Kate is an LA-based digital product designer by day, working for a Brooklyn design studio. By night, she’s a nail artist specializing in gel manicures with wild nail art. We had the honor of chatting with her about all things nail business, work-life balance, remote work, and list-making.
On her usual day-to-day.
The company I work for is in Brooklyn, but I’m in LA so I work remotely, doing mostly digital product design feedback and project management, leading client engagements and then giving people on my team guidance on the products we’re building.
Being a remote manager means doing a ton of documentation. Half of the time, I’m meeting with someone and then the other half is writing things up that can be accessed later. Knowledge transfer doesn’t happen as easily when you’re remote as it does in the office.
I usually work East Coast hours, so 7am — 3pm or 8am — 4pm PST and then on evenings and weekends I take nail appointments.
On her path to being a nail artist.
In 2009 I had a shared passion for nail art with a girl I played roller derby with. This was before gel was a thing, so we’d be doing nail art with polish on ourselves and show off our nails to each other at practice. I enjoy learning new hand-craft type hobbies, so I taught myself how to do a gel manicure, which escalated into getting all these products and watching a bunch of YouTube videos to do all these little things that I didn’t know if my local salon could do for me.
As a great freelance job was wrapping up last year, I spontaneously enrolled in this affordable beauty school in LA with a nail tech program over my lunch break. The following Monday, I started the program, which I continued going to over the next two and half months, 9–5:30 every week day.
I’m not afraid to be impulsive and say I’m just gonna do it. My therapist says “once you take a risk to do something, the universe conspires to make it happen”.
After starting nail school, things started falling into place — I graduated, found an apartment, passed my state board exam, got a new design job, and kept doing nails.
On balancing nails and product design.
From a time and tasks standpoint, my day job and nail business are pretty separate. They overlap in the sense that my design and art background has helped me with the creative aspect of doing nail art and understanding marketing and branding principals has an overlap too. My boss knows I do nails and is really supportive, and my nail clients knowing about my design job. It feels great knowing that I don’t have to hide one from the other.
I feel like I’m more capable of my job because nail school helped me get past the burnout I had prior and gave me the perspective that my design career doesn’t have to be the only thing — I can be good at (and passionate about) other things as well.
Since my design job is remote, it’s nice to have the human interaction that comes with having a private nail studio — people open up more than they might at a walk-in salon.
On loving #WFH life. I’ve heard people say they feel isolated when they work remote. I do miss going to lunch with coworkers or the kind of offhand connections, but I don’t want to work in an office again. In my own space, I feel relaxed and know where and when I feel most productive.
It also helps that I don’t live alone and my partner is here, who works from home sometimes, so we can get coffee or go on a walk together.
I also love to be around Hank, my dog. He won’t be around forever, so it’s nice to know that instead of being at an office while he’s home alone, I get to have him sitting next to me all day. He makes me happy.
On staying on top of all the things.
Typically, I use the daily task element of TeuxDeux to keep track of everything I need to do in my design job. If I don’t finish, it just rolls over to the next day. I also use TeuxDeux to keep track of my shopping list for nail supplies or the things I want to buy eventually but don’t have the money for right now.
I also keep a backlog of tasks I want to get done for my personal life but aren’t urgent, like getting a Real ID driver’s license or getting a washer/dryer for the apartment. I have a separate list of things to do around the house like sewing curtains and making pillows and fixing our tub drain.
I’ll keep a list of higher level life goals as well — things like payoff debt and save an emergency fund. I also keep a list of gifts to get my boyfriend someday because I saw that he has that list for me on his TeuxDeux and I copied him. It’s nice to have a place to keep track of random things he says he wants in passing so when the time comes around, I know exactly what to get him.
I’m a list-making type of person, but not hand-written lists. I’m on my phone or computer most of the day so it makes more sense for me to have it there so I can get it any context instead of carrying a journal around or anything.
To stay on top of things, I’ll use the Pomodoro Method sometimes. When I get more procrastinatey, it helps me out of that rut. But most of the methods are things I’ve just created that work for me, like using TeuxDeux and making a lot of weird spreadsheets on AirTable. I need the flexibility to create a system that works for the way I already think about things.
Using collaborative tools has been extremely helpful as a remote manager, like Figma. I can open a file at the same time as someone else and they can either see my cursor or watch me screencast on Zoom. I prefer Zoom video call catch-ups over emails or messaging chats cause then you’re actively having a conversation in real time instead of passively throwing something into the ether and hoping someone sees it.
Listen to Music Outside In The Daylight Under a Tree is a music event at this tiny art park in Highland Park put on by Leaving Records that covers all my bases for going to shows now that I’m old and tired: outdoors, has seating, ends early.
The Apple Pan is a Los Angeles staple that sells burgers, fries, and pies and looks like it hasn’t changed since it opened in 1947.
Walt’s Bar is my favorite neighborhood bar. They have pinball, ice cold beer (both the beverage and the game), and really good giant pretzels with beer cheese.
Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats is my favorite food place to hit when I’m in NY. The penne alla vodka is BOMB.
Clem’s Bar is my favorite bar in Brooklyn. If Clem’s ever closes (please don’t!) it will be the last nail in the coffin that was Old Williamsburg.
Breezy’s BBQ in Rockaway Beach is run by two friends of mine and if you’re having a beach day at Rockaway you MUST try it.
To The World Farm, Brooklyn. Best produce. It’s my favorite place that I hope never closes. Truly a hidden gem.
Tools mentioned: TeuxDeux for keeping track of to-do’s and lists, Zoom for video calls, AirTable for spreadsheets, Figma for collaborative design, Notion for notes.
Find Kate at:
@sicknails69 on Instagram