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Creative Spaces: Julie Schumacher, Copywriter & Epigrammarian

August 12, 2014

Creative Spaces Natalie Mueller Comments Off on Creative Spaces: Julie Schumacher, Copywriter & Epigrammarian
Wordsmith, Julie Schumacher. Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh

Wordsmith, Julie Schumacher. Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh Photographie

First things first: Julie Schumacher might be one of the most fantastic people I have met in the last couple of years. There are those people who you can talk to at length about absolutely anything and everything and be completely rapt in the conversation and Julie is one of those people. She is smart, beautiful, generous and just all around fabulous. And, as a mother and wife on top of being the founder, owner, copywriter, editor and epigrammarian extraordinaire behind Well Turned Words, I was pleased as punch that she was able to find time to talk with me for my August edition of Creative Spaces (and then I had to go and get engaged and not have it ready to post when I wanted to).

Julie has been freelancing as a copywriter and editor for four years now. She tends to partner with other creatives and/or smaller design studios and works mostly in the digital space, helping clients who are trying to figure out how to talk about themselves. I first met Julie at a Chicago Copywriters Group meet up almost two years ago, and when I began this blog series knew she was the first copywriter I wanted to interview…if only as an excuse to pick her brain for an hour or so.

The Work

How do you describe your career to the layman?

Honestly, if you asked me in high school if I knew what copywriting was, I’m not sure I’d have an answer. I tell people that I help people, small businesses, organizations and companies talk about themselves. I learn about them and I figure out what they need to say and how they should say it. It’s about partnering the appropriate message and medium. And then I say that I’m not an advertising copywriter.

When did you decide or discover that this was a career that you wanted to pursue?

It was after we had our daughter, Lo, and in the process of exploring what I would do after leaving teaching. I started with proofing and editing and that led to people reaching out to me if I could help with the actual writing. My first few projects were helping designer and creative acquaintances with their websites and I thought, “This is fun, but I don’t know how I’ll ever make more than $10 a month.” Soon, those same acquaintances began reaching out to me as a team member anytime they or a client needed writing services.

The Work Day

Even as a teacher, you presumably had plenty of work to do from home. What have you found to be most challenging about working from home?

Honestly, since I have to fit a workday around a kid, I’m pretty good at zeroing in on work when I need to. When my daughter is around I can’t just go away and write something brilliant because she needs me and she’s asking me for things. So, I’m trained to use what time I have very effectively. I’m devoted to battling the notion that a freelancer who works from home is a flake. Being able to present yourself as a professional who knows what they are doing, even if they are still in their pajamas, that my working from home will never translate into shoddy workmanship.

Your husband, Brett, also works from home. Is it challenging to work from home with him in the house?

We’re in completely different sections of the house, so we in no way a distraction to each other. But, I will say, with both of us working from home and both of us owning our own small businesses, it can be hard to set aside “we’re not going to talk about work” time. It always circles back to some project or client, but we try to get away from it, going for a walk, telling each other to shut up when we start talking about work. But maybe everybody does that. Maybe everybody talks about work too much and we all need to get hobbies.

How does working home from a child work out…or not work out?

It’s awesome because we outsource her. She works out of the house and we work from home. Three days a week she goes to an all day Montessori type of preschool/daycare which she actually loves. I don’t think there are a lot of parents who get to be in their home and have it be quiet when they have a toddler. When she’s out of school there is a little bit more juggling with the husband. “I can pick her up, if you can drop her off” type deals. And then we’re in a babysitting co-op, so if something comes up on a day where she’s typically hanging with me all day, I can get help from them and she can be somewhere safe and fun and fabulous without any additional childcare costs.

But like, right now? She’s napping. I don’t know if the universe blessed us or if we somehow programmed her that way, but she’s a very good sleeper so even when she’s home I know I have at least three hours a day to work while she’s napping.

Do you have a typical workweek?

Oh yes. I work all day Monday, Wednesday and Friday while the toddler is out of the house. Then I have my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and mornings if I need them. And then it’s a lot of nights. I actually work very well at night and don’t require a ton of sleep to function. The system works really well. It’s not without complication, but it works. Of course, when she goes to kindergarten and is in school all day, five days a week, we’ll start a new system.

The Workspace

How mobile is your workspace?

Very. I work on a Macbook Air and take it with me all of the time. We try to work and live elsewhere for a few months every year so being location independent was a must for both me and Brett.

A reminder of past travels.

A reminder of past travels.

Would you ever work from a coworking space?

I don’t know. I think the solitude is good for me and we bought a bigger house to have ample space to work from home. I feel like my mortgage is my coworking space membership, you know?

Do you have any shiny new toys in your workspace?

I did just recently get my second monitor, which was a huge upgrade for me. I feel like I can do so much now. It also makes me feel very legit; only very successful people have two screens, haha.

What is most important to you in a creative environment?

I like a lot of input and data, but I think I’m sensitive to noise when I work. I don’t write to music, for example, that doesn’t work from me. So control over the noise level or ambient sound is critical for me. Also, a chair that doesn’t make you hobble or crippled for the rest of the day. In conclusion, a fabulous chair, environmental control…and snacks.

You work from a small, separated area in the master bedroom. Is this your ideal workspace, or just the ideal for right now?

I think I feel so absurdly lucky that people will pay me to do what I like doing that I would sit on a load of hot coals to work. I cannot believe I get this opportunity. My workspace is actually pretty awesome. It’s weird, there’s like a tiny step down and a half wall between me and the bed, but when I’m in the nook I don’t feel like I’m in the bedroom. It’s the only space in the house that is totally mine. I love being in the nook, it’s my own little playhouse.

But I mean, yeah, I’d work on a beautiful balcony in Paris with a glass of rose and fabulous shoes. But this space does work really well for the world we have right now.

No complaints?

One thing is that it’s over the porch, so it’s actually slanted along our roof line meaning that my workspace isn’t level. My desk is level because it is wall mounted, but over the course of the afternoon my chair will slide downhill. I spend a lot of my day leaning. But, when you own a home you triage: what do you need to do, what would you like to do, etc. So, I’d love a level workspace, but I’d probably rather have new dining room chairs.

How organized are you?

Our house is very neat and organized and thoughtfully arranged, but I have staked my flag in the ground of clutter in my workspace and I will defend it to my death. Really, things like files and my Google Drive are impeccable, I’d invite anyone to look at them. My digital life is immaculate. My analog life is messy in the way I’m messy, haha. I know exactly where everything is in it’s corresponding pile.

Are you a tchotchke person?

For a toddler tchotchkes become fodder for her to stick it in a couch or leave it on the floor and I step on it. So, I’d like to say what few items I have are carefully curated, but it’s more like “Lo hasn’t lost this rock that I got someplace.” I had tchotchkes in my youth, but I’ve moved like nine times. I have a lot of sticky notes though. Books and sticky notes make me happy.

What is your favorite thing in your office?

Proof of Awesome. Great Grandpa's cedar chest.

Proof of Awesome. Great Grandpa’s cedar chest.

My mom had my great grandpa’s cedar chest restored and gave it to me. It’s absolutely precious to me. I don’t have a ton of family things that were handed down so it stands as a main piece of personal history. It was made here in Chicago in 1871. I love that even though I am an East Coaster, I have had something all along that connects me with my now home. And, it reminds me about how we construct narratives about ourselves because the story I’ve told is that is what he brought from Ireland.

What are you currently reading?

My book club is reading A Hundred Years of Solitude. The problem with me is that I’m basically book bulimic, I
binge and then promptly forget the whole book, I won’t remember how it ended or even that I read it sometimes. I will say however, that I have become an expert at kids books. My two favorites are 13Words and a book called All The World which is beautifully illustrated and very progressive. It’s well written, there are all types of family structures and you don’t have to try and ignore that all of the families look the same, which is nice…especially if you’re going to have to read it over and over again.

'Be Awesome' - words to live by

Just a little reminder to ‘Be Awesome’

Not that you have any, between work and parenthood, but what do you do in your “free time”?

Community building things are huge for me. They scratch the itches that working by myself in the nook leave unscratched. They allow me to talk at length with interesting people about interesting things. Things like parenthood and marriage and friendships and being active and mindful of the present take up a lot of time, but I think that the idea of side projects, especially in different phases of your life, are so powerful and so important and so necessary, although hard, to squeeze in sometimes. But they make me better at what I do and they introduce me to people who make me want to do even more cool things.

I will defend a parent’s right to carve out time to be themselves. When you enter parenthood, you prioritize the couple of things that will keep you sane and connected to who you are and then you slowly begin to reclaim the other things. Like, I’m in a book club now, and I started Forth, and we always make time to travel, and maybe I’ll eventually get to play something other than ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ on my ukulele again.

Tell me about Forth; what it is, how it was born, what it has grown to be.

A designer and friend of mine, Lisa Guillot, contacted me and a photographer, Kelly Allison, who I didn’t know at the time and said “Let’s do something, let’s start something.” We all agreed that being able to really dig in and talk to people about specific topics is a rare opportunity. A Twitter conversation is lovely, but it is okay to take an evening and make a beautiful space even more beautiful and just sit around and talk. No one is exchanging business cards or hustling for a gig, it’s just human connection. And that’s what Forth became, a seasonal salon for creative, independent women.

And, we had our first public event, a panel on Etsy businesses, a couple of weeks ago and it sold out. I don’t know when our next public event will be, but facilitating a panel gave me back something I loved from teaching. It’s a totally different type of feedback than you get from a Google Doc. I was charged for days.

Find her work

Julie’s most recent work, and a project/partnership she has enjoyed thoroughly, can be seen all over One Design’s new website. When we spoke, she wasn’t sure what she could and couldn’t share about her work with One Design, other than that she’d been having a blast researching articles and curating content for their newsletters, but now they are live and we can definitely show it off.

You can follow Julie’s work, words and world on her website and on Twitter and Instagram @WellTurnedWords.



If you would like to be featured on the Creative Spaces series, please contact me.

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