Designer Interview: Parajunkee

Parajunkee Interview

I’m pleased to welcome Rachel from Parajunkee on the blog today. We’re going to learn all about her design business and processes!

Ashley Hi Rachel! Thanks for stopping by today. 🙂 Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Rachel Hey Ashley, I’m Rachel, I blog under the name Parajunkee. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana, happily married with one kid, two cats and a very ugly dog.

Ashley We won’t tell your dog you said that. 😉

Book cover of Endure by M.R. Merrick
Endure book cover by Parajunkee

Ashley What kind of design services do you provide?

Rachel Can I say everything?? Well, practically. I create blog designs and book covers, collateral print and digital marketing pieces, brochures, textbooks, advertising, you name it, I design it…one stop shop, that’s me.

Ashley Do you design full time or on the side?

Rachel I am a full-time freelance designer. The challenge with that is that I don’t make the money that I used to make working with the “big boys” in corporate America. But…I love what I’m doing, which is worth the pay-cut. My last job I was very very unhappy and it is really hard to get up every day and go to work at a place that makes you cringe when you think about it. I couldn’t ask for a better job now. Even though my grandma thinks I just sit at home and play on the computer.

Ashley I’d definitely agree with that! Loving what you do goes a long way, even if it means taking a pay-cut. I’d also make that trade any day.

Ashley How long have you been designing for?

Rachel You are making me reveal my age—but I graduated from college in 2000 and have been working as a designer since about ’99 since I consider my “internship” design work. I got to run around with an exact-o knife and stick vinyl letters to things. That is design, right?

Ashley How did you get started? Are you self taught or did you go to school for design?

Rachel College. I went to college. Got the fine-arts background and even a bit of marketing schooling.

Ashley What’s your favourite kind of project or style?

Rachel My favorite is actually when a client gives me some off-the-wall intense or a tad bit crazy idea. Like Consuming Worlds’ blog design—she told me she wanted an avatar riding a cupcake that was “consuming” books…at first I think “how am I going to do this and make it look good?” Designs like that really challenge me, so I enjoy it and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when they are pleased with the outcome.

Consuming Worlds blog design
Consuming Worlds blog design by Parajunkee

Ashley Do you code your designs, use a template, or outsource the development work?

Rachel I code and I use a template…depending on the job. No matter what though, I have to go into the code, there is never a “perfect” template.

Ashley How long does a full blog design usually take you?

Rachel About two weeks.

Ashley How do you begin a new design project? What’s the first step you take? Do you create a mood board with your client? Start with a colour palette? Start with a font? Walk us through your first design steps.

Rachel I play twenty questions, literally. I ask the client everything from what colors they hate—to what adjectives would they like their site to inspire. Then I move on to a color palette and then I will send them a mock, which is sort of like a mood board, but it shows the different elements of the design, fonts etc.

Ashley Have you ever had any problems connecting with a client’s vision for their site? How did you handle it?

Rachel Yes, I have. Not as a freelancer though, or at least that I know of—if the client has been displeased with a certain aspect of the design, I will always go in and fix it. But, I haven’t had a client come to me and say that the design failed them. There has been an issue where some of the design pieces didn’t work for the client and I just didn’t charge them for those. If they don’t work they don’t work. I get that. The only time though, that I’ve had a really bad reaction to my design was when I worked for an agency and the client was not pleased with anything I gave him. It was a logo. But, in an agency the Director gets involved and there were other designers that could be called upon. Which, he didn’t like their designs either—so our assumption was he was a client that just didn’t know what he wanted. Luckily, it wasn’t just me working on that particular project.

Ashley Yeah the clients who don’t know what they want can be a bit tricky. It’s like shooting in the dark.

Ashley What platform(s) do you design for? Blogger? WordPress? Other? What’s your favourite platform to work with?

Rachel Blogger, WordPress and Booklikes. Right now WordPress is my favorite and this is only because I can do so much more with WordPress than I can with the other designs.

Ashley Amen, sister!

Harlequin Junkie's BookLikes design
Harlequin Junkie BookLikes design by Parajunkee

Ashley Do you use any tools or resources for the business side of your design work? Such as invoicing systems or project management platforms?

Rachel I need a project management tool – can you recommend any, lol? But, I mostly go through paypal for invoicing etc. And standard office tools on the computer, detailed filing systems and back-up systems.

Ashley My project management suggestions would be:

  • Pancake App — Invoicing, time tracking, client management, proposal/quote creation, to-do lists, and more.
  • Basecamp — Doesn’t do any invoicing or time tracking, etc. But it’s used for organizing projects with your client. It’s an alternative to using email to communicate with them. Upload media/attachments and discuss the project.
  • 17hats — This is brand new so still needs some refining, but it does most of what Pancake App does and more. The main extra feature is probably the ability to create contracts. The biggest downside (in my opinion) is that it’s not hosted on your own server so you can’t customize or brand it however you want.

Ashley What are your favourite tools and resources for the actual design work?

Rachel Adobe Creative Cloud.

Ashley How do you think your blog has helped or affected your design business? Do you think a lot of your clients find/hire you because of your blog?

Rachel That is how this all go started. I designed my own blog and people started asking, who did it? When I said I did it, they asked if I could design theirs. I was an established freelance designer, but within the medical and local New Orleans market, I didn’t think that the blogging community would take over like it did.

Reading YA Rocks blog design
Reading YA Rocks by blog design by Parajunkee

Ashley Do you do any design work outside the book blogging community?

Rachel Yes.

Ashley Will you be offering any new services in 2015? Or will you be doing anything to expand/change your business?

Rachel The Book Blogger Organizer that I introduced in 2014 was a hit, so I’m going to expand and offer more printables.

Ashley Are there any services you don’t currently offer that you would LIKE to offer in the future?

Rachel No, not that I can think of.

Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to aspiring designers?

Rachel Graphic Design is a job you have to love to flourish within. If you want to go in this direction, just remember you won’t make a ton of money off of it, but it really is a rewarding career. I always recommend that you have at least some artistic talent, whether it is just an “eye” for placement and color and like any other artist, you have a thick skin, because when you send in your design—your client will always have changes. Just part of the job, so have fun with it!

Ashley I always freak out a little when I send a client an initial mockup. It’s certainly nerve-racking.

Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to someone looking to hire a designer?

Rachel Always look at their portfolio, each designer has their own style. Shop around, you’ll see similarities between each design a designer creates. If you like this style and want something along that lines, then Google the designer and see if there are any issues with them. If you know a blogger that has used them, ask about their experience. Ask questions! A designer will not charge you for asking them a bunch of questions—send them an email, see how they respond. You’ll get an idea of what type of person you are working with very quickly.

The Musing Writer blog design
The Musing Writer blog design by Parajunkee

Follow Rachel

Do you have any questions for Rachel?

Check out her full portfolio

Photo of Ashley
I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

Don't miss my next post!

Sign up to get my blog posts sent directly to your inbox (plus exclusive store discounts!).

You might like these


  1. Looking at Parajunkee’s blog, I was impressed with her cover designs and photo manipulations.

    And her pre-made blog templates were good, too.

    However (and please no one take this the wrong way), the site’s layout could be improved and simplified quite a bit. I mean, QUITE A BIT.

    Rachel, advertise your work by using one of your templates for your own site!

    Victor Salinas (@VictorASalinas) recently posted: How Do You Find Time to Read? (Seriously, I Need Help!)
  2. Thank you for the wonderful interview Ashley! I really appreciate and you had some great questions. BTW – I purchased and am currently using 17hats and it has helped immensely. I can’t begin to thank you enough.

  3. Reveal time. When I decided to go to wordpress and get a custom website, it was between Ashley and Rachel. Rachel does have a little more my style because she does do a lot of dark kind of designs. She’s awesome! I didn’t even know she did book covers! That’s what I would love to try out. But I picked Ash cause we already had a rapport with each other and I think it worked out for the best! 🙂 But I know Rachel would have done an amazing job too. She does beautiful work.

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Kindle & Nook Freebies #109
  4. Awesome interview! Parajunkee was one of the first blogs I found & I just adored her design! I’m always blown away but what designers create. I’m also starting to recognize the differences in designers, which is cool. Love the cupcake design, I can’t believe you didn’t just have a heart attack lol! Turned out fab!

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: Sunday Post | 67th Edition

Recent Posts

    Random Posts