The Leap: Talking business and personal alignment with Hannah Van Woert

Welcome to The Leap! For this IG Live series, Wethos CEO Rachel Renock sits down with entrepreneurs who took the leap toward working independently or starting their own project.

In this episode, Rachel sat down with Hannah Van Woert, the founder and creative director of Meteor Street Studio. After seeing way too many entrepreneurs struggling to create a professional and genuine brand experience that accurately communicated their value, Hannah left Big Tech to craft striking brands and websites for women owned and small businesses. Hannah’s been featured in the 2021 edition of Brilliant Brand Designers and in the LA Design Festival for show stopping web design.

Watch the full interview here or read below to learn more about what led Hannah to leave tech culture to start her own studio, creating diversified income streams, and setting up her business to align with her personal values. 

Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

RR: Hannah, thank you so much for joining us today, super excited to chat. I’d love to kick it off with a little bit more about your journey to freelance and starting your own business and how that’s evolved over time.

HVW: It’s been quite a wild one. I’ve been doing what I do for over a decade, and six years before this I was in Big Tech doing the grind thing as I’m sure a lot of other people are familiar with. But a few years ago I had reached a point where I had legit clinical burnout. I was very sick and I was like something needs to change, I gotta get out of this cycle of hustle. So I started seeing a life coach and a therapist, and I highly recommend all those things. And from that process, I did a lot of deep diving into what my values are and realized that working for myself was really the path forward.

From that moment, I started planning out like, what would owning my own business look like? I planned that out for about nine months before quitting my job. And it was hard waiting that long, but I think I needed to take my time.I was also living in a foreign country, so I couldn’t just leave — at the time, I was abroad in London. But I ended up quitting my job and started my own business in January of 2020.

Then the pandemic hit — which could have been potentially awful, but I think because I had done all that upfront work, and I had all my systems in place, it was actually fine. I also got pregnant during the pandemic and had my son. So, that was another thing that led me to where I am today. After having my baby, working from home and wanting to be involved in his early years, I decided I wanted to work part-time. I’ve been figuring out how to diversify my income a little bit so I wasn’t always just relying on trying to get the next client booked. So yeah, it’s been a journey, but it’s been really fun and fulfilling.

RR: That’s amazing, you’ve done a lot. Like you made a whole human, which is incredible. What were the trade offs that you were thinking about or considering around freelancing full-time or being in-house full-time? Maybe you could unpack a little bit of what the plans were that you were putting together when you were thinking about going full time on the freelance business, or even if you were at one point switching back and going in house.

HVW: Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of them. It’s all about where you’re at right now in your career and in your life situation. For me right now, owning my own business and working for myself makes the most sense. There are obvious benefits of working in-house —  one of the reasons I stayed in that for so long was the great financial stability. Like, you get that steady income, you get all the benefits; there are life situations where that makes the most sense. 

I also don’t regret staying in-house for that long because I learned so much about business in general. I worked at Amazon for over six years and I think I got a sense of the commercial experience, about how the whole wheel worked, and really got to know all about e-commerce. I can now take that and help the little guys, if you will. I’m working with all small businesses now and I think that I have an advantage of knowing how the big players work so I can help other people in their business. But yeah, like I said, I was losing some of that expected stability, but my personal priority at this time was just aligning with my personal values and having the flexibility and the creative freedom that the in-house environment couldn’t provide for me anymore.

RR: One thing that really stood out to me when I was checking out your website was, you have a lot of really interesting other offerings. And I talk to a lot of people who struggle with ongoing lead generation because they’re constantly juggling with “do I go out and get new business? Do I execute the projects I already have?” But I saw folks can shop your desk and your library of what you’re reading. And I was curious, do you use those things as a means to drive leads for potential clients and/or is it part of a strategy for additional income or revenue?

HVW: Yeah, it is both. Community is such an important part of how I do my business and just how I like to have my life in general. But a lot of that was just for fun for me to interact with my audience. The bonuses from that have been building trust, so people feel like they know me and my brand of Meteor Street Studio like, I offer all these other things and you can really get to know me and I’m serving you, not just in a transactional way. But also a lot of those are affiliate links, so if people happen to shop my bookshelf, I do get a commission from that, which is also nice, because it just offsets some of my monthly expenses. So it’s win-win for everyone involved.

RR: I noticed that you’re going to launch a full template shop soon and immediately I was like, I need to know more about this.

HVW: It actually launched today! This has been in the making for several months and I’m really, really excited about it. These website templates are more geared towards the service provider. The reason that I wanted to do this in the first place was because a large part of my audience just either isn’t quite ready for a fully custom designed website or they just can’t financially commit to it, because it costs quite a bit of money. But I wanted them to be able to have something that aligned with their brand as they’re getting started. These website templates are built for Showit because the Showit platform is personally my favorite one and I love the amount of creative freedom that is on that platform.

A lot of the website templates you might find out there are very aesthetic based or industry based. But because my whole design process is very rooted in psychology, my website templates are based on Carl Jung’s 12 classic personality types. I’ve got a little quiz on my website if you want to take it and figure out what your brand archetype is. I’m launching with the Caregiver today and I’m trying to have six out of the 12 launched by the end of the year.

RR: So I want to switch gears a little bit, but a question we get a ton is, how do I manage my time more effectively? Can you walk us through your day to day? Like, what’s your schedule? How do you organize your time?

HVW: I really have to be intentional about my time. Like I mentioned before, I work part-time hours and I take Fridays off, and that is because I now have a one-year-old boy crawling around the house. I feel fortunate that both my husband and I work from home — he also has a remote job. But because I have limited hours, that really makes me want to make the most out of my day. I use all of the project management tools to keep me steady. I usually have the same times as well. I try to start my day around 9:00am and try to end my day around 2:00pm, because, for me, that’s when I’m the most productive mentally. And I’ve actually found that even though I’m working far less hours than I typically would’ve at a corporate job, I’m just as productive.

Most of my day is [spent] working on client work. I’ll probably go through my emails for the first hour or so while I’m really getting into the work mindset. Then I’ll go through my tasks in ClickUp and figure out what needs to be done, manage a launch schedule, email clients, check on payments, that sort of thing. But then I really dive into the creative process and will spend mostly the rest of my day designing or doing strategy and creating new boards.

RR: There are a lot of misconceptions about freelance businesses and a lot of misconceptions about creatives. What’s one thing you wish people better understood about running a studio?

HVW: For people who are considering hiring a studio or a freelancer, something I wish they understood more is around payments. People who run a design studio or people who are freelance, they don’t have that steady, typical, “I’m going to get paid on the first of every month.” Understanding that these people, this is their job, it’s their passion, but it’s also the way they’re making their living and you need to be respectful of that. And if you have a contract that you’ve signed and a payment plan that you’ve agreed to, please be respectful of that.

For people that are unfamiliar with this working style, I would say that there’s often a misconception that owning your own studio or going freelance sounds really risky. I heard this several times, like are you going to be afraid of not having that safety net of a corporate job? And I think that, yes, there is risk, but for some people that risk is worth it. For me, owning my own studio is incredibly fulfilling, and I find that working with all sorts of different clients and learning from them is really, really rewarding.

RR: Last question — for anybody who is looking to take The Leap to freelance, is there any advice you want to give them?

HVW: Find a mentor. I firmly believe that just because you’re going out on your own, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. I have surrounded myself (virtually) with so many people that I look up to; people who are doing what I’m trying to do, but have been doing it for a while. I’m like, I’m going to watch you, please tell me how you’re doing this. Some of them are paid mentorship, some of them are free mentorships. But just creating that community around you is really going to lift you up, help you feel supported, and make you feel so confident.

Ready to take the leap?