Blue Ocean Life Nation Interview Series: Tammy Huynh

Tammy is a self-taught Graphic Designer with 8 years of experience in a variety of design fields: journalism, print, marketing, and branding. After finding success in freelance for a few years, she decided to take things up a level by creating a Design & Brand Agency, The Creative Folks. TCF serves both small mom and pop businesses by being their first step into brand building but also working with Atlanta corporate companies to maintain established branding. Because of her love for community building, The Creative Folks is not only an agency, it's a collective of content creators with a mission to bridge creativity and business. Creators of all fields could often feel stuck under the "Starving Artist" stereotype without the help to establish personal branding or business branding. That's where TCF comes in, providing resourceful content and establishing partnerships with community stakeholders that drive more opportunity for the creative community.
Tammy Huynh BOL interview
Thank you for sharing your story with us. What is your professional background? How did you end up with this career?
I love telling the story of where any of this even started because even me, myself, didnt know where it was going. I went to school with a longing dream of studying between Forensics Psychology, Sociology, Education Psychology and just anything to do with working with the mind and how the brain works. However, Ive always had this old passion for designing. I was lucky and landed a couple of small projects like a hoodie design and a flight attendant that needed help with her childrens book. Those projects alone propelled me into looking into doing Graphic Design internships throughout college while pursuing my degree. I was a firm believer that college was the time to try things just to try it. 

From there, I have a lot of thanks to give back to my Alma Maters student newspaper that I grew with while I was in college. I went from an occasional designer to a Lead Design Editor. That really pushed my career as I started taking up actual Graphic Design jobs! I worked anywhere from journalism, to printers, to colleges & universities while also freelancing on the side. 

After I found some success in freelancing, I jumped into working for corporate America to test the landscape, while working on freelancing in the evening times. I had the idea back in college to start a blog because I wanted to help other freelancers find success. As a freelancer that just learned on her own, I realized that the internet, while great, was also so vast in resources. There was just so many resources for freelancers that it was hard to decipher what was the actual important things to start freelancing. My goal with the blog was to help freelancers on that journey and from there I started finding WRITERS all over Atlanta and a writer in the UK write for The Creative Folks in its early days. This took away from my actual freelancing time and I went in full capacity to make a functioning blog. 
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As any business, we pivoted because we were not making money from our blog. I had to be quick on my feet and think of new ways to where we can serve and be resourceful for our company but also still survive in total. By the second year of The Creative Folks we went hybrid-model where half of our team focuses on making content, the other half works with clients with Branding & Graphic Design work. 

We retain this model today and its done us wonders, giving us the flexibility to work on creating content thats personalized but also be able to pay team members for their time and work. 

How did you begin your remote work journey? Where do you see yourself in the next year? What tips do you have for others who are working remotely?

We actually have an office at The Creative Folks, but one of the cool things is that our team ever since we started, has always been virtual. The remote journey is no brainer and basically just a part of our company work life. We have team members overseas as well so the remote work life is a savior to our business. Within the next year and probably years moving forward, were looking to stay this way because it actually makes it so efficient for us. 

Some things that have helped me over time while working in my home is: 
  • Dedicated work space is SO important. Having an actual desk set up where you can come to work at and exit from it so you can do other house things is great for work mental health. The separation makes a big difference and I have a ground rule for myself to never work in my bedroom. Its considered a sacred space for me to rest and decompress, so I never bring work into that space. 
  • Preparing for work is important and may not always be done right. I know exactly what I need to at least start my work day without interruption. Water (I have 2-3 refills next to my main cup), Coffee/Tea, Airpods, iPad, Phone, Sticky notes or some type of writing pad, phone charger, as well as any paperwork or anything that I need to physically handle I bring it all with me to my desk to organize. By prepping my workspace before actually turning on my computer to work, I am eliminating the need to get up and actually power through work for a good few hours before getting up for a break. 
  • Have a timer or allocate time to finish tasks. If you block off 2 hours, use those 2 hours to actually work and block time for other stuff like social, calls, or YouTube binge. 
  • Silence or Focus mode  a great option to just get rid of notifications because theyre distractions. Set them up for 30 minute or 1 hr increments so that you can power through work and then check notifications after. 
  • Optional for those who can take it on: Music or Podcast in the background is important for me because I love the sound of other voices in my workspace. I loved working in coffee shops pre-covid so now theres actual SOUNDS of coffee shops on YouTube you can play in the background, however if youre wanting something a bit different, have music that uplifts your mood or a podcast youve been wanting to catch up on. 

What is your self-care routine and how do you find time to integrate it into your daily life?
Im actually still working on a routine for myself. I feel like everyday it changes. Recently, I find time after work to decompress. When you run your own business and brand, you always want to work on it because the ideas never stop running in your mind. I am constantly trying to improve or do new things, which means I sometimes just work and work without breaks. Ive learned to hire out for certain tasks to reclaim some time for myself to decompress. I spend my evenings playing games like Pokemon, Animal Crossing, or I catch up on a YouTube series.

Putting yourself first is important to your overall wellness. Given this, what are your best holistic wellness tips?
I spent the first few years of business extremely invested in just improving business FAST. I compared myself to many businesses around me and I now realize thats toxic for business and my mental health. It made me push my team members in ways that may have not made sense or we spent our time creating projects that were not impactful. 

I had to learn to take in information but be able to separate my business and know where it stands. I encourage business owners to really look back on their business and see their own accomplishments, big and small. As business owners, we dont get praise, we dont receive a lot of recognition, etc. because its about results. So dont let that keep you down, and look back at the accomplishments youve done and keep on hustling. 
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What was the toughest challenge you faced during your career?
Imposter syndrome and I still face it today. Its really hard to not think about your potential and know there are probably better people than you out there, BUT the key in this is you. You are what makes the business different so you have to keep going. 

I found myself missing out on a lot of opportunities because I was fearful of not meeting up to standards or feeling like someone else can do better than me.

How did you get through that period? What advice for people dealing with similar difficulties?
Im still working through it but I have a really strong circle of support. They constantly encourage me and make me think back on my own accomplishments. Im learning to love myself and love my work, plus be proud of my work! 

If youre dealing with it - I really recommend writing down your accomplishments. Just when you have a win, big or small, write it down. Whether you toss it in a jar or you just have a book of everything put together, have it accessible. When youre feeling the imposter syndrome kick in, take a look at one of your accomplishments or several of them and reignite your passions. No one can pull you out of the funk, other than you. We have a slogan at The Creative Folks, that many creatives resonate with and thats; feed the hustle. No matter what it takes, continue to feed your hustle. 

Mental health and feeling good are crucial to maximizing performance. How do you prioritize your mental health?
I make sure I prioritize decompression time - so daily would be preferred BUT sometimes business sways where it wants to and you have to give up a day or two. With that, make sure you compensate by still incorporating decompression time. Some people journal, do yoga, meditate or anything to help relax their mind, so I recommend trying things for at least a month to see if it actually helps and improve how you’re mental health is doing. 

I dont do social media detoxes because of my work, but people do this and it could be helpful because social media runs our universe as of now. Being on there all the time definitely affects your mental health & so if you have to be on social, start cleaning out your socials and follow companies, brands, or influencers that arent always selling but just here to tell a story or just here to inspire their audience. Itll put you in a better headspace when your social media isnt always about whats you consider toxic. 

Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now? How do you see companies allowing employees to work post-pandemic?
Most definitely, I spent most of 3 years before the pandemic in and out of the office, with about a 45-1hr commute depending on Atlanta traffic! Being someone thats super familiar within the workforce economy and in connection with hiring managers of all levels, returning to the office is a movement and I see it happening. Some entities just cannot operate from an at home setting and that should be respected, however I do believe in work and life balance. I believe that those who would like to work from home should be given some type of hybrid schedule or at least the opportunity to try it and see if it affects their work performance, rather than rule it out completely. Additionally I am a believer that work weeks do not always have to consist of the typical 9-5, Monday-Friday. I encourage companies to relook at their employees and work hours to see how much time is being spent on actual work versus work fatigue (it’s a thing!). Shortening workdays or work hours could potentially turn your company more productive than keeping the standard 9-5. 

If you could have lunch with one person in the world, who would it be and why?
I think usually here, people answer well-known celebs or someone thats really top of the industry. I actually want to meet several groups of YouTubers/Influencers that have been my inspirations ever since YouTube even existed. This group has been on YouTube in the early days when it first became a platform with creators. Without knowing it, they were influencers in the making and had an impact on how I view the world, business, and my own Asian American identity too! 

If you could inspire a movement, what would it be and why?
As a company, I always wanted to be a brand by creatives for creators. One common misconception of doing creative work as a career is that its not stable and its not a long-term career however, knowing and meeting creatives over time, Ive seen creators who created a sustainable living for themselves doing the things they love. So our movement would be to help educate the world about creatives and creators and the impact we have as creatives and creators are all around us and how can we support them in meaningful ways. 

Please list your social media handles so we can tag you.
@thecreativefolks on Instagram and LinkedIn is our site. 

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