Hello 2016!

Hello 2016-01

Happy new years, friends!

I wanted to start this post off with a big THANK YOU to all of my readers, clients, supporters, friends and family. This year would not have been so amazing and fulfilling without you! Here are a few things that made this year so great:


  •  In September, I made the leap to focusing on freelance design and quit my 9-5 job. This was a goal of mine for a long time and I had waited around for the ideal time for too long. I’m so glad I took the chance and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Check out this blog article I wrote about my first two weeks as a freelancer: 5 Things I learned in my First 2 Weeks as a Freelancer
  • I visited New York City for the first time as an adult, and got to visit the shop of one of my favorite artists: The Cotton Candy Machine. I did yoga in Central Park, attended a Freelancers Union Spark event in Manhatten, and explored Chinatown and Little Italy.

Goals for 2016:

  • Attend more creative events, locally and all over the country!
  • Travel more
  • Work with clients who share my vision
  • Connect with other local bloggers
  • Launch my side project (Which is a secret for now!)

I’m super excited to see what 2016 will bring, I hope that we can work together to make it amazing for everyone!

5 Things I Learned in my First 2 Weeks of Freelancing

5 Freelance Things-01

Hello friends! I recently made a huge career and lifestyle decision: I quit my cozy 9-5 office job as an in-house graphic designer. Full time freelancing is something I have dreamed of for many years, and I finally built up the courage to take the jump into focusing on freelance! I thought I might make a post about my first few weeks and what I have learned so far.


1. When motivation is running low… Get out of the house!

I am very fortunate to have a sister who also owns her own small business, and has an extra desk in her home office. Several times a week I trek out to her house with my laptop and we’ll spend the day working side by side. My own home office can get a little old after a few days, and bringing my work elsewhere almost tricks my body into feeling like I’m ‘going to work’. After a year and  a half in an office job, sitting at the same desk and seeing the same people, bringing a bit of variety to my work space is a much welcomed change! Next we are meeting at a coffee shop on my side of town to change things up for both of us!


2. Nothing beats some good ol’ fashioned local networking!

Before ditching my 9-5, I made little time for networking and meeting other creatives in my city. Now that I have much more time to devote to scouting out my local network, I am able to attend events of all types here in Madison. After attending just one Freelacer’s Union event, I have met some really inspiring freelancers who have begun to introduce me to the freelancing / small business scene. I am even working with some of them to help promote future Freelancer’s Union events!

3. Having more than enough time to myself means I no longer feel guilty doing things just for me.

When I was devoting 40 hours of every week to a job that didn’t particularly thrill me, the rest of my time that was left over felt SO. FREAKIN’. PRECIOUS. After allotting time for my commute, making food, grocery shopping, errand running, working on side projects, and (who would have thought!?) having a semblance of a social life, I felt selfish for certain personal health practices.  Making time for meditation and yoga? Good luck clearing your head when you’ve only got 20 minutes! Taking the time to have a relaxing bath or even just cuddle my cat? No way, that’s taking away from precious sleep time. Now that I decide when I work and how much I work (and have abandoned the notion that I need to work exactly 40 hours to feel ‘successful’) my time actually feels much more valuable, whether I’m working on a logo gig or spending 5 minutes in tree pose.

4. Using the buddy system is a great way to get things done!

Having a business buddy to bounce ideas off of is a great way to hold yourself accountable for the things on your to do list. Keeping each other in check with your entrepreneurial priorities and staying focused is mutually beneficial, and can help stave off some new solopreneur loneliness. Working with those who have similar business goals or a similar mission can offer great insight into aspects of running a business that you may have over looked. Not to mention that finding your tribe of like minded people does amazing things for all aspects of your life, not just your business! Don’t have any freelancer friends? Many cities have meet ups of varying sizes for just this type of thing! A quick search on meetup.com may assist you!

5. I spent too much time waiting around for the RIGHT moment to take the jump.

Was I financially, emotionally and mentally ready to make the jump to freelance? Did I have x amount of money saved up before hand? Did I have just the right amount of projects pre-lined up? You bet your butt I didn’t. Now, I didn’t close my eyes and make a running start before canon-balling right into the freelance-o-sphere, I had been designing on the side for over a year. I do consider myself to be quite the risk taker, and even though I was filled with nerves and (gasp!) some self doubt, I knew that this was going to be one of the best decisions I ever made for my business. In fact, I actually made my decision to focus more on freelance during a particularly hectic and emotional time in my life. I found myself fed up with the excuses I was making about why I needed to stick with the 9-5 that was no longer serving me emotionally and creatively. Even though I made this jump in the midst of a personal upheaval, all of the positive aspects of my new lifestyle have really brought home how badly I needed to make this change. Not only for my business, but for my own personal gains.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first few weeks as a freelance designer! Each freelancer’s journey will be different, so I don’t consider my route to be viewed as a guideline. I am still figuring things out for myself (and probably will be for quite some time…) but I would love to hear from my readers about their own freelancing experiences! Do you love it? What are you struggling with? What can I write about next time to benefit my fellow soloprenuers?

Letting Intuition Take the Reigns

The universe has ways of telling you that you’re on the right path, your true path. Learning to recognize the messages that are sent to you will not only help you appreciate when you receive them, but also to notice when you DON’T get them. Listening to your intuition, your gut feeling, and acting on it, will propel you towards your true path. This is something I learned at a young age, thanks to my mother who always told my to trust my intuition. There have been times when going against my intuition leads to pain or suffering, so I’ve learned to listen closely.

Story time:
I recently made a huge decision not to pursue a long distance move to San Diego that I had been planning for six months. I’ve moved long distances before, and was really excited to start a whole new chapter of my life in a brand new area. I had fallen in love with San Diego after vacationing there in late 2014, and was convinced that it would be my next stop in my life’s journey.

After visiting again and seeing the city from a different perspective (i.e. not through the eyes of a tourist), I began to really feel deep on my heart that it was not the right place for me.  It was not easy to succumb to the idea that maybe I shouldn’t follow through with my plans… Once I began to come around to listening to my intuition, I began the process of letting go, letting go of my plans and the image I’d created in my head of what I thought this move would bring to my life.

While it was difficult, even quite painful, to essentially pull the rug out from under myself, I knew in my heart and in my gut that it was the right thing to do. And then whole new set of challenges sprang up in front of me: the “Now what?”. By this point in my life, I have discovered that I work extremely well when I have a set goal in mind, a plan that will be going into action. Except, when happens when all of that comes to an abrupt end? You start over. Scrap you plans and all of you previous ideas. Re-asses your goals, your priorities, your desires. And once I did that, once I set my new intention, everything else seemed to fall right into place. Pretty much out of nowhere, too! I had been asking my friends and family to reassure me that I was doing the right thing when I chose not to move, which of course they did. But I also received that reassurance from the universe, when several amazing opportunities came my way.

These opportunities turned up within a week of my return from San Diego, one right after the other! And most important: it all felt RIGHT. It all felt like part of my true path, the path that I have worked so hard to figure out. In hindsight, I’m beginning to realize that forcing my life towards what I think is my true path is actually pushing me further from it. Perhaps it’s time to let the universe take the reins and start steering me towards my path, no matter where it leads.


Solo Traveling on a Budget :: Part 1

To me, one of the most liberating experiences is taking off on a solo travel venture. You pick the destination, you pick how you get there, and you pick what you do once you’re there and when you do those things. Traveling with friends and family is a lot of fun, of course, but traveling styles don’t always mesh so well, and travel tensions can cause unnecessary irritability. Enjoying your own company and allowing yourself to really experience your own self is really important to self realization.

Ask anyone who’s allowed me to talk their ear off about my travel experiences, and they’ll all tell you one thing for sure: I am a HUGE advocate for the idea that solo traveling is a catalyst for self discovery and personal exploration. Traveling on your own is DEFINITELY scary to think about, but there are so many amazing experiences and lessons that you will undoubtedly gain from it. In fact, many people have embarked on their own solo travels, so much that The idea can be especially daunting if your upbringing lacked family trips and vacations, but do not fear- I am here to help! Whether you’re just jumping into solo traveling or you’ve been around the block – err, globe- a few times, This blog series will help you map out your next solo trip!

Just a note: While luxurious vacations and camping trips are super fun, this series mainly focuses around traveling to urban or metropolitan areas within North America. This is where I have the most experience and feel comfortable advising others, but if this series goes well, I will definitely consider bringing on some guest writers who can share their experiences in other travel styles and continents!

First topic on the agenda:
Destination & Mode of Transportation
Pick a destination/transportation within your means. As much as some of us would love to throw a dart at a map and just GO, global travel gets really expensive, really fast! If you can swing that financially, by all means go for it (And take me with you!?)! But you don’t have to go across the globe and spend heaps of money to experience a brand new place. Maybe a half day Greyhound ride is all you require to get to foreign territory. Depending on your budget and the amount of time you can devote to your trip, I say the further, the better! Pick a place that is at least somewhat urban so you have lots of opportunities to try new things and explore a wide variety of what that city has to offer.

Depending on how far you’re traveling, there are a few different options for mode of transportation. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I LOVED that a completely different city was only a day long bus ride (or less!) away. I’ve actually made a life long friend on a bus from Seattle to Vancouver, BC after chatting for the entire 4 hour ride! Some destinations will require air travel, which personally I get REALLY excited about! There’s just something about the hustle and bustle of a crowded airport that gets me going. All those people on their way to somewhere, in the midst of a trip or an adventure, I can’t help but get excited for them! I know not everyone feels that way, and getting through security can be a little nerve wracking, so here are a few tips to get you through smoothly:

:: Mariah Liisa’s Tips for TSA ::

•Be ready to take off belts, large metal jewelry, jackets (And usually sweatshirts or over-shirts too) and your shoes. I usually slip my shoes off and hold them while I’m still in line.

•Have easy access to your laptop, as you’ll have to pull that out and put it in it’s own bin.

•Don’t forget to leave liquids behind. Even a bottle of water won’t get through. I’ve been guilty of chugging my water at the last minute! Many liquid items are available for purchase beyond security.


•Pack you items in a somewhat organized fashion, so if you end up needing to pull something out from the bottom before you get through security you don’t have to re-pack your entire luggage. Packing cubes and camping sacks can help with this!

•If you have any question about whether or not an item will get through security, LEAVE IT! Tools like pliers or multi-tools, scissors, Swiss army knives, obviously any kind of weapon (Including pepper spray and self defense items) will be confiscated. The TSA actually has an Instagram account where you can see all the crazy things people try to sneak on! Basically just DON’T BE A DUMMY! Believe it or not though, knitting needles and small sewing scissors are indeed allowed on in your carry on

What kind of travel topics would you like to see featured in the rest of this series? Any particular questions? Post them in the comments below!

“Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe” :: My Thoughts

I’ve been stumbling upon this quote here and there in the past few months, and I found that it resonated with me immensely and has motivated some very important relationships. I’ve always put a lot of energy into figuring out the kind of vibe I want to relay to those around me, and that vibe has changed and transformed as I go through life changing experiences and meet people who push me to develop myself even further.

I want to share with you guys a struggle that’s been a part of my life since I was a teenager, something that I have constantly worked towards understanding further. A struggle to belong, to feel like I was in “my place”. Growing up in Wisconsin has always been something that I appreciated; that Midwest hospitality most definitely helped to shape the person I have become. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit trapped, that I was destined for bigger (And warmer!) places. Growing up, I was always encouraged by my family to be independent and to follow my heart, and I intended to do just that.


Upon graduating from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, I had my sights set on the beautiful city of Vancouver. A year prior I had the amazing opportunity to intern with the Graphics Team at the head office of Lush Cosmetics, and fell simply head of heels for the city. Filled to the brim with enthusiasm and ambition, I applied for a working holiday visa, saved my pennies, and within a few months was on a jet plane (Okay, it was really a Boeing) with my bike, my cat, and a few large suitcases. To put it simply, my entire experience living in Vancouver was amazing, and the opportunity to experience a different culture from what I had always been immersed in changed my life in so many ways. During my 12 month work visa I met people that I am proud to say will be life long friends, even though we may not always live in the same city, let alone the same country. Though I had every intention of finding a way to gain another work visa and stay in this city that had captured my heart, I found myself in a the difficult spot of choosing where to go next. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty devastated at the thought of leaving Vancouver. I had worked so hard to get to this amazing place, only to give it up.


When my work visa came to a close and I had to return to the States, I was in a really dark place. Leaving my friends in Vancouver behind, I returned to Wisconsin to start my next venture in the capitol city of Madison. The first few months were emotional torture; I saw this as a personal failure, as opposed to stepping stone in my journey. What I wasn’t expecting though, was to be surprised by the connections I made with some very special Madison residents. I found solace in the friends that I made, which turned my depression around. What I began to learn during my time in Madison is that it is not the physical, geographical place that really impacts your life. Rather it’s the people you allow to be a part of you journey. This sounds like such a simple concept when I type it out now, but in the past I was so focused on finding and getting to the PLACE that I thought I belonged in, I completely overlooked the fact that it’s the people you connect with that drive home that feeling of belonging.


Madison is a wonderful city to live in, but I’m excited to spend my life experiencing life in other cities, countries and climates . My new found knowledge and sense of belonging will stay with me where ever I go, I’m sure of that. I’ve begun to explore my inner peace as I make incredible, meaningful connections with those who share my vibe. I know that going forward, I will continue to find those people and make those connections, and my dream is to grow old and look back on a life that is overflowing with wonderfully positive friendships and relationships. Upon discovering the quote “Your vibe attracts your tribe”, I realized that all along, that’s what I’ve been searching for. My people, my tribe. They may be scattered across the continent, even across the globe, but it’s our personal connection that knits us together.


I am SO GRATEFUL for the technology that is available to us today, which makes maintaining these kinds of relationships so easy. Long distance friendships have never been more exciting! Each day I look forward to the Snapchats, the Instagram photos, the Facebook posts from my friends around the world who are on their own amazing adventures. I may not speak to each of them on a daily or even monthly basis, but knowing that we’ve shared some great experiences together, and that we’ll meet again at some point fills my heart with a joy that I never thought possible. Those instagram online viewer private people are my tribe, I’ve never felt more sure of that. It beats the sense of belonging to just one place, that’s for fucking sure.


Now that I’ve rambled on about this journey towards realizing that my tribe has been around me all along, I encourage you to go find yours. Take a risk, go somewhere that you’ve never been, and I assure you, you’ll find your people. If you already have, let them know how much you appreciate them. Remind them just how important they are to you and your journey. And there’s never enough people in your tribe, the best tribes are ones that are always expanding and growing. The human connection is really what brings us all together and makes our lives so meaningful and valuable. My journey so far has been incredibly humbling, and I can only hope that my story will help others along their own path.

In the comments below, I would LOVE to hear about your experiences in finding your own tribe, or any thoughts you want to share on this topic!