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Meet Nancy McCabe of No Ocean & Design Ahoy in Roscoe Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy McCabe.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
While working at a small design agency back in 2010, I started designing and selling world maps on Esty. My shop really took off and I realized for the first time I could make income through small side projects. I designed more maps, left my full-time job and started freelancing under the moniker Design Ahoy. I then started to get interested in creating surface patterns. I love to experiment with different mediums and was into the idea of creating something just for the sake of creating. Working in design and advertisement, you always have client needs and wants that come before your own. To be able to create something just for myself was fun. So from there, No Ocean was founded. I manufactured a small batch of silk scarves with my designs on them and started to sell them through my website. I also sell ready-made patterns and work with companies to create custom designs for all their needs. Whether it be for fashion, home decor or print. As of right now, I juggle my freelance design work, No Ocean designs and have recently took on a full-time job as a creative director at an ad agency. Obviously, some things need to take priority over others, but I enjoy the variety and know I can always fall back on any of my creative pursuits.

Has it been a smooth road?
The first couple years after leaving my full-time job was pretty bumpy. I would have some really busy months, but then have a couple of months where there was absolutely no work coming in. That’s just the ebb and flow of the freelance life. It took awhile for me to get my timelines in order and understanding what I should be getting paid for projects. It’s always hard at first to feel confident about asking for money and knowing what you’re worth. After my third year freelancing though, I felt way more comfortable with my prices. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to new freelance designers, is get a sense of what other people are making in your skill level. Especially if you’re a women, try to know what your male counter-parts are asking for.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
It’s still funny to talk about my business, because it’s just me. So, really it’s just talking about myself, which I hate doing. However, I will say everything revolves around my visual style, that changes depending on what I’m working on. For example, when working with clients, I tend to lean more towards minimalist designs. I like to think about their problems conceptually. There’s a lot more problem solving and sketching that comes first, design is almost secondary.

That’s why I enjoy my other endeavor, No Ocean. There’s no problem solving or client feedback to consider. It’s just me creating something purely on my own. I also like to get away from the computer and get a bit messy. I enjoy playing around with watercolor, acrylic and graphite.

I think I’m most proud of just being happy where I am right now with my work. The wheel is always spinning, and I’m sure I’ll want to change things up again. But for now, I’m feeling good.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
As far as freelancing goes, you can really work from anywhere. That’s sometimes, the main draw for people. You can make connections and find your community in any city. However, Chicago is great because there are a lot of opportunities, big and small. Also, the design scene here is really exciting right now. A lot of young, super talented folks are popping up all over the place.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Marta Sasinowska

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