2023 was an incredible year for our studio! I celebrated all of the big and small wins along the way and wanted to reflect back on everything I learned before looking ahead to the New Year.
By the Numbers
Clients Served: 24
Brands Designed: 9
Websites Launched: 10
Maintenance Days: 24
Proposals Sent: 63
Projects Booked: 53
Referral Clients: 6
Years in Business: 10
- I celebrated 10 years as a creative entrepreneur which was a huge milestone and accomplishment.
- Booked 2 of our biggest projects to date
- Experienced a bit of growth and had our highest revenue year
- Worked with clients that we absolutely adored designing for, who are at the top of their fields, and were blessed with past clients coming back to work with our studio again and again (the highest compliment)
Here are a handful of the brands and websites we launched this year! A few of these I have yet to completely reveal but they are some of my favorites ever.
Cameron and Elizabeth
Artful Events & Design
Aubrey & Brandon Visuals
Lauren Westra Photography
Alice Claire Photography
Willow & Magnolia Floral
Olivia Beyers Photography
Amanda Nippoldt Photography
What Went Well
- We fixed our timeline issue!! This was our biggest pain point coming out of 2022 and I knew we had to fix it this year in order to be successful. I’m SO beyond proud that Brooke and I figured out a better system for content gathering and management that allows all of our project timelines to stay on track.
- Brooke was a true partner for me this year. I was able to pass off sites to her after the desktop design phase was complete and she fully took over content input, management, and mobile design which allowed me to move onto the next project and then just do a final design check. I am forever grateful to have found someone I adore working with, hearing from, and value the expertise and care/attention to detail that she brings to every project.
- We attracted dream client after dream client and stayed within our niche of serving fine art wedding industry pros & photographers
- Mixing and matching our services aka our down-sell was a huge success for us this year. By pitching maintenance days to clients that didn’t have the budget for the full template customization experience, we were able to work with way more clients. I also loved offering a pulled back branding experience and pairing that with a website maintenance days for clients that were just looking for a refresh and shorter timeline.
- I took a lot of time off this year and figured out that I work best in seasons. I settled into a sprint/rest cadence that worked really well and honored my creative energy. I took off several summer Fridays, long weekends, and took 2 months (July & December) where I worked at a more leisurely pace.
- I didn’t burn out this Fall like I did last year and I’m so glad I made changes so I could be the healthiest creative possible. It was still an incredibly busy Fall with back to back to back launches but I realized this year that when I’m in busy season, it’s time to focus but that pace isn’t sustainable for the full year.
- I can see where I upheld the policies and boundaries of our studio much better this year. 2022 was a rough year of a few projects that were not launched, broken contracts, and clients ghosting us- this really did a number on my mental health. I did a lot of reflecting on why this year went so much better than last year and although there are a number of reasons, I’m most proud of my resilience to try again and the way I was able to do hard things in order for our studio and clients to be successful.
- This deserves an entire blog post in itself but a lot of our potential clients were coming off of poor experiences with their past designer and a few had inquired with us after a cancelled project with another designer. This was the first year that I noticed how many mentioned poor experiences on their discovery calls and it of course is a bad look for the design industry and creates lots of problems for designers that do deliver results/positive experiences. This creates a lot of problems in our booking process because it’s an uphill battle to gain client’s trust, they often have smaller budgets because they no longer see the value of design or used their budget on the last designer.
- Booked out our year for full service in July- this is the second year in a row where I booked out way too far in advance and it’s a complex problem to solve without bringing on another designer which I don’t have interest in doing
- Low budgets & unrealistic expectations with so many inquiries especially towards the end of the year
- Potential clients coming in with “sprint budgets” and custom expectations- I’ll do a deep dive into this issue on my stories because it’s a design industry problem that I have thought a lot about and feel inclined to share more of my thoughts.
- The Client Experience Intensive offer ended up being a really complex offer for us to deliver
- Personally behind the scenes I was dealing with a lot of infertility questions, appointments, and insurance issues. It was mentally draining for me to navigate as we continued down this path of really hard decisions and medications that had a lot of side effects on my physical and mental health.
Looking Ahead: Plans, Goals, big dreams for 2024
- A big personal goal is renovating our upstairs bathroom. We are hoping to say goodbye to the 1960s pink and brown tile with a full gut reno
- Vacationing in Hawaii
- I haven’t taken the time to fully flush out my business goals for the New Year quite year but we already have some absolute dream clients on our Q1 schedule. We’re starting the year off with a huge launch for a Minneapolis Wedding Planning Team, a launch for a Chicago based Husband & Wife Fine Art Film & Videography Team, an Arkansas Wedding Photographer’s full rebrand, a New York City Wedding Photographer’s refresh & maintenance day, a Destination Wedding Videographer’s maintenance day, and a maintenance day for Little Lion Studio. Honestly, this year was such a success for our studio and I can’t wait to see what 2024 holds!
- A few ideas I’m playing around with for 2024 include designing a page that outlines our maintenance days in depth, streamlining my onboarding experience further, updating our canned emails, releasing a few templates- portfolio add on page, proposal, & welcome guide pages for Showit sites. I am also planning on having the copywriting on my site audited towards the beginning of the year so I can refresh my messaging and make sure it outlines the differentiators of my design experience.
- One of my biggest goals for 2024 is to create a pulled back branding package without all of the bells and whistles- we get SO many requests for this and I have been doing it behind the scenes but haven’t officially added it to my services.
- Another goal is to get my high booking rate down. Although it may seem like the dream to have an incredibly high booking rate, it’s not ideal and a sign I was undercharging. This year I want to only book the projects that are aligned with the work I want to do and am really excited about. I often put so much pressure on myself to book every project that comes through and I want to lean into saying no and only work with clients that truly value my design work.
- I really want to carve out time to overhaul my portfolio and build out the remaining case studies. As you can see above, we worked on a lot of gorgeous projects this year but I’m not always the best at sharing the final reveal because I have to move onto the next client. Giving each of our projects the full reveal they deserve is an area I’d love to improve in next year.
- Another goal for 2023 is taking risks with my designs. I feel like I really found my signature style this year and can see where I improved but next year I want to push what is possible. My favorite projects are always the ones where I was thinking outside the box and designed brands that pushed the boundaries of what is expected in the wedding industry.
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I’m Katie, the brand strategist, designer, dreamer, and entrepreneur behind Artful Brands. Dreamy typefaces, clean layouts, and soft color palettes are my love language— but more importantly designing strategic brands that book.