small biz chats: Jamie of Spruce Rd.
I'm excited to start a new series today! One of the best parts about the freelance world is the community of creative entrepreneurs. I love hearing their stories and learning from their experience, so I decided to start sharing some awesome ladies in a new series, Small Biz Chats. We'll hear how they got started, found their first clients, and advice they have for those wanting to find their own dream business.
Kicking it off is Jamie of Spruce Rd., a designer and blogger who recently came on my radar. I love her style, and I've loved reading her blog ever since. Enjoy!
What is your business, and why did you start it? I am the blogger, graphic + web designer behind Spruce Rd., an independently run boutique design studio! I focus primarily on crafting fresh brand identities for creative entrepreneurs, that are as unique as they are. I love diving in deep, and learning what makes each business stand out, and developing a brand identity that reflects their story. I also take their branding to different mediums such as business cards, print design collateral as well as web design.
The idea behind the name Spruce Rd. is that when collaborating with businesses, we journey together to develop a solution that freshens up their visual identity.
Spruce: Neat, smart, stylish, dapper. To freshen up appearances. Road: The journey from the old to the new.
I created Spruce Rd. out of a desire to connect with clients + projects that are more of a right "fit" for me. Yes, it is risky starting your own business, but it can also become unhealthy if you are dissatisfied with your current work situation. I wanted to stop complaining, and make a change... and I haven't looked back yet :)
What were you doing before you launched your business? Prior to launching Spruce Rd., I worked as an in-house designer, an employee at a design studio, and a freelancer for a design agency...but not all at the same time! I worked as an in-house designer for a church for a couple years, then at a university for another two years. I had a great experience at both, and learned a TON! In-house design is definitely overlooked. I got to work on huge campaigns, collaborate with photographers, art directors, and videographers, design numerous publications, work on specialty book designs, and most of all I learned what the fullness of branding entailed. Though I loved the people I worked with, as well as some of the projects, I knew I desired to grow my own business.
After working at the university, my husband and I moved so he could pursue a graduate degree. I worked for a short time at a local design studio, prior to taking the leap and starting Spruce Rd. full-time.
How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business? I consider myself very lucky in that both of my parents are entrepreneurs! They also happen to be huge fans of my work (thanks, mom + dad!), so I had a few jobs lined up for their business. These projects were not as much portfolio builders, but provided a bit of stability in my income through the first couple months...for which I am very grateful!
My first paying clients, that weren't related to me, came from Pinterest! I can't pinpoint exactly which pin drew them in, but most likely it came from my blog. I remember reading other designers mentioning how much their blog helped their business, so I knew that this was a tactic I wanted to try. Turns out, I love blogging and connecting with other creatives! I am still in the beginning months of Spruce Rd., but I can say that blogging has definitely opened doors for me, and put my name out there. It is also a way to showcase your design skills through crafting unique + consistent blog graphics, as well as great for SEO and establishing yourself as a professional in your field.
What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? I use Basecamp, Evernote + Google Calendar like nobody's business! Basecamp is great for client project management. I used it at the university I worked at, and can't recommend it enough! Yes, no system is perfect, but Basecamp is the closest I have found. I have tried several free/less expensive versions, but they felt incomplete. It is so great because it keeps everything for each project all in one place.
I use Evernote primarily for brainstorming, writing blog posts + keeping a running list of future blog post ideas. I also use it outside of my business for all of my recipes. If you cook a lot, I definitely recommend organizing your recipes through Evernote!
I use Google Calendar + TeuxDeux for scheduling blog posts, as well as assigning tasks for each day. It helps keep me organized for each day, and what projects I need to prioritize.
What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do? I absolutely love developing new brand identities! Research is always a fun part of the process, as well as sketching new concepts. It's awesome that I get paid to research inspiring design books, browse through Pinterest, or sketch in my notebook! Branding is my favorite because I get to create something completely new, and brainstorm creative solutions.
I also really enjoy brainstorming new ideas for my business! I am introverted, so sitting at my computer in Evernote, just thinking of creative business ventures really gets me pumped up! I have an entire note in Evernote devoted to new business ideas that I dream of pursuing down the road. That might be nerdy... but I think it is essential to have that driving passion if you are running your own studio. It was this brainstorming + excitement that left me unfulfilled at previous jobs, so I am thrilled I get to explore new ideas for Spruce Rd.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business? Go for it! I would also suggest that they have a plan in place prior to launching their own business. I am a planner, and a very practical person, so I had multiple conversations with my husband + Excel sheets that outlined my approach to launching Spruce Rd. on a realistic level. If you are starting your own business, you understand that income might not come in immediately. Just realize that it takes time attract the right clients + projects, as well as establish yourself as a professional business. Be patient, and your business will thrive! It is so worth it!
Thanks to Jamie for sharing her wisdom with us!