small biz chats: Breanna Rose


For this edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Breanna Rose of Rowan Made. She is a fantastic designer with beautiful taste, as well as a co-founder of Be Free, Lance, an online course about building your own design business (one happy alum right here!). I’ve followed her blog for years, and today she has a great story to share: take it away, Bre!

What is your business, and why did you start it? I started my graphic design studio, Rowan Made, last year after a few years of freelancing under my own name. At the time, I felt a shift in my own work and wanted to create a space that was more in line with the direction I was going. Today, Rowan Made is an individually run design studio that specializes in branding and web design for creative clients all around the world. I am currently going through a major brand overhaul and hope to continue steadily growing my business and potentially hiring others in the future. We’ll see!

rowanmade | portfolio


What were you doing before you launched your business? Before I launched my own business, I was in college studying design. And during my senior capstone course, I chose to design + code my own blog, which gave me an outlet to share all things creative. I loved it so much that I kept it up well beyond school, which ultimately, helped kick off my business!


How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business? To begin with, I started my blog in order to stay connected and inspired, and kick myself to actually stay creative. All the creatives I looked up to had a blog so it felt like the way to go and introduce my work to the world. The blog itself helped my work get a bit more recognized, and that gave me the push to keep creating and sharing my work. At some point, I created a graphic design shop on Etsy, and although that did go fairly well, potential clients would email directly to me, so I ended up closing the shop after three months or so.


rowanmade | portfolio

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? I have several systems in place that help me stay organized and feel that I could talk for hours about it, ha. But some of my “life savers” are Gmail, where I spend the most time communicating with clients, and Todoist, where I record all tasks that need to be completed by me and my clients. Other tools include CudaSign (online contract signing), Pancake (invoicing), and Google Docs (for client homework). I’m always looking for new + improved ways to better my systems, so I’ll let you know if I find anything else that trumps the rest. 😉


What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do? I absolutely love helping other creatives tell their stories and crafting identities from the ground up. I recently tightened up my design process and have fell into a groove ever since. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to watch my clients successfully grow alongside their new brands. It’s the absolute best.


rowanmade | portfolio

Do you have a dream project type or client that you’d love to land someday? Hmmm, this is a great question! Well, my favorite type of clients are food, fashion, or home related. For example, if somebody emails me and is like, “Oh, hey, I’m opening up a cafe downtown and need a brand,” I’m usually all in before I know the details. Ha. If we’re talking “dream project,” though, I would say something that allowed me to dip my toes into every inch of the project, design wise. Oh, and something local, too. Those are my absolute favorites!


rowanmade | portfolio


What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business? I teach a workshop called Be Free, Lance for designers who are interested in starting their own business and one thing that we’ve noticed is that for most, the fear of “failure” or overwhelming uncertainty is what’s held a lot of them back. The thing is, you’ve gotta take that first step, which is often the hardest part. You can plan for years and years, and still come up with excuses not to do it. So one piece of advice I often give is to have them ask themselves what’s the worst thing that could happen. Usually, it’s not as bad as one may think. 😉 Plus, you can always start off part-time and take the “official” leap once your side gig is demanding more of your time. Everyone has their own unique experience when launching their own business. You just gotta listen to your gut and do what feels right when it comes down to it.


And finally, what is your favorite mid-workday snack?
I feel like this is embarrassing (because it’s so not healthy), but currently, I’m a huge fan of Oreos. Every time I cross off a big task on my list, I head to the pantry and have one cookie. I should probably switch it up and eat a handful of nuts or something. But I probably won’t. 😉

Thanks to Bre for sharing her insights! See all the Small Biz Chats posts here.

Find Bre online: Website • Instagram  Twitter Pinterest

All images are property of Breanna Rose & Rowan Made.


are you including these items in your contract?

Contracts \\ DottedDesign

Dealing with the logistics of a business like sending invoices and writing contracts are never the highlights of your day when you are a creative business owner. However, having a strong contract can actually make your processes smoother and avoid headaches later on.

You probably know that having a contract helps protect you legally, but it can also help ease conversations with clients since you always have a document to point back to. For example, if you’re a designer, a client might send you an email saying, Hey, while you’re designing my Facebook cover image, can you also quick do one for Twitter, Google Plus, and YouTube? Thaaaaaanks!! while you say, Wait a minute, she never mentioned those other ones before! You can either reply with a long explanation of why this is actually a lot more work, or you can simply point to your contract and say, Hey! I’m happy to help with these, but since our contract only states that I’ll provide a Facebook image, here is what the add-on cost is for the extra ones!

Unfortunately, realizing you need new clauses often results from an experience you had with a client where you didn’t have something covered, and then wished you did. I’m hoping that by sharing a few things I’ve learned might help you!

 Be specific about what deliverables/services you will provide. Like the example above, it is much better to list out which social media profile images you’ll provide rather than generically saying, “Will provide profile images for social media accounts.” Not only does it save you unanticipated work, but it helps the client understand what he/she is getting and not wonder what work you’ll actually be doing. Don’t hesitate to list out exactly what you’ll be providing by the end of the project, such as how many logo versions, how many rounds of revisions, or how many retouches to a photo you took. You’ll avoid being taken advantage of due to vagueness in your wording.

• Lay out your payment schedule. It is standard to require a deposit to begin work – this ensures that your client is serious and you will hold time in your schedule for them. A big point here is to make sure you never hand over final files before you get a final payment! What incentive does someone have to send that last cash if they already have everything you owe them? Of course, that would be pretty crappy of someone to run away without paying, but it always better to be safe than sorry. Also consider how you will handle refunds and late payments.

• The Pause Clause: I first read this idea here, and thought it was a great way to handle clients that continually push off deadlines. We’ve all had a client who stops replying to emails for weeks or constantly says their content will be ready “next week.” Scheduling overlapping projects or knowing how far out to book a future client can be like a complicated dance, and having a project drag out much longer than anticipated can really mess up those plans. And, why does it seem that a client who hasn’t gotten back to you in weeks will suddenly reply and need his/her item NOW? Remind them of this pause clause and you’ll be in control of your own workflow.

State how you wish to be contacted. This is something I added later on in my business venture, but it sets the tone right away. In my contracts, I state that all phone calls must be scheduled and that emails will be answered between 9-5pm on weekdays. Of course, I do work and send emails outside this window, but it sets the precedent immediately that a client should not expect to send an allegedly urgent email on a Sunday morning and get an immediate response. Setting boundaries for your business is so important to avoid burnout. It is always easier to relax your stated “rules” rather than try to backtrack and enforce them later on.

Discuss ownership and copyright of the work. Does your client own only the final version of what you create? Can they make changes to what you send? Do they get native files? All things to consider when handing over final files!

Your contract is a great resource and opportunity to show your client how to treat you. I find that most often, people don’t mean to be rude or try to rip you off – they simply don’t understand a process or the work that goes into creating something. Take the chance to educate them about your field of expertise and your relationship will be even better. Of course, the true point is to cover your butt, but your contract can serve as a simple way to initiate the conversation about some of the more uncomfortable things like payments and deadlines.

If you want to know more specifics and language for your contracts, check out resources like Docracy or the Freelancer’s Union.

What clauses have you added to your contract to help avoid headaches? Any great resources to share?

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional and my advice is intended to be informational. Be sure to check with your attorney for what specifically applies to your own business and what advice to follow!


New work: Sewing and the City

There are few things as fun as sharing some new work! While I tend to move at a snail’s pace when it comes to updating my portfolio and sharing new projects, this one is hot off the press.

Christine came to me as she was starting to build a new website called Sewing and the City. She hopes to build both a resource for all things sewing as well as a community for sewers. She makes things straight from the runway and loves all things high fashion. Her brand is modern and authentic, handmade yet chic.

We started with a mood board to sum up her color palette and style vibe. We landed on a black and white base with a cherry red and goldenrod accent set. The typography combines a high-fashion serif with a more personal, handwritten accent.

Sewing moodboard | Dotted Design

Then came the initial logo designs, striving to combine that handmade element with a chic, sophisticated tone. Think personality and drive rather than cutesy and crafty:

Sewing concepts | Dotted Design

Christine really thought about and determined it was important to include an icon in the main logo that connected to her beloved sewing machine, focusing less on the “city” part of the brand.

Here’s the final look! It combines the high-end type with a bit of handwritten flair, the sewing machine imagery, and a base that mimics stitching.

Sewing style guide | Dotted Design

We also did some social media profile graphics. Christine is now preparing to launch the site, and then we’ll finish up with some business cards and stationery.

I loved working on a unique brand like this! Christine is fabulous, and I’ll be sure to share once her site it up and running.

PS Do you need logo help? I’d love to work with you to bring you brand to life! Get in touch.



are you a freelancer or a business owner?

Freelancer or BizOwner? | Dotted Design

While on the surface this topic may seem like semantics, changing how I answer this question has truly changed how I feel about my work. I first discussed it in an edition of my Dotted Line newsletter, but I felt the pull to expand it into a full post here and see what you think!

A bit of background: when I started doing design work for clients, it was on the side from my full time day job. I considered this freelancing – taking on extra work outside of my regular job. As I slowly built up a client base, I started to dream about being a full time freelancer.

Once I was finally ready to go full time, I felt my whole life switch. Suddenly, what used to be my “on the side” gig was now my livelihood. I taking on more clients, getting serious about marketing strategies, paying quarterly taxes, and doing things like filing for an LLC. Exciting things!

Now, the term “freelancer” didn’t quite seem to cover it. I was making business plans, connecting with awesome people, doing work I was proud of – shouldn’t I be a business owner now?

I was also learning how to talk about what I do, and saying “I’m a freelance designer” didn’t seem to cover everything I was doing. I felt odd saying it and also felt like it didn’t leave room for me to grow anywhere.

Though many freelancers do their work full time, it has changed my outlook to start calling myself a small business owner. Here’s why:

  • It gives me the control: With freelancing, it felt like I was simply seeking out the next project, wherever it might come from. As a business owner, I am seeking clients and building something bigger than a single project. I set my schedule and my boundaries, and I feel more confident in sticking to business hours when it comes to client communication.


  • It feels more intentional (and legit): Whether we like it or not, freelancing can sometimes have a negative connotation – that this is a temporary thing until you find work, or you can’t find someone to hire you so you are taking whatever work you can get. As a business owner, it means I am building something with goals and plans, and I take more ownership and pride in my work.


  • It allows me to say “no”: As a freelancer, I felt more compelled to say “yes” to any request because who knows when the next one would come in? As a business owner, I have defined goals and ideal clients I want to work with. I have a mission and people I want to serve. I can limit myself to projects that fit those business plans and goals because I can see how it will affect my business’s future.


  • It leaves room for growth. When you’re a freelancer, you tend to say, “I’m a freelance _____ [designer, photographer, etc.]” and that is that. When you’re a business owner, you can expand your services, offer a course or book for passive income, or take on team members as you get busier. If you are a freelancer, it can be confusing when you offer too many services, whereas a business can grow as needed to serve constituents. A business can evolve as much as I need it to.


It is amazing how your mindset can truly have an effect on what you do. When I still called myself a freelancer, I felt much less focused and was more likely to push off admin items. Now, I designate “business (or admin) time” to take care of things like accounting, invoicing, planning, etc. It inspires me to take ownership of what I’m building and get excited about it.

It can also depend on the type of client you want to work with. I do know some designers who do contracted work for agencies or studios, and I would still call this freelancing. Someone else finds a client and then brings you in to help execute the concept. As a business owner, I find the clients and help them bring their plans to live myself, which is a model I feel much more comfortable with.

I’d love to hear: do you call yourself a freelancer or a small business owner in your field? There is no wrong answer here, but I still wanted to share how my mindset has greatly impacted my work. You have to find the sweet spot that works for you and your goals!


the value of consistency in your brand

Value of Brand Consistency \ Dotted Design

When building a business, one of the most important things is that your customers connect with you and want to buy from you. Chances are, they will interact with you multiple times before buying your service or product. So, how do you connect with these people to keep them coming back to you?

The first step of course is to build a solid visual identity. Beyond just your strong logo, you want a system of colors, typefaces, icons, and layouts. The visual experience is a person’s first impression of your brand, and you want to build something that looks professional and attracts the type of clients or customers you want.

But…then what? You have a logo, you have your swatch colors. What should you do with them?

Short answer: put them everywhere. Everything that you produce and put out there for your business should be in some way connected with your brand identity. No matter what a person stumbles upon from you, they should get the feeling of, “I bet this is from *insert your brand here*.” Your style is what makes you unique and not just another designer/photographer/blogger/coach/podcaster/etc. You likely know that this is true of your website, but what about your other platforms?

A few places you may not have thought of to apply your branding:

Social Media: Create profile images that match your branding.

Newsletters: Create headers and graphics that fit your style.

Free downloads: Have a PDF for your opt-in freebie? Make sure it follows your color and type palette.

Blog posts: Create a template for your posts so that they are easily recognizable as yours if someone spots them on Pinterest.

Stationery: Do you have business cards, thank you notes, or letterhead? Apply your branding!

Quotes/Invoices/Contracts: You’ll likely want something simple and readable for these documents, but they are another place to create a cohesive feel for your brand and a memorable design.

While this concept may seem easy enough to apply, I often have clients who worry that this cohesion will seem boring or repetitive to an audience. I always assure them that while it may seem redundant to you to have the same concept for every blog post graphic for example, your audience will be seeing countless images throughout their day. Creating that consistent, cohesive style instead makes you more familiar and more likely for them to return and check you out!

When you change fonts, colors, and styles with every item you create, it gives the impression that you are still figuring things out, and maybe you aren’t ready for clients yet. Or, it could even indicate that you are indecisive and can’t land on a visual and stick with it. A solid visual identity shows you are ready to go, understand your business, and care about your user’s experience. {Side note: this doesn’t mean you can’t rebrand. Making an intentional change is fine, as long as you stick with it once it’s launched!}

Bonus: it makes creating the graphics for your newsletter, blog, or social media SO much easier when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you create something! I love efficiency.

You do want to keep things fresh, of course, and here are a few examples of some brands that excel at cohesion without making every single graphic exactly the same:

Lauren of Elle & Company: she has a definite template for her blog posts, but mixes up which colors from her palette she uses and mixes photo with non-photo versions:

Elle & Co

Lisa of Elembee: her eye-catching color palette is so recognizable, and she uses the same concept for every blog post image:


Lindsay of White Oak Creative: she uses a monochrome color palette and mixes in some black and white photography. Each is different, yet oh-so related in style!

White Oak Creative

If I see a graphic from any of these ladies floating around, I can instantly identify who it belongs to without even clicking or reading the fine print. Because they always produce quality content, I know I want to click when I see their work. This is the same feeling you want to create with your audience.

Consistency makes you recognizable, professional, and put together. It shows you’ve thought through your branding and want to create a meaningful experience with your audience. Once you take the time to put together a plan (or enlist the help of a graphic designer!), it only gets easier to implement!

Bonus! Want to create consistency in your brand? Download my Guide to Building Brand Consistency!

Free Download Brand Guide | Dotted Design




WIP: Lisa Copeland

Lisa Logo Concepts | Dotted Design

One of my favorite types of client is women who are out in the world, making things happen. I connected with Lisa Copeland through a former client of mine, and we’re working on both a full branding and website design project. Lisa started her career in the auto sales industry {very male dominated} and since then has worked on marketing campaigns with major companies like Fiat. Now she also travels around the country speaking to inspire women in the workplace. Pretty neat!

Lisa wants to have an inspiring brand that is feminine but not girly, statement-making, and modern. We’re working with a black, white, and purple color palette, but in this first round of logos I’m sharing we’re sticking with black and white, like I do on all first round designs! It really lets people see the composition of the logo and not get caught up in a color that might not click. She loved the idea of some sort of monogram or using the letters of her name in some way.

Can’t wait to share the final product in the coming weeks!



4 signs it’s time for a brand refresh

4 signs it's time for a brand refresh | Dotted Design

I am one of those business owners who is always feeling the pull of trying something new with my visual branding. I want to try a great font I found, test a new color hue, or do an experimental layout. Now, I realize that this is impractical because I know the value of a strong, consistent brand, and changing things up all the time is usually detrimental to this value.

However, sometimes it is a good idea as a business owner to take a deep look at your visual brand and see if you might need a redesign or a refresh. Are you making the right impact on potential customers, clients, or readers? Do you feel proud of the website you send people to? Perhaps you may only need to simplify your design. If you’re uncertain, here are four signs you may want to consider a brand refresh:

1) Your original design was DIY, and you want to go pro.
When you’re first starting out, it can be a big money saver to work on your design yourself. This can get you by for awhile, but once your audience grows and you narrow into your niche and focus, it can be a great idea to get your visual identity done professionally. One big reason is that it is hardest to design for yourself and having that outside perspective is key. And obviously, a designer will know all the nuances of designing a brand that can really take you to the next level for your customers.

2) You are consistently attracting the wrong type of client.
Do you get lots of inquiries from less-than-dream clients? Do you have people who are interested but you aren’t in their price range? These are just a few of the signs that your visual brand may not be communicating the right message, or you might not appear professional enough. You can start by really narrowing in on who that target audience is and from there build a refreshed brand that better attracts those dream people. Design is all about communication and clarity, and if you aren’t exhibiting this in your brand materials, it might be time to look at it again!

3) Your brand materials are all over the place instead of cohesive.
This happens most often when everything is created in isolation without considering the bigger visual picture of your brand. Maybe you did your logo yourself, then had an intern work on social media profile images for you, then had an artist create some cool images for your Instagram. While each may be interesting in isolation, they aren’t helping to tell your brand story. Regrouping to take the elements of your branding that make sense and applying them across all your channels will help create that desirable consistency and clear message to your audience.

4) You’ve made a big change in your business.
Sometimes a business refines its offerings, partners up with another business, or changes focus all together. An easy way to communicate this to your audience is with a refresh of an existing brand or development of a new brand. You can use elements of the old but restructure it to better reflect the new venture. When people see that updated look, they’ll know something exciting is going on.

Your visual identity is how you show your customers that you are a good fit at the first glance. Make them want to keep getting to know your business and all it has to offer!

PS If you’d like help with a brand refresh (or start from scratch!) I’m currently booking for September projects! I’d love to hear all about your project – simply get in touch.


Small Biz Chats: Corina Nika

Small Biz Chats with Cocorrina

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Corina Nika of Cocorrina. She’s a fantastic designer and letterer, and her blog is full of inspiration on design, freelancing, and keeping perspective from where she lives on Kefalonia Island. I don’t think I’ve ever been on Pinterest and not seen one of her designs or blog posts pop up! She has an awesome story and advice to share – here we go:

What is your business, and why did you start it?

My business is about design. From creative direction, to graphic design and fashion design as well! Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been somehow creative. A few years back, studying interior architecture in college, I realized that my heart was in the graphics. Slowly, I followed my heart.


What were you doing before you launched your business?
I had just had gone through an eight hour operation in my sternum (at 21 years old) so as a result I wasn’t able to work or walk for a few months. Although a very tough period in my life, it gave me so much time to work on my business, brand it, work on my skills, learn a few things here and there and generally create a brand plan.



How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?

To begin with, I started my blog. In order to stay connected and inspired, I had to kick myself to actually stay creative. All the creatives I looked up to had a blog, so it felt like the way to go and introduce my work to the world. The blog itself helped my work get a bit more recognized and that gave me the push to keep creating and sharing my work. At some point, I created a graphic design shop on Etsy, and although that did go fairly well, potential clients would email me directly, so I ended up closing the shop after three months or so.

decor8 by corina nika

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
My organizer…just that, I think! At some point I tried Apple’s calendar but I quickly realized I’m a traditional girl. If I don’t write everything down and see it at the same time, it’s just not for me. For three years in a row, I’ve been using the day planner by Paperblanks, and I’m so hooked that when this year I couldn’t find one anywhere (on this planet!) I ended up buying one from Australia and paying $100 for it. But it’s totally worth the money.

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?

The creative life! Being able to live a life where I get to create, draw, design, and sketch on daily basis, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Feeling inspired, feeling that I do something beautiful, fills up my soul.


tropical by corina nika

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Don’t be afraid to take risks; they will end up being the best decisions you’ll make. Experiment all the time, never rest and be super passionate about what you do. With no passion, there’s no happiness and definitely no success.

Thanks to Corina for sharing her insights!

Find Corina online: Website • Instagram  Twitter Facebook • Bloglovin’

All images are property of Corina Nika.



4 lessons I’ve learned running a business online.

4 lessons learned running a business online

Starting a business can be a daunting task. There are so many knowledge areas to learn, especially when you are starting out as owner/creative director/accountant/sales/designer/marketing/social media manager. It’s easy to find resources on the best accounting software or where to host your website, but some of the more nuanced areas are ones that you can only learn with time.

One of my favorite quotes about work is, “You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.” It’s important to be efficient, stay steadfast in your boundaries, and take creative breaks. In the time that I’ve been running my business, I’ve learned a few lessons that have truly helped me achieve these things and be happier in my business life.

1. Only put projects you want more of in your portfolio. There is no rule that says every piece of work you’ve ever done needs to go in your portfolio. If you want to do more brand design work, put those projects in your portfolio. If you want to stop offering ebook design, then take those projects out! If people see something, they will want it. It doesn’t do any good to show examples of things you don’t want to do anymore. Plus, it will save you time responding to inquiries about a project you don’t want to do. Bonus tip: if you want to start a new avenue and don’t have many portfolio examples, do some self-initiated projects. Follow all the steps you would if it were a real client, and you’ll gain both experience and a new portfolio item.

2. It’s perfectly fine to say no. Whether it’s a potential client that doesn’t seem like a good fit or a favor from a fellow business owner, it can actually be more polite to say no. If you take on a client that is a bad fit either style or personality-wise, you are going to resent the project and not deliver your best work. A client who doesn’t have an excellent experience surely won’t be sending any referrals your way. Same goes for a peer who wants to collaborate or swap services – if you don’t have the time or the interest, it won’t benefit either of you. You can always offer to connect again in the future if the timing is bad.

3. Support your community. It is only going to drive you nuts if you think of others as competition. There is always going to be someone who offers your services at both lower and higher price points, who launches their product first, or has more experience. Rather than waste time worrying about who might be “better” than you, look to those people as inspiration and members of your community. You can choose to be annoyed at a developer who is tweeting about how heavy her workload is, or you could befriend her and maybe she’ll send some overflow work your way! It’s great not only for growing your business, but also for finding confidants in your industry who can truly understand what you’re going through.

4. There will always be ebb and flow. This goes for client work and for confidence you feel in your work and business. You’ll have both busy and slow seasons (psst: read my tips for what to do during slow periods here!) with your work. You’ll have days where you feel on top of the world, and days where you feel like your work is crap. This is also where #3 comes in – lean on your community if you’re feeling down! Always remember why you started, and that will make every moment, good and bad, worth it.

What have you learned running your business? Any tips for those wanting to get started?

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moodboard: black, white, & peach

Peach Moodboard | Dotted Design

I always love creating moodboards. They are such a great way to summarize an aesthetic or a theme when words don’t always work. A client may say they like a vintage style and the color teal. However, once I see their inspiration images, I see that their style in my eyes is more mod and that their color is actually aqua. Building a moodboard visually summarizes everything I have learned about a client to assure that we are on the same page with our visions.

This board combines soft peach and pink colors with some subtle black and white patterns and script text elements. The brand words are feminine, modern, friendly, and cheerful. Can’t wait to share more!

images: drink logo gift tags scarf flowers luxe cards pattern