Adekunle Oduye — Justworks
Adekunle Oduye is a Product Designer at Justworks where he is building payroll management tools for small businesses. …
I’ve always liked making things. I grew up in the countryside — so when I was younger I would make things with my dad and siblings. Treehouses, a zip wire through our garden, and a wooden boat to float (unsuccessfully) down a river.
Then in my teenage years, I got really into photography. Mostly taking photos of nature and landscapes nearby.
I learnt how to use Photoshop when I was 13 or 14. First to edit my photos — but it led to experimenting with graphic design. Designing posters and album covers. I also had a lot of fun adding huge spoilers and wheels to cars (lol). My computer really couldn’t handle Photoshop. I remember the pain of cutting out cars. I’d spend hours with the lasso tool and my computer would lose the selection just before I got to the end. There was no ⌘+Z for that.
I decided I wanted to go down the graphic design route. I applied for graphic design at 5 universities in the UK. I got rejected from them all — but ended up with an offer for an Interaction Design degree. Back then it was a newer and much less competitive course. We had 30 people on ours, graphic design had about 300.
Looking back — it turned out to be a much better path for me. It set me up nicely for my first digital design role. And got me into digital product design at a good time. Fast forward a bit and I’ve had the chance to work at some of my favourite product-led companies.
I wake up around 6.30 am. Since recently, I’ve become a morning person. I usually wake up before my alarm. I don’t eat breakfast — go straight to coffee. Whip up a flat white for me and my girlfriend. I enjoy the moment of calm before work kicks off.
My workday starts around 9 am. I recently went freelance — so that comes with a new type of ‘typical’ day.
Back when I was in a perm role I’d split my day into two. Mornings for focussed design work; design exploration, documenting design specifications, running through ideas with a PM, or sharing async feedback with other designers. And afternoons were for team meetings as I worked with a distributed team across a few time zones.
Now as a freelancer it depends on whether I’m trying to get work or I’m doing the work. The best (and worst) thing about freelancing is the irregularity that comes with it.
If I’m trying to get work I start in my Freelance Notion board. It’s a dashboard-y type thing where I manage everything relating to being a freelancer. Leads for clients, meeting notes, invoices, tax info, and everything in between.
It’s the central place I come back to. I’ll set 2 or 3 priorities for the day. I’ll update the status of client leads. Follow up with any emails. Reach out to a few people or companies. And hopefully, have a first chat or two lined up.
Late morning or early afternoon I get outside. Usually one of a few things. A walk around the park, skateboarding nearby, swimming in the harbour, or playing a bit of basketball.
Then if I’m doing the work it depends on the company I’m working with. Each company comes with a different approach, processes, and ways of working.
I'm happiest when in nature. When I'm stuck on a design problem — a break from the screen and getting outside pretty much always helps. Luckily, Denmark has its fair share of nature. I love living close to the sea.
Going for a run
It’s crazy what a short run can do for inspiration. It helps me feel positive and clear my head.
Going to events
We recently went to an event in Copenhagen called 3 Days of Design. It’s mostly about furniture and interiors — but a great source of inspiration.
Less time wasted going back and forth with clients about availability. It’s one less thing to deal with. I can just share a Calendly link and they can sort the rest. It solves a super-specific problem well.
Steamery Cirrus No.3
Love the look of their new steamer. Plus there are lots of thoughtful details. Like the tactile buttons and the magnets that keep the water tank in place.
Back in the first lockdown, I started a side project called Good Garms with my partner. It’s a platform to find the best sustainable clothing brands in one place. It's a problem I care a lot about. The fashion industry is a mess — it’s built off exploitation. We think finding sustainable clothes from brands that care, should be easy.
I’m super proud of what we’ve done so far. It’s rare to cover such a wide surface area of a product in a normal job. Recently, I've been going deep into SEO and affiliate partnerships.
Side projects help me to learn, experiment and grow. We’re under no pressure with Good Garms. We work on it as and when we can. Growing slowly at our own pace.
From the start, we committed to donating 5% of the money we get. Not just 5% of profits (AKA nothing) — but 5% of all revenue. We donate four times a year to Clean Clothes Campaign. They’re doing great work to improve the working conditions for garment factory workers.
Some other projects I’ve really enjoyed over the last few years.
Finding work while doing work
Finding work is a part-time job at a minimum. So it becomes tough to line up the next thing when you’re in a full-time contract. It’s easy to see how it can lead to burnout.
Getting up to speed quick
As a freelancer, you’re often expected to add value instantly. In a permanent job, you could have onboarding that lasts weeks or even months. But we don’t get that luxury. It can make it hard to make well-reasoned decisions when you lack deep context and understanding.
Having too many things to focus on slows me down. Whether that’s multiple projects, clients, or parts of the work. So it means I need to be more efficient with my time.
Dealing with tax
Getting your head around tax for a freelancer is a nightmare. Especially in a new country.
Be a sponge
Try and take in as much as you can. Speak to people from all walks of life. Reach out to people you admire. Work at different types of companies. Surround yourself with people you can learn from. Always be learning.
The design industry is a small place. Be nice to people you work with. Be open and curious. Your personality traits and the way you work with other people will take you much further than your technical skills and talent will.
Double down on passion
Find the things you’re super passionate about and follow that. Life’s too short to be working on things you don't care about.
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If you’re looking to learn more about sustainable fashion check out the side project I talked about — Good Garms. It's a place to find great quality clothes that don’t sacrifice the planet or the people that made them.
And finally — I’m available for freelance product design work in November. Hit me up if you have a remote-friendly project you need help with.