We’re so inspired by business owners and entrepreneurs, especially when they’re alumni of ours! Meet Katie, freelance web designer and founder of digital consulting agency Pearler Work. We asked Katie about her business, her favourite parts of what she does, and why she loves freelancing!

Tell us a bit about yourself!

G’day, I’m a freelance web designer and digital consultant for lifestyle and wellness brands living the slow, beautiful life in the Blue Mountains with my partner. My side hustle is a digital wellness community called Temple Space.

What did you love most about studying at with Holmes Institute Fashion?

I enjoyed the variety of subjects yet the focus solely on fashion. In my full-time year of study, I took away skills and knowledge that felt very practical and helpful to making business decisions.

Tell us a bit about your work as an E-commerce & Email Marketing consultant and owner of Pearler Work.

For many years, most of my clients were fashion. As my interests evolved and retail took more and more financial hits, I found myself attracting anything from clean beauty brands, organic vegetable delivery, millennial-focused career websites and fellow freelancers wanting help branding themselves.

Although our society applauds specialists, I find the startups I work with tend to want someone who can “do it all”. A website re-do usually means a branding re-do. A typical day sees me putting together mood boards for branding vibes, designing e-newsletters in Photoshop, building out pages of websites and writing up proposals for potential clients.

When designing a website or marketing strategy for a client, what does your creative process look like?

Most people have been burned by agencies before they try freelancers. My approach is personal, one on one. It involves a phone call, asking some standard questions about their goals and aesthetic tastes and figuring out if we’re right for each other. I’ll come up with a proposal of all the things we could do together. Once they accept, I mock up the website and branding in Photoshop and then if they’re keen, I build the rest on the fly. Usually I can build a site for them in a month or two, and there’s a fair bit of back and forth 1:1 on email. If they’re happy (they always are, phew!) I ask for a testimonial.

Tell us a bit about your career history - how did you get your first industry job? How did you get to where you are today?

When I noticed everyone was starting online stores 10 years ago, I decided I should jump on it and contact as many as I could to see if I could fit in somewhere. I struck gold and someone was leaving, so she trained me up in a week and I was straight in the deep end - team of one as an eCommerce Manager. I did it for a year and travelled, then followed the same approach for every job after that - email places I liked and hoped they’d go for the easy option of meeting the random, keen girl instead of wading through a million applicants on Seek. As a person finding a job and hiring, I’ve never found this a quality avenue.

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far, especially in your current role?

Over the years, growing a mailing list has been the quantifiable, business value raising contribution I’ve excelled at most. Designing and sending campaigns that immediately trigger record sales is also exciting. However nowadays, the highlight is certainly putting my heart into website designs that truly feel like a combination of my style and the brand I’m working with. When they come back to me with “OMG KATIE I’M CRYING IT’S BEAUTIFUL”, that’s what I’m all about.

Tell us about working as a freelancer.

It’s taken 6 years to feel comfortable, to be frank! Living in Bondi for years and beyond my means financially meant constantly taking jobs that weren’t right for me and saying “yes” too much purely to stay afloat. Nowadays, I live in a much slower place where I don’t have rent stress driving my business decisions. It’s inevitably made me more financially flush because I’m saying yes and no to the right things that suit me, ditching crappy clients and my productivity is better than ever. Self care is crucial - if I don’t do my yoga and if I stay up all night watching Netflix, my productivity and mood goes out the window. Word of mouth has been the cornerstone of growing my client base and my design credit in website footers. Listings in a few directories this year has literally doubled my new client enquiries and workloads.

What is your favourite type of brand/client to work with?

My goal is to work 100% with wellness brands and practitioners in the next year or two, which is very feasible the way it’s going. Unlike fashion clients who want everything done yesterday, the wellness ones are slow on email and totally fine if you are too. In the end - it’s just work. You, your health and family should always take precedent.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in E-commerce or Digital Marketing?

Think outside the box, there’s so many people copying each other. Marketing and design is more emotional than ever, people want a story and to feel things when they see a website, a newsletter or Instagram post. Marketing tricks will only get you so far. Be respectful of the privilege you have of someone providing you their personal email or access to their curated feed - use the opportunity wisely.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given during your career?

Saying “no” to clients actually makes way for more of the ones you should be saying “yes” to.


Want to learn more about building your own brand? Check out our Fashion Business courses!