Interview: Madeleine Burke, freelance web developer and designer

By Andrea McArthur Madeleine

"I make websites." This is how Madeleine Burke would answer if asked the question "What do you do?". Yes she is a girl and yes she codes. From her own admission she loves computers and has made the transition to focus on web development full time with her own business based in Sydney, Australia.

"I love working with small to medium sized business as well as with other designers on both digital design and development projects including custom Wordpress, Shopify and SquareSpace development, SEO and Google AdWords and social media management." 

What led you down your current path? I started learning about web design and development as a hobby when I was 13 and my parents first got dial-up internet. School went on and I started a degree in Psychology (don’t ask me why!). After a few years of, I admit, a pretty boring degree I decided to switch to a design degree and pursue my old after-school (and sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) hobby.

As far as working for myself goes I think thats largely been due to my upbringing. My parents have always had their own business – a nursery – when I was little and now my Mum has two restaurants, accommodation and wedding venues in the Hunter Valley and my Dad a landscaping company (no he isn’t the man behind Jim’s mowing!). For me, working for yourself, doing what you are passionate about has always seemed normal. I had a pretty great upbringing.

Where do you feel most inspired? I’d have to say something boring like on my couch in front of my laptop or iPad. I’m a tech junkie and I love the internet. I can always learn something new just by reading around a bit. I love learning, always have and the fact that there’s so much out there that is changing and evolving that I can learn about is what gets me up in the morning.

Who do you admire? I really admire strong, independent women that run successful, profitable businesses. I love Ita Buttrose. I really admire women that don’t let emotions step in the way of their success. That’s probably been the biggest learning curve for me in starting my own business and whenever I read a blog telling people to stop treating their business like a free clinic I really admire that strength.


What has been your most favourite project in recent years? Probably doing the branding for my Mum’s second restaurant. I was just finishing up my degree and they had just bought the property. I got to be involved in every aspect from soundboarding with Mum about the decor, the logo which was my first experience with trademarking, getting creative with packaging and branding, signage, menus and of course the website. Close second was developing my first responsive website. That was really cool!

What does a typical day at work involve for you? Depending on the day and whether my partner is going for an early morning bike ride I wake up somewhere between 5.30 - 7am. I usually start work shortly after, I’m more of a morning person and starting earlier usually means I can take a longer lunch break if I want to get out of the place for a while.

I usually start by answering any emails that have come in overnight (yes I get a lot of 2am emails from clients!), reconcile any accounts and get to work on that day’s projects. I always do a bit of work on my business every day whether that be social media work, adwords, SEO or some branding collateral or even a blog post. I think it’s important to put as much effort into your own business as you do into everyone else's.

Of course the day is broken up with other emails, Twitter (bit of an addiction to that as well!), quotes and phone calls but I try to tick off a few of my to-do’s every day to make sure I’m actually achieving something. The day usually finishes around 7pm so it’s a longer day than an average full-time job, but I love it.


5 Questions in 5 minutes – Getting Personal:

Studio Sounds, what’s playing? Always something cheerful. We just bought a record player so that’s getting a bit of a workout. The biggest on my Spotify are definitely “How Will I Know” Whitney Houston and “Lights” Ellie Goulding. Anything by Fleetwood Mac ranks pretty highly also!

What are you currently reading? “Work for Money, Design for Love” by David Airey. I love reading business or design books, they make me feel productive but I’m also breaking it up with Alkymisten, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo in Norwegian.

What are you looking forward to? The weekend? Ha, um learning. I know I’ve said it before but learning, expanding my skillset, maybe teaching one day? I’d love to teach girls how to code, it’s something that I’m really passionate about.

Can you share your go to resource for inspiration? I get a lot of inspiration from my Twitter feed, blogs like mashable, siteinspire, good inc. and fast company. I also love getting out of the house, going to great restaurants, bars and shops.

What is your local areas best kept secret? We live in Erskineville in Sydney’s inner west. There’s so many great spots around here. Probably my favourite is Bloodwood on King St. They have great polenta chips and the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had.

You can contact Madeleine through the following channels online: Twitter: @minburke

 Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc