For this edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Lindsay of White Oak Creative. She is a stellar designer and developer who builds beautiful brand identities, offers pre-made blog themes, and does custom web work. Plus, her blog and site are full of awesome resources for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs that you should definitely check out! Read what insights she has to share with us today:
What is your business, and why did you start it? White Oak Creative is a boutique design studio and online shop specializing in branding and resources for creative entrepreneurs, content creators, and lifestyle publishers.
What were you doing before you launched your business? Before I launched my business, I taught Special Education for 4 years, and then I found a job as an account executive at an advertising agency. During the time of teaching and at the ad agency, I taught myself how to design and code. My undergrad degree is in Visual Anthropology and Art History, so I wanted my career switch to get me back to what I studied in college.
How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business? My first clients were friends, family, and people familiar with my own blog. When I started out, I did not have a huge online presence. However, I was able to make a sustainable income based off of referrals. It seemed like each project led to two or three new referrals. I’m incredibly grateful for my initial clients (mainly for their patience), but also for their role in helping my business grow.
What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? I really love to schedule things and build a bank up! I like to set aside buckets of time to really work on a project, and scheduling helps free up that time. I really love CoSchedule for social media scheduling, Tailwind (specifically for Pinterest), and Dropbox for sending files and organizing files. I just recently started using 17Hats to streamline my workflow and lead process. So far, I’ve been pretty happy with it!
What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do? I love the challenge. Each project is full of problems that need to be resolved. The client has a brand and a purpose, and figuring out what brand identity best conveys that to a potential customer/reader is huge. I love that I work with a variety of clients because it allows me to grow with each project and understand different target audiences.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that creative small business owners face today? How can we handle it? In my opinion, the biggest challenge that creative business owners face is the market (at least in my field). So many people are self-taught (myself included), but just because I’m self-taught does not mean I’m a worse designer and programmer than someone who went to school for it, and vice versa. A lot of my clients have been burned my previous designers in the past; they often tell me how easy it is to work with me compared to their past experience. I know what makes my work good, but someone not familiar in the field might not (aka your potential client). You can’t explain to every potential client what good design is and why quality code is important; it took me years to study that! However, you can let your work speak for itself, and you can try to build an honest tribe of existing customers and clients who speak highly of your work.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own business? Talk your idea out with experts in the field, whether it is a mastermind group or friends. Occasionally, I run into a situation where a potential client has an idea, but they have not thought through A thru Y of the process. Z is the design step! Sometimes, in steps B or C, the idea is significantly flawed. That’s why it is important to collaborate and work with others (mentors) to help you prepare for your business launch. Once you launch, it is so difficult to make changes, especially from a time perspective.
And finally, what is your favorite mid-workday snack? Apple with peanut butter.
Thanks to Lindsay for sharing her story! See all the Small Biz Chats posts here.
All images are property of White Oak Creative.