We had the good fortune of connecting with Cassie Li and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cassie, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance is one of the biggest factors I take into consideration, whether it’s when I’m freelancing, or when I’m applying to companies and agencies. It’s a factor that has also changed throughout my career. In the early days when I started freelancing, I said yes to every project that came my way, and still searched for more, even when it meant I was staying up past midnight or even pulling all-nighters. I was in college and trying to balance freelancing on top of classes, parties, football games, and even two part-time jobs. I saw everything as an opportunity to grow, gain connections, and gather experience for my portfolio. And it was – I gained a lot of experience that helped me get a job right out of college, and still work with those same clients today. However, I also sacrificed a lot during that time, especially when it came to my mental health. I was very much overworked, overwhelmed, and mentally and emotionally exhausted. Even though I hit all my project deadlines, had happy clients, and got good grades, my mind was never fully invested in the places and people I was spending time with. In the free-time I had, I was constantly thinking about work. That wasn’t going to fly in the long run. As I gained more experience professionally, one of the biggest lessons I learned, and am still learning, was how to say ‘No.’ Before I accept any projects, I not only consider if I have the capacity in my work flow, but also how I want to spend my free-time. The work-life balance, for me, has heavily shifted to living my life, and seeing how my work can support it. We spend so much time working, that if we don’t take the time to enjoy the life part, what is any of it for? It’s important for me to consciously “Log-off” of work when I’m spending time with the people in my life, and fully enjoy the moment. Granted, it’s a lot easier said than done sometimes, but it’s a balance that I’ve come a long way to achieve.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career has been largely self-taught and achieved through my persistence in finding clients, projects, and work opportunities. I was first exposed to the adobe suite when my parents bought my sister a Wacom Bamboo tablet that I quickly “borrowed” to play around in Photoshop and Illustrator. This hobby quickly turned into a passion and eventually a career as I started freelancing in college. I was tired of waiting around for internships to gain experience, so I went onto Craigslist and every other site you could imagine to try to find work to put under my belt. I printed out business cards and brochures, and went about in a very “old-fashioned” manner to find business. It was tedious and tough starting my own business. I had to push back against a lot of objections, externally and internally, about my experience level starting out, age, and general self-worth. I took as many jobs as I could to start, for very little, just to get my foot in the door and get experience in the professional world. All the work I put into freelancing during college paid-off when I landed my first full-time a month after I graduated. I moved to Denver by myself to start my new adventure. I was the sole graphic designer at an older start-up, but still pretty green to the workings of the professional, corporate world. Since then, I’ve worked with a number of other start-ups, marketing agencies, and business both nation-wide and internationally in both full-time and freelancing capacities. Looking back at my journey, and being able to see my growth as a designer and an entrepreneur is pretty amazing. From using Photoshop to make my middle school lab reports look cool, to volunteering for a local church with their weekly graphics, to now a professional designer helping real businesses get funding, maintain branding, and having a voice in marketing strategies and initiatives – I’m very proud of how far I’ve come thanks to all the work I’ve put in over the years.

Having confidence in your abilities and skills, and trusting your expertise to back them up when needed, was a big lesson I’ve learned, and continue to work on. Being a young designer, it was daunting to push back on clients who were older and more established in the professional world. This was even more so the case in my first professional job out of college. The higher-ups didn’t take me seriously and felt that they knew what was best. It was hard on my view of my self-worth. But as I moved on to different companies and worked with different people, I learned not only was it important to have the courage to speak your mind and trust your own expertise, but to also surround yourself with people that appreciate what you bring to the table. Finding the right fit in the people and personalities you work with is just as important as the work itself.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Denver has everything for every season. With the mountains so close, I love taking people snowboarding, hiking, or camping, depending on the season. Copper Mountain is one of our favorites to venture down in the winter. Camping near Ft. Collins or Buena Vista, and near the Twin Lakes would also be on the top of the list. Around the city, my go-to spots would definitely be around Rino. Improper City, Bierstadt lagerhaus/C-Squared Ciders, and First-Draft Brewing, are some of my favorites to drink at in the area. I also love going to the Celtic on Market to watch soccer with some beers and fish and chips. For an occasion-dinner, The 9th Door Capitol Hill and Max Gill and Grill both have delicious food and a fun vibe. Down Federal St, and off Hampden in Aurora have great selection of Asian and middle-eastern food. Whether it’s for Dim Sum at Empress Seafood on the weekend or pho on a cold day, Federal has endless delicious options. Over in Hampden, there are great choices for Chinese food, like at Mr. Hao’s Grill, and Korean BBQ and Hot pot.

Taking a stroll around Confluence park, around the Capital, or going to a Rockies game, are all must sees and dos during a trip to Denver. Eating from any food truck downtown, especially after a night out, is also a must.
If one were looking to work off all the food they’ve been eating around Denver, Tankhead Thai Boxing in the highlands is my favorite spot for a great workout with a great group of people.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My story wouldn’t be able to be told today without the inspiration and encouragement of a good friend from college. They had previously started a company of their own and was very much an entrepreneurial spirit. I was drawn to, and even envied, their courageousness to start something of their own. They helped push me outside of my comfort-level to start freelancing on my own and helped me find my confidence in my self-worth and skills I offered. We’re still friends to this day and enjoy sharing our achievements with each other and encouraging each other to keeping pushing.

Website: www.cassandraclassics.com

Instagram: @cassierollle // @cassandraclassics

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassandra-li/

Image Credits
Carlo Marasigan @shot_by_carlo//@_carlobarlo_

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.