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038: We Need More Crappy Work with Femke

User Defenders podcast
Personal Growth
038: We Need More Crappy Work with Femke

User Defenders Femke

Femke encourages us to take pride in our process by being willing to show our crappy work. She shows us how every small step can lead to something big. She teaches us how we can achieve anything in life, if we’re willing to take action. She also challenges us to wake up early to get the stuff done that we “never have time for”.

Femke is a designer, writer and podcaster currently working at Atomic–an online prototyping tool for teams. In her podcast, Design Life, she talks about design, and side projects for motivated creators. When she’s not talking about design, she’s writing weekly about creative self-help for her newsletter. She also played classical violin for 15 years.


  • Secret Identity/Origin Story (2:26)
  • Biggest Superhero (9:52)
  • Biggest Failure (13:25)
  • Design & Personal Growth (19:28)
  • Crappy Work Article (23:36)
  • Design Superpower (36:56)
  • Book Recommendation (40:07)
  • Design Kryptonite (43:47)
  • Habit Of Success (47:05)
  • Stay Inspired (53:26)
  • Invincible Resource (55:09)
  • Best Advice (57:56)
  • Contact Info (60:32)

Femke’s Twitter
Femke’s Website
Femke’s Mailing List
Femke’s Creative Series Interviews

We Need More $h!††y Work
Design is Messy & Embarrassing…but You’d Never Know it
Why I Wake Up Early
An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Atomic prototyping tool

Start with Why
The Power of Habit

Why You Need to Fail by Derek Sivers

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Reverse doubt by achieving small goals that build one upon the other. It takes many little steps before we can gain the momentum needed to make a great leap.

Jessica Hische

In general, I feel I struggle a lot with confidence, and that has held me back a bit at times. So I see that as a failure. It’s that imposter syndrome thing, “Am I good enough to do this?” A lot of times that would stop me from taking action and, when I look back on it, that’s a real shame. It’s a missed opportunity, so that’s something I have to watch out for and make sure it doesn’t lead to a big failure. It’s easy to let those negative feelings hold you back. You need to do something to move forward so you can overcome those feelings. And taking action can look different for different people. It doesn’t have to be this huge thing. It can be as small as publishing something to your Instagram page or doing a sketch in your notebook. It can be anything.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I have a degree in marketing. It’s been a huge benefit for me when I’m designing because it gives me different perspectives. I can look at something from a design perspective and a marketing perspective, and when you put those two things together, it’s quite powerful. Designers don’t like to admit this but a lot of the time design is about selling something or convincing the user to do something and marketing plays a big roll in that as well. Including marketing in my design process is my biggest superpower.

My design kryptonite is Dribbble. It’s almost like a drug. I want to go on there and see what the cool stuff is but, at the same time, I don’t want to be influenced and caught up in that game of showing shallow work. For me, that’s hard. But it’s just too glossy. I’m trying to consume it less, but it’s like Facebook. You don’t want to be on there, but you’re there anyway, and you don’t know how you got there and ten minutes later you’re still on there asking yourself “Why am I here?” It’s my kryptonite because I love it and I hate it at the same time. It was created to be a show-your-work-in-progress site, and it’s just not anymore.

Getting up early is my habit of success. I get up reasonably early every morning and spend about two hours on side projects before I log in to my day job. Through that morning routine, I’ve created a ritual that’s very structured that I started the night before. So the night before I purposefully set my alarm for 6 am making sure it’s not automatically recurring. I want to set it myself each night before I go to sleep because that’s a mental note or reminder that I’m making a commitment to wake up early. In the morning I have a glass of cold chocolate milk as my guilty pleasure. It’s a small reward for waking up early. That has just been so great for me to have those two hours in the morning that are uninterrupted. I get to focus because everyone else is still asleep. I can work on whatever I want. I think if I didn’t make that time for myself I’d be one of those people who always complain about not having time for things. I certainly would be too tired at the end of the day, so I probably wouldn’t end up doing anything. Having that habit has been a huge benefit that allows me to do things outside of my day job.

My podcast keeps me inspired and talking to Charli every week. She inspires me. We’re close friends. I’m also part of a mastermind group where the people are encouraging to me. They are people I can trust and go to for help. But the biggest thing for me is making sure I’m in touch with other parts of my life that are outside of design. I don’t want just to be someone influenced by things within the creative world or design only. So I’m always keeping my eyes open to be inspired by other things. I try to do that by traveling, bicycle rides around Amsterdam and keeping connected with people outside of my industry as well. I think there’s a lot of things out there that we can bring in to the design industry and, to me, that’s important.

Take that one tiny step towards your goal that you need to. Often we have these big, ambitious goals – which is awesome. But at the same time, those goals can overwhelm and freak us out, causing worry that we’ll never get there. My one piece of advice for that would be just to start small. Whatever one little thing that you can do today that will help get you closer, just do it. Instead of looking at the goal as one big thing to achieve, just break it down. Break it down into bite-sized chunks that you can slowly chip away at over time. You’ll gain momentum by doing it, like the snowball effect. You’ll also learn things along the way that you’ll get better at which will, in turn, allow you to make more informed decisions. It will get easier over time. Just keep focused and keep motivated. You can do this.