Design

An Honest Look Back at Year 2 As a Full-Time Designer

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A few weeks ago I hit the two year mark of designing full-time and I thought it was about time to recap everything from the past year. Year two was filled with all sorts of amazing growth and crazy curveballs (running a business in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat).

Goals for the year

Coming into this year of running my business I wanted to take on significantly less volume than I did in my first year. That led me to saying no to every single inquiry that came my way in January and February (none of the projects were a good fit for a variety of reasons). Instead of trying to make every project work for me, I got really clear on the types of clients I wanted to work with and what price point. This took a bit of soul searching on my end to truly define even further who my ideal client was and then I had to work really hard to have the discipline to say no to other opportunities outside of that. *Note: This became significantly harder once the pandemic hit in March.

Another way that I tried to set myself up to take on less volume is I looked at my numbers from the first year and projected what I could make in the second year. I was super realistic with my goals and from there I was able to see that I only needed to book about 4 clients for my Signature Artful Branding and Website service to hit my goals. 4 clients plus designing for my retainer clients year round seemed like a really doable client load.


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the pandemic hit

The pandemic seemed to affect design businesses so differently. I was very fortunate to not have lost any of my large clients and actually became pretty busy at the beginning of the pandemic. I distinctly remember one day where I had all 6 of my clients trying to talk to me on the same day which is very unusual. I was spread very thin in March and April. I think this is because I’m usually working with clients that are service based business owners who are also working with their own clients and busy with their businesses. When everything stalled they were at home just focusing on their brands and that kept me super busy. This was difficult because I felt the pressure to move timelines along faster for all of my clients. In the summer I became spread so thin that I knew I needed help in my business.

hired a va

In May I started looking for a Virtual Assistant to help me with internal tasks at qk. I talked to A LOT of business owners who had already done this and made sure I was ready to make this move. Here are the tasks I was ready to pass off: Pinterest scheduling & pin creation, brand reveals, story graphics, newsletter marketing, setting up Honeybook automations, creating workflows in asana, and help creating another revenue stream.

This ended up being one of the best moves I made all year. Once I realized hiring on wasn’t an expense but it was an investment to help me make more money, it was a game changer. It’s also a relief knowing that I have someone that truly cares about my business and is there to support me and take things off of my plate on a weekly basis. One thing that is tricky about hiring on is it’s actually a lot of work to train someone in but it is totally worth it once you get over that hump. It took me awhile to get used to passing things off to my VA as well. Delegating properly takes careful planning which is something I was totally unaware of.


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created systems & workflows

This year was a big year of setting up systems and workflows to make my business run more smoothly. I started by joining Honeybook at the beginning of this year for my CRM. A few pain points that were pushing me to invest in a CRM was the clunkiness of my on-boarding process. It was taking me about a week to get proposals out and it wasn’t the client experience I wanted. Setting up the workflows and email templates in Honeybook took quite some time and I still have refining to do but I know putting in that work has saved me so much time in the long run. Now when I get an inquiry from my website, a project is automatically created in Honeybook, I can slightly customize my response which has a link for them to schedule a call and they’ll receive automatic reminders so they don’t miss their call.

Beyond just the inquiry process, are so many amazing features like building out project timelines for my clients, being able to copy existing proposals and quickly customize them, having a client portal login, and best of all being able to have your client projects on auto pay.

Take 50% off your Honeybook subscription, here.

started creating another revenue stream

I started on working on the Semi-Custom Brand collection in January and I just launched it last month. This was a MASSIVE undertaking and something we’re just getting started on. Anyone who tells you creating a passive income offer is easy is lyingggg. I wanted to create the Semi-Custom Brand Shop because I was chatting with so many new business owners who were interested in branding but weren’t quite ready for the investment that comes along with it. I realized that my Signature Artful Branding Experience was best for established business owners who were ready to elevate every single touch point of their brand. I wanted to create an entry level option that would set new business owners up for success and give them a strong foundation at a really affordable price point.

Showing Up Online/Marketing

One of my goals going into this year was to figure out a sustainable way to market my business outside of Instagram. I don’t book a lot of clients from Instagram and it’s not my favorite place to show up so my goal was to start putting resources into Pinterest marketing and email marketing. I didn’t completely leave Instagram behind but I was able to rely on it much less which was so important for me this year. With everything going on in 2020 there were so many times I didn’t have the energy to show up on stories and I was so glad to have put other systems in place that allowed me to step back from that platform when I was feeling drained.


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Wins

-hired out my SEO and I’m ranking really well for my preferred search terms

-booked my largest project yet and it was for a dream client with an incredible artful aesthetic

-my clients were extremely loyal to me and I do not take this lightly

-stepped into a business owner’s mindset instead of a freelancer

-started focusing marketing efforts outside of instagram- I mainly focused on Pinterest, email marketing (we finally joined Flodesk and are loving the ease of creating beautiful emails- try it out for free and if you love it take 50% off your subscription), and instagram stories (lots of room to grow here)

-was booked out for 2020 at the beginning of October

Pain Points

-getting on calls with too many people

-having lots of small tasks on my to-do list- this was a big problem because day-to-day I was stuck in the weeds and not able to look at the big picture, dream big, and move the needle forward

-project timelines getting off and overlapping

-didn’t take time off this year

-still had issues separating work and life and maintaining a healthy work/life balance

How did I do on the goals I set for this year?

•Honeybook automations (check)

  • Switch from Mailchimp to Flodesk email marketing (check)

  • Be on a Podcast (check)

  • SEO rank on first page (check)

  • Client portal login on website (check)

  • 1 short-term marketing strategy- instagram stories (needs improvement)

  • 1 long-term marketing strategy: Pinterest (check)

  • Drift on website (check)

  • 500K views on Pinterest (hit this a few times but didn’t stay consistent)

  • Build a better brand 5 day email challenge (working on it)

  • Share podcast features somewhere on site

  • Completely Overhaul branding page (not done)

  • Completely Overhaul Portfolio/Case studies (not done)

  • Welcome email sequence (not done)

  • LAUNCH Freebie Library- March 2nd? BUILD A BETTER BRAND (scratched this idea)

  • Launch Checklist for one-on-one branding clients & semi-custom branding clients (check)

  • LAUNCH NEW OFFERING/diversify revenue streams (check)

  • Qk Client Portal/Systems: Client Timelines (check)

  • Proposal, Welcome Guide, Timeline, Brand Strategy Homework, Direction Board, Style Guide, Brand Guidelines, Website Workflow, Client Gift (check)

  • Redo the way we present brands to clients- streamlined direction board, style guide, brand standards (not done)

I feel pretty darn good about everything that was accomplished and I plan on chipping away on the last few things at the beginning of next year.

It is a massive privilege to be able to do what I love and to still be in business after this year and that is not lost on me. So many people have helped me get to this point. It’s worth mentioning for those of you that are new here that I actually have had this business for much longer than just 2 years and it’s actually more like 7.5 (? I’ve lost track). Nothing happens overnight and my growth has been much slower than I would’ve liked but I am still enthralled by the journey.


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ABOUT KATIE

At home near the sea. Ever-focused on beauty and the thrilling art of creation; found in the moments that leave me breathless and in awe. 

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