Nicole Fenton is the coauthor of Nicely Said. They design with words.

2011 in Review

When I decided to dive into freelance last January, I didn’t know where I was headed. I had drive without a specific direction. I knew a few things were important to me; I wanted to do it my way. Help people. Make great things. Vote with my feet. Learn by doing, not following. So I decided to do what I love, with my gut as a compass. And it’s been a beautiful journey that pushes me everyday. In the spirit of moving forward, here’s a look back at my first year in business.

The best clients in the universe

I started the year off contracting with Lab Zero, an agile software development agency. I’m here just about full-time now. We make web and mobile apps at Pier 9 in San Francisco. These are the brightest and nicest folks I’ve ever worked with; I’m happy to be part of the team.

Along with a few big clients at LZ, I worked with several great personal clients in 2011. Here’s a brief rundown of what I did:

Strategy and Branding

Pinterest hired me to develop a message strategy, voice guidelines, and a press kit for their highly-addictive interface. Swoon. You can follow my pins here.

Quality Peoples asked me to help with branding and marketing their evocative clothing. Completely stoked. I love these guys.

Writing and Editing

Enough Pepper hired me to edit their marketing content for Survs, a simple online survey tool.

Microsoft enlisted my editing help for MIX Online, a community publication run by the great Nishant Kothary.

Adelie Software hired me to write brief descriptions and copy for several of their iPhone apps.

Just before the holidays, I helped Katie Chin whip her portfolio into shape with case studies and crisp calls to action.

I also worked with my friend and former colleague, Stewart McCoy, to edit his Design Education series.


2011 had a good amount of social time, where I got to share, laugh, and learn from colleagues. I went to one amazing conference (CS Forum in London) and spoke briefly there. I tried to go to as many meetups as possible in SF and mentored a few folks in the field.

MIX Online and Web Standards Sherpa published new articles from me. I want to continue this trend of writing for publications in the next year.

What I learned

I did a lot of work last year. Too much work, honestly. Look at all those projects. I was overloaded, and it was my own fault. After all, I am the boss of me. I said yes too often and learned how to say no by the time autumn came around.

In 2012, I want to make sure I am well-rested and spend time with people (and places and books) I care about. I’m going to keep practicing saying no and take one personal client at a time. I want to stop multitasking and get out of the habit of having windows and tabs pile up all over my screen. It’s distracting.

I also learned I have to make something for myself to keep all the problem-solving energy going for clients. Last year, I worked on my new website. It was fun and challenging. This year, I’m working on a food-related project that’s been rolling around in my head for years. More about that soon. What an awesomely awesome year. I have learned so much; I have so much to learn. I can’t wait to share new things with you over the next few weeks!

Thank you

I want to say thank you to my clients, peers, and friends. From deep down in my swelling heart: thanks a million. I couldn’t have done it without you. Onward.