Tag Archives: DIY

How to create your dream job

14 Mar

Catharina Bruns of workisnotajob. won’t let you hate your work

By Amy Schroeder

Catharina Bruns creates print and screen designs, logos, illustrations, and brand identities for a living.

But with the moniker workisnotajob., her company is more than just a design studio—it’s a movement inspiring people to live a creative life and fall in love with their work. With her inspirational shirts, posters, and other cool products, workisnotajob. aims to ignite a paradigm shift in how people approach “work” so that they’re not just reporting to a “day job,” but, rather, contributing their skill sets and passions to the world.

After graduating from Universität Hamburg, Bruns moved to Canada, Austria, and Ireland, working in search marketing and visual design for other companies. “I was chasing the one career that would let me contribute and allow me to create something meaningful,” she says.

“But then I came to terms with the fact that everything that was expected from me in my nine-to-five did not make me happy,” Bruns says. After two years of working for a large Internet company, she resigned in August 2010 to start workisnotajob., and she never looked back.

“I had to learn that you must create dream jobs yourself, because no one else knows what you dream of,” Bruns says.

So how, exactly, do you create a dream job?

“It’s rather simple if you love what you do—you’ll never see it as a job; it’s your lifestyle,” the Hamburg, Germany-based Bruns says. “Do the work you are born to do.”

DIYBA: How did you come up with the concept of workisnotajob.?

Catharina Bruns: My former job looked great on the outside, but there was little self-fulfillment on the inside. When I think about it now, I always lived by that concept but looked in the wrong place, and that’s why I was always unsatisfied with my “career.” It’s that thing people have who are unhappy in their jobs not because of what they take from them, but because the jobs don’t offer the opportunity to give any of what really lives inside of you. Soon your job doesn’t matter enough, and you feel you can’t contribute in the right way.

What are your tips for loving your work?

1.     Work. Find something you love and work on that. Live your art, feed your heart.

2.     Be yourself. To be your most authentic and inspiring self, all you need to do is do it your way.

3.     Make time to explore and play. This is crucial to the creative process.

4.     Conquer convention. Be flexible and willing to think new thoughts. You can reinvent yourself and how things are done anytime.

5.     Have fun. Enjoy yourself and trust the process.


What is the best laptop for small businesses?

14 Feb

The DIY Business Association’s first product review: Thumbs-up to the Dell V130

By Amy Schroeder

How many laptops does one person need?

Considering that I work from home, in a small-ish, closet-challenged Brooklyn apartment, the answer is probably one.

But I have two.

Though I nostalgically tend to hang onto things until they go out of style, I’ve been itching to shed a layer of laptop.

Enter Perfect-Timing Experience.

A Dell rep invited the DIY Business Association to test-drive a Dell Vostro V130—because the lightweight laptop is targeted to entrepreneurs and bloggers on the go.

“Of course,” I said. “What’s the catch?” When the Chicago-based rep explained that there is no catch and that all I needed to do was sign something saying that I would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I said, “I’m in!”

Cool Dell Lady over-nighted the computer, and I spent two weeks working on it from home, in coffee shops, and on the subway (my most focused writing environment). I’ll give scoop in just a second, but first…

Why I have two laptops…

My Mac iBook G4: When I published Venus Zine, I invested in a Mac-PC hybrid network of desktop computers, scanners, printers, backup systems, etc. In an attempt to avoid workaholic tendencies, I did the no-computer-at-home thing for a year, but I eventually gave in and bought a Mac iBook G4 for about $1,200. I loaded her up with about a thousand CDs, Adobe Creative Suite, and Office for Mac. Now the iBook is too slow to use for the Internet, but it serves its purpose for transferring music to my iPod and doing basic Photoshop stuff. I think of it as my external hard drive.

My Toshiba Satellite L505D-S5965: In 2009-2010, I worked as the site manager of inkpop.com, then a HarperTeen start-up project that’s kinda like American Idol for aspiring teen novelists. I worked from home during the site’s developmental stages, and the project’s alpha process required a PC (no Macs allowed!). I’m no longer working on inkpop.com, but I still use the Toshiba for the Internet, Word, and Excel. Because it’s slow, heavy and clunky, and likes to freeze, I think of it as my “cheap computer” (pricetag: $450) and e-mail machine. I can’t wait to retire it.

The Dell Vostro V130 with my personal assistant, Janis Joplin.

Dell Vostro V130 Review

So, what is the best laptop for creative entrepreneurs?

That is an excellent question that I don’t have a thoroughly researched answer to. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to engage in a serious laptop-off, save for a Netbook (perfect petite size and cheap price tag at $350-$450, but too slow for my info-processing needs) and the MacBook and MacBook Air (lovely and amazing, but too pricey with a starting price of $999), but I will continue to cruise more laptops, and I’ll give you an answer once I’ve figured it out.

Here’s what I can tell you: At 3.5 pounds, the Dell Vostro V130 is lightweight and sturdy with its metal case and sleek design. As for tech-y details, the Dell Vostro V130 rocks an Intel Core i3 380UM 1.33Hz processor (Core i5 processor is optional); Intel HM57 chipset; 4GB DDR3 RAM; 320GB hard disk.

In a nutshell, if you’re anything like me—I’m a writer, startup coach, and creative entrepreneur (i.e., I didn’t go to business school, and numbers are not my friend)—who’s often online and gathering and transferring a lot of information, the V130 is great, with a semi-investment price of about $900. My only criticism (other than that I prefer the Mac operating system to PCs’) is that the battery life could stand to be longer. 

So what’s my plan? I think I’m going to ditch the Toshiba and buy a Vostro V130. I’m going to keep the iBook for now for, you know, back-up.

Amy Schroeder, founder of the DIY Business Association, is one of those people who’s initially a bit intimidated about the latest technology, but once she gets into it, she really gets into it.

Tour d’Etsy

6 Aug

By Amy Schroeder

Etsy may be the happiest place to work in the world—at least that’s the vibe I got during a quick tour of the headquarters in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Shortly before I joined a crew of awesome DIY blogging experts for Etsy Success: Crafty Blogging on August 5, we checked out the wide-open loft space…  

Etsy Craft Lab welcomes you to craft your brains out.

Lab with a view: The Manhattan Bridge is just outside the Etsy office in DUMBO, Brooklyn.


Because Etsy employees work in a large open loft space with little privacy, they're welcome to make private phone calls here.

DJ Awesome (sorry, not sure what his real name is.)

Not sure what this is, but the DIY Business Association likes it.

How to transition your business

27 Jul

Does your company need a makeover? Compai creative genius Justina Blakeney gives advice on giving your business a facelift (not that it doesn’t look good already). 

By Amy Schroeder

If constant flux is the key to entrepreneurial success, the owners of Compai are sure to hit jackpot.

Sisters Justina and Faith Blakeney are smack-dab in the middle of expanding their small clothing line into a full-on creative consultancy. It’s a logical next step for the company that’s evolved fourfold since it started as a recycled-clothing boutique in Florence, Italy, in 2001.

In the last nine years, both Blakeneys have produced hordes of creative eye candy, from wearable art to magazine pages to a book series (including 99 Ways to Cut, Sew & Deck Out Your Denim), sometimes under the Compai moniker and sometimes under different business names or their own names. Justina formerly moonlighted as a graphic designer, and Faith worked on interiors and styling. The Compai brand overhaul is all about simplification—the Blakeneys now house their services under one Compai umbrella, with three divisions: consulting, craft, and style.

“Since we had already spent years building up the brand and clients, it made sense to put everything under one roof,” says Justina, who lives in Los Angeles. “I run the creative services division, my sister runs Compai Style, and we do Compai Craft together. We are working toward a common goal but are able to keep things autonomous.”

So what exactly does a creative consultancy do? In short, Compai helps people with their creative needs. For example, one day Justina might help a client brainstorm a new brand identity, and the next, she’ll art-direct a photo shoot. “I help clients make everything look cool—sometimes people just need to talk an idea out. Maybe they want to know what blogs to advertise on, how to put together a look-book, or how to get a coffee-table book published.”

Here, Justina Blakeney shares her jill-of-all-trades advice on how to transition a business.


First things first, think about the money side of things. Sure, it’s fun to get wrapped up in the details of, say, rebranding, launching an online shop, or landing new clients, but what’s the point of making over your business if you don’t reap financial rewards?

Before pulling the transition trigger, figure out how much you need to spend and how much you need to earn in order to break even and/or break a profit. Then, compare your transition plan to your current plan, and mull it over.

For Compai, the biggest challenge was deciding how to bill clients in order to cover costs. With the “old” Compai, the Blakeney sisters focused on earning income for themselves, but the new Compai has additional overhead costs, such as an assistant, a studio space, and other bills.

“It’s been tough to know how to calculate our rates,” Blakeney says. “I ask a lot of questions and am kind of fearless about asking for help when I need to get through rough spots.”

Most importantly, don’t undersell yourself. “It’s easy to lower your rates and give discounts. It’s harder to raise rates,” she says.


Don’t pull any fast and funny moves. “Let your clients and viewers know all along the way what’s going on, so it doesn’t seem like a shock,” Justina says.


Think about some of the world’s most successful brands—say, Apple, Coca-Cola, and Target. The look and feel of their brands, logos, and colors are used consistently, whether they’re online, on TV, or in print.

“Make everything look alike online and in print to smooth out the transition,” Blakeney advises.


Blakeney recommends talking to a business guru to make sure that all the bases are covered on the legal and tax ends of the spectrum. Compai worked with SCORE, a source of free small-business advice for entrepreneurs around the U.S.


The Blakeney sisters recruited interns to help with Compai’s transition. “There’s nothing like fresh blood to keep things running smoothly,” Blakeney says. (Note: The Independent Business Association blog will share advice on intern recruiting soon, pinky-swear.)


Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t fear change. So, why not start where you are?

Read the Compai blog at www.compaiblog.com.


What are your tips for transitioning a business? Post your comments below.