Lori Reeves is a web designer from Jackson who primarily works through her own company, Unleashed Web Design. Recently a portion of a conversation we had with Lori was published in the Jackson Sun where she shared a little about her career trajectory along with her secret to staying both productive and satisfied in her work. Below is the interview in-full, which sees Lori expound on her own story and tell more about what's helped her along the way.
Describe your path to what you’re doing now. I worked for other people for a long time. And, I guess, nobody ever told me, “If you want to achieve something, then go try it.” I kind of always grew up thinking that you grow up, go to school, get a job, get an employer who will employ you, and they tell you what you’re worth and what you’re limited to. That’s basically how I started out my life. And then several years ago, after learning to live with discontentment in how things were panning out, I happened upon a book called The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. I guess the title intrigued me enough, so I purchased the book. The book really encouraged me to begin thinking that there was information out there that I could seek and find myself, and it really sparked me to start thinking creatively. At the time I was couponing avidly out of necessity. I was working part-time, hardly making any money, and our family was in a spot where we just needed to be really careful with our spending. So I started couponing, reading lots of blogs on strategy and approach, to the point where I started carrying a coupon binder to the store with me. People would ask about what I was doing and how they could learn a few tips, so I would stop and talk to them about all of the ins-and-outs of couponing. After several suggestions and probing, I decided to make a website telling about how I use coupons.
Interesting. Yeah, but I had no idea how to make a website. So I started simple with Blogger, and then quickly found that my tastes and attention to detail could not be accommodated within Blogger. After doing more research, everything was leading me to WordPress, so I moved in that direction and ran into a huge learning curve. I found myself learning HTML and CSS so that I could make my couponing blog look the exact way that I wanted it to look, and once I did that, I realized, ‘I really like making websites!’. Before, I didn’t realize I had the capacity to use code and build my own website, but after I read The Four Hour Work Week I decided that I was going to create a business. The first business I decided on, and the several other ideas that followed, were all horrible ideas. But I think that experience taught me that if there’s something that I want, then I can go out there and get it. I gained a lot of experience in learning how to set something up for myself, and before I knew it the entrepreneurial seed was planted. I felt like I had something to offer, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what that something was. After sifting through lots of useless online business courses and tutorials, I finally found a couple of people who were really helpful in the online business world, and I realized I too wanted to be someone who was truly helpful to people looking for it. Especially with women, as I was a new mom at the time, I wanted to be someone who could help people start things for themselves as I was trying to do.
Finally one day I realized, ‘I can make websites.’ And at that point, they were rudimentary; they weren’t full-blown custom designed. I knew enough about HTML and CSS to the point where I considered myself to be dangerous but not effective (laughing). I realized that if I were going to make money doing this, then I had to make real websites, so I took another course called “The Girl’s Guide to Web Design.” The program taught me how to take the basic principles and themes I was already familiar with to its fullest potential, and ever since then I’ve been building custom websites for people.
How has that experience been? I love it. I happened upon websites because I was doing couponing –which I also love– because it was a like a game to me. It was very cerebral and game-like because I had to problem-solve and learn how to fit different variables together like you would in solving a puzzle (except using HTML and CSS). Web design allows me to be both creative and analytical at the same time, and, for me, I haven’t found many other things that allow you to combine the two and excel.
Are there any websites or development companies that you particularly admire or look to for inspiration? I’m always looking at new things online and finding new ideas. I once read a book called Steal Like An Artist, and the author talked about taking little ideas and putting them in other books or whatever, and that’s what I kind of do. I’m constantly paying attention to the little details in other concepts I’ve never thought of before. But I don’t have one company in particular that I look to or especially admire because I fear that I will be like that, and I always wonder am I taking too much from what others have already done.
As a freelancer, what’s your key to staying consistent in your productivity? Loving what I do (laughing). I know for sure that if I was doing something that I didn’t love then I wouldn’t have the drive that I have. I also hold a high standard for myself and try to hold myself to excellence in all that I do, but I find that that’s easier to maintain in something that I enjoy doing. The key for me has been finding something that fulfills me and also can generate income, and honestly I found that through hardship because of where my family was financially. But I do think that it’s important to find things that you love and pour yourself into them, not because it can generate income for you, but solely for the fulfillment. Then it becomes easier to pay attention to what fulfills you so that you can see what other things are in alignment with that where you could see some potential for monetary gain. I don’t think you can fully understand the components of what fulfills you unless you’re truly pouring all of yourself into it.
You mentioned earlier your feeling the need to help people who were in similar positions as you were. Now that you’re at the point in your career that you’re in currently, do you still feel the need to contribute to something bigger than yourself? Absolutely. I want to be a speaker. I have not yet made that a reality, but I feel like I’m on the path toward that. I find myself longing to be in a position to uplift and encourage other people in what they’re doing – to provide a sense of hope. I want to help people believe in themselves, in a way they might not have ever fathomed they could.
Interview and transcription by Joseph Smith.