Charli Prangley is a web and graphic designer from New Zealand who is currently living in London, working for ConvertKit. However, this is only the prelude to what she also does on the side.

Other than her day job, Charli also runs her brand, CharliMarieTV, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Not to mention, she does podcasts with her friend, Femke for Design Life and owns an online apparel store called Liner Note Kids.

It is incredible how Charli manages to do so much within the same amount of time we have and that we still complain about not having enough. So what is her magic to be able to do all these and still able to find time for her travels? speaks to Charli to find out more.

How old were you when you started your YouTube channel?

Screenshot of CharliMarieTV on YouTube

I started my YouTube channel back in 2013 when I was 24. My younger sister had started a channel, and she introduced me to the world of vlogging. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the fact that YouTube was more than funny cat videos!

What was your aim when you started your channel and had that aim changed over time?

I started my channel because when I got interested in watching vlogs, I wanted to subscribe to a channel by a designer who didn’t just post tutorials, but talked about their life and the issues they face as well. I couldn’t find any! So I decided that was a sign that I could start producing that type of content. My aim from the start has been to showcase the life of a designer and to help young creatives learn what they need to be successful in this industry.

What was your very first side project? What gave you the idea for your first side project idea/business idea?

My very first side project was an apparel company called Liner Note Kids. I created designs inspired by music and printed them onto t-shirts and hoodies. Unlike my side projects these days that have a lot of planning go into them, Liner Note Kids evolved from something very small: posting some lyric graphics on Tumblr. I had a few people say they’d like to see the design on a t-shirt so I decided to investigate how to get them printed, and a little business grew from there! I didn’t intend for those initial designs to become a business, but they did. Once I knew the interest was there I had a great time learning more about business and things like profit margins, and about t-shirt printing too.

How did you manage your time juggling your day job and working on your side project?

I started Liner Note Kids around ten years ago when I was in university. While my studies kept me very busy, I didn’t have 9-5 hours as I would have a day job. That meant I could spend an afternoon at the printers getting shirts made, and taking 20 packages to the post office if I needed to. I spent many nights staying awake late peeling vinyl designs to prep them for print, updating my website and working on new designs. While I got pretty good grades, I probably could have done better in my classes if I wasn’t spending so much time on my business. But the way I saw it I was learning a lot through running Liner Note Kids that university wasn’t teaching me. So it was time well spent!

What were your obstacles and how did you overcome them?

In both my apparel business and now with my YouTube channel and podcast, the biggest obstacles have been entering an entirely new world and learning all the unspoken rules and the things that sometimes it seems everyone knows but you. How do I source blank t-shirts to print on? How do you get brands to sponsor videos? How do you get a podcast episode you’ve recorded into an RSS feed? I overcame them with a lot of googling!

Another struggle I’ve faced (and still face now and then) is hitting burn out. When you have so much on your plate, it’s easy to let the work/rest balance swing too far to the work side. One day you’re feeling super productive for getting everything done, but when you try to maintain fast pace overtime, you start to get very tired, stressed, maybe even ill and then you hit burn out. Reaching that point, while terrible, really teaches you the importance of rest.

Ever since you moved to the UK, you started your podcast, continue to make videos, work at ConvertKit, manage your social media profiles, maintain your Liner Note Kids store, gave talks here and there and travel. Many people always say that they have no time to work on things. How do you plan your time? Are there apps that you use to help you manage your time?

Charli at Sean Wes Conference - CharliMarieTV
Image credit: Charli Prangley

My best advice for this is something no one likes to hear: wake up early. – Charli Prangley

Everyone can make time for the things that are important to them! My best advice for this is something no one likes to hear: wake up early. I found I was always exhausted after coming home from work and didn’t have enough energy to put into my side projects, so I gave waking up early a try and spent a few hours on side projects before I left for work. It gets my day off to a productive start! And the best part is that I can then fully relax in my evenings knowing I already achieved enough that day at both my day job and on my side projects.

To fit everything in, you need to get good at prioritising and being organised. You always need to know what you should work on next. I’m continually writing lists, and last year I started using the bullet journal system to keep track of what I need to be doing each day, and it’s been an incredibly useful tool. Every evening I write two lists: one for the tasks I need to achieve for ConvertKit the next day, and one of the things I need to get done on my side projects. It means I can start my morning knowing exactly what I need to be doing. This analogue system works better for me than any app has, but I do use apps such as Trello to keep track of all my content ideas, and Silo (a Pomodoro technique timer app) on my Apple watch for those times when I need extra help focussing.

How do you stay focused when you have so many things happening around you?

I have way more side projects and ideas for how to improve them than I do time in the day, so I’ve found the best way to move them forward is to pick one particular thing per month to focus my side project time on. That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore all the rest of my projects; it means I’ll do the bare minimum on them for a month so that I can push one ahead. For example, coming up soon I’ll be giving a talk at Craft + Commerce, the ConvertKit conference. This next month my primary focus is on getting my talk finished. I’ll still produce my weekly videos and podcasts episodes, but I won’t, for example, take on my channel rebranding project or rebuild my website in the same month. If you try to do too much, you’ll end up executing on everything at a mediocre level. I’d instead do one thing well than get a bunch of really average stuff finished!

What are the challenges ahead for you?

Managing my work/life balance and staying on top of my email inbox will always be a challenge: there are so much to do and so many emails to answer! I’m also constantly struggling with imposter syndrome, but I’m trying to get over it and stop it from affecting me taking up opportunities.

What advice do you have for people who are planning to start a side business/project or a YouTube channel?

Successful side projects are formed over time, and if you can spare even just an hour in your morning to put towards your project, you’ll get somewhere. – Charli Prangley

First and foremost, you have to love what you do. If your primary reason for starting a side project or a YouTube channel is for the money or the fame you’re going to find it incredibly hard to get through those early days (or years even!) before your project starts to pick up steam. You have to be in this for the long haul, and the only way to do that is to be genuinely passionate about your subject matter. Once you’ve got the passion nailed, let it fuel your motivation and make sure you get one thing done every day (even if it’s only something small). Successful side projects are formed over time, and if you can spare even just an hour in your morning to put towards your project, you’ll get somewhere.

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