The internet is a brilliant resource for freelancers, helping them learn new skills and find inspiration. One freelancer and small business owner is using it for that exact purpose! Meet Nina Thomas, founder of the Nina Thomas Studio, proud wife, vintage lover and enthusiastic dog owner. She tells us her favourite go-to resources online and why she loves them so much.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
My name is Nina Thomas and I'm a stationery designer from Southport, a little seaside town which is a hop, skip and a jump from Liverpool. I spend my time designing wedding stationery and paper goods, settling into newly married life with my husband and looking after our six month old puppy, Lily.
What is your favourite thing to design and why?
I love designing anything and everything to do with weddings! My love affair began last year after I married my husband. I designed a few elements for our day and instantly fell in love with the design process and learning new skills (I'm self-taught with a helping hand from YouTube). Working creatively for myself has always been a dream of mine, and I felt this was the right path for me. Once we returned from our honeymoon, I set to work on making it happen.
If I had to choose my most favourite piece to design, it would have to be my invitations. I love the fact that my clients know exactly what they want and that we can work together to bring their idea to a reality, especially when it's for such a special occasion. Adding extra elements like additional information cards to an invitation suite makes every order completely unique.
What made you set up an Etsy store and what kind of hurdles have you faced?
I'd been shopping on there for years as it's always been a really lovely place to find handmade gifts or vintage pieces for our home. Whilst it didn't take long to see traffic coming to the store once I launched it, it's definitely been trial and error getting the listing content correct in such a competitive marketplace.
Etsy is a great platform but it’s also full of other sellers offering similar handmade products so you really have to find your niche, invest time in your product photography and refresh your store often to find a loyal client base.
How do you find time to balance creative work with advertising your business?
I’ve found websites such as Hootsuite really helpful as it allows you to schedule posts on social media platforms ahead of time, so spending an hour on this at the beginning of the week really helps organise my workload so that I can focus more on the fun bit—designing!
Tell us about your creative process
Inspiration can strike at any time; I could be walking on the beach with my puppy dog and we’ll come across wildflowers that would be a beautiful backdrop for a range, or I may decide to build a stationery suite around a fashion designer’s collection (my favourite being Jenny Packham, swoon!). I love that there are no limitations with weddings now; couples will inject their own personality into the styling for their day so it makes any random idea a possibility!
Your wedding stationery range leans towards the vintage market, what is it about this design style that you find so endearing and inspiring?
I’ve always been inspired by vintage, whether it be antiques, black and white films or retro clothing. I actually own a vintage typewriter which really jump-started my love of typography. While I appreciate the clean lines of modern design, I find charm in all things old and slightly tatty round the edges!
If you had a magic wand and could create the perfect job, what would it be?
It has taken me a while to find out what I wanted to do career-wise. I didn’t know what I wanted to be straight from school so the past ten years have definitely been a learning curve for me. I’m finally at a place where I can say that designing stationery and working for myself is the perfect job, without a doubt!
What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly?
I’m a huge fan of Rock My Wedding which is an incredible source of advice and inspiration. I’ve recently become part of their Approved Love Lust List which is really exciting and has brought many brides my way looking for stationery. Their sister blog, Rock My Style, is great for home ideas too. I’m also an avid reader of A Beautiful Mess and Designlovefest which both serve up design treats and advice for crafty types and small business owners. They actually run online workshops for small business owners, including tutorials for Photoshop and lots of photography tips.
Finally, where do you see yourself heading next?
I hope to learn new skills that complement my business, particularly the art of letterpress and calligraphy. As long as I can continue working with lovely people whilst doing a job that I love I’ll be a very happy lady!