Laura Coulter (aka Daylite Designs) was one of 99designs’ earliest adopters and has worked full-time on the platform for more than a decade. As a versatile graphic designer and stay-at-home mom, working online from her home office has given her the flexibility to raise and homeschool her seven children—while still embracing her passions professionally.

Over the years, Daylite Designs has built a steady roster of loyal clients, often taking on new work thanks to their referrals. While she doesn’t spend as much time on contests now (this year was a personal best, thanks to an increase in direct work), she credits those early years for giving her the freedom to experiment with different projects and styles to find her creative voice.

We spoke with Daylite Designs about how she manages her busy schedule, her tips for prioritizing family while keeping clients happy, and her advice for maintaining long-lasting working relationships through it all.

Name: Laura Coulter
99designs handle: Daylite Designs
Location: United States
Specialty: Branding

Can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from?

Well, first and foremost, I’m a mom of seven wonderful kids. Ages 22 down to 5—and fixing to be a grandmother!

My family and I have lived in Joplin, Missouri, for about 12 years, but before that my husband and I lived in Texas. We met there in college. However, I was born and raised a ‘Bama girl.

What prompted you to go freelance?

Well, a lot of things. The biggest reason was that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I freelanced as a counselor online before I started to design. Now I can’t imagine working outside the home. The flexible hours let me homeschool my kids, which is very important to me. I want them to have an applied education at home rather than a set curriculum at a public school.

I started freelancing to earn an income and be at home with my kids. I continue to freelance because I love design and seeing my work out in the world.

Do you have any advice for freelancers who also work and parent at home?

The best advice I can give is schedules! I know its hard with little ones, but scheduling is everything. When I first started full-time freelancing on 99designs, I had three little ones ages 7, 5 and 3. It was hard, to say the least.

Laura is serious about her workspace and equipment. Here’s a glimpse of her work station (remodel in progress). 
She has two high-end custom computers set up to work using the same mouse and keyboard. Her 4th screen is a 4k projector for entertaining the kids when they visit her in the office.

At first, I would work while they were eating or doing an activity like watching TV. I pretty much worked a few minutes here and there throughout the day answering any questions clients had and taking note of what I needed to work on later. Then, after the kids went to bed (at 7pm exactly), I would work late into the night.

As the years went by and I had more children, something wonderful happened. My older kids became big enough to help supervise the younger ones, so I was able to work more.

Since I homeschool my children, our schedule revolves around their school and my work. While they are busy with school (an online academy), I can work. I take a break for lunch and continue working from 1:30 to 5 pm.

It sounds like things can get pretty busy! Do you have any tricks for maintaining a manageable work/life balance?

I do not work past 5pm or on weekends, because that is my family time. It also keeps me from feeling overworked and burning out. My creativity is always improved by Monday because of the break.

So, bottom line: find a schedule that fits you and your family. It will be hectic finding that perfect rhythm, but it’s worth it in the end.

Find a schedule that fits you and your family. It will be hectic finding that perfect rhythm, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Daylite Designs
You’ve been with 99designs since the very beginning. How has the platform helped shape your professional career?

Sitepoint was where I first dipped my toes into design—at least for money. I had done web design in the early ’00s, but it was free stuff for myself and my friends. When 99designs opened, I hadn’t done any kind of design work for months. I went to register only to find out I already had an account that had been ported over from Sitepoint.

From there I entered my first series of contests and won! I couldn’t believe it… I was making money creating art. After a year of working contests, I really buckled down and made it my full time “job”. If I wasn’t working on a contest, I was doing tutorials. If I wasn’t doing that, I was marketing myself. Freelancing and marketing became a full-time job for a while.

Over the years, I have picked up many clients from 99designs. Many I work with repeatedly. As I built my portfolio and word of my work spread, I started picking up new clients who were referred to me by my 99designs clients. I now work contracted to a few small companies, but remain faithful and loyal to 99designs.

Last year was my personal best. I didn’t work in many contests, but my 1-to-1 Projects were off the charts.

Besides building out your client network, have there been any other benefits to working on 99designs over the past decade?

99designs gave me the opportunity to find my real field of interest: brand development. I have done everything from logo design and product packaging to app icons and web design. I’m better in some areas than others, but because of the vast number of contests, I was able to test the waters and learn as I worked.

If you look at my portfolio, I’m very eclectic in both the projects I work on and the styles that I produce. This is because of 99designs. If I had been working on my own, I’m sure I would be like many other freelancers where all their projects look like carbon copies of their previous project. No room for real growth.

mack and mercie logo
Logo for Mack and Mercie
Are there any projects that are especially memorable?

I have one client who I think of immediately. Not only was she my very first contest win, but I have gone on to help her develop her brand, Mack and Mercie.

I still work with her to this day. I started out by creating a logo for her eBay store and then helped her expand her own product line.

If you could give clients any advice, what would it be?
  1. Be reasonable. If you are vague in your responses, you are not helping us help you. If you don’t like something, tell us why you don’t like it. If you do like something, let us know why you do!
  2. Value our time. We understand that your project is important, but so are all of our other clients’ projects. If you have a rush job, then you need to make it just as important to us as it is to you (yes, that means more money). Also, keep in mind that working exclusively on a project does not mean we are working 24 hours a day. We have set hours for working like any other job.
  3. Remember that we know what we’re doing. After all, that is why you hired us! When we send you a concept proposal, we know that we need to polish things up. But first, we need some feedback and direction. It’s also helpful to send all changes and requests at one time.

I started freelancing to earn an income and be at home with my kids. I continue to freelance because I love design and seeing my work out in the world.
- Daylite Designs
Do you have any advice for designers looking to break into the industry?
  1. Value yourself, your time and your work.
  2. Be respectful. Clients might not know the “rules” or how to ask for what they want. We must teach them. No need to be indignant if they use the wrong wording.
  3. Be patient. Sometimes you will get a client that wants things done two days ago and other times you will get someone who needs a week to answer a question. Just go with it, don’t rush. It’s a “hurry up and wait” game often, so embrace it and fill your free time with something else.
  4. Don’t be a pushover. Sounds easy… but sometimes it’s not. If you say you will do 3 concepts, don’t give your client 6 just because they asked for more and you have free time. You should always be paid for your time. If you don’t work weekends, then don’t agree to a deadline on Mondays or Fridays. And finally, never be afraid to tell a client no. If something is outside your scope, capability or ethics then don’t do it! It’s OK to say no.
Do you have any tips for better client/designer collaboration?

A word to both clients and designers alike: it’s a relationship. And just like any other relationship, you must communicate. If you don’t understand something, then ask. Most importantly, treat each other with the respect you each deserve.

And finally, what inspires you?

Everything! I know that sounds silly, but it does. I can be stuck on a project for days and take a step back and go for a walk, play with my kids or watch a movie and next thing I know I’m back in the game.

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