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GUEST POST | 12 Ways to Become a Successful Freelancer

Career, Guest PostsMari NievesComment
mari nieves pink studios

Oh, hello! My name is Marii Nieves and I am the Founder of Pink Studios - a full-service boutique digital marketing provider; specializing in digital media presence for small & medium-sized businesses; and you probably heard about me and my story, here.

A little over a year ago, Pink Studios stopped being a part-time gig to become a full-time-with-overtime monster - and I could not be happier about it. Regardless, I feel the obligation to admit that making the decision to quit my full-time job as a Digital Marketing Director at a multimillion dollar company was not easy. Not at all. You can read about it here.

The financial stability, the routine, the classic “what would people say?” and “what if I fail?”, were constant thoughts running through my brain.
Why are we wired this way though? Instead, why don’t we think “I am confident in myself”, “I can do this!”, “I will kick-ass!”, “I will prove them wrong.”

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner.
— Mari Nieves from Pink Studios
beyonce slaying

When you are making a decision like this, you are allowed 5 minutes to be sissy and curl up in a corner; after that you gotta pull up your big girl pants, be gangsta and say: “I’ll get this shit done!”

Being organized and establishing processes and routines made this journey a whole lot easier. Today, I am sharing with you my favorite tips to becoming a successful freelancer and get things done:

1. Establish some sort of online presence to present your services.

People spend the vast majority of their time online. Whatever your industry is, you need to make sure that if people are searching for people like you - they can find you. Whether it’s a website, Facebook Business Page, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Be there.

2. Update your personal social networks, specially Linkedin.

Everyone you are connected with should be aware that you are now flying-solo and that they can reach you for special projects. ambinity has a GREAT article about it: 10 Ways to Maximize your LinkedIn Profile

3. Create a routine.

When you become a freelancer, you are most likely to work from home; distractions and convenience might come in your way. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you get to wake up at 10:30am, take 3 hour lunch breaks and squeeze in a Netflix marathon. Get up early, fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea, eat breakfast, dress up and get to work. At the beginning, you might find it annoying but trust me, it gets you in the right mindset.

4. Organization + a project/task management app are key!

In order to be successful at #4, you NEED to have a proper way to manage tasks. Something I have learned over this past year is that whether I successfully execute my morning routine or not; if I don’t have a set list of what I need to work on the next day - my morning is wasted! Ain’t nobody got time for that! So, before your day ends make a list of all the things you have pending;  that way the next day you’ll be ready to get stuff done instead of wasting time running in circles figuring out where things were left off the day prior.

But how do I make my to-do lists? Paper? App? Both? This is something I get asked constantly. Paper lists are great until you go to a meeting or to work somewhere else and you left your list at home.That sucks! You can use post-its if necessary for quick reminders; but… hey, we are not The Flintstones - use the technology resources available. There are great tools such as: Asana, Trello (my favorite) and Basecamp that can work wonders. Are you using any of these?

marii nieves pink studios

5. Setup a dedicated workspace.

I need to brag for a second - I LOVE, LOVE <3 my workspace! Now that I got that off my system I have to tell you something. Working remotely and having your office be a home-office is hard! To be able to focus all of my energy on work, I needed to set up a dedicated space where I could forget about all the distractions around, be inspired and really get to work.

A few essentials for me: Macbook Pro, external monitor, bluetooth keyboard and mouse, lamp, lavender candles, comfortable chair, speaker, couch - mostly for visits and when I want to change scenarios a little bit.  Make it work for you!

Shop Mari's Office Must Haves!

6. Get your numbers in place.

Hopefully you’ll start making money soon and once you have to fill your taxes, etc; you’d need to have everything in place. At the moment, I swear by Wave App. It allows me to send estimates, convert them to invoices, send payment reminders, track outstanding balances and expenses. It has worked wonders for me and those I have recommended it to. Try it out and let me know.

7. Use a contract or agreement for every project.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a small project or a large one - you want everything discussed and covered. This will save you a lot of time and headaches. There are different website that provide pre-made proposals, contracts and agreement that you can sign up for such as Proposify. Alternatively, you can also sit down with an attorney to make sure everything is covered.

8. Rate cards.

Depending on your industry, this may be viable or not. Set some time to define your pricing structure. Are you gonna charge per hour? Per project? Per service? Establish those from the beginning, that way, making proposals will be a breeze instead of a nightmare.

9. Limit distractions.

Distraction could be your worst enemy; from watching TV to laying down for a second (that turn out to be 2 hours) and our fatal attraction: social media. I am a firm believer that you need to work hard but breaks are 100% necessary. There are several apps that can help you with this. From Focus (download for iOS | download for Android) which focuses on the Pomodoro technique to Freedom, ColdTurkey (download for Mac | download for Android) and InMoment (download for iPhone) which allow you to track and/or block time spent on social networks or a list of websites you determine for a certain period to allow you to better focus on getting things done.

10. Ask for testimonials.

From past clients, to ex-bosses, supervisors, colleagues, etc… they probably have great things to say about you. The easiest way to compile all of these is to ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn. From there you can extract their testimonials and use on your website and promotional material. It is always encouraged that you let them know that you will be using their testimonials - I highly doubt they will say no, but it is a courtesy.

11. Don’t be afraid to say “no”.

Choose your clients carefully. You are allowed to say “no”. Is this new client from an industry you don’t feel 100% comfortable with? Does it not align with your business values and standards? Do you feel like the chemistry is not there? Are you fully booked but don’t want to say “no” because “it’s a new gig”? Don’t feel bad. That is absolutely okay.  This will happen and you need to be ready to tackle these type of situations. My recommendations, draft a nice email and propose a plan: either let them know that at the moment you are not able to work with them and, if possible, provide an alternative vendor to fulfill their needs.

12. Never stop learning.

Easy as that. Information is at our fingertips these days. Never stop learning. Find ways where you can increase your knowledge on certain topics and trends and even find time to learn new things. Doing so will allow you to stay up to date and be able to react within your industry when something is relevant.


BONUS: The occasional day off is totally fine!

People ask me: “how do you stay motivated every single day of the week” and my answer is: “sometimes I don’t”. Their reaction is priceless. The reality is, this is one of the perks of being your own boss. You set your time and if you don’t feel productive for a moment, it is okay to take the day off if necessary.

ambinity

On days like that I like to catch up on my Netflix queue, watch crappy reality shows (this right here is my guilty pleasure) from Real Housewives of Orange County, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, RHOA and RHONJ, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Botched, Naked and Afraid, Shark Tank and I also love to read a good book, listen to podcasts and try and just pay with Pakko Petardo and Lola Inés del Pilar.


 

Last but not least, make sure you make the most out of your time as a freelancer or entrepreneur. Get stuff done. This is your time. Don’t ever let your creativity die. Do you have additional tips or questions? Leave them in the comments section below.

If you want to reach out to me, I am always available via inbox or you can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. See you there.

mari nieves pink studios

Meet our Guest Blogger

I’m Marii, your Facebook-loving, goal-crushing, digital marketing-obsessed professional. I’m a Computer Engineering turned digital marketing-entrepreneur who believes in the power of helping others succeed in life or their businesses with the right tools by their side. Founder of Pink Studios and The Digital Strategy Lounge and mom of #PakkoyLola.
Wanna know me? Shoot me a message here or here.

How to Deal with Anxiety

wellness, Real Talk, Lifestyle, Health, CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
how to manage anxiety at work

This is the most personal post I've ever published. I decided to push through the embarrassment in the hopes it will help you somehow. If you're dealing with anxiety and/ or panic attacks, you are not alone. Because, spoiler alert: It has a cure!  

Once I started working full time right after graduating college, I was feeling a little off. I honestly thought it was due to the change in lifestyle or maybe getting used to adulthood (ugh). But once I got my first job in the communications industry (my study field!) I started noticing that I was having tachycardia, trouble breathing, sweaty palms, difficulty speaking up in meetings, standing up for myself to people mistreating me and even speaking without stuttering. I was even called out on my nervousness during meetings. They gave me an ultimatum, because they knew I was underperforming due to my stress (I had no idea it was anxiety at that time). I remember being sick to my stomach and sweating my hands off during the entire meeting because I honestly thought I was going to be fired for being the worst employee ever. 

*Already getting sweaty palms and difficulty breathing while writing this.*

Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD (Clinical Psychologist) For appointments: 787-505-6938

Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD (Clinical Psychologist) For appointments: 787-505-6938

Since I already knew there was definetely a problem with me, I decided to visit Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD. She was the first person to ever recognize that I was experiencing panic attacks due to my irrational thoughts. So she quickly gave me all the tools I needed to overcome them, along with several breathing techniques in order to avoid letting a panic attack get the best of me. 

Turns out these irrational and catastrophic thoughts of me being a failure after just one year in the communications industry is what led me to start failing at work. I was comparing myself to all my colleagues who already had years of experience, thinking that there was a problem with me because I was not as skilled or witty. I even truly believed that I wasn't intelligent enough to handle the industry. 

Thanks to all this treatment, today I am in such a better place. I am more aware than ever that anxiety is directly related to the way we respond to situations, not what happens to us or how people treat us. The only way to get through it, is by learning to identify our triggers and making sure to stop them before the panic attack happens. It is a slow process, but I'm telling you, it WILL get better.

I decided to publish this post, because even though I've never been ashamed of visiting a psychologist regularly (I truly believe everyone needs one), I started to notice many of my friends who were starting their careers at the same time, were experimenting very similar symptoms as I was. I am very pleased to see all increase in mental health awareness in the media, but I still think we are not talking about it in a personal level. I firmly believe that talking about mental health with either a professional or a good friend is the best way to overcome it. 

That's why I decided to interview my awesome psychotherapist, Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD so she can talk a little bit about what is stress, anxiety and a panic attack. Hope this helps! 

PS: Special thanks to Mari Nieves from Pink Studios for the amazing infographic at the end of this post! 

What exactly is anxiety?

Anxiety is a term used to describe a physiological and cognitive response that our body has due to an event or particular stimulus, perceived by the person as a high threat or danger. 

How should I handle anxiety?

During an anxiety response the first step is to ask yourself if your life is in danger. If the answer is yes, we can asume that anxiety is due to an adaptive response.

If the answer is no, we can imply that anxiety is a pathological or mental health symptom. 

How can we recognize anxiety as a mental disorder? 

When the person expresses a physiological response in the absence of a real dangerous event. Here are some of the key indicators:  

  • The person starts being dysfunctional in their environment.

  • The person starts having a mix of dysfunctional thoughts that are not grounded to reality.

So how can we diagnose an anxiety disorder? 

Anxiety by itself is not a diagnosis. The "anxiety" term helps us to give a title to a diagnosis category where anxiety manifests itself. Some of these diagnosis associated with anxiety are: 

  • Phobias

  • Panic disorders without agoraphobia

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Stress reactions (Such as Post Acute Stress Disorder, PTSD and Adjustment Disorders)

Should I start taking anxiety pills?

There are evidence based cognitive behavioral treatments that promise effective results without the need of prescription drugs. Nevertheless, for some people, the combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy is the best option.  

How do you decide to refer a patient for pharmacotherapy?

We ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What is this patient's level of basic needs, dreams, nutrition and higiene accomplishments? 

  • Does this person has avoidance behaviors that impede optimum performance in their environments?

  • Can you sense the presence of non-functional rituals in their environments?

What's the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress is a degradation of anxiety and it usually only manifests through thoughts. Stress is a discomfort sensation or concern you go through during an event or unknown event. When we talk about stress, we talk about a sensation that will eventually go away. While the person is uncomfortable, he or she eventually executes the task and fulfills their responsibilities. 

When we talk about stress, we talk about a sensation that will eventually go away. While the person is uncomfortable, he or she eventually executes the task and fulfills their responsibilities. 
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

Can stress cause a panic attack?

An anxious response can manifest at any place or time.  It usually shows through high frequency stress and stress slowly transforms into anxiety. 

Similarly, anxiety increases until it reaches its limit. I always tell my patients that the body is very wise and it can handle a lot, but it has a limit. When we have anxiety, we are filling up a tank every time we decide to avoid something until our body says, "enough!". By nature, all that tension and discomfort hast to come out somehow, so the body expels it with symptoms and physical discomfort. This is usually when you experiment your first panic attack. 

How can we identify a panic attack?

A panic attack usually manifests in two ways: physically and mentally. While panic attacks share some characteristics, they are usually unique to each person. Not everyone experiments the same group of symptoms or in the same order. 

When a person is having physical symptoms, they may suddenly experiment multiple discomforts in a gradual and climbing form, such as: headaches, blurry vision, difficulty speaking, heat flashes, rosacea, drowning sensations, trembling voice, chest pain, tachycardia, difficulty breathing, stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, muscular pains, spasms,  irritability, catatonia, repetitive conducts, such as biting nails and somatization (physical pain due to no apparent biological reason). 

When a person is having cognitive symptoms, they may be scared that the worst will happen: die, loose control or suffer a heart attack. 

Do you have to visit a hospital if you have a panic attack?

It is very common that a person arrives at the emergency room once a panic attack happens. When this happens, the person goes through screening tests that usually turn out negative. In the hospital they will usually treat it with Benadryl or some type of painkillers. Once they observe the patient for some hours, they SHOULD be referred to some type of mental health provider. 

You may have heard of a coworker that went to the emergency room because she thought she had a heart attack when it was just a panic attack. Even though the person usually doesn't believe they have a mental health problem, this person usually has negative thoughts, suffers from diarrhea, sweat, headaches and when they arrive at work they feel like they have asthma.  Every person has their own symptoms combination. 

What is the main cause of a panic attack

In a general or macro level, anxiety is a defense mechanism that the person uses to avoid or confront some type of situation. So it is necessary to evaluate the avoidance component: If you avoid something, you accumulate it until it explotes in a panic attack. 

In a general or macro level, anxiety is a defense mechanism that the person uses to avoid or confront some type of situation.
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

In a micro level, there's something in your immediate environment that makes you have discomforting thoughts. I always tell my patients to evaluate themselves for two weeks so they can identify some pattern. 

They should consider multiple factors, like schedule, people, nutrition, menstrual cycle, sleeping patterns and basically everything in order to get a clear x-ray of your mind. After this homework, they always come back to me amazed because they are more consious that their anxiety or panic attacks are usually due to a general response and that they have a very marked pattern. 

If I experience a panic attack, does it mean I have a mental condition?

Experimenting a panic attack doesn't mean you have a mental health condition or that you need to start taking pills or have some type of pharmacological treatment. It certainly does not mean that you are unwell or crazy. 

Experimenting a panic attack doesn’t mean you have a mental health condition or that you need to start taking pills or have some type of pharmacological treatment. It certainly does not mean that you are unwell or crazy. 
— Dr. Cristina Rosario, PhD.

What should I do if I experience a panic attack?

Experiencing a panic attack is an indicator that you present some type of stimulus that is making you have emotional and psychological discomfort and that your current efforts to manage them are not being effective.  Yes, it is an indicator that you need to look for a mental health provider. 

You should schedule an appointment with a clinical psychologist (usually with a PhD or PsyD title), so this person can evaluate, educate you and determine the severity of your symptoms and offer a treatment plan. This may include a referral to a psychiatrist to consider medical treatment.

Why should I visit a psychologist?

Psychotherapy seeks to decrease the intensity and frequency of panic attacks, while educating on how to process and modulate perceived information in a way that does not accumulate so your body doesn't find it necessary to respond in pathological anxiety.

In a nutshell, psychotherapy will help you create a base line so you can auto-evaluate and know how anxiety and panic attacks manifest in yourself. Your psychologist will explore difficult or traumatic events, emotions and repressed thoughts that feed your anxiety. You will finally identify the sequence of your symptoms and offer clear tools adapted to your reality and environment so you know the 1-2-3's once you recognize your first anxiety symptom. 

Is there a cure for anxiety?

A manageable doze of anxiety is always motivating. However, pathological anxiety is preventable and has a cure. A person can manage to master  and  reduce their anxiety in order to eliminate their panic attacks. My opinion is that an anxious person will always be a little nervous, but as you learn, you manage to minimize triggers and learn to use appropriate tools once you recognize that you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety. You will manage ways to avoid (1) a full blown panic attack and (2) live his life without fear and avoidance.

Does fear have any relation to anxiety?

Fear is the consequence of anxiety. The concept of fear develops in the face of discomfort caused by anxiety and/ or a panic attack or any other diagnosis in the anxiety family.

The person identifies some triggers and therefore avoids exposure to them, thus reducing anxiety, while generating dysfunction and avoidance. Whenever we are afraid, we become immobilized and incapacitated.

Can anxiety lead to depression? 

Yes, there is a relationship between anxiety and depression and many times they feed from each other.

Like everything in life, anxiety does not like to live alone, so it usually comes with symptoms or a depression diagnosis. By avoiding situations, many times the person is isolated and at the same time feels guilty or embarrassed, while feeding the components needed for depression.

What is a mental health emergency?

A person (adult or minor) engages in one or more of these actions:

  • Expresses death thoughts or any indicator that they want to end their lives or harm themselves.

  • Expresses they want to harm another person.

  • The person is intoxicated and represents danger to themselves and/or others.

  • The person is psychotic, unconscious, disorganized or having hallucinations.

  • The person is out of control and aggressive.

What to do during a mental health emergency:

Call 911 and visit your nearest hospital. It can be a regular hospital since the person will eventually be transported to a psychiatric hospital. 

We should NEVER assume that the person is being manipulative and we certainly must never assume that the "suicide is trending" as I read in a comment related to 13 Reasons Why. 

Here are some health care providers (in Puerto Rico) to consider if you're having sucide thoughts or in case of an emergency: 

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline – National Network (TALK): 1-800-273-8255

  • Centro de Control de Envenenamiento (Poison Help): 1-800-222-1222

  • Administración de Salud Mental y Contra la Adicción (ASSMCA), Línea de Emergencia Primera Ayuda Social (PAS): (787) 763-7575/ Toll Free Number: 1-(800)-981-0023

Adults:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • (787) 760-0222 (exts. 7162, 7163, 7196 y 7197)

    • fax (787) 760-6875 y 760-2944

    • Toll free number: 1-(888)-967-4357

  • Hospital Panamericano en Cidra

    • (787) 739-5555 - (fax) 739-5544

    • Toll free number: 1-(800)-981-1218

  • Hospital Pavia

    • 787-641-2323

  • Hospital Ramon Fernandez Marina

    • 787-766-4646

Partial Adults:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano Bayamón / Condado

  • Hospital Panamericano en Cidra

  • Inspira Auxilio Mutuo / Hato Rey / Caguas / Bayamón

  • APS Healthcare Inc, Caguas y Carolina

Minors:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • 787-625-2900

  • Unidad Psiquiatrica Adolescentes -- Instalaciones del Hospital Universitario Ramón Ruiz Arnau(Hospital Regional de Bayamón)

    • 787-786-7373, 787-786-3620

  • Hospital San Jorge

    • 787-727-1088

    • 787-752-4453

Partial Minors:

  • Hopital San Juan Capestrano

    • 787-708-6324

  • Hospital San Jorge

    • 787-727-1088

    • 787-752-4453

dealing with anxiety

Have you ever dealt with anxiety, panic attacks or depression? Feel free to discuss this in the comments bellow! This should never be a shameful topic. :)

Until next time, 

María Elena

From Intern to Full Time at Aaron Stewart Home

CareerMaría Elena RodríguezComment
aurimar ortiz aaron stewart home headquarters

Ever since I started this Intern Diaries series, I've been on a mission to find hard working interns who have an inspiring story to tell about their experiences. So far, you've all loved Paola from Letras con Tacones' experience working at Elle Magazine in New York City and Kiara Hernández experience going from intern to full time at L'Oreal Puerto Rico's PR firm. They're all amazing experiences of how hard work and determination early on, can be a great getaway to accomplish your career goals. 

So when Fernando Rodríguez told me about Aurimar's journey at Aaron Stewart Home, I knew I had to feature her in this series. She interned at ASH for about a month, then went on to work part time and ended up being a full time employee. 

But to give you a little preview of the interview, she didn't only did a complete 360 career change from working as a restaurant manager to working as a licensed Interior Designer at Aaron Stewart Home, but she has done her entire career journey while taking care of her little girl Sofia, as a single mom! And did I mention she passed her license test in the first try?! 

I'm so happy I get to share Aurimar's inspiring story today, March 8, International Women's Day. I hope you enjoy and learn about this interview as much as I did!

BONUS: If you're interested in applying for an internship at ASH, stick through the end of this post for instructions. 

ME: What was your career goal as a kid?

AO: Honestly, I always wanted to be an astronaut, which has absolutely nothing to do with design!

ME: So how did you end up studying Interior Design?

AO: My interest for design started while doing my undergrad in humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. I had some friends that were studying Interior Design at the UPR, Carolina Campus, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I really didn’t even look for information, it was more of an impulse decision. I changed concentrations and once I was there, I knew this was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!

ME: What made you switch majors from Humanities to Interior Design?

AO: I liked the history part of Humanities, but I was way more inspired by everything that had to do with culture and fine arts.

ME: Did you always have your bedroom decorated like a magazine?

AO: Yes! Definitely. I loved organizing my drawers and color coordinating in rainbow patterns. I always tried to find the design aspect behind organization. I also loved doing collages, and I drew a lot as a kid.

In Puerto Rico you are taught interior design drawing by hand first. So that was perfect for me. I love drawing!

Aurimar and her little girl, Sofia.

Aurimar and her little girl, Sofia.

ME: You had your little girl during college, as a 21 years old. What was your biggest challenge?

AO: The biggest challenge was finding the energy and the time to finish my degree. Also, there’s a lot of cruel people that are quick to judge you and assign you the “failure” label once you become a single mom at a young age. But I learned no one can define me. I am the only person who can decide what I’m capable of accomplishing at my own terms. No one can decide that for me.

ME: How did you balance school and taking care of your kid at the same time?

AO: I had to make a mind set shift before anything else. School became my second priority and my baby my first priority. I was able to make it because I was very organized with my time and I had a very clear goal in mind.

When I thought I couldn’t keep going, I would get back in focus by meditating on my goal and visualizing myself accomplishing it. What really helped me balance it all was my mental state and attitude towards it.

ME: What did you end up getting a degree in?

AO: I ended up completing an Associate’s Degree in Interior Design at the San Juan School of Interior Design at E.D.P. University. Since I already had my associate's degree and already had a lot of Humanities credits, I was able to apply for the Interior Design License exam right way. I’m really proud to say I passed it in the first try because I worked really hard for it! 

I’m currently finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design at the San Juan School of Interior Design. I will finish in May 2018, because even though I only have 6 classes left, I want to take it easy. I already have a full time job and the license! Nevertheless, I really want to have a Master’s degree in Project Management or Sustainable Design some day!  

ME: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

AO: I worked in customer service for seven years and oh boy! I learned life is tough. But seriously, I learned a lot about patience during those years. One of the most important things I learned was how to cope with different personalities at the same time.

When you are serving a customer, you could simultaneously be dealing with someone who is super nice, but you could also be dealing with someone who is not having a great day. You have to learn to cope with both of them at the same time. I use those lessons everyday, not only in my career, but in my personal life.

ME: What was your first real job in design?

AO: I literally went from being a manager at a restaurant to being an intern at Aaron Stewart Home. It was such a complete change from what I was used to!

Once I graduated, Margaret Diaz, the president of the Colegio de Decoradores y Diseñadores de Puerto Rico (CODDI) called me because she had recommended me for an internship position at ASH.

ME: How was your first day as an intern at Aaron Stewart Home?

AO: It was very fast paced and it was a lot of information to take in. I would write everything down no matter how insignificant it seemed, so I could go back and revisit my notes if I needed them.

I went from receiving 2 emails a day to receiving a hundred in one day. It was definitely a lot of pressure! But the ASH Team was really supportive of me. Their policy is always: if you have a question, ask! They are always willing to teach you. They don’t expect you to know everything, they just want to know you're interested. I’d rather ask 10 questions about what my boss wants done than do it wrong and waste everyone’s time.

I’d rather ask 10 questions about what my boss wants done than do it wrong and waste everyone’s time.
— Aurimar Ortiz

ME: What did you imagine that your first day as an intern at ASH was going to be and how was it different?

AO: I thought it was going to be really easy, pretty and colorful! But what goes on behind the scenes is a lot of hard work, sweat, stress and pressure. It’s all about the details. Like for example, you look at something like wallpaper and you think it’s simple. But no! It takes hours to complete that. First, you match and pick out a wallpaper. After that, you have to find out if it’s available, order it, and if it’s not, sometimes you may have to wait three months for it. Then, you have to pick it up, find someone to install it, but if they install it wrong, you need to go ahead and order it again! There’s a whole behind the scenes that happens inside designing a space.

ME: What was your biggest challenge during your internship at ASH?

AO: I would say staying on top of everything. There were a lot of things going on at the same time, while I was learning how to organize my calendar, schedule and thoughts, literally!

ME: Did you ever imagine yourself working at ASH?

For an entire year I visualized myself working for a big designer in Puerto Rico.
— Aurimar Ortiz

AO: For an entire year I visualized myself working for a big designer in Puerto Rico, so when it happened I was like BAM! Law of attraction! This is what I was looking for and it actually happened.

Aurimar's Inspiration Board at the Aaron Stewart Home's Headquarters.&nbsp;

Aurimar's Inspiration Board at the Aaron Stewart Home's Headquarters. 

ME: How was your internship experience while having your little girl?

AO: Wow!  While my little girl was in preschool, I was working at the restaurant as a manager some days and then working at ASH the other days. I would go out to look for her in school at 2PM to drop her at my mom’s and come back to my internship until 6PM. It was not an easy schedule! But thankfully all of that has changed.

You need to have determination to do this. A lot of people would give up! Without the help of my friends and family, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I owe them that and so much more!

ME: How did you learn to organize yourself?

AO: I have binders with sections subdivided by to-do lists, with files that I need on hand for each day and divided by project. I also have my daily planner that I take with me everywhere like it’s my cellphone. I also use my phone’s calendar to let the team know about my schedule.

It’s important to know that you’re not perfect and that at some point you’re going to get disorganized. But you have to set out a day of the week to take care of it, go back and put whatever you messed up, back to the way it was!

aaron stewart home headquarters
aaron stewart home headquarters
aaron stewart home headquarters

ME: What would you recommend other students that would like an internship in the interior design field and how can they excel at it?

AO: I think that you have to face your fears, specially if it’s your first internship or real job. Even though you might not even know what’s going on, there’s going to be a lot of insecurity, but you have to look past that and do it! Be fearless of what you want.

Also, you have to be willing to do what you have to do! Stop putting excuses.

ME: What are your tips towards finding a dream internship?

AO: I used to think that this internship came to me by luck, but the truth is I was a really hard working student and I was referred by a professor because of that.

aaron stewart home

In any moment you could make a connection with someone who could help you. That’s why it’s so important to keep good relationships with as many people as you can. You never know when you’re going to see them again!

ME: Describe a normal day as an intern at ASH?

AO: Everyday was different. But one example could be arriving at the office, having a status meeting at 9AM and then it was time to go out and find sources for faucets, furniture, and delivering store merchandise to our clients. It was all behind the scenes the design process. I was helping everyone in the team!

ME: What is the difference now that you’re a full time employee?

AO: Now I have responsibilities that are set and I have projects that I’m in charge of. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I keep assisting anyone that needs my help around the day.

ME: What was your biggest lesson once you finished your internship?

AO: Once they made me full time I had to leave the job I was working at. It was super scary since I was very comfortable where I was, and I had a lot of experience there. But it was 20 thousand times worth it. So my biggest lesson was learning to step out of my comfort zone.

fernando rodriguez aaron stewart

ME: What was your favorite part of your internship experience?

AO: The team work dynamic and the open door policy. If you felt uncomfortable about something, there was no problem in saying it. We are a support system!

ME: What advice would you give a student who is going to start an internship at ASH?

AO: Don’t take anything personal, work hard and watch your attitude. Attitude is everything!

ME: Have you ever been a victim of mommy shaming for being a working mom? If that’s so, how did you manage it?

AO: Of course! Not everyone is capable of respecting you when they have different ambitions than yours. A lot of people don’t get it and that’s why I don’t take it personally. Everybody has their own path and goals to accomplish.

The only opinion that really matters to me is my daughter’s. That’s why we constantly talk about this topic, and I explain to her the importance of fighting for your dreams. But most importantly, I make sure that our time together is quality time, without interruptions.

I make sure to let her know that her opinions and her emotions matter to me and that’s how we come across agreements together. That’s all that matters to me. If others don’t understand it, that’s completely out of my control, so I don’t even take it into consideration.

ME: Puerto Rico is going through a tough economic recession, so there’s a lot of people advising others not to waste time in artistic careers. What advice would you give someone who is pursuing a creative career but is overwhelmed by all the negativity?

AO: If you focus on what’s going on around you instead of what you want, you’re going to be going back and forth trying to please everyone your whole life. If you have a passion that you know you want to do, go for it even if the odds are against you! If you feel in your heart that’s what’s going to make you happy and you’re willing to work for it, life will give you all the tools you need to make it work.

If you listen to everyone’s opinion you will never do anything!

ME: Many women think that after having kids, their dreams are put aside, but clearly this hasn’t been your case. What advice will you give other single moms?

audimar ortiz aaron stewart home

AO: What better example could you give your kids than following your dreams, working hard, never giving up, not been mediocre, not settling and to keep fighting to make a personal change? Those are life’s biggest lessons. Here is my advice:

  • Make a support system of family members, friends and even support groups where you can find help and good advice.
  • Read. Educate yourself by looking for information about educating your child and about not only being a parent, but a happy human being.
  • Look for your passion and practice it. Do what makes you happy and let your kid see you being happy.
  • Look for people who motivate you and are good examples for you and your kids.
  • Last but not least, stop feeling guilty because you’re taking time for your own personal development. Kids learn to be happy and independent by watching you. The best lesson you can give your kids is to show them how to be a perseverant person and to live life with enthusiasm and purpose.

Interested in being an intern at Aaron Stewart Home? Keep reading.

  • Are you a visionary? 
  • Do you have the skill of looking beyond your assigned tasks?
  • Are you willing to give your all?
  • Can you multitask projects?
  • Want to be a part of a fast paced environment?
  • Can you see yourself being part of the future of Aaron Stewart Home?

      If you replied yes to all of the questions above, send your resume to info@aaronstewarthome.com. Good luck! 


    Hope this interview inspired you to keep following your current dreams! There are definetely no excuses. 

    If you enjoyed this post, I would suggest you check out my Career section. Also, you may enjoy Fernando Rodíguez's ASH office tour I did a few weeks ago. 

    Until next time, 
    María Elena