About this episode
In this episode, we'll talk about the advantages of being the designer and developer with a focus on open communication with clients plus how freelancing projects come in waves so don't be driven by fear in the down times.
Matthew Munger: Hey, Jenna, thank you for joining me today.
Jenna Burns: Hey Matt, it's lovely to be here. Thanks for having me.
Matthew Munger: Can we start off just by telling everyone a little bit about yourself and who you are.
Jenna Burns: So I'm Jenna and I'm an independent web designer and Webflow developer. I'm based in a tiny little seaside village called Pringle Bay in South Africa. I've been in the Webflow world for just over two years now.
Pringle Bay, South Africa
Matthew Munger: Can you tell us a little bit more about Pringle Bay? What is it like to live there?
Jenna Burns: It's incredible. So my husband and I moved out here in October last year and wanted to get away from sort of city life and the hustle and bustle we originally lived in, in Cape Town. Pringle Bay is about an hour and a half outside of Cape Town. It's super small. It's about one and a half thousand permanent residents. We live a kilometer from the beach, about 250 meters from the mountains. So we literally, we live in like a theater, basically, of mountains, a little village. We've got a couple restaurants and about three different sorts of grocery stores and beautiful beaches.
Matthew Munger: When you get out of the house, where do you like to go?
Jenna Burns: I love going to the beach, up and go to the beach. We've got two dogs, so I take them down to the beach for walks and try to swim at least two or three times a week, which is rather brave because it's pretty chilly in the water here. And get out onto the mountains. There's some beautiful trails. As of this year, I've started training for my first half marathon. So I've been getting out, doing a lot of running, which is incredible here because it's a lot quieter, obviously, than doing it in a city. I can just get out onto the mountains, run on the trails, jump onto the beach if I really wanna challenge myself on the sand.
Matthew Munger: The Indian Ocean down there is so beautiful. It's one of my favorite spots to go to. Can you kind of describe the ocean?
Jenna Burns: Ooh, the ocean at Pringle. Well, first, I think it's nominated as maybe the most scenic drive in the world. It's Clarence Drive, which goes from Gordon's Bay and then it takes you along into Overberg, which is the area that we live in.
On a really beautiful day, the water is just completely turquoise. So you've got the sea on one side, just huge mountains on the other. And it's a huge bay that you can then look across over to Cape Town from. Of course it's not tropical, so the water's cold. It might look warm, but we often have some seals frolicking around. We've got sea otters. We've got some whales during whale season. No great whites as of yet.
Matthew Munger: No, those are on the other side of CapeTown.
Jenna Burns: Those tend to stick to Cape Town's side. But we get some dolphins, and so yeah, we are pretty lucky with the sea life that we get around here.
Matthew Munger: Just watch out for the box jellyfish.
Jenna Burns: Yeah. There, there are some terrible jellyfish. But to be fair, like there's also– not too long ago, there was a seal attack in Clifton, in Cape Town, which you would never think, because you look at seals and you think they're cute. And this little seal just went after someone. So now I definitely second guess myself when I see one in the waves over here now.
The main reason we actually moved out here was just to have a slower pace of life and try to step away from feeling obligated to always be doing something and always seeing people. I mean, we love our friends, we love our family, and we love hanging out with each other, but the opportunity to step away from constantly moving and constantly feeling like you need to socially be around people. So for us living here, we actually really enjoy downtime and just like hanging out in our garden and cooking a little bit more.
There's a lot to do around here. There's some beautiful wine estates not too far away in the Hemel En Aarde Valley, which is towards, or in Hermanus for those that don't know the area. So we do have incredible options if we do wanna go out, but it's mostly about just being outside of nature and trying to be outdoors as much as we can.
Matthew Munger: What is your workspace like there? Is your desk where you normally work? What does it look like?
Jenna Burns: When I was listening to the other podcasts and like people explaining their workspace, I just– My workspace is a little bit lackluster at the moment. I recently moved into a new house, so I feel like what maybe should have been a priority and like zhuzhing up my office space and getting it like into that really, you know, inspirational space you want step into in the morning, I think I've kind of put it a bit on the back burner.
While in its simplicity, it is still beautiful. So where I'm sitting now, I've got a window to my left that has a view of a mountain and then a little view of the ocean and the distance. There are a couple houses in the way. Currently, I have a yoga mat on the floor next to me, so I've been trying to stretch a lot more with the running that I've been doing. And then I have my granny's chair in the corner that was reupholstered when we moved into our spots. So that's kind of a quite a special item that I've got. And then I have a desk with not much on it.
Matthew Munger: It's minimal at the moment. It's a blank canvas for you to work.
Jenna Burns: Yes, it definitely is. There's a lot of potential. It's just that I haven't got there yet.
Matthew Munger: You mentioned you had the yoga mat, so I'm curious, do you take breaks to get away from the computer and do some stretching like in the middle of the day?
Jenna Burns: Yes, so I try to stretch as much as possible. I'm sure everyone can relate that sitting for hours on end at your laptop can be extremely difficult on your back.
I think just having the mat there next to me, although it does tend to turn into a little dog yoga mat throughout the day when my dogs find it as a very comfortable spot. But it serves as a reminder that at least I need to move my body as often as I can.
Matthew Munger: It's nice that, if it's kind of in your vision, give it that reminder. And of course your doggies doing down dog on the yoga mat, it's only appropriate, right?
Jenna Burns: Yeah. Peer inspiration.
Matthew Munger: Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you like to do?
Jenna Burns: One of my biggest hobbies now that I spoke about is running, but outside of that, I love cooking, I enjoy being in the kitchen. Now that we've got a lovely garden, I enjoy being out in the garden. I've got some tomatoes growing in, a bit of herb, so I try to tend to that as much as I can.
I've always found this question kind of difficult because I never know what falls into hobbies. I've never found myself being like an extreme hobbyist.
Matthew Munger: If I get that question, I'm like, “Do I have time for a hobby?” Like, I don't know, you know? I've got some little like knick knacks and things around me that I'll mess with sometimes. But, yeah.
The half marathon that you said you're preparing for, what marathon is that and where is it?
Jenna Burns: In Hermanus, well, starting in the Hemel en Aarde valley. So it starts at a wine farm called Ataraxia, and then, you're running down the valley and then across into Hermanus and ending at the Cricket club. And I'm turning 30 in April, so it was kind of like, this is a really healthy 30th birthday gift to myself.
Matthew Munger: It's a healthy celebration.
Jenna Burns: Yeah. I mean yeah, if there was ever a moment to try and achieve it, I felt like this was the year, and I'm pretty stoked that I've at least committed to it.
I feel like the thirties people always talk about that being the year that's sort of, I don't know, this is generalizing, but like that sort of defines your health, and that that's when your body starts to deteriorate a little bit and like things get a bit harder.
I know that it sounds very early. I mean, 30 is still really young, but there's no better time to do it as early as you can. So I would like to try and be more on top of it now before the body starts conking too much. Without sounding too dramatic.
Matthew Munger: Absolutely. But yeah, the earlier you can kind of find those things that help you maintain physical health– We don't all need to be bodybuilders. I guess physical interests, you know, that keep you motivated and keep you going, keep you showing up week after week, year after year.
Matthew Munger: What is something that would surprise people to learn about you?
Jenna Burns: Oh gosh. I took a sabbatical from work back in 2019 and I went and worked the wine harvest in Napa Valley.
Yeah, I worked at a winery. Just I love wine, I love drinking wine. And really wanted a break from being at the desk, being at my laptop, doing something a lot more physical, then I ended up going on a Tinder date with a winemaker from Napa Valley. And it kind of just triggered everything for me and like getting everything into motion. And just, I think three months later, I was accepted to a wine farm called Round Pond and ended up going to Napa for six months to make wine.
I'd never been to Napa or to California or to that coast. So, the way it sort of worked out was I was working at a travel company or an experience company that focused on wine. I didn't wanna leave my job. I wanted something I could come back to. And so I needed to find something that would broaden my experience within wine and still be relevant to my existing job, which is why I did that.
But it was definitely, I think the moment that I realized I would love to have more freedom of being in my own space, stepping outside when I can, and not being cooped inside all day. And funnily enough, then when I came back and Covid happened, it kind of all just collided and made sense that that's what we wanted and that's the lifestyle that we wanted. I feel like that was all born in Napa.
Matthew Munger: Lifestyle, you have a choice there, right? And you have to decide what is the life you want to have. You have to make those kinds of decisions or they'll just happen for you. They'll get made for you, right?
Matthew Munger: So where you have those opportunities, go after those things, which kind of transitions us into the next question, which is what is your role? What is it that you do every day and how would you describe it?
Jenna Burns: Like I mentioned before, I'm an independent web designer, Webflow developer. I go under the name Holy Moly Creative Studio, which can be a bit misleading because it is just me. I'm a one woman show. I've often now debated with that name on whether it was the right move or not. And to be honest, I think I just went with Creative Studio because it was the domain that was available at the time. I didn't know where this adventure was taking me, like going out on my own.
But anyways, so I'm a one woman show, but I go under Holy Moly. What I do is I work with clients across the world, mostly in the US, and I either do both design and development. I've also had times where I've only worked on development and times when I've only worked on web design, but the sweet spot is when I get to do both. You really get to understand the clients and their business and their goals and immerse yourself in it completely. And at the end of the day, hopefully produce something that is beautiful for them and everything that they imagine it to do.
Matthew Munger: Being the designer and the developer, how do you think that improves the process for the client, but also for you as being the creative behind it, but also then developing?
Jenna Burns: I think from my experience, it’s always been lovely for a client to have one touchpoint in terms of communication. We form a relationship and it's generally quite a close one because it's me and the client or me and a couple of people from a marketing team, and it's us throughout the project. Then from the design and development side of things, when you're doing the design and you have the understanding of the development, I mean they both live together and in incredible ways. But when you can understand how it may be able to be developed later on, it broadens your design a little bit because you know what you're capable of. Or at the same time, you might design something that you've never developed before and you know that you're challenging yourself.
Matthew Munger: So that's interesting. So as when you're doing the design, you can actually make intentional choices. Like, “I know this is going to push me as a developer, but I want to take that on.”
Jenna Burns: Yeah.
Matthew Munger: What motivates you about doing this work and with clients?
Jenna Burns: One of the biggest motivators is really just working towards creating something that the client is dreaming of once, and exceeding that expectation, actually. Because, of course, my goal is to always go above and beyond that and really surprise them and delight them with what they have in the end.
Matthew Munger: Is that the reason for the name Holy Moly?
Jenna Burns: Yeah.
Matthew Munger: That's what you want your clients to say.
Jenna Burns: Mm-hmm. So it was always like behind it was the holy moly factor. I always want someone to see that first design and go, you know, “Holy moly, that's incredible!” It's an exclamation, it's a wow. It's the wow factor.
Matthew Munger: Do you have any advice on how you work towards that moment with a client?
Jenna Burns: I suppose, you know, you could say it's really trying to nail the design or really trying to nail the development, but I think it comes down more to the relationship that you have with them, and making sure that you have a very open channel and connection, and you're great with feedback and always responsive.
Matthew Munger: Yeah, it's not just about delivering the project, it's about managing the relationship and really understanding who they are. This is our essence. This is our purpose.
Matthew Munger: What is a resource that you think more people in the community should know about?
Jenna Burns: The first thing that popped in my head was Twitter. Obviously there's a lot of people on Twitter, but there are a lot that aren't. I've spoken to a handful of those, you know, I had a few local designers, developers reach out to me just curious about my journey and how I've got to where I am.
And I would say, you know, “Have you joined the community on Twitter?” And they had no clue it was even a thing. It's something I would rave about and praise all the time, and I think that's the number one thing that I would always go back to and make sure that they're a part of.
Matthew Munger: How do you think is a good way to kind of reach out and really start interacting with the community?
Jenna Burns: I think it's just being out there, you know, showing your work. This is something that so many people speak about is promoting your own work and then just interacting with those that you feel inspired by. I mean, there really are so many incredible people out there that work on Webflow, and it doesn't take long to find them. More often than not, everyone that I've reached out to, or I've had a couple people reach out to me there, are more than willing to dedicate an hour of their day just to chat and get to know each other.
Matthew Munger: Reach out folks on Twitter, and it's the resource of resources, if you will.
Matthew Munger: Who is someone in the community that inspires you?
Jenna Burns: She is not a hidden gem, and I know so many people shout her name, but Grace is obviously up there. Yeah, I feel like I can relate to her on a couple of levels. Obviously she does what I do and I love the work that she does.
Matthew Munger: Grace Walker. Yep.
Jenna Burns: Yes.
Matthew Munger: What Is some advice that you would like to share with others in the community?
Jenna Burns: Some advice that I would share with others: So the past month and a bit has been quite challenging for me. I decided to take November and December off. I was getting married. My brother was coming down from Taiwan with his family, and it just felt like there was a lot going on that I couldn't commit to a client project.
So I decided, “You know what? You deserve a break.” I had had a really good year and gracefully bowed out for the two months and I thought, “I'm gonna come in part in the new year.” And, I did. I was ready for the new year. I came in and had a couple of existing client work lined up, but no new clients.
I don't know why, but I just kind of thought to November, you know, “It's gonna happen. I'm gonna get the leads and I'll solidify some clients for January.” Well, I didn't, so when I came to my desk in January, it was okay. I was keeping myself busy. I was busy designing and developing a Webflow template, and I had a couple of other bits and bobs going on, but no new clients.
And the month passed on and nothing was happening. And then eventually I decided to just tweet that I was open to working with more studios or agencies throughout the year. And I would love to collaborate a lot more. Through that, I actually got a couple of referrals. Then there was, I don't know, there was one week where suddenly I just got an influx of leads and I started to book in a couple of things and everything just started to fall into place.
But there was a time when I felt really sort of down and just was, you know, those moments when you think, “Can I really do this?” And my advice is that you can, and things will work the way that they're meant to. Definitely there are gonna be some hard times, but you kind of need to just push through those hard times and know that it will eventually fall into pace and work out. You need to continue to continue, you know, you need to carry on. And when you do that, things will happen and you'll succeed.
Matthew Munger: How do you feel now having gone through that, that period now being on the other side, looking back?
Jenna Burns: I still find it a bit– terrifying sounds kind of extreme because I don't find what I do terrifying. But the reality is that I'm in charge of my own destiny with what I've chosen to do now, you know, going out as a freelancer, and the onus falls on me to find work and to produce work.
I think it never leaves you. I dunno, as a freelancer, does that bit of fear ever leave you, that you aren't gonna find work? I don't think it does. I really hope it does at some point, but I think it always lingers behind the curtains in the background.
But it was definitely a reminder of what I'm worth and what I'm capable of, and to actually also enjoy the quiet times because it's not always gonna be like that. And there's gonna be times when you're struggling to find a moment to breathe and take it as an opportunity to work on personal projects and amp your skills a little bit more and just be.
Matthew Munger: Yeah, the Freelancer journey. It kind of, it ebbs and flows.
Jenna Burns: Yeah, it definitely does.
Matthew Munger: You don't need to panic, but you do need to carry on, you need to push on. And too often as a freelancer, speaking from my own experience, you know, it's easy to just feel that weight and kind of feel like it's all on you. And, just letting people know, “Hey, I'm available,” you'll be surprised. The community's very supportive and things will start opening up.
Jenna Burns: Yeah.
Matthew Munger: All right, Jenna, if anyone in the community wants to reach out and connect with you, how can they do that?
Jenna Burns: So I'm mostly active on Twitter and my handle is holymolycs as in Creative Studio. I do have Instagram, but I don't really use it all too often. So Twitter is my number one spot.