A lot has been going on in my life over the past year, and I wanted to have a page where I can give folks the latest news on The Life of DZ. This is inspired by nownownow.com.

Last updated: February 29th, 2020 from Louisville, KY


Figuring out where I live

I turned 30 over summer 2019. When I asked myself what I'd wished I'd done in my 20s that I hadn't done yet, at the top of the list was to work from other countries for a bit. I'd been running my small product+design studio for ~7 years, but I mostly worked from home and coffee shops in Chicago during that time.

So in the October 2019 I got out of my lease in Chicago, put the majority of my things in storage, and set off to Paris, Budapest, Berlin, and Lisbon for 2.5 months. I'd been considering moving on from Chicago for a little bit, but this was the first step in moving away without deciding where to move to next.

Currently I'm based in Louisville, KY with family while I take a few trips in the meantime. I have an idea where I'll finally land, but I'm not saying anything yet. Expecting to move in May/June 2020.

Building a new company, Arrows

Since Fall 2018 I've been working on a new company with my good friend Benedict Fritz called Arrows. We've gone through more than a few iterations of product and tool ideas, but have recently landed on something really promising after a fair bit of research.

In 2020 we've fully committed to helping customer success teams at SaaS companies. There's lots of reasons why, but overall we just really like those people and they seem most aligned with the kinds of tools we'd like to build. We have a few preorders, and I'm spending most of my days writing code for the first version and talking to potential customers for research+sales.

Paying the bills with client work

Benedict and I are fairly committed to self-funding Arrows, since we primarily want to control our options and outcomes. To do so, we've continued the work of my studio, No Small Things, together as a team.

We have a really consistent load of work, and regularly partner with other consultants like ourselves so we can continue to deliver high-quality work on reasonable timelines. We're positioned as a boutique studio, inbetween a flaky freelancer and an expensive, bloated agency.

We charge less than agencies (though we aren't cheap) and we provide a full-service package unlike most freelancers. Tell us what you need built, we'll figure it out, design+code+product management all-in-one. We have some really cool clients right now, and I hope we get to talk about them later this year.

Growing an agency w/ minimal risk

Since we've been getting so much client work, we've been concerned that we will lose focus on Arrows. The client work is our current business, but Arrows is the future and our goal. We also been receiving more clients than we can handle on our own, and sometimes there's work on the project we just don't have the skills to do ourselves. Plus, more client work = more runway for Arrows = less desire to seek out investors for Arrows.

But this has led to new challenges for us, which are honestly exciting. We haven't had to manage multiple projects at once before, or multiple partners/contractors. The scale of the projects we're taking on is often new for us, and the projects are mostly for large organizations (vs. my early clients which were all tiny startups).

So it's generally an exciting time. Frankly, my studio had been running a fairly similar process for the first 7 years, which had become stale. At this point, I'm mostly just helping sell new clients and managing the projects, which is a breath of fresh air since I'm probably better at that than I am as a designer or developer for what our clients need (I'm well-suited for building Arrows at its current stage).