Web Designer Beauty School student case study: Deborah Penner, Love Deep Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Deborah Penner of Love Deep Design.

Deborah is smart, supportive, and has an investigative mind. One of the things we admire about Deborah is her steadfast commitment to building a business that allows her to live life on her own terms. Her ability to take her clients’ visions and turn them into a dream online home reflects the years of work she has put into making her own dream a reality.

Let’s get to know Deborah!

Tell us a little about your journey to be a web designer. How did you get interested in designing and/or developing websites?

I had never seen myself as a creative person in any traditional sense of the word. My dad was the musician, my grandpa the artist, and my grandma was the opera trained singer. I got none of that, so it seemed. In 2010 my body “broke” and I could no longer practice nursing in the way the way that I always had. Everything shifted. The gift of that breaking point was the discovery of my way of expressing the creativity that, as it turns out, we are all born with. I wanted a way to chronicle the process of physical, emotional, and mental healing, so I started a blog on wordpress.com.

Can you describe your design and/or development skills BEFORE you started this course?

I had very little. I was a nurse. I learned my way around technology at work. It wasn’t particularly difficult, although I didn’t even own a computer until 2004. I was afraid of them. My introduction to the internet was on public library computers in 1996 when I cultivated a hot steamy romance with my long-distance love. That was the driving force and my intro to email. I learned to maneuver myself around the web with WebTV. (Yes, I am owning that.)

Can you recall what you were struggling with?

When my body crashed and I was given the diagnosis of “possible MS” (multiple sclerosis) due to MRI findings, along with suffering issues in my spine and hip that required three surgeries over eight months, as I mentioned above, I wanted a space to chronicle my journey of understanding the underlying factors of my poor health. So I started the blog. It was a slow and inconsistent process.

I remember the extreme frustration of wanting my blog to look and feel a particular way and being absolutely unable to make it do what I wanted. I did not have the language to express it clearly enough to get the answers I needed. I slowly began to assimilate information that led me to Thesis in 2012, Amanda Aitken and Girls Guide courses in the beginning of 2013, and ultimately to Katy and Krista and Web Designer Beauty School Support Forum.

Can you recall your #1 concern, fear, or challenge that you had before making the decision to join the course?

I don’t. I knew I had found a place where I could learn the language of web design with consistency and patience, and I was determined to learn enough to create a website for myself that I loved, and to also create a website for my sister who had paid for the course. She is the best natural health care practitioner I know. Her website does not reflect that at all. (That’s one of my next projects.)

What did you discover was actually the case?

It was exactly as I expected. So when the free support forum with the Girls Guide shifted to the paying forum, staffed by Katy Martin and Krista Smith, that monthly cost was a no-brainer investment. The videos Katy created for the Girls Guide were the ones that brought the information home to me in a completely usable way. Every new video she and Krista created on the support forum was like a Christmas present. I sucked in the information.

My way of learning was to go through each of the videos and gather info, and then practice the step. I collated the information in my brain. I needed to see and know what the code could do. I sucked in as much information as I could so that when I started playing in the actual sites, I would know where to go to find exactly what I needed.

What I knew was that if I could understand it and see it work as my fingers did the typing of the code and my eyes saw the subsequent visual shifts on the screen, I could do it. I could create websites that satisfy the visitor visually and functionally. It was soooo exciting! Addictingly so.

What is the #1 result you saw as a result of this participating in this course?

Clients are willing to pay me to create their websites. I love that! They are willing to pay me to do this thing that is so much fun!

What are three other benefits you received?

1. I have never known the satisfaction of creating something beautiful that also gives me so much joy just to look at until I created my Love Deep Design site. I know now that I am a creative being. I have found at least one way to express my creativity that I never dreamt was possible 10 years ago.

2. I get to work with amazing people all over the country. My current clients are in Boston.

3. I have dreamed for eight years of doing something that moves with me. This is it. Recently I was able to work while being away from home with family in medical crisis. And that is just the beginning. When I moved to southern California in 2002, I had to have a job first to make sure that I could support myself and my two children. Nursing gave me some measure of flexibility, but I was still attached to a time clock and whatever institution was paying my hourly wage.

This goes with me anywhere. I set my work times to correlate with the time of day that I feel most creative and productive, and I can follow the flow in my body. That is an important balance piece for me.

What are you doing now that you didn’t know how to do before you took the course?

Responsive design. It was the thing that scared me the most. It is now the thing that gives me the greatest joy to work out. Learning to work it out taught me a ton about organizing the initial design to accommodate tiny technology as I work.
I open emails and websites first on my smart phone. If I cannot read them, or if they are not easy to maneuver, I don’t waste a lot of time with them.

Can you describe your current work situation? How do you balance it with “life”?

I live alone. My children are grown and out of the house and each about an hour to an hour and a half away. I could easily be consumed with my business. Fortunately, my body will not allow that. When it wants to stop, I have to stop and give it what it wants or it messages me with pain, stopping me cold in my tracks. I take a lot of movement breaks. Yoga breaks. Mini dance breaks. Sitting for too long is not a good thing. Sometimes I’ll go to the river and walk.

Sometimes my brain says, “Stop!” It is so beneficial to do something else when the brain gives me that message. Creative solutions reveal themselves when I take my focus off of the code that’s giving me grief or the idea that just won’t come when I think I need it.

The real balance for me is between the parts of my work I love and the parts that aren’t as much fun — maybe even scary (like tending to the financial end of business).

How has your attitude and perspective shifted as a result of the course?

I am a business woman now. Who knew?! At some point this past year, I shifted from unconsciously perceiving my creative work as a hobby into seeing what I do as viable business and giving it the respect a business requires to succeed. I get to create! I get to make things. And I am having so much fun with it. (Even when technology crashes and things get dicey.)

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on upgrading the website for a business coaching/consulting group of three women in Boston. I am having so much fun with it and learning a ton about how to streamline the process for my clients. The site should be launched in a couple months. One of the most exciting things for me about this particular project is that it is a direct result of my blog, my website, and gently putting myself out there in a way that feels good to me.

I am also putting together a simple website for a former colleague and working on an upgrade on the very first not-my-own Thesis website. Last and not least, I am gestating my sister’s website in the background of my awareness.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received to date about your work?

My current clients keep telling me, “You get us. That’s a miracle because we are all so different and somehow you have managed to create something we all like.”

We LOVE that you’ve been a huge supporter of WDBS since it began and have been a part of our world for a lot longer than that. What is it that you love about our community?

I love that I can go in every day and feel supported. I love that I’ll be working on something, ask a question in my mind, come the Support School group, and somebody has already asked my question in a different context. Voilà! My question is answered.

I love the wide variety of skills here. It can be crazy difficult for me not to compare myself with women who started with a stronger tech/design background than I did. I remind myself of where I am now compared to where I started — with a simple point-and-click wordpress.com site five and a half years ago.

I love the hope that I feel here. I love that it has been an active part of the ongoing neurologic reset in my system. Learning new skills builds new neural networks and grows new neuronal connections.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in web design?

Be patient.  
Don’t compare yourself with anyone else here.
Honor your learning style and patterns.
Honor your work style.
Be kind to yourself.
Just do it.

Where can we find you online? (please include FULL urls to your preferred social media!)

A final note from Deborah…

“Thanks for the heart and soul you put into this course and the support forum. It has made all the difference in the world not only in the web design learning process but also in the my overall healing process … So glad you and Krista kept the door open and created this place of magic!”

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