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Meet Tegan Wolfe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tegan Wolfe.

Tegan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been really passionate about art and design ever since I was a little kid. I used to disappear for hours with my siblings to paint their faces or play some elaborate game I had made up. I also used to paint on my Ked slip-on shoes, wear every item of clothing in my closet, and basically be that weird creative child. My mom was an interior designer, so she encouraged my interests and I signed up for every art class I could, from pottery, drawing, watercolor, fashion design, web design, and even computer animation.

By the time I was in high school, my regular art teacher started offering a commercial design class. It was the first class of this type I’d ever been introduced to. One of the projects was creating a logo design and stationery package for a made-up company, and after that, I was hooked. Our class didn’t have any computers, so all of our projects were done with pen and pencil by hand, so it was interesting to start out designing that way.

After that, I only applied for colleges where I could study graphic design. I chose Iowa State University because their design program had a great reputation and I would be able to study abroad in Rome, Italy. After graduating in 2008, I moved back to Fort Collins, Colorado where I started working at a three-person agency. The owners were having a fall-out so within my first couple months there I was the only designer. As odd and stressful as this first job could be, a ton of responsibility was placed on my shoulders and I was required to learn and run most facets of the business from client meetings, billing, design, printing, and production. To this day I credit that company with giving me the tools I needed to go freelance.

I was scouted by another agency down the street to be their designer in March 2011. They worked with a lot of more corporate clients and would allow me to learn and grow more. A week after signing on, my boyfriend at the time committed suicide. This was easily the darkest and most difficult time of my life – starting a new job with no one I knew and being completely shattered emotionally. My time at this company taught me a lot about what I wanted from my life. Although they were incredibly successful with very large contracts, they weren’t interested in using new technology, streamlining processes, hearing new ideas or expanding creatively. They expected me to work overtime and not take vacation, including Christmas, and having just lost my best friend I felt that I had better perspective on the world and what really mattered. I felt very stifled and after looking out the window in my office one day, I just decided life was too short and I owed it to myself to get out of there and create something that would bring me the joy I thought I deserved as a designer and a human being.

A week later, I was working with my own freelance design clients, and the rest is history. I am so grateful and feel so incredibly lucky to still be doing this 7 and a half years later. There’s been many different chapters and hundreds of different clients, which has really been exciting and fun as a career. It is also super rewarding to run things how you want to and reap the benefits of your hard work directly.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’ve been very lucky with my path. Ever since quitting that second agency job and starting out on my own, I’ve had a steady stream of clients. There have probably been only two or three slow months in my entire career. I have a small tendency to panic at those times (because I love to work!) but that is always a great time to slow down and focus on other things like reading books, traveling, getting into nature – or in the summertime, I love going to Rockies day games or to the swimming pool.

I did have one sketchy agency client (which actually happens to work with huge companies), who hired me on retainer and then tried not to pay me. Fortunately, my boyfriend has a level head and was able to talk me through the legal process and get the client to pay me. Unfortunately, this seems to be a pattern for this company and I feel sad for the other contractors they have tried or successfully screwed over.

For the most part, my clients are incredible, I could not be more grateful to work with such amazing people.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Tegan Wolfe Design story. Tell us more about the business.
I’m a one-person freelance graphic design business. I work with all sorts of different clients, and really don’t discriminate who I choose to take on. I’ve also worked with agencies when they need overflow help.

I offer all sorts of design, basically, anything you can think up. Branding, flyers, direct mail, website design, tradeshow, newsletters, social media, presentations, packaging, booklets, reports, advertisements, and so on.

I think what sets me apart is I really love people – I genuinely care about the clients I work with and creating a powerful message for them. My job isn’t about me, it’s about helping my clients be more successful, and a big part of that is helping them reach their audience. I think I’m great at communicating and I’m confident in what I do, so it’s easy to take on projects and execute them. I love my job and my business, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I tell myself I’m really lucky, every day, but my boyfriend likes to remind me I’m not lucky, I deserve this.

I have worked really hard to create a successful business and client base, it’s easy to leave yourself out of the equation and credit your success to luck. That’s really changed my mindset, it’s easy to thank the universe for where you are when a lot of it has to do with the sacrifices you’ve made yourself, the decisions, and all the hard work.

But even still, thank you universe! 😉

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