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From Creative
to CEO to Coach…

I’m there to show you that anything is possible!

After growing an award-winning international agency from a coffee shop in Portugal, my obsession is helping other creatives exceed their dreams.

My entrepreneurial journey started in the playground…

Yep, I was the creative kid that didn’t just make hand-made illustrated books, but sold them too.

I remember proudly taking pre-orders for my books in the playground and then skipping home to make them! (Truth be told, I kind of turned my home into my first agency…I’d be drawing the illustrations, my mum would print them, and my sister folded like a pro).

I was just 22…

It was my determination to turn this passion for creating into a thriving business that led me to found my agency Gif Design Studios with my husband when I was just 22.

And I now share everything I’ve learned along the way through career coaching for all sort of creatives as part of my Ambitious Creatives brand.

I never settled

AND YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER

Elevate your brand with
top notch design

HELLO GIF DESIGN STUDIOS

Create a thriving creative
business doing what you love

HELLO AMBITIOUS CREATIVES

“Joana believes in people when they don’t necessarily believe in themselves”

She is a ray of sunshine and has a positive presence that is both infectious and inspirational. Joana really cares and has huge integrity — she’ll never tell you to try or do something that she’s not done herself, ever. There’s nothing theoretical with her. She’s done it and she’s talking about it. She’s not hypothesising.

Author and CEO of Book Yourself Solid

THE WINDING PATH

From quitting my first job to creating an award-winning agency and beyond...

2013
September

I landed my first job as a graphic designer in London. I loved it but couldn’t help but envy my boss’s freedom, his fancy green smoothies (that I couldn’t afford), and so I spent my commute dreaming up freelance plans...

2014
March

My first ever freelance gig... I sold a logo for $800. I set myself the goal of earning $2,500 to invest in Marie Forleo’s B-School.

2014
May

After replying to publicity expert Selena Soo’s email newsletters, I ended up working as her intern in New York for a week... unpaid, yet one of the most valuable opportunities in my career.

2014
June

Quit my job and moved to Portugal with my (now) husband José to set up our design agency, Gif Design Studios.

2014
November

Gif Design Studios moved into its shiny new Porto office after 9 months of being run out of local coffee shops.

2018

I spoke on 9 stages and won a public speaking competition that led me to speak in front of an audience of 3,000. (Sounds great on paper but honestly, this year exhausted me and was a big lesson learner.)

2020
April

Gif Design Studios celebrates its fifth birthday! We had a team of 5, had generated over $1.2 million in 5 years, our work had been featured in books, and we’d worked with big industry names.

2020

Mid-pandemic I became a mama to our beautiful baby boy and my whole work perspective shifted...

2021
January

During my maternity leave our agency continued to thrive without me, which inspired me to train as a coach to help other graphic designers and creatives on their ambitious journeys...

2021
April

I launched my mastermind coaching program for creatives, Ambitious Creatives Booked Solid, where I help freelancers get to 6-figures and beyond, without burnout.

2022
October

Became a mum of 2 (a little girl this time) and passed the 100 student mark with our program, Ambitious Creatives Booked Solid.

... So, nope it didn’t happen overnight and I’ve learned a lot of lessons in the last decade

How to avoid burnout?

And other (not so) Frequently Asked Questions…
Why did you decide to become a coach as well as CEO of a design agency?

So, when I was on maternity leave, I suddenly had the time to help friends who were struggling with their businesses.

The more I helped them, the more I realized that I could stop them from repeating my mistakes and just take the shortcut to success.

But my biggest “why” is this: I feel so fortunate to have created a life I love so much, and I want to help others do the same — we all deserve to make more money doing what we love — so that we have more time to spend with the people we love. Honestly, this feels like something I have to do.

Confession time: which of your son’s toys do you secretly love playing with?

Give me Lego any day! It’s actually very cathartic… go build a tower and thank me later.

What do you collect?

Good people, with good hearts, and good intentions. Oh, and books.

Me. You. Night out.. What are we drinking?

Oooooh, if you’re at the bar, get me a Moscow Mule! Tomorrow morning I’ll be making myself an oat milk latte…

Seriously, how do you avoid burnout?

Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s one of the reasons I’m so obsessed with helping my students avoid it.

Since having a child I’m more protective of my time and fussier about the projects that I take on. I try very hard to not work evenings and weekends, which helps me recharge.

When I need to relax I meditate or go for walks in nature. Self-care, for me, is also watching the way I talk to myself and making time to check in with myself and see what I need… and then putting that in the calendar. Putting the days off in your calendar are as important (if not more) than blocking time out to work.

Do you have a scar with a really good story behind it? Go on, do tell

Ha, it’s like you knew!

So, when I was a child I loved this book called Madeline where the main character is rushed to hospital for a dramatic ruptured appendix. She got to show off her scar and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Well, imagine my delight (sorry parents) when the same thing happened to me… I remember proudly showing my scar off to my friends in the playground.

Do you have a morning routine?

Ouch. Is this after our night out drinking Moscow Mules to Beyonce?!

So, being a toddler mama my current morning routine mainly consists of me and my son making eggs together.

I do love doing creative work in the morning as I sip on my oat milk latte, but at the moment that only happens on the rare occasion that my son sleeps in until 8am!

i want the emails!
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