small biz chats

Small Biz Chats: Erin Flynn

Small Biz Chats on Dotted Design -- Erin Flynn

 

For this edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Erin E Flynn. She is an awesome developer who also helps designers & developers streamline their businesses through courses, ebooks, her free community for designers and developers, Unstoppable Crew, and her new course, Creative Compass. Check out what insights she has to share with us today!

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

I help web designers and developers streamline their businesses and communicate with clients. I started this business because as a web designer/developer myself I noticed a problem with client communication and business organization in the industry. I wanted to help solve this problem and make other web designers’ lives easier!

 

Erin E Flynn

 

What were you doing before you launched your business? 

Before I started this phase of my business I was doing web design and development on my own for a few years. I enjoyed it, and still take on limited projects, but really enjoy the change in my business and being able to help others in my industry.

 

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

A few years ago I compiled a PDF of the emails I use to deal with difficult clients. Other designers bought and enjoyed it, so since then I’ve been brainstorming ideas to help other designers. Earlier this year I finally made the transition from web designer/developer to a teacher for web designers/developers. I now have a few ecourses and other resources to help designers out, and they’ve been really fun to create! My audience for this new phase in my business is growing, and I’m sure when I release more products later this year it will continue to grow.

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? 

I’m a huge fan of Freedcamp for organizing projects and working with others. It’s simple to use and helps us all stay on-track!

 

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

I love being able to interact with and help designers. I do this primarily through my free Facebook group, where designers can ask questions and get the support they need from me and others in the group.

 

Creative Compass

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge that creative small business owners face today? How can we handle it? 

Information overwhelm! To be honest, there’s so much information out there that it can be paralyzing. You can’t learn everything before you start, so at some point it’s important to stop absorbing information, and focus on creating. Otherwise you’ll never get started, and you’ll never make anything!

 

Do you have a dream project type that you’d love to do someday?

Eventually I have plans to launch a premium program that not only includes a course, but one-on-one mentorship so that I can really dig into my students’ businesses and help them re-work their processes and plan so that their business really works for them!

 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own business?

Figure out how you want your life to be, and build your business around that. As an entrepreneur you have the opportunity to fit your business into your life, instead of living your life around your work. Don’t miss that opportunity. Get a plan in place and make it happen!

 

And finally, what is your favorite mid-workday snack? 

Coffee, but if that doesn’t count as a snack, I’ll go with an apple and sun butter!

Thanks to Erin for sharing her story! See all in the Small Biz Chats series here.

If you’re interested in Erin’s course, Creative Compass, check it out here!*

Find Erin online: Website • FacebookPinterest •  Twitter

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*I am an affiliate for this course, but I actually purchased it for myself and genuinely recommend it!

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Small Biz Chats: Lindsay Humes

Small Biz Chats with White Oak Creative | Dotted Design

 

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.

WOC_2

 

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.

 

WOC_1

 

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!

 

WOC_3

 

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.

 

Small Biz Chats with White Oak Creative | Dotted Design

 

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.

Find Lindsay online: Website • Instagram FacebookPinterest •  Twitter

All images are property of White Oak Creative.

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Small Biz Chats: Kory Woodard.

Small Biz Chats: Kory Woodard

 

For this edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Kory Woodard. She is a brand and web designer with a simple, chic style, and writes a great blog with tips on business and design, and she’s all about creating a community. Today she has some great insights to share: take it away, Kory!

What is your business, and why did you start it? I run a design business where I help passionate, driven women create brands and web based designs (think: blogs and websites) that help them accomplish their goals and work towards their dreams! I started my business in college to sort of see if I could do it long term. I saw my peers online with the freedom to determine how much money they made, when they worked, and what they did. It seemed like the ideal scenario. At the same time I knew my parents weren’t happy with their jobs, so I was really trying to see if I could make a business happen where I was doing something I enjoyed and that made me happy! Lucky for me, it’s really worked out!

 

What were you doing before you launched your business? I was in college! Some people may not know this about me, but I launched my blog and my business while in college. My business came a little bit later in the year, but before I launched my business I was just a plain ol’ college student. For about 7-8 months I was the editor-in-chief of an online art/music/lifestyle magazine. That really propelled me into this online work of Twitter and blogs and it was my first design job (though it wasn’t paid).

 

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business? Ah, so I’ve told this story before, but I love sharing it, especially with people looking to get started in my field. I don’t know what made me think of it, but 3 years ago I looked up the #blogdesign tweets. I don’t remember if I was hoping to find work or what, but I found this gal from the UK who wanted to get a new blog design. I remember, I responded to her and said hey I can do this! We emailed back and forth and I ended up doing the project for about €50. From there, I started responding to almost every single person who mentioned that they needed a new blog design. Through doing that I was able to start establishing that I was doing that, so some of the people who’d been following me online already started reaching out, and it just kept growing from there!

 

Kory Woodard

 

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? Oh, goodness! I have been trying to keep things pretty simple, lately. I use my WD My Cloud to stay organized with my client work. It helps me be able to work from either of my computers at home or out at a coffee shop. I’ve been going back and forth as far as planners/to-do list apps are concerned, but I’m currently using an Emily Ley notepad + the Simplified Planner to keep track of what’s going on all week and getting things done. I love the notepad because I jot down everything for the whole week on one sheet (guest posts, to-do’s, dinner, random notes) and the planner to keep track of what happens each day.

 

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do? Two things: My favorite part of my process is probably branding. I absolutely love working on moodboards and working with my clients to create a whole new identity for their brand that will help them accomplish their goals. In general, though, my favorite thing is to help women who are passionate about what they’re doing. It’s so encouraging and it really warms my heart to see my clients move forward in their businesses or blogs and really start accomplishing their big goals and working toward their dreams.

 

Kory Woodard

 

 

Do you have a dream project type or client that you’d love to land someday? In college, several of our projects were packaging, including two big personal projects I took on for my final classes. I had so much fun thinking about physical designs instead of just web based work like what I usually do. It was so much fun to start with branding and thinking about different types of packaging for certain things. I think one of my dream projects would be to do that for real products. I don’t know if I have a preference for the type of product (my college products were tea + dog food), but I think regardless of the product it would be fun!

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge that creative small business owners face today? How can we handle it? It’s information overload, no questions asked. As blogging has changed over the last couple of years to less lifestyle posts and more advice posts, it’s become really hard to decide whose advice to take and what to move forward on. I can see it in my community, and it’s really frustrating. The best thing I can recommend is to pick a few people that you trust their advice and then shut out the rest of the noise online. You don’t have to read every single post about branding or every single tip on growing your business.

 

Kory Woodard

 

 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own business? I know so many people get stuck in the wishing and hoping phase and never actually get around to making the leap. I was fortunate enough that I went straight from college to being a business owner, so I didn’t really go through that. I can commiserate, though, as I know a lot of people in my community are trying to make that leap themselves. So, my advice would be create a plan and then just do it. If you need to work a little more at a 9-5 to save money, if you need to build up your client base, whatever it is, just create a plan to transition and then do it. Otherwise, you’ll never make it happen.

 

And finally, what is your favorite mid-workday snack? Ooh, my husband and I discovered this pumpkin spice bread at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and it’s absolutely amazing. I usually have a couple of toasted slices as a snack!

Thanks to Kory for sharing her story! See all the Small Biz Chats posts here.

Find Kory online: Website • Instagram  Twitter

All images are property of Kory Woodard.

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small biz chats: Breanna Rose

SBC_Bre

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.

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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.

cocorina-stamp

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.

 

cocorina-cards

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.

 

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small biz chats: Sarah Stone

Small Biz Chats with Sarah Stone | Dotted Design

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Sarah Stone of cleanline studio. She’s a graphic designer with a beautiful aesthetic, and I love reading her blog where she shares inspiration and life as a designer (I especially love her Color Me Monday series!). She has some great insights to share about how she found her dream clients – let’s dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
cleanline studio is a boutique design studio located in Philadelphia, PA. I started cleanline studio because I wanted to be my own boss, set my schedule to accommodate my young family, and work directly with the kind of clients who matter most to me. I’ve worked hard to create a business presence (both online and off) that identifies my design aesthetic and strengths. I’ve had success in attracting my dream clients: small, mostly female, creative business owners.

I also blog about design, color, style, my life and family, etc. I love how blogging affords me the opportunity to share my tastes and personality with potential clients.

http://www.taasky.com/

 

What were you doing before you launched your business?
In 2007 I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in graphic design and photography. Although it was really tough to leave the beautiful city of Savannah, I returned to the Philadephia area (where I grew up) to begin my career in the advertising industry. I freelanced for a few agencies at first and then stayed at a salaried job for about four years before quitting to do my own thing.

 

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
I have to chuckle about this one! My first “real” client after branching out on my own was actually the owner of the coffee shop where I spent a lot of time working. I was designing some stationery products to sell on Etsy, which he saw me working on. He owned a handful of small businesses and hired me to do branding and a website for a new business and redesign the website for an existing business.

Every positive interaction with a client, every connection made at a design event, and every referral has helped me grow my business. I never quite know how or when it will come back to me, but the more I keep doing what I’m doing, the more consistent my client inquiries and workload become.

cleanline studio

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
My to-do list is absolutely crucial to my staying on task for the day! I usually write my list late at night, or before I get out of bed in the morning using an iPhone app called Taasky. Because I’m the only one to keep me accountable, it can sometimes feel like a daunting task to decide what needs to get done (or put off) for the day. I try to limit my list to about 8-10 items each day. I also try to avoid social media and email as much as possible while designing.

 

cleanline studio

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
It’s so hard to only choose one, I just have to share the first two that come to mind!

1) I love when I get a client inquiry from someone who’s either found me because they love a series on my blog, or they stumbled across some business cards I designed on Pinterest, anything like that. I really love the blogging and social media side of my business, and it comes very naturally to me. When something I’ve shared through one of those avenues turns into real deal paid work, I feel super victorious that it’s all come full circle!

2) Whenever I am sending initial design comps to clients, my goal is to fulfill my client’s vision, and then make it even better. I love it when I immediately get an email back from them saying that it’s hard for them to decide because they love them all! Of course I’ll hold their hands and help them narrow it down, but I feel like I’ve done my job well when they have a hard time deciding.

cleanline studio

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Develop a thick skin, and know who you are trying to attract from the start. Building a successful business takes time, no matter what. If you go into it without knowing who your dream customers are, you’ve failed to create a clear goal for your business. If you really want to succeed, ask for advice from people who are already successful in your field. It’s hard not to get overly emotionally invested when your business is your baby… but do it anyway, in the name of success and self improvement!

Thanks to Sarah for sharing her insights!

Find Sarah online: Website  Pinterest • Instagram  Twitter Facebook Bloglovin

All images are copyright cleanline studio.

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Small Biz Chat: Local Spotlight on Lizzibeth

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Small Biz Chats: Lizzibeth | Dotted Design

I love hearing about how small business owners get started. When there is so much activity online and doing business with people around the world, I like to make sure I take a moment to savor the awesome brick and mortar shops right in my own community.

Today, I am so delighted to share a local edition of Small Biz Chats to tell the story of Lizzi Weasler and her company, Lizzibeth, right here in my beloved Milwaukee. Not only does she have the shop, but Lizzibeth hosts shopping events, consults with brides, and does pop up shops.

Lizzi didn’t follow a straight path to shop ownership, and like so many of us, had to go through a few jobs until she found what she loved to do and was able to create her own path. She went from civil engineer to J. Crew to Teen Vogue…and finally back to Milwaukee. I love that she took control of her destiny and made a unique career for herself that worked.

Lucky for you, you can shop her gorgeous collections online at Lizzibeth, but you truly must stop by the shop if you are ever in Milwaukee! (The black and white decor is my ultimate shopping setting.) Enjoy Lizzi’s story!

Lizzibeth Shop

Tell me a bit about yourself and background! What were you doing before you opened the shop?
Hi, I’m Lizzi, and I own a retail and event company called Lizzibeth. I guess you could say I went through a period of time where I changed my career as often as you change your nail color. I graduated with a civil engineering degree and knew after working for a firm for over a year that life behind a computer screen was not my calling. Hopping around from Milwaukee to NYC to Chicago, I got a taste at many careers that got me to where I am today with my business. I dipped my toes into companies like J.Crew, Teen Vogue, The Vintage Twin, and AEP Energy before I finally had the guts to try out the entrepreneurial route and take full control of my every day work life.

 

What led you to open your shop? What gap did you see in the market before opening?
After working various jobs out out of college, I was able to realize that it wasn’t the type of work I was doing that didn’t suite me. It was going to an office every day, sitting down, and helping a company further their aspirations and never feeling a connection to my work. I knew I needed to begin creating my own path and put 100% of my time into my dreams of owning my own business. Lizzibeth came out of that desperation to be my own boss and take control over my life’s ambitions. I have always loved shopping with people and making them feel good about their purchases. I saw a gap in the Milwaukee market while at school there and knew I could bring my NYC and Chicago style finds to a smaller, more trend delayed city.

Lizzibeth Shop2

How did you find your first paying customers, and what has helped you to grow your business?
The reason I came full circle back to Milwaukee is because my networking that I built from grade school to college was there. Already having that community of people made it easier for me to round up my first paying customers. It has been the love and support of all of these people that has helped me grow my business these past two years. Milwaukee is a tight knit community and everyone has been so zealous to support local businesses that the natural spread of Lizzibeth occurred.

What aspect of your owning your shop is your absolute favorite?
I love structuring my day and having the freedom to never have the same day twice. Even though I’m working more hours than my past jobs, I absolutely love it, which makes time fly and the complaints go out the window. I can be hopping around since my first early morning meeting and still be cooking until the late hours at an event and not even feel an ounce tired. The adrenaline of meeting new people and continually changing your scenery makes working for yourself the best reward.

Lizzibeth-Shop3

What is something difficult about owning a shop that an outsider might never anticipate?
The most difficult part would be multitasking and wearing a million different hats. You need to be able to turn on and off various job titles throughout a single day. You may be working on your taxes in the morning, dealing with customer service the next hour, assisting a bride with her wedding accessories and topping off the day updating the website with new merchandise.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
The most important advice is to do your homework and make a game plan before you jump into it 100%. By no means do you need to have everything figured out, but it is very important to have a solid idea of what you are hoping to accomplish so you can easily portray your idea to potential clients, customers and funders. I would highly recommend writing everything down and making some financial projections to make sure there is hope for your idea to succeed. Then jump in with both feet and figure out the smaller details as they pop up.

Find Lizzi online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Lizzi Weasler photo by Matt Haas. All other photos by Lizzi Weasler.

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small biz chats: Vanessa of Noirvé

Small Biz Chats - Noirve | Dotted Design

 

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Vanessa Gonzales of Noirvé. She’s a graphic designer with gorgeous style, and I’ve been following her freelance to full time journey on her blog while being inspired by her work for a long time. She’s got some inspiring insights to share today about building her business – let’s dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
Noirvé is a one-woman design studio specializing in branding and website design for small businesses and bloggers. I love helping people and making them look good. : )

After gaining experience at a design agency where I eventually became creatively unfulfilled and freelancing during nights and weekends (which was exhausting!) I knew it was time to make a change and leap into new territory. I started Noirvé so I could be in charge of the work I create and the clients I take on.

 

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

 

What were you doing before you launched your business?
Flashback to 2011 I actually went to culinary school for baking & pastry, it was during culinary school where I picked up graphic design while I was running my blog and taught myself Photoshop. After years of being self taught and taking on freelance projects I eventually landed a job at a design agency where I worked for a couple years to gain hands on experience. Then last September I left to pursue my business full time and have been loving every minute of it!

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
A lot of my very first clients actually came from the readership I had built up through my blog. Blogging has helped me grow in so many ways, I share bits of my life, my design projects, my process, and using blogging as a creative outlet has let me really hone in on my aesthetic and eventually potential clients see that. What has really helped my business grow is word of mouth. Past clients will refer new clients my way, other design pals will refer work to me if they have an overflow of projects, and I’ve also had people contact me who have found me on Instagram and Twitter. The internet is amazing.

 

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

 

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
I’m currently obsessed with Pancake and Teux Deux. Pancake helps me keep track of invoices, clients and project management. I use Teux Deux every single day and love that it syncs with my phone. There’s also the Self Control app. If you’re like me, I get SO distracted during the day with social media. This app will block specific sites from you for a set amount of time which allows you to focus on work.

Noirve on Small Biz Chats | Dotted Design

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I have absolutely fallen in love with designing websites for clients. There are so many options, and it’s so fun being able to come up with unique interactions and effects. It’s also great being able to collaborate with developers on how to make my designs come to fruition on the web.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Don’t try to do it all. If there’s an area in your business that you’re not good at, hire it out. I’ve seen so many business owners get caught up in trying to do every single thing, but sometimes it’s better mentally to just hire someone who specializes in areas where you don’t particularly flourish. For example, everyone freaks out about taxes, and I can’t recommend it enough to just hire a CPA! Especially if starting a business is new for you : )

Thanks to Vanessa for sharing her insights!

Find Noirvé online: Work  Blog • Instagram  Twitter  

All images are copyright Noirvé.

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small biz chats: Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio

Small Biz Chats: Jess Levitz | Dotted Design

In this week’s edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Jessica Levitz of June Letters Studio. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator who loves working with creative clients. I love seeing her illustration and sketching work, and she’s worked with clients like Vanity Fair, West Elm, Threadflip, and Yelp. She has a beautiful soft style with some gorgeous hand lettering skills as well. She has a great story to share – dig in!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, working under the business name June Letters Studio. After several years working at tech companies as an in-house designer in San Francisco I decided to strike out on my own as a full-time freelancer. While working in-house, my requests for freelance continued to increase, and so after saving up some money and securing a few great freelance clients I took the leap!

jess levitz | june letters studio

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I was working as the lead visual designer at lingerie company True&Co. I designed everything from clothing labels to the website to printed packaging. It was a great job, but I knew that I truly feel happiest when I can work on many projects at once and from the comfort of home!

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
About six months before I took the leap to start my own business I did a major overhaul of my website and started blogging almost daily. I found that people started to pin my work and my readership grew very quickly. Most of my clients find me through Pinterest! It is really incredible what that platform can do for a visual business.

jess levitz | june letters studio

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
When I first started out I kept organized by writing out lists on random pieces of paper – this of course didn’t work for long! I now use Asana to manage tasks and projects. I also keep a (mostly) organized folder for each client on Dropbox. I like using Dropbox for my clients so that I feel confident I won’t lose their work!

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
I luckily love so many aspects of my job – but probably my absolute favorite thing is the sketching that I do at the start of a project. I love breaking out my paper and pens and just getting out as many ideas as possible. I feel so much more creative with a pen in my hand than when I jump straight to the computer.

 

jessica levitz | june letters studio

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Plan ahead and get some practice before you fully launch! While it is tempting to just suddenly quit your day job and pursue your passion, you will be so much happier and more successful if you plan your departure carefully. Write out a business plan, gather advice from friends and family, start a savings account!

Thanks to Jess for sharing her insights!

Find June Letters online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest • Facebook

All images are copyright June Letters Studio.

 

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small biz chats: Kate Baird

SBC_Kate-Baird

I’m excited to share today’s edition of Small Biz Chats with Kate Baird of Katelyn Brooke. She’s a web designer/developer who specializes in WordPress sites for creative women. She has a great story to share and awesome style. Enjoy!

What is your business, and why did you start it?
I create WordPress websites for creative women. In the fall of 2011, I found myself having recently graduated from college, newly married, and living in a small town. I’d had a (very) small blog for a while, and since I didn’t have a job I was looking into designing my blog myself. What I found instead was a class on how to become a blog designer. When I was done I was totally hooked! My business has evolved to be more based around websites and branding for small business.

What were you doing before you launched your business?
I had started substitute teaching in our local school system, and before that I had been an architecture student. I basically created my first job out of college, which was something I never would have envisioned for myself!

kate baird

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business?
I advertised on a few blog design related sites at first, but from there it really became word of mouth. I was growing my personal blog alongside my business, and most of my clients found me that way, and then through my social media presence.

kate baird

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task?
I use a combination of Basecamp and my Day Designer to organize my client projects. Basecamp helps me plan more long term across the week, and I love having a paper planner to help me plan each day as it comes.

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do?
For me it isn’t really one task, it’s really just when my clients are tickled with something I’ve presented to them. In my experience, that’s most likely to happen towards the beginning of the design process or at the very end once the final thing is launched.

kate_baird

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business?
Start where you are and don’t be afraid to change course down the road. I think a lot of people get stuck because they feel like they’ll be tied to whatever it is they decide to do or how they decide to do it – the possibilities are endless and no one is saying you have to stay the same!

Thanks to Kate for chatting with me!

Find Kate online: Website • Instagram  Twitter  Pinterest

 

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