It Girl | SARA LLOYD
Meet Sara Lloyd, website developer and creator of snarky products. Sara has been on my interview list for quite a while and I am so excited for you to meet her. Sara shares her experiences running a business, preparing for motherhood and more with us!
Name: Sara Lloyd
Job Title/Company: Chieftess, Snark Studios
Education Background: Bach Science, Business Information Technology from Virginia Tech
Tell us a little about who you are.
This kind of question is so daunting to answer. But let’s try this: I am a person who guards her freedom very closely. I am a rebel, according to Gretchen Rubin’s tendency quiz. My 5 main themes from Strength’s Finder are empathy, strategic, futuristic, ideation, and input. These plus the rebel assessment I think summarize me pretty well: I don’t like being told what to do, and I don’t even like setting rules for myself, but I am driven by thinking about + percolating on ideas for the future, prioritizing them according to how it fits into my life goals, and then figuring out how to get there.
Also! I’m a grown up who loves sprinkles on everything still, dog lover, aspiring yogi, winter hater, currently pregnant + first baby coming in the next 6-8 weeks NBD, love watching all kinds of documentaries w/ man-piece (aka husband), aspiring long-term traveler, have gotten really into wearing sneakers past few years but used to be all about that high heel life and only miss it occasionally.
2. What sparked your interest in starting your business?
I started my career in IT wanting to be like a power-suit exec in corporate IT environment. Pretty soon in I realized the idea of it didn’t match basically my personality. Wasn’t meant for me / I wasn’t good at office politics to make this my Thing. Eventually my scales of dissatisfaction tipped enough for me to start looking for alternatives - either a dream job, or a job that would let me be really flexible + pursue passions on the side. I found Marie Forleo somehow, and through her sort of entered the world of self-help, self-do, build-your-life arena and never looked back. That’s the simple answer obviously :)
Snark Studios was started out of job-necessity in February 2016 and has been serving small- to medium-sized businesses with web needs ever since. We specialize in Wordpress, and this year transitioned a bit to focus more on development and partnering with talented designers and agencies to handle design and branding. I'm about to launch a new website with clearer services and packages, and our new slogan is "No jargon. Just good code." Snark Studios is all about delivering good code without confusion, and in general being a good citizen + treating clients with respect, communicating clearly, and being reliable. While also of course bringing our 10-years of development experience to the table, and making sure your customers + visitors are getting the best experience possible.
The Snark Shop is transitioning over the next couple months, from a snarky greeting-cards-only shop, to general snarky goods for business bosses, people who love sarcasm, and folks who ain't got time. I love all-things-snarky-commentary and I especially love it on my office supplies and involved in my funny-yet-heartfelt gift giving too, and so in the new year I'll be on the hunt for other people like me who want these things too! Three cheers for making people snort laugh and laughter as medicine with a side of eye-rolling.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
I think I’m most influenced by the people I go to for advice. Husband, biz besties, mom, and closest friends. Boring answer, but I consult with husband on lots of things, both business and personal, since he has a similar occupation, and for small-business-related questions and such, I have a mastermind group turned best gals that I go to. We’re using Voxer app right now to send voice messages and it’s super fun. Anyway. These are the people whose opinions and experiences I value the most and so probably weigh the heaviest in how I make decisions and take action.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
I worked as a gate guard at our neighborhood pool for a few summers. It was such a cushy job - I had to welcome people to the pool, check membership cards, and got paid more than the lifeguards who did WAY more work! The pool was behind my house, so I walked there every day, wore a swim suit, read books, and talked with friends. Every teenagers dream ha.
5. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
My proudest achievement is still the fact that I quit my job and started my business. There have been lots of specific things I’ve accomplished since then but that one still feels like the biggest hurdle that I jumped which sort of turned me into the person I am now. Huge shift in how I think about things, approach issues, etc. that impacts so many areas of life.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
Initially I wanted to do whatever work I could to continue working from home and making my own schedule! That’s still one of my primary goals that I think about when I take on projects or talk with clients and partners - will this work allow me to keep the schedule I have and want? Will it allow me to maintain / continue to pursue my healthy habits? I find when I forget these or abandon them in favor of something that feels “cool” or whatever, I end up resenting myself, and get tossed into a pit of despair that is often very hard to dig out of. Everyone has different passions and reasons behind their work, and I check in with mine regularly to make sure I’m still Here For The Right Reasons, as Chris Harrison says ;)
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through your work?
Flexibility! Sort of contrary to that last answer, the lesson I’ve learned is that sometimes there’s TONS of work and it’s stressful and hard and feels impossible and gives me self doubt and other negative feelings. But everything is cyclical - that’s probably the other lesson. There’s no backup person in my business, so if I don’t do it, who will? So I MUST.
8. Where do you hope to be in five years?
Is it weird / funny / typical maybe, but I don’t really want to answer this right now. I’m pregnant with my first kid, and have no idea what being a mom will look like or add to - or take away from - my life. Pregnancy has been hard, and I have gotten pretty good at taking things literally a day and moment at a time. Today I feel fine. Birth is scary, so I don’t think about it too much except knowing it’s in my future. And taking care of a baby / raising a child is such a huge and heavy Thing to think about, I’m putting off big thinking like this ha.
BUT. I will share, I do aim to kickoff a new Wordpress tips series in 2019 for clients and people who don’t want to code, re-start my column on freelance life, Get Serious, and do a product + strategy pivot for my sister co The Snark Shop. Odd that I’m very motivated to get these things done while pregnant + knowing there is an imminent and abrupt halt date :)
9. What is a typical day like for you?
In the last 3-4 months I’ve been experimenting with a new schedule that has really been working for me (after 6 years of working from home / for myself, it’s about time, right?), where every day of the week has a different or specific focus. Mondays are lazy - no alarm, slow breakfast, some for-pleasure or self-help type reading, and then I usually “get to work” around lunch time. Tuesdays are admin + coding days, so I do a set amount of time ON the biz, then focus on whatever tasks are most important the rest of the day. Wednesday and Thursday are bookmarked for appointments and meetings (this has made the biggest difference in how my days and weeks feel, limiting when I am “available” to meet with clients!). Then Fridays are all code/work days. My goals daily are: no alarm, a bit of gentle AM exercise, a daily walk with the dog, and mindful eating. Schedules have never been my forte, so setting these more general guidelines has made a big impact for me.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
Honestly the biggest obstacle is ME. While I am driven to do what I want to do, I’m also a bit lazy, and I don’t like doing things that are hard or that don’t come easily to me. I always use taxes as an example. I hate dealing with them, and finances in general, so I always wait until the last minute to organize things, and get moving on all of that. Which of course makes things SO STRESSFUL and basically reinforces that taxes are hard. So I’m a self-fulfilling prophecy here, when, if I tried just a tiny bit, I could be a little more organized and make things easier and less stressful for myself! So, even though I’d love to tell a story about That One Obstacle, mostly I deal with obstacles daily. Must get out of bed in a timely manner to accomplish work. Must accomplish work to finish projects. Must finish projects to get paid. Must get paid to stay in business. Some days it’s easier than others.
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
The piece of advice I seem to always go back to is that one gem from Marie Forleo: Everything is figure-out-able! See previous question for applicability ha. I repeat this to myself constantly. And when I have issues, man-piece is saying something similar. Things might not end up the way you thought they would or should, but you WILL figure SOMETHING out. Eventually.
12. When do you get your best ideas?
On the toilet. LOLJK kind of. Seriously I usually have the most genius ideas when trying to fall asleep. They say keep a notebook by the bed for this, but I always jot them down in my phone because that’s what I use to plan my life. Yes, late-night screen time = bad, I know. Whether it’s a to-do item I suddenly remember, a bug fix inspiration that hits me, or a product or insta post idea, I grab my phone and either put it in Trello or on the appropriate note, and then I can trust myself to let it go + fall asleep (...as long as I’m not too wired from all that screen time lol).
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
I built a very extensive and advanced website for a client over the last year that I still classify as a failure, even though the site IS deployed / live / being used / successfully working. I was WAY over my head - in the planning, the technical aspect, the testing, basically all parts from start to finish were lacking in something. I undercharged, spent way more time than anticipated, and did not have any plans for completion criteria - when would we be finished? How would both sides of the contract know we are finished? What specific things constitute success? This project has taught me SO MUCH, in addition to project management and technical issue related things, it’s taught me that YES I am so capable. But I still need to plan. And be up front with clients when things aren’t going well, or when they are going the complete opposite of how I thought they would. I have actually written a long-form essay about this project for my own purposes and don’t want to recreate that here ha, but the biggest lesson probably is this: there are always lessons, and they aren’t always the ones you think you need to learn, and they are sometimes insanely humbling. But you have to keep going, because as I mentioned in #7 - if not you, then who? YOU MUST.
14. How do you unwind?
Was really into reading fiction for a couple years + would go through 1 or 2 books a week. Now really into more self-help type “work on me” books, and putting puzzles together! It’s really hard for the brain to fret while doing a puzzle. We’re doing a REALLY hard Disney Christmas themed puzzle right now and I LOVE it.
15. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
I like to think of “my field” as the Make Your Life What You Want field ha. What I usually say to people who might want a change is the balance of the 4 main job-related ingredients: 1) your work - like, the tasks you do, 2) your boss, 3) coworkers, and 4) how much money you make. You can have 3 of 4 in my opinion, and maintain a content + happy life. Once you lose the balance though, this is when scales tip. You need to fix life so you have at minimum 3 of 4 at a level that pleases you, and until you do, you’ll be dissatisfied + on the hunt for SOMETHING.
One other answer to this. In college, it never occurred to me that I could be my own boss. It wasn’t talked about a lot, and since it was a decade ago (ugh #old), I think it’s probably changed as the internet and social media have evolved and advanced. BUT. I wish someone had told me that when you’re looking for a job or career, you also need to consider your LIFE. I wanted to be an IT Project Manager and work my way to Woman CTO. I had zero clue what that looked like day-to-day, for personal life, for interpersonal life, for just daily what-will-I-do-at-work. I want more people to think about all of these things when considering what to do with their careers. It’s not just about certifications and money - or even serving the community or advancing a worthy goal like helping the environment. You’re a human! You are more than what you have passion for. You have needs. Don’t forget to think about what they are.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
No excuses, play like a champion? Ha. But I mean, kind of that. My story isn’t the most difficult or challenge filled or whatever. But I am constantly feeling like, if I solved these interpersonal and career-related issues I was having, then so can everyone else. YOU DO YOU, is probably the thing I want people to see and take away from what I did and am doing. Owning a business, working alone, isn’t for everyone. And by that I mean, it’s not the only solution! But the solution CAN be found, and I just want people to find what their own solution IS, and then Go. Get it.
17. Anything we missed that you would like to share?
Read this in a book and wrote it really big in my office: “Remember the difference between your professional mission and your personal purpose.” I LOVE THIS. I am not a passionate website builder. I am a person who likes making websites. It’s ok for the two to be separate.