Military Spouses Who Work It: Dawn Warnaar, Self Employed

I run Dawn Nicole Designs, LLC. I'm a blogger, freelance graphic designer, licensed artist, hand-lettering class teacher and soon-to-be-publisher author. I'm in the middle of hiring my first paid creative team for the blog since the business is getting to be more than I can handle on my own!

Editor’s Note: Give us your lawyers, your accountants, your massage therapists. Give use your teachers, your engineers, your real estate agents.

NextGen MilSpouse is going beyond traditional career tips and tricks for military spouses! We are sharing the real stories of working military spouses (just like you!) and their professional success stories on Wednesdays. 

Military Spouses Who Work It- Dawn Warnaar, Self Employed

Name: Dawn Warnaar

Years as a military spouse: 8

Tell us your job title/profession:

I run Dawn Nicole Designs, LLC. I’m a blogger, freelance graphic designer, licensed artist, hand-lettering class teacher and soon-to-be-publisher author. I’m in the middle of hiring my first paid creative team for the blog since the business is getting to be more than I can handle on my own!

Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?

Full-time (self-employed)

How long have you been working in this career field?

4 years total but it didn’t turn it into a full-time business until the past year.

Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks) or a little bit of both?

Mostly home office with the occasional travel for a conference and video chats with clients.

How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.

The business was born out of a need to have something to do when we were stationed in a tiny town (Altus AFB, Okla.) It began as a hobby to keep busy. It’s morphed over the years and led to a return to school for a third degree unrelated to my first two.

It’s been a road of ups and downs but I feel like I’m now doing what I was meant to do.

I work too much…because (most of the time) it doesn’t feel like work!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?

Staying legal! Minding your Ps and Qs while moving like we do is hard.

The laws can be gray and it can be costly to move your business (I have to register as a foreign LLC every time we move). I hired a lawyer and accountant to help with that side of the business!

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Tell us one thing you love about your job:

That I can work from anywhere. I can still follow my husband all around the country/world, be home when my kids need me and earn a paycheck doing something I love to do!

Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:

I make the most of Mondays. They are a sacred work day.

As a general rule, I never plan anything on Mondays. No appointments, no calls, no play dates, no errands.

This is my most productive day of the week since I don’t spend time on the go (and it also usually means we stay in our PJs all day. Yay!).

As a result, I actually look forward to Mondays!

After the weekend, I wake up ready to get back to the grind. I get so much more accomplished this day than any other day of the week when we have appointments and school and errands.

Mondays may not work for you, but try to pick a day of the week that’s kept free to just work. You’ll be amazed how much you get done in one day!

Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?

Yes! I’m so thankful to have a husband that supports my business. I do most of the cooking but he does a lot of the cleaning. We clean as a family on the weekend. Sure, we pick up during the week, but every Saturday morning, we clean the whole house as a family. (Although, it’s not at all uncommon for me to go for a run on a Saturday morning and come back to a clean house.)

One little thing I do is do one small load of laundry a day. Sometimes, I skip a day, but this super simple change has been life changing. Really. No more “laundry days.” Yay!

If we go back to a base/job where he is gone a lot again, we’ve even considered hiring someone to deep clean twice a month.

Everything costs you time or money. Sometimes, you have to taken on a little help, especially if your time is more valuable!

If you have children, how do you and your spouse or partner split parenting responsibilities?

We have 3 kids ages 3, 5 and 7. We’ve been lucky that at our last 2 assignments he is working a “normal” (or somewhat normal) schedule. We don’t have a set arrangement but we both take an active role in splitting up the responsibilities.

For example, I take the girls to dance, he takes our son to soccer (and coaches when he can!). We really just have to come up with a plan for each week! It’s rare that I have to go out of town but when I do, he takes a vacation day so he can do the school routine while I’m away.

One major thing we do is get organized for the morning the night before.

When I’m tired at night, this one is easier said than done, but it’s such a simple thing that makes the mornings go much smoother. I make the kids lunches, pack backpacks and set their clothes out for the next day before I go to bed. And ideally, I make my to-do list for the next day too!

Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:

Just one?! I’m a blogger, please don’t make me choose between my MacBook pro and my iPhone.

Favorite app for making the most of your day?


Must-have song on your productivity playlist?

Anything by Hozier

What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?

Consider starting your own business! Does it mean going back to school to learn a new skill? Do it!

I used a small part of my husband’s Post-9/11 GI Bill to go back to school at 30 (with 3 kids under 3 at the time).


Heck, yes!

But it’s changed our lives. Doing something new and starting your own business is a big leap. It’s scary and a lot is learned by just winging it (shhh!) but it’s such an awesome feeling to work for yourself!

Are you a working military spouse? Do you want to share your career tips and tricks? Fill out the MilSpouses Who Work It Q&A today.



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