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In May 2019, I launched my baby – Create with Danielle. Before I started my business, I had no school experience or knowledge in entrepreneurship but took the big leap and learned many things during the year. Owning a business was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself, and I hope this post gives you some guidance for when you’re start your own. Whether you’re just starting or needing some entrepreneurial advice, this is the post for you.
This is a big lesson I learned in my first year of business. When you’re first starting and wanting to make a name for yourself, you tend to accept anything that comes your way. I learned the hard way that you should never do this, especially as a designer. Over time, I realized that I was working with clients who weren’t the types of businesses I wanted to work with. But now they were the central part of my portfolio; therefore, I was attracting more businesses just like them. Sure, I was making a good income, and people started to recognize my brand, but it wasn’t in the way I wanted them to.
Last year, a famous influencer reached out to me and asked to do her website, and I automatically said yes. I mean, she had 100k+ followers and could give me incredible exposure, but I didn’t even factor in the type of business that she had, or if this was a client I needed to grow my business. She wanted a Shopify site when I only offered Squarespace, but I told her I’d still do it and tried to learn along the way. Big mistake!
In the end, I had wasted her time & my own. I tried my best to start designing her website until I realized – if I create this website for her, and it gets promoted, people will start asking for Shopify & e-commerce websites. This is not something I want! I ended up ending the relationship with that client as much as it would have benefited my business to social media exposure.
If you feel like this potential client is not your dream client, don’t take them! Simple as that. I know it’s tempting to accept money and work with anyone to get you started, but you might attract the clients you don’t want. Over this past year, I’ve turned down many clients whom I believed wasn’t a good fit for me, and it helped me gain the client list that I’ve wanted!
Clients with red flags as a designer for me were ones who said, “I want this exact website design but with my branding” or provided me with pages worth of their wants for the website. Your website is supposed to be something that’s unique to others and sets you apart from competitors & my job is to do that! I’m sure every designer can relate (especially graphic designers) that they hire us for our design expertise, we do not need instructions on how to do our job/be creative! Don’t stress out about saying no to a client that makes you feel uncomfortable or is wasting your precious time.
I see many online businesses that offer everything. For example, you might be a creative studio offering – photography, website design, social media management, graphic design, copywriting, coaching, etc. That’s completely fine if you’re an agency with a team that has a variety of skills! However, from a client’s perspective, I would hire someone who is an expert at what they do. If I were looking for a social media manager, I would look for one specializing in their field. I know they are gaining knowledge every day about the subject & are pros at it!
Again, it’s all up to you what you do in your business. This is just my opinion for when a single individual tries to offer 10+ services and doesn’t specialize in mainly one. By all means, you can offer different services! However, I suggest having your main service and promote the heck out of it and offering your other 2-4 services on the side.
In my first year of business, I admit I did this pretty often. When I joined entrepreneurial Facebook groups, others were always posting, “I’m willing to do xxx for a testimonial or to add it to my portfolio,” It made me think I needed to do this. I had gained clients in my first week of business, so I’m not sure why I felt the need to do this.
Soon enough, I learned that they did not bring any benefits to my business. I felt like some of those clients that I offered my services for free, took advantage of my time. Since they weren’t paying anything for it, they didn’t want to focus on it. It left me waiting and took an unnecessary spot on my calendar. I ended up removing those testimonials/designs from my portfolio too as like I mentioned before, I said yes to anyone. I attracted the wrong clients by offering my services for free.
This all depends on the industry though, and it’s still okay to offer your services for free but I would limit it to one person only. People will start to think you’re not worth what you charge in the future.
Social media is essential for your business, but can also be damaging to your self-esteem and confidence. During my first six months of business, I was constantly comparing myself to other entrepreneurs who were achieving things beyond what I could imagine in mine. Headlines such as “I made 100k/gained ten clients this month” can start to make you second doubt yourself and how hard you work.
But I realized that everyone grows at their own pace. If you’re not at that level yet, it does not mean you’re not successful. It takes patience to grow a business, and you can’t expect clients to come running right away. You need to build connections with other entrepreneurs and brands before they start to reach out and feel like they can trust you (especially if your services are pricier). You can’t let others success bring you down. Do what makes you happy, be confident & the rest will follow when its ready!
Burning out is real. I’ve experienced it. If you’re like me, you want to hustle hard until to reach the top. But there comes a point where you’ll come crashing down, and it can negatively affect your business!
When I first started, I pretty much worked from the moment I woke up until 4 am, and I didn’t do anything else. Even when I wasn’t working on clients, I was educating myself or working on my own business. There came a time where I just felt unmotivated and depressed. I had lost a sense of control, and my whole life revolved around my business.
It’s understandable when you try to start a business, but it’s essential to take care of yourself. Make sure always to make time for things that make you happy. Whether it’s taking a walk, baking, reading or just having a Disney movie marathon – I’m all for it! Try to set a schedule for your business where you’ll stay consistent but still have time for the fun stuff. I typically work from 11 am-8 pm and shut off my laptop/phone to relax. It’s shut off for the rest of the night reopen it unless I have an important deadline to meet! I also try my best to take weekends off no matter what.
Don’t ever think you need to reply to an email right away! It’s okay if you wait a day or two to respond. People can wait until you reenergize and take time to take care of yourself. If anything, it makes you look busier if you can’t respond right away!
Blogging is something I recommend for every client I work with – no matter the business. This will help increase your SEO and shows potential clients that you’re knowledgeable in your industry. It helps build connections with your visitors and gives them time to trust you. My most viewed page from organic searches on Google is a blog post! Visitors can potentially end up a client if they have found the knowledge worthy and can relate to you.
Even if you’re not a writer, posting a few posts a year is better than nothing.
You don’t need to get everything done right away. You can start by STARTING and let the rest come at its own time. When I started, I had no experience or plan for what I was going to do in my business. I started with custom website design as this is what I wanted to specialize in. With a year of experience already, I already know my 5-year plan for my business. The things I’ve learned along the way have helped me realize this plan and work for it.