Q&A with the Fabulously Fierce & Creative: Denise Harris


Courtesy of Denise Harris

People say one should excel at one thing in life, but not this lady. She’s broken conventions by mastering the skills of creative design and fitness guru. She’s making a name for herself in the highly competitive personal training arena, recently adding a celebrity clientele to her training sessions by word-of-mouth referrals, a recent article published by Vogue.com – and all around hard work and determination.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Denise Harris and asking her about her passions, fitness, freelance life and how they intersect in her journey to happiness.

DSMC: What’s your current profession?

DH: I’m a personal trainer/Pilates instructor who freelances as a designer for various art departments at print magazines. And, occasionally I design lookbooks and website redesigns for friends and colleagues.

DSMC: How long have you been freelancing?

DH: A little over 7 years.

DSMC: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a freelancer?

DH: Finding a good environment to work in. Oftentimes, I come into these situations with editorial magazines where expectations of freelancers are unrealistic. The Creative Director or Art Director quote you a rate, usually a day rate, you accept and then they ask you to work extra hours without amending the day rate. Budgets are a big issue! That interferes with training clients and my personal time.

DSMC: That’s unfair. Kind of presumptuous of them to assume you can stay all night working on a project.

DH: It happens more often than I’d like, but I want to get to a point in my life where I do freelance design 30% of the time and train my clients 70%. I still want to learn and improve my skills as a designer by keeping current with design trends. I think it’s important to stay relevant in any field you pursue.

DSMC: When did you start getting into fitness and making it into a career?

DH: I’ve always loved working out. I was the art director for a magazine and I was tasked with holding meetings, making sure all the changes made by the Editor-in-Chief were funneled through me. I was constantly running around making sure everyone was in the loop and it was exhausting. The work I was doing didn’t matter to me. It made no impact on my life. I was looking for something that was rewarding; that made me happy. I started asking trainers and fitness editors about the best Pilates schools in the states and internationally. Eventually, I began applying to Pilates schools and was accepted to a school in Toronto.

DSMC: Toronto, that’s far, no?

DH: It was, but I had an epiphany. I decided that this is what I wanted to do: become a licensed Pilates instructor. I desperately needed a change to refuel and thought going to a school to Toronto was it! I quit my job – had no savings and used my 401k for expenses – I took a chance. Believe me, it was scary. I took a leap of faith and tried to get a job in Toronto. It was hard. No one wanted to sponsor me. Eventually after many months, I was able to train members at gym a few days a week. I had help from family members to help pay the bills and when I felt discouraged, they gave me strength to persevere….And I guess I found it within myself too.

DSMC: It sounds like you’re successfully paving your way to achieve your goals. What advice would you give aspiring designers looking to break in to the industry and/or professionals eager to make a drastic career change to pursue their passions?

DH: 1) Everything is not what it seems; working for a well-known glossy publication or high-end company does not bring you happiness

2) To become a well-rounded graphic artist or designer you should start from the bottom up and learn all facets of the production process. Establish a solid foundation first, before jumping into a mid-level career. Ultimately, it will take your communication skills to the next level

3) Explore different job opportunities and find a place that you will feel comfortable being part of a team – producing work you’re proud of

4) If you are looking to make a significant career change: Investigate, research, ask professionals/acquaintances in the field you’re interested in and formulate a game plan. Perhaps contact a professional in your potential future job and ask to shadow them

Great advice from a professional who’s been in the same career crossroads we’ve all faced at some point in our lives. Follow your passions, have a back up plan and experiment with ideas and projects that will hopefully lead to your fulfillment and happiness.

To learn more and sign up for Denise Harris’ training sessions go to: http://www.resolvetomove.com








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