategist, business and lifestyle designer, consultant and entrepreneur. She’s working on several of her own brands, including an outterwear fashion e-com site, and a line of all natural body care products and candles. When she isn’t working, she loves dance, go to the beach for a sunset picnic, explore the city, go on foodie adventures and check out art shows or learn about crypto. She is known to paint, throw taco parties and make everything herself.. and is always down for a dope DIY project. She also loves fashion, music, tech, checking out concerts or brand activation events, conferences, and meetups, and is currently learning how to DJ so she can create her own mixtapes…and maybe play some fun events one day…and she just started vlogging about lifestyle, design and branding so find her on Youtube on or after her bday – April 7th, when she launches her new website . You can also find Penelope on Instagram for her design biz related stuff as @penelopesloandesign and her personal lifestyle account is @nelavision You can also follow her on Youtube, Pinterest, Tiktok , Twitter, Facebook.
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