Web Is What She Does. Travel Is What It Gives Her.


The path of creative independence is certainly a twisty one. And Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, wouldn’t have it any other way.  Her love of travel, her ability to work for clients around the country (with a biz trip to Paris peppered in there, which she’d love more of, please) all from her home office (and breathtaking back porch view) deep in the mountains of North Carolina – and her little family’s ability to pick up and move wherever their heart leads them (right now it’s actually away from their cozy mountain hideout, back to sweet home Alabama, but they’ve got their sights on Austin, TX, fingers crossed) is a big part of her self-employed freedom.

Oh, did we mention Emily started this journey as a geography major who fell in love with maps? Pretty fitting that now she plots courses of the online variety. Emily is a creative entrepreneur that we have a certain kind of creative business kinship with, because she actually helps other creatives and artists get their products online, by developing and designing websites that help them grow as they “grow up” (and often times are fed up with hocking their wares on sites that oh... for instance rhyme with Betsy.)

So of course she’s our featured creative entrepreneur this week.

Mine is the twistiest of creative paths.

Emily's Creative Journey

Try everything, but stick to what you love.

Client biz without boundaries

travel yes and travel stress

must haves in the home studio

- - - - what would I do if I weren't afraid? - - - -

"I would pack up my house, put it in storage, and my little family and I would hit the road. I would turn my monthly adventures into daily ones, and I'd work all the merry way. I'd be the epitome of the traveling entrepreneur."


How does your being your own “boss” allow you to relocate and travel? What are some pros or cons (if any cons) that come with that kind of geographic freedom?

Emily: This will be the second move that my little family and I have undertaken since I began freelancing as a web designer. Being able to pack up and move, and effortlessly take my business with us, is really a dream scenario, but not without its bumps. Packing up my iMac and backups is causing me sincere anxiety. What if they get too hot? What if they get smashed?! But, the ability to go wherever and whenever we want is worth a bit of anxiety, and the cost of a backup to my backup.

Moving and traveling freely is not something that I think I’ll ever give up, at least not willingly. Travel, places, and foreign experiences are necessary for me, like water (and gin). Having the ability to do so whenever I can, which is more often than most, is simply my favorite thing about my job.

However, it doesn’t come without drawbacks. Like the fact that I can’t turn it off. I’m constantly planning the next great adventure, and I schedule all of my projects with a grudge that I’ll have to stay relatively stationary (or at least tethered to internet) for the next 6-8 weeks. And my savings account never stays very full for long.

So many creative entrepreneurs start out in some sort of creative form of study, but now do something entirely different (yet still creative). What’s your path? Straight or twisty?

Emily: As a kid I did a bit of everything. I started coding websites in high school. It was a nerdy way to pass the time before I got my license and cared too much about boys. I also spent a semester abroad in western Europe, feeding my growing love of far off places.

College began with me as a Psychology major (gross, right?) and ended with a BA in Geography, certificate in Geographic Informations Systems, and minor in Art History. Geography satisfied my constant need to learn about new places and people, and connected me with people who felt the same, but science was not in the cards for me. I’m much too creative and free-willed to be constrained by some scientific method.

So, my early small business career as a creative entrepreneur – began as a jewelry designer. But finally, in the month that I graduated I found my calling. I had spent the last six months designing and redesigning my online jewelry shop so often that I was coding more than I was creating, and so I decided to open up to freelance web design and I haven’t looked back.

What has been a big business victory for you in the past six months?

Emily: Launching my rebrand. I practically started my established business over. When I first started out, I was proving myself. But then, I found I was repositioning myself from a run-of-the-mill web designer to a web strategy and design expert for creative entrepreneurs. It involved a transition of thinking, getting comfortable with who I am instead of how others expected me to be, and created a lull in paying business (it was a little lull, but a lull nonetheless)  as I began targeting a more refined client type.

It was months of work, in which I created the most complex site that I have ever built, brought together weeks of writing content, and months and months of ideas and planning. It was the culmination of what feels like my life’s work.  It was a huge struggle, but with a monumental payoff. A little dramatic, I know, but man did I feel victorious.

How do you embrace being more than a web designer/developer – but a creative expert?

Emily: The word “expert” certainly gives me pause, and used to utterly freak me out. It gives so little room for error. For me, it was realizing that expert was not synonymous with super hero. Being great at something doesn’t mean you’re perfect at it. You’re just really, really fab at it, and you’re there to help others who need you.

To portray my own area of expertise, I strive to help my clients to understand the process of getting their creative businesses and products online. Launching an online shop isn’t the result of some magic spell, but a lot of hard work.

I break this hard work into manageable bite-sized chunks, creating and implementing an easy-to-follow process for launching and managing an online shop. It makes a big job quick and pretty easy, and I’m happy to guide my clients through it to give them a wonderful end result.

What challenges do your own clients struggle with – as creatives in biz for themselves?

Emily: I certainly believe that creative entrepreneurs have very unique challenges. Most of us are self-funding, have families (like, in the next room), and aren’t even usually educated in the field that our businesses are in.

I think the biggest ongoing challenge is both how to separate personal and business, but also how to blend them together to be a relatable face for our businesses.

We eat and sleep our businesses, as we’re completely invested, and we juggle that with taking care of our families and not becoming workaholic drones. Most of us can’t “leave the office” because our offices are where we live. It’s a balance I think we creatives deal with on a hugely different level than other small business owners.

And, as creatives, we’re also expected to share our personal lives as part of our business’s foundation. We’re battling the big box mindset by reminding our customers that they’re buying the people behind the business just as much as the products and services that we sell. It’s a massive thing to balance.

Is there an overlap between personal and business for you? Or do you keep it clearly divided?

Emily: I don’t think it’s possible to be a creative entrepreneur and not have overlap, especially if you work from home. I by no means try to separate them, because Indie Shopography is such a large part of who I am personally. I have, however, made a pretty clear set of rules that I’m very adamant about adhering to.

Things like no (or minimal) phone at the dinner table, absolutely no business emails or phone calls outside of business hours, and at least one day every weekend when I don’t even go into the studio. Not even to get a pen.

I do keep a notebook for brainstorming beside the bed, and I’ve been known to stop dead in the produce section to work through an idea in my head. But, it’s important to me that I don’t let my business completely take over my life. I have to use little things, like my rules, to make me turn my focus to my non-business parts of life. It’s worked pretty well thus far.

Advice for others just starting out like you? In other words, what would you tell yourself if you could go back to the start?

I’ve been a creative entrepreneur for 4 years, and a web designer for almost 3 of those. Looking back, if I were to give myself some advice, or impart some wisdom on others, it would be to take some time. Grow organically. Don’t fight your business’s evolution. I think too many try to fit into a mold not made for them, and it takes a bit to really flow into what you’re meant to be and do. So, go with it, don’t rush it, and do a happy dance when it starts to feel right. Because it’s when you feel it that you know you’re doing it right.

Are you a creative entrepreneur, like Emily, who enjoys location independence? Do you blur the lines between your personal life and business? Let us know on Facebook.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.



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