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Ep 10: How we automated the &%$# out of our business (so we could spend more time being creative)


After a brief-ish hiatus, we’re back with what we’re going to call Season 2 of the pod. In this episode, we share a behind-the-scenes look at some BIG changes we’ve made in our business, and how they’ve helped us spend less time doing the tedious $%@# we don’t enjoy.

We also share insights from a game-changing course that helped us automate our process and get real about the ups & downs of running a creative business — from quiet summers to the stability of consistent clients.

Plus, we dive into our latest venture into semi-custom brands, have a real-time revelation about achieving our goals, and debate whether manifesting is a thing.


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Episode Transcript

 Hello And welcome to seriously creative. I’m Gwen And I’m Jess, and it has been so, so long since we have recorded an episode of this podcast. We weren’t even in our studio yet. Last time we recorded. Now we’ve been here for 10 months, almost 11. So I think that we should just call this season two. Yeah.

Like it was so intentional that we took the summer off and, and last. January through winter, spring and summer off. We meant to do this. We meant to do this. We’re like, you know what, October, late October is a really great. Season recording time, . So now we just have to keep up with the rest of the episodes.

Okay. So we are, like Gwen said, in our new studio. Finally, we talked about this a bunch when we recorded at the end of last year, that we couldn’t wait to get in. We were in like a temporary workspace, which was fun. It was super fun. I loved Limelight for a little while, but it is so nice to have our own space.

We set, okay wait. We have to tell the story of. The big studio and then, okay, so when we decided to rent this space, for some reason we thought it was a good idea to rent a thousand square foot space. That’s because our old studio technically was that and we couldn’t imagine being in a smaller space, but the way it was set up, it did not make sense and we do not need a thousand square feet.

So we spent three months maybe? Two months sitting. No, it was that one. We spent one month. It was only one month. Okay. We just sitting on a couch, sat on, we sat on a couch. We used 50 square feet of our . Okay guys, huge studio. Imagine a thousand square feet if you know what that looks like. And then like a loveseat and oversized loveseat, couch,

And then the two of us sat on that couch and worked not at a desk, not in chairs on a couch for one month before. We’re like. Is the studio too big for us? People would walk by and they’re like, you guys really like that couch? And we’re like, we, we were overwhelmed. We did have a lot of furniture and stuff that we brought from our old studio, but like none of it really went together in like the space.

It was just a disaster. And then one day we had one of our business besties Laura from Free Period. She came to visit us and we were just sitting there talking to her and she’s like, so you guys like the big space? And we were just like, No, we actually don’t. Why are we in here? So we talked to our landlord that day and he was like, yeah, this is ridiculous.

We were just waiting for you guys to come and be like, this face is way too big. So anyway, there was a little, what do you think this is? 500, 400. Well, I mean, if the other one was a thousand, this cannot, this is not 500. I think they said it was, but it’s like, I don’t know. Three or four hundred, I think. So we’ll put a picture up on the Instagram because this is the most adorable place we’ve ever worked out of.

I love this place. It is so light and bright. It’s like a corner guy with like a bunch of windows. We have all of our plants. They are literally lining every window. We just put up this beautiful pink arch behind our desk where we sit. Yes, we sit in a desk now on the couch with all of our plants behind us.

And then we have a cute sitting area. It’s just the perfect space for us. And we’re in this building with a Hay Day Collective, which is a local stylist. What’s the word for it? I was going to say commune. They don’t live here. It’s it’s studio, studio and a chair rental for. Yeah. But it’s high end luxury, beautiful.

So the whole third floor is that. And then we have a little shop that’s right next to us. We also had a, a nice experience where for a while, cause we’re right next to this shop, the shop would be open. People would go in and like shop it. And then they’d come into our studio and like start picking up our decorations, you know, we were a shop and we had to be like, we actually work in here and you’re just trying to steal our stuff.

Well, I think they were planning on paying for it. It wasn’t for sale though, like there’s no price tag on this so we got a little sign. Hey, hello studio branding and website design. So people haven’t tried buying. Yeah Hard decor yet. It’s been really nice letting people know what we do, right? Yeah, so that’s been really great.

We also I think this summer We had a lot of time where we weren’t in the studio as much on vacations. We both took a full week off family vacation this year. Yeah. Hey, hello. Studio had a summer break and it was first time year four. We did it. Yeah, it was, it was kind of scary to be like, okay, we’re just doing this, but.

It was so great. It was so lovely to just be like, no, we’re intentionally closing the studio down. We both have things going on. We can do this. Let’s do it. Yes. That, it was like, we felt like we grew up maybe a little bit. Yeah, I think it would have been, I think. In my mind, I should say this, in my mind it’s easier to do it if you’re like a solopreneur because you don’t like need permission.

I think you and I care so much about each other that we felt like, Oh, am I going to let you down by like taking this vacation? But then it, the stars align. We also like just lined up the same way. Yes, that is great too. They also, I do think we need to pay two people. And so it’s hard to take a whole, it was only four weeks in a month.

Math guys to take one of them off and not be making any money, but luckily July was super slow So he didn’t have any work that week. Anyway guys, by the way anybody else out there Experienced that summer. It’s got so slow for a minute there. That was like scary We were like, I feel like this always happens.

We’re like, we’re never gonna book another job. Well, yeah And I think we have been I don’t I’m trying to think of like what the positive word is because it’s not chaotic, but we’ve shifted our focus several times over the past several years that I know I haven’t taken a step back to like notice like, Oh no, summers are usually a little bit slower, especially with the people we work with.

Like we were working with women led businesses and if they’re moms like us. And they have kids who are a little bit older, they might not be in school, so they’re like juggling kids in summer camp or, you know, whatever it is that they need to do to keep them occupied. So, yeah, summer might not be the time that they’re thinking about leveling up their business because they don’t have as much time.

And we just noticed it this year. Yeah, yeah, I think, okay, so we’re going to talk in this episode about, it’s really not that dramatic of a change because it’s very consistent with what we’ve loved doing most over the last three years we were in business, but we really got intentional about only doing two things and only doing them a very certain way.

And we really, it’s, it’s enabled us to schedule in a way where it’s like we’re assigning a design week. Or, or two weeks to each client. So when we don’t have a client where before it would be like every project was two or three months and they would overlap. And so you kind of didn’t notice when you had some downtime, but now it’s like, Oh, there’s like two weeks or three weeks in a row.

We don’t have a client. And you really just start to notice it more, which is actually helpful to us because it makes scheduling easier, but so much easier. Okay. So just as a recap, if you haven’t listened to the other episodes of this podcast, which you should, because they’re all great, go back, but we are graphic designers by trade and we started this business and we were like.

Basically, like we’ll do anything, like anybody who needs any kind of design, we’ll do it because we, we just knew that we needed to bring in money and we were kind of, we knew we could do a lot of different things, which is really tricky when you’re a creative. And at one time we were like running Google ads for like leg braces.

Like it got really weird for a minute, it was like literally anything that you needed a computer to do, people asked us to do, we’re like, yes, in. Yeah, but at the same time we were trying to get this business like. Giving it legs because we both took like a big leap from leaving corporate leaving corporate jobs, and we’re like, okay Well, we’re just we’re gonna figure out just like how to make this work And so yeah, we did it and that’s great, but we slowly had to peel off things We did a lot of photography early on.

We had like a photo set up in our old studio Recently, we’ve started just saying we don’t do that anymore. We even packed up all the photo supplies. They’re in my basement now It’s just not even a thing we do. So we, and it was one of the reasons we didn’t need a thousand square foot that studio, because that was one of the reasons we thought we needed like a dedicated photo area for the once every quarter that we had photo needs, but we don’t need that much space for a four time a year thing.

Which we don’t even, yeah, do anymore, so. So we really have narrowed down and we were just like, what do we love doing? And we love doing brands and websites. And that’s really it. We were offering social strategy, brand strategy, which we do brand strategy still sometimes, but that’s not our favorite part.

Our favorite part is getting into the creative and really designing stuff that brings people’s vision to life. And so we were like, what if we just focus in on that? Like. And one of the, I guess maybe barriers for us, or one of the difficult things was in order to make it worth our time again, I feel like I’ve explained this a million times on this podcast, but in order to pay both of us and.

Be able to devote the amount of time we need to build like a really nice website for somebody. Our starting price used to be 10, 000 and that is a lot for a small business, which is who we wanted to work with to afford. And we really had a passion for working with like more entrepreneurs, but it was definitely not, I shouldn’t say definitely.

It was very, very often too big of an investment, even though we would recommend somebody for sure. And it didn’t have a lot of income coming in. Yeah. Okay. And we got to work with some really, really amazing clients, but the, we also had inquiries for some people that we really, really wanted to work with that we had to turn down because, well, I shouldn’t say that we had to turn down that we didn’t fit in their budget.

Like they just, we were out of reach for them. And then our brand, because we only offered. Branding with strategy that started at 6, 000. So most people, you know, we’re investing between 15 and 20, 000 with us to even work with us. And we just missed out on a lot of business that we really wanted. And that was a struggle for us for years.

And I think for the first few years, we turned to courses to help that we were like well, if we do this branding course or we like that, that’ll be able to either, well, both help people access branding at a lower price. And then also it’ll bring in some income for us on the side. So then. You know, we don’t have to charge as much for our services, whatever.

Then, we just started thinking, what if we, like, why do we have to take as long to do each of these things as we are? And the way that we were working before, see, we would take a branding and website project, we would take it on and we would schedule it over, usually like 12 to 13 weeks. And it would be like, on the Thursday of each week, we’d have a deliverable, and we would So a deliverable could be like a mood board, logo options, website options like, and then once we decided on, or we aligned on the direction of the website, it’s like we would turn over two or three new pages every week and they would, we would give them the weekend to look at it.

So they would get it on Thursday and then they wouldn’t have to give us feedback until Monday. Well, yeah, cause we hadn’t decided at that time in order to have really great. Relationships with our clients and them to feel really good about the investment in the process that they needed several days to mall everything over and it’s simply just not true.

So we had always seen this company called go live. Go live. hq if you want to check them out. Design Squarespace websites, which is different from us because we design all of our websites and show it. But they’ve always talked about how they have a five day design process and we’re just like, we’re taking 12 weeks.

How are they? Now, granted, we’re taking 12 weeks to do brand website and social. They’re just doing a website, but still we’re like, how are they getting through that so fast? So they offered a course earlier this year that we took and best money we’ve ever spent on something. Because. For sure. They gave us like every single step of the process that they use and we don’t do it exactly like them.

Like we’ve definitely Changed a lot to work better for our business, but it unlocked so many things and even there was a Q& A every week So we would be like well What about when you run into this issue and they’re like that really doesn’t come up as much as you think it would and so We do this a lot where we’re solving for problems that I think every time we have a discussion about something new, I bring up something like that and I’m like, that’s a problem.

That is, that’s not a problem that we have. So why am I trying to solve this right now? Let’s solve it if and when it comes. Yes, yes. And so we were then after that able to put in a process that now we design. I love our process. It’s amazing because everything that’s not the creative part that we really love is now automated and we have a website template for every email that we send on each day of the process leading up to the process.

We have forms that are already designed. We just send the same forms every time. Like it’s all automated. So all the time that we’re spending is truly time being creative and which is what. They’d rather be paying for us. For sure. Writing emails to them. I mean, it was a lot of upfront work and a lot. I have to give Jess like tons of credit because she’s our systems person, but the course also outlined how to do it.

They gave a lot of it away, a lot of the system, but she spent all this time setting up the system so that it ran really smoothly at every time. there’d be like a little kink. I’d be like, Oh, I’m going to write that down. I’m going to make note for next time. She’s like, no, tell me and I will write it down now because you will forget.

So we got really good. I know not my greatest strong suit. Like I just feel like, Oh, next time I’ll deal with it next time. And then next time comes and I still have said problem, said problem. So I’m just going to do like a quick overview of like how our process works now in case it’s of interest to anyone.

So we used to, programs primarily, Dub Sado and Basecamp. Dub Sado is a basically like a CRM. We use it for our inquiry forms, our automated emails, our invoices, payments, forms, project management, all that stuff. Yeah, it’s a little bit more robust, a name that more people might be familiar with. It’s like, it’s like a honey book type thing.

Yeah. And honey book is great too. We haven’t, we used it in the beginning and haven’t gone back to it, but some people use honey book. So, in the same way. And then the other one is Basecamp and that is the portal that we use for all of our client communication. So all of our messages go back and forth in there and then we deliver the, each creative sort of deliverable is in there.

So somebody comes into our website, they fill out the inquiry form. We always, this sounds bad, but like price check people on the website, just like on the form. It says our packages start at this price. Our average client spends this much just because we don’t want to waste anybody’s time getting on like a call if it’s not a good fit.

And so our booking rate is super high now of the number of people that we book after we get on the call with them because they’re already kind of, we have less inquiries. But a higher booking rate, which is exactly what you should expect if you are weeding out people who are not a good fit. So they fill out a form.

We send a, again, this is where like template and emails come in. So like the email that we send is almost always the same, but we do always have like a spot in there that’s like, we go look at their Instagram, we go look at their website. If they have one, you know, look at their inquiry and just say something that’s specific to them.

If we think it’s a good fit and why we think it’s good fit, that kind of thing. Very short one to two sentences. It goes out, they book a call through the scheduler. We get on a call, it’s usually 30 minutes or less. We find out a little bit about them. We have proposals. Now that we send out through Dubsada, we used to do them like custom proposals every time.

And also these beautiful 20 page, like PDF with all this custom stuff and we don’t, and it’s all, it’s like on our website now. So like you can see the process and everything on our website by the time. We’ve talked, you just want to know how much it is and what’s included in it. It’s like a breakdown. So basically you have two primary service options.

You have a website or a brand, and depending on, you know, what the person is coming in for, we’re giving them one of those two options. Now we have added on, like, we do have like a higher custom website. Then we’ll do a. template restyle for a little bit less. And then we’ll do like a one page website if that’s what they need.

So there’s a few different price points in there, but and everything’s already priced out. So if they need a six page website instead of a five page website or something like that, there’s an add on for an extra page. So this is something we learned from go live is just like the base that most people need and then have an add on for everything else.

So if you need a blog or podcast set up that has a price tag attached to it, and we didn’t know what all these were at the beginning. We actually, I forgot to say this. We. Instagram and we were like, Hey, we want to try out this new process where we’re going to do a website in a week. And normally our websites are like 10, 000, but we’re going to give you a brand and a website and social for 5, 000 if you’ll be our guinea pig.

Also because we are going to make each website into a website template more on that later. Yes, yes, yes. And so, because we did know that like, okay, that is one of the important parts of how go live does it is they, they start with the website. I mean, they start with a template. Mm hmm. So. They’re like working together to choose the best template.

And then they’re creating all of their content based on that template. And then the person’s like sort of putting it in and styling it for their brand. We didn’t have website templates to start. So we’re like, okay, well, this is how we’re going to do it. We’ll, we’ll charge less. We’ll ask them if we can make their website into a website template and then we’ll stumble through the process a little bit.

So we were creating the process while we were working on these beta clients, I guess you would call it, who are wonderful and they were so amazing and it also felt really good to be like, Hey, this is going to be a little bit messy. We’re just letting you know up front. And so if they said like they didn’t understand something or something was moving too fast, we were like, great.

That’s great feedback. Thank you. Like we never felt like bad about it. Yeah. We have, I think in the past we’ve had a really hard time giving ourselves permission to be less than perfect. Like both, both of us are perfectionists and we want everything. I mean, also we were charging a lot of money, so we’re like, this has to be like.

An exceptional experience and this we still wanted it to be exceptional. We knew how to deliver an exceptional experience, but we’re like, Hey, there’s going to be a few hiccups and just giving everyone permission helped dramatically, right? So the client would see this proposal, they could choose, you know, their package, their add ons.

They would actually read the contract, sign it, pay the deposit. We started doing 35 percent non refundable deposit due to hold the space. Because we’re holding a week that we could devote to somebody else. And we really, we will reschedule if somebody… Like needs a different week if we have the opening or whatever, but we really, you can’t cancel at that point because now we’re starting to do a lot of work.

And then six, the remaining 65 percent balance is due one week before we start work. So this is also different. We didn’t used to, we used to do 50 percent deposit to hold your space. And then 50 percent was due basically like the final day of the project before we transfer your site. And like goes live and go live, I feel like through the course gave us almost like the permission to just charge up front.

You just don’t do any work until you receive payment in full. We haven’t had a single problem. Nobody’s even mentioned it. No, they don’t mind at all. A lot of this, I found like a lot of this process was us needing permission somehow because we just didn’t think it was possible. Yeah. And then you did it and then you’re like.

Well, that was easy. Why didn’t, why didn’t we do that before? Right. So yeah, so they, they pay their 35 percent and then they go into sort of like this workflow and they get created like a account created in Basecamp. We have a templated email that we send them. That’s all about onboarding. When they get into Basecamp, there’s, it’s all templated.

So like every time we create a new project in Basecamp, it’s all from a template already has all the messages in there. It has the to do lists that are private to us. So we. We’re every single time we build a website. We weren’t working off of a list. We were just Building it and hoping we remembered everything and now it’s literally step by step like because when you it’s not even the design part It’s like all of the checks at the end and the back end setup and the publishing That you really end up forgetting stuff all the things that Gwen me Would be like, I think I did everything and then now I don’t have to question it because now I have a list And then it makes me super confident that I didn’t forget anything and then like when we We put like the steps into each step that we need to remember or like if it’s something that we need to message somebody to ask, we like just put the copy in the task so that we just never have to write something twice.

We never have to do a thing that’s not something creative twice. Well, the other thing that I love is that I don’t have to use a lot of my brain power on tasks outside of creation. Like when we’re in the design week, like I can just be creative because I don’t have to think about like, Oh, what’s the message you’re going to say that I’m delivering to the client?

Like, no, it already is here and I’m just filling in a few blanks and it’s so great to take all of that. Like energy sucking, I guess, energy sucking energy. I don’t know. Energy sucking tasks. Well, it’s just like the energy that I would be spending to do those tasks. Like that was hard for my brain to shift into that from being creative.

And now I don’t have to worry about it as we’re talking about this. It like, seems like such a thing. Like it almost makes me be like, is. Has everybody else already made step by step to do lists for the things? But no, you just don’t, you just become an expert at something and you just don’t. Also, if they are me, you never make this, you never make the list.

If they are me. Like, the idea of making lists sounds great to me, but the actual making of a list and then not forgetting any of the steps or going back in, like, the stopping and deciding, oh, I missed this part, I need to add it in, that, again, is just draining, so I just don’t do it. Which hurts me later, and I know that, like logically I know that, but I still don’t do it.

I also, you do have in the past, which I love, you’ve made lists, but then you forget you made them, and then you forget where you put them. Is anyone else undiagnosed ADHD? Just me? You’re self diagnosed. I, I mean, I’ve taken enough quizzes. I have a friend who got diagnosed, and she’s like, if you’ve taken the quizzes and they all say that you do, you probably do.

That’s a very Scientific. I know. I know. But it’s like, it’s also just like a huge long process and it costs lots of money and like why? If I don’t want to take medicine anyway. Fair. You’re doing great. I’m so proud of you. You’re doing great. You are, you actually kind of make my medicine by making my to do list.

You’re welcome. That’ll be a thousand dollar lesson. So you’re welcome. Love you. So part of the like secret, it’s not really a secret, but the way that this all works is that the client has to prepare everything before the design span starts. So in order for us to knock out a website in a week, they need to have all of their content.

Which is copy written and it needs to match either a wireframe or a template. So we are just now like sort of have enough templates developed that we can truly be doing website templates up until this point. We’ve still been doing a lot of custom, but we will give them a wireframe, which is just like the gray boxes to show you like amounts of copy and where it’s going to be and what you should talk about.

But they, through Dubsado, they have to submit, is we’ll put a form in there and this is another thing. with that we got from this course is like this five step process where they have to put each piece of information in. So we’re ready to go. And it’s even like permit, like we’ve added for just ourselves.

This wasn’t like something that go live did, but we’ve added permission to optimize copy. So we’ll say in there. You know, we know some best practices about copy. Like, are you comfortable with us editing some of your copy or you want us to place it exactly as it’s just think, or like, do you want us, or are we able to share your project on social or would you rather keep it under wraps?

Like just getting. Understanding what they, what the parameters of the project are within that. And then also just like not needing some back and forth later to ask those two questions, right? Yeah. It’s just anything to avoid an email. Like we just don’t have to. There aren’t emails. It’s all in base camp.

Yeah. But even a message back and forth, I know. Yeah. It just takes all of the, it just takes the back and forth out, right? So we have them fill out those forms and they’re all due a week before their project starts. So then we have a chance to go in and check everything, make sure we have everything we can send, you know, back and forth to them, like we’re missing this photo or whatever.

Oh yeah. They have to upload all of their photos for their website too. Into base camp. And we have instructions on how to do that. And then once everything is. We done, we are starting their project on a Monday. We have a templated email. We send out first thing. Here’s what you’re to expect today. How it works for us is that we can typically send them a deliverable, which again is like their mood board, logo options, a website, homepage options, whatever, by like four or five, four or 5 PM Eastern standard.

Then we ask them for feedback by 10 AM in the morning. And that’s worked really well for us. I think for other designers, they might go back and forth more during the day. And originally we thought we would do that and ask questions and stuff. We really don’t need to, that we are, that doesn’t work for our process, right?

But that I feel like the forms are so thorough that we very, and we go back and check it the week before we very rarely like need to go back and forth. And we like to finish a thing, pass it off, give them time, at least a little time to sit with it. Not a four day weekend. And then they give us the feedback in base camp.

Yeah. Sometimes we will still use the tool markup, which we love if it’s a little bit more complicated because in markup, the client can actually just like tap on. So like if it’s a mood board, say there’s three mood boards and they have lots of different images, they can tap on the image and like. Leave a comment specifically on that image.

So it’s easier than saying like the one to the right is a little bit and then the one down at the bottom. Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting that we’ve worked with enough clients now that we can usually tell upfront like, Oh, this client could probably use us putting in markup and the other ones we can tell like, Oh no, they’re really good at giving just like feedback and very specific and very clear on things.

And the other thing I was just thinking about is like the deliverable at the end of the day. Some designers do like to go back and forth because they make like really quick decisions, but I know like for me, and I don’t know if it’s the same for you, when I’m creating the mood board, I’m also In my mind, starting to design all the things.

So I need like more space and time to put that together. Like, yeah, I can put a mood board together a lot quicker, but I’m thinking through like, okay, what kind of textures am I gonna want to create or find or all these other things? Like I’m already starting the background design, so it just takes me longer.

And then once I get into the actual design process, it goes faster because I think that’s when we. When we first started doing it with the other people that we’d followed and kind of found out their processes, they did that up front because they were doing so much more. And I was like, I don’t know if I can do that.

That sounds stressful to me. I think actually I don’t do that, which is why I can make mood boards faster. And it takes me longer to do the logo and website step. That’s actually, Oh, that’s interesting that we’ve never talked about how we’re kind of like opposite on that, but that feels like a tip, like, Oh, I should think more about.

Or even instead of like, I’m only looking at like images to make a mood board, I should be probably looking at website reference or like I should be thinking more about that and I’m just not at all. Oh, that’s interesting. I’d actually didn’t think of it in that way that you should be thinking about things differently or that I should shift it.

It’s just like leaning into our own processes because I feel like that’s what we’ve done with. The way we’ve set everything up, we’ve like leaned into things, like you’re really good at systematizing things. So like you took care of making sure that was like super tight and great and like just there’s no holes or at least it doesn’t feel like there are any.

And then there’s certain ways that I do things and we kind of made sure that the process worked with those two things. Like instead of taking like go lives, here’s our five day method and we didn’t take it step by step. Like we knew enough then that we knew we needed to change it, but then we’ve also shifted.

Everything in our business because we’ve doing this for years, like, okay, and that doesn’t work for us, right? Yeah, like let’s do it this way and just giving ourselves that permission, right?

Would you mind doing us a super quick and helpful favor? Can you pull out your phone? Open the Apple podcast app search for seriously creative and leave us a review for this show It helps us to reach more people and it honestly just makes us feel super loved Thank you. You’re the best.

The other thing I want to say just for anyone listening who maybe you probably don’t do the same thing that we do in terms of like branding a website design, but. One of the other things that has helped us speed up our growth or like move our business forward faster is just like investing in a course when someone else has already figured out the thing that we really want to do.

We’ve done that actually several times now. We took really early on in our business. Email stars with Tarzan K, which was great to get up and running with email. It’s not really something we do a ton of anymore, but it was just, it would have taken me like years to read and figure out, become an expert in all of those things.

And it’s just like not a place to spend time. We didn’t have enough to, I mean, we weren’t for enough long to like invest in someone doing that for us. Oh, so we did digital course Academy with Amy Porterfield and got a course up. Now, that was one where it was like, it’s gonna be so quick and easy, it was not quick or easy.

I, this, I think the other thing with that though is that was before we’ve learned the lesson of it doesn’t have to be step by step exactly how the person who taught the course is telling us how to do it. Yeah, a little bit. We did some things in that we were like uncomfortable with, but we tried them. I mean, we tried and then we were like, Nope, that, that sales tactic did not feel good.

I do not want to count down the minutes where people need to make a decision. But anyway I just think if there is a course out there and it’s not too big of an investment and somebody else has figured out. Things for you and can give you the templates and the process and that kind of thing, especially if you’re not that good at creating processes, like we talked about, like that is one of my strengths, but if you’re a solopreneur and you aren’t great at processes and somebody else is offering that and it comes with yeah, templates and step by step checklist, that kind of thing, that is a great investment.

It really isn’t. It’s something that. It makes us all able to be more multi passionate now than we might have been able to do if we weren’t alive in this like digital era where there was so much education everywhere. Sometimes I wonder if there’s like two types of entrepreneurs, the ones who have zero problem investing in courses and a continual education and the ones that are like us that are like, well, I’m not sure.

And it’s like, it’s a harder decision for us to make. You think that it’s not hard for everyone to, because it’s always an investment. I think it’s, no, I have a friend it’s not hard for. Really? Mm hmm. Does she make courses? Mm, she has. Because I feel like that might be a difference too. If you’re somebody who creates courses, I wonder if it’s easier to buy them.

I don’t know. She’s never had a problem investing in like continued education and just like improving herself and her business. That’s great. I know. I want to be like that more. We do it though. It’s not like we don’t do it. We just do him in a little bit of like, is this worth the investment? I think it was also because we did get, do you remember that?

We bought one course and it was not a good investment. It was not a good course. It shouldn’t even say, yeah, it was just 2, 000 for it at a time when that was a lot of money for, I mean, it’s still, that’s still a lot of money to invest in anything, but we did a 12 month payment plan. So we literally learned in the first week that the content was not.

It was very high level fluff and then we were paying for it for 12 months and so that was a little painful. Yeah, it was. But you know what? Now I am going to look back at it and say that was a great learning experience and we make sure to do a little I mean, not that we didn’t do research before that we bought that one, but she was really good at sales.

yeah. Yeah, or I was really gullible, I don’t know. We were really global, one of the two. So anyway, we, going back to like our sort of process, we have now gotten this. Rhythm cadence down of sending people sending our clients something in the evening, we get feedback in the morning, we make the changes, send it again.

And if we, you know, if somebody wants to add on a branding project that’ll go, like we’ll start a few days early. So instead of starting that Monday, we might start the Wednesday before or take the week before to do the brand. If they want to add on like a social templates that might go a little bit over, so we’re a little bit flexible on that.

And then the other thing I do think is help helped us a lot because. One of our concerns early on was burnout. Mm hmm. So like if you stack work every single week of a month, aren’t you going to eventually get burnt out? And I think pricing your packages so that you can be booked out two weeks a month and letting yourself have, or three weeks a month or whatever it looks like for you and letting yourself have some downtime and then naturally you’ll just have some downtime because unless there’s people knocking on your door every single day, you’ll just…

Brands or just websites. So we’re not like knocking out these projects one after the other. Like when we have a project, that’s a brand and a website, we book out two weeks of our schedule, even though it doesn’t take us a full two weeks. So there is some buffer time in there, which is nice. Yeah. I mean, we’ve not gotten to the point where we have a website after a website, after a website, after a website, like.

That would feel different if we had four websites in one month. Right. We wouldn’t, we probably wouldn’t do that just because that would feel crazy. Yes. But, you know, looking at our budget, what would we need to bring in a month, making sure that we’re balancing that with what we’re charging. And there’s two of us too, so it makes it easier.

We could both be working on something at the same time, but yeah, and it has changed everything for us. I feel like we work significantly less hours. I mean, this whole week. We’re working like 1130 to three. I know. But that is part of what we have been working towards for years is like we wanted the flexibility and now we have the flexibility of you like working in bed in the morning, sometimes like not getting dressed and not coming to the studio and like now you can do that.

And I just have a lot of kid things going on and I can now pick up my kid at 10 30 in the morning, which is the most inconvenient time from preschool because we enrolled him in this silly program. It’s super great, but I can do that. Yeah. Like I can take like work for a little bit, take that break to go get him and then like come to the studio if we are.

And then you know what I just realized I’m having like a full on epiphany right now. We for the first three years or three and a half or four, however long you’ve been in business, we Thought we were going to get here working. Remember, you used to say my dream is like to be able to get my kids. Are we here, wait, hold on a second though.

We thought that we needed passive income to get here. That was member. So, Oh my God, eyeballs got big. We. When we would set goals or strategy or we had that like document and it would be like what we want and we wanted to work less hours, I wanted to travel more. You wanted to be able to be with your kids more.

And we thought that we needed to sell stuff passively to get there. And instead we did it through automation. Can I just tell you this is guys I’ve been listening to like some manifestation stuff. We manifested that we just were trying to prescribe how we were going to get it and we just needed to be open.

To it coming in a different way. Maybe. I mean it did come in a different way. We did it still though. That’s the part with manifestation. Doesn’t just like. Show up at your door. You have to like, you are actively being like, this is the life that I’m gonna live. And then you start making decisions that end up making it happen.

Like it’s sort of unconscious, but at the same time, like this whole time, that was our goal. And we got there even though we didn’t get there the way we thought we were. Well yeah, because we prescribed what we thought it needed to be, but it turned out. That through the work we were doing, we figured out it was a different way.

Alright, we manifested. What is our thing? Manifest that shit. Manifest that shit. So, our operations manager, who’s no longer with us, she’s still alive, she no longer works with us, bought us this beautiful keychain that says manifest that shit. And when we moved into our new studio and we hung everything up, we put it on one of the leaves of one of our plants, so we see it all the time.

And you’re right. We should text her and tell her. Rin, we’re going to send you a text. You’re still, we’re still following your guidance. So, I think somehow, yes, we’ve ended up where we were trying to get to, even though, and one of the things we talked about earlier today that I think has been a big part of Our success is we Laura from free period is who we call our biz bestie and we slash our therapist Business therapist and we meet with her.

Usually like once a quarter and we’re terrible at making plans So we’ve given her the task Of telling us when it’s time and we get together and we have lunch and we just talk about our business And it’s not formal at all. It’s like literally we’ve been friends for 15 years with her. That’s too long.

It hasn’t been that long. We haven’t even known each other that long, but it’s been a while. It’s been, it’s definitely getting close to 10 years. Yeah, a long time. We worked together in corporate America too. And she’s so good at just asking. She listens really well. She’s really good at asking the right questions.

And has, has put back on us, like, it, she said a couple times when we met, it feels like, You’re still trying to find or figure out your business plan or your business model. And it’s like, Oh yeah, we. Why are we still like, we are service providers. We design brands websites. That’s what we love to do. And that’s what we do really well.

And we keep trying to make a course, make a product, make website templates. And some of those things like the website templates do now fit into our business because we need them in order to. Offer website template customization. But I feel like in the last couple of times we’ve met with her, we’ve embraced that we actually like what we do.

We already have discovered we can stop searching and that’s freed up a whole bunch more time to get more creative. Because we’re not like, Oh, we have to set aside time to try to make this website template and get it live on the site or make this course and get it live. Yeah. We had to do quite a bit of trial and error of the things that we could do and the things that we liked to do.

Like I found so many things I don’t like to do. I know same, but we thought we would like there was, it was so hard because with making courses, the ability to help more people, I like that part, but probably not anything else. The coaching. Again, liked helping people, but it felt stressful, like it just didn’t feel like it was a good match.

Like now, I felt like a fraud every single time. And so I had to over deliver, like now I have to give you like thousands and thousands of dollars in value so that you feel okay spending these hundred dollars because I was so insecure. But we were getting that. I know. Yeah. It made us feel really insecure.

And I think that was different. I thought there was going to be a point where we’d outgrow the insecurity, like the fake it till you make it, but it never felt like it never got easier. It’s the way that website and branding has gotten easier and also like working at this fast speed like I get dopamine hits, which is also like great for how I work like the dopamine hits.

And I’m just like, yeah, this is good. Like I know because we have the process and I know exactly what they want. We’ve already covered everything. Like I’m not sending something off and being like, Oh God, are they going to love it? Usually it’s like, I hope they pick my favorite one. Yeah. Right. And then they do.

And that’s a great day. Yes. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t, but I, like, I always You’re not ever passing, yeah, you’re never passing something off that you hate anyway, so. Yeah, and I never used to do that, but there was always one that, like, I didn’t like as much, but I felt like I needed to give it as an option, and then they would pick that one.

So we just don’t do that anymore. Yeah. And that’s another thing. It’s like. Like, we used to promise people a certain number of options, but every person has different amounts of clarity on what they want. So some people will come in with a mood board that’s so tight that literally they’ve already picked out the textures, the patterns, the font, like they know exactly what they want and we just have to bring it all together and implement it in a way that’s really beautiful.

And then some people, they’re. Pinterest board is so all over the place that we have to really do some exploration to put something in front of them that they can then choose from. And so, those two situations need something different and as the experts, we should be deciding how many mood boards they need, how many logo options they need based on how clear their vision is, not Because they purchased it in a package and it’s, and it’s even the revisions thing.

It’s like, yeah, we don’t want to go into like hundreds of revisions for every project, but some people love something on the first go. And some people just need a little bit of back and forth. And so it’s like, we don’t ever want to say, well, you passed your one revision mark. It’s like, no, we want them to be happy.

So some of these things we do put into the package as just a safeguard so that people, if they do go overboard, we have something we can fall back on, but we’re really not trying to stick to that. We’re trying to make sure that they leave like super happy. Yeah. But we also need like a certain, certain type of clientele now.

Like they have to be people who can make decisions quickly. You’re right. And we say that in our intro call. I mean, it’s a totally different project and it costs a lot more if you need more handholding. And more time to digest and stuff. Yeah, you’re right. I do think that one of the like levers that we have is sometimes when people know that they’re going to.

And then the future enough where they can Hem and Haw on their own over their Pinterest board and over their copy and stuff. And then by the time it gets to us, we’re kind of like, it’s, there’s not as many unknowns. When we used to start the project, it was from scratch and we built the copy. and photography that all of that into the process and just as that was another epiphany of that course of just like, why are we doing it like that?

That’s so crazy. I know. I mean, we’re still essentially. So I actually want to like backup, like with our process, it’s not actually just a five day website. It’s probably it’s five days for the client. It feels like, but for us, it’s probably six, maybe seven working days. So, we were working So, there is like that extra one to two days where we have to do work.

Now, it’s that five day process, but like those two days happen, our two admin days or whatever. After the project’s over? No, before. Okay. So, like the setting up of all the stuff, like checking through all of the materials, all that stuff. So, before when we were doing everything custom, we actually technically had the break.

In between, but it felt clunkier or harder because it also was like this three week, three or four week period of time. And we’re like, Hey, by the way, you have to write all your copy. If you’re getting a photo shoot, you need to do it. It just didn’t feel good. But now when we get on with the client, we can talk to them and say like, okay, you’re going to have time to write your copy and get photos if you need it.

Like basically how much time do you need? And then we’ll. schedule it. Okay, you’re gonna do a photo shoot. When will you get photos back? Will you have them back by then? Oh, you’re not going to? Let’s schedule your design week for later so that you have everything so we’re not scrambling. Yeah. But at any point.

Yep. I totally agree. One side note I want to make that is tangential. Is that a word? Sure. To this topic is That we for I guess this is not the first time but it is the first time we’ve done it like this We have taken a steady retainer client in the background So this is something that we I feel like couldn’t see early on we would look at these people who were designing these beautiful brands on Instagram or beautiful websites or whatever they were doing and it looked like That was the only work they were doing all the time And so you’re like, well, I can’t get that consistent or steady of work.

That’s beautiful all the time. And at certain points in our business, we have, and we’ve been very lucky to be just consistently busy with only brands and websites, but running a service based business, any of your, you do know that there are just lulls throughout the year. And there are certain months where things will be slower and you have to have cashflow built up to be able to get through those months.

Otherwise. You end up not being able to pay yourself. And so early on, there were a lot of mistakes that we made in our business, but we ended up taking on about 30, 000 in debt just, I would say over the first two and a half years maybe. Because we had employees at different points in time and then we would have a slow month and then we would need to either pay ourselves, pay our employees or.

You know, make rent or whatever the thing is. And I mean, building business credit is not a bad thing. And most people do have to go into some sort of debt if they’re creating, I mean, not as much solopreneurs, but if you’re building, like, a business with employees and stuff. And so we were still carrying that around.

And one of the things that we’ve done this year is take on a client. It’s like the work isn’t as sexy. It’s a little bit more, almost like production oriented, where it’s like the stuff is already Pretty creatively figured out and we’re like executing and stuff, but it’s bringing in consistent money and it’s relieving a ton of stress.

It’s building up cashflow in our bank account and we’ve almost paid off all of our debt, which is so exciting. And so I think just. I love talking about those things that are happening in the background. When you look at our Instagram, you’re not going to see that you’re going to see the work we want to get more of.

And that’s what you’re going to see on everybody’s, but there are other things that are going on in the background that you don’t know about. And most. Agencies or creative people do have some of that. Yeah, as we’ve dug in, most people have like some sort of retainer type clients so that they know they have that consistent income.

It can be really stressful when you’re just operating on, okay, well we have to have inquiries coming in. And We totally can operate like that, but I think we maybe just got to a season of business that we wanted to have a little bit more consistency. So we took that on. And I also want to say, this is another thing where we had to give ourselves a little bit of permission because we have done this before, but it completely took over our business.

And that’s the only thing that we did. And so I think we both had a definition in our head of if we have a retainer client, that’s the only thing that we do. But now we figured out a way to have a retainer client. And be able to do the other work that we love too, like to have a balance. The other thing that it relieved for a little bit is I really felt like I needed a social media break and almost all of our clients, I mean, all of our clients come from Instagram or referrals.

Most of them are referrals. I would say probably maybe 30 percent are from Instagram. So which is, which is a flop from what it used to be. Oh yeah, it used to be more Instagram, less referrals. We used to market more and post on Instagram more. But I just felt really, I’m usually the one to do that part and I felt really burnt out on it and it’s given me a break to not have to feel, and we’re still getting clients things.

We’re still getting those referral clients, but it’s given me a break and I feel a little bit reinvigorated now to go back and do more of that. But just, I don’t know, sometimes it’s, I mean, not sometimes it is very exhausting to have to show up on social media all the time and we’ve talked to other. Of our business friends who also will say the same thing, like God, it’s just draining me and draining all my energy.

And then you also have to show up and be creative and do your job and whatever. So I feel like that’s been another perk. Yeah, it’s, this is something that I always be jealous of other people who find a lot of joy and ease in that. And that’s not been the case for either one of us. So it’s, it’s always a load and free.

It’s been in our business on you because have we talked about. Like our roles before probably, but you can. Okay. And just in case we haven’t. So I typically have been the one like in the weeds in the work with our clients and just helps a lot with the process and she obviously helps me like refine everything.

This is one of the bonuses of having a second person who’s an amazing designer is I create something and then she just helps me make it better. But like, I’m in the work and so she was doing like the marketing, which that’s like a heavy lift like I got to. Kind of disappear into the thing that I like to do, which is I’m behind the scenes just like making things look pretty, but I wish it wasn’t so draining.

Like I wish it was something there was like, okay. Like, no, I’m re energized and I’m going to show up a little bit. And that’s always been the thing that I fight against. Well, I also think it gets easier as you do it more. And then as you do it less, it gets harder. So, like, if I haven’t posted anything for like two or three weeks, it seems like, like, so hard all of a sudden.

But when I’m posting every day, I realize I can just post anything. It can be a short caption. It kind of doesn’t matter. And so, It, I don’t know if that’s everybody or if that’s just the way that my mind processes it. But when I’m in a routine of doing it and I like get a good idea, get inspired, I don’t mind it.

It doesn’t feel that hard for me. It’s just when I’m in a time of feeling low energy around it and not feeling inspired and then trying to push myself to do it, it’s really hard. And I love the idea of having our debt paid off, having more cash in the bank. And if we have a slow month or I am not feeling energized around, I can just take a break We’ll still probably get some retainer clients in if things slow down a little bit, all clients, I mean, what I say retainer, yes, referral and then pick back up that kind of thing.

I feel like just the, and, and some of this is. If you are not a person who is a, like the primary earner in your household, this isn’t as much of a big deal. So if you’re, if you’re kind of like doing a side hustle and it’s extra money or your, your spouse is the main earner and you’re like bringing in, you know, the money you bring in is like not toward bills.

It’s kind of toward bonus. It might not be as stressful, but we are both primary earners in our household and we need to bring in. A consistent amount of money every month, and there can’t really be a down month. It can’t just be a slow month or yeah, and so I that stress weighs on me And I I know weighs on a lot of small business owners who don’t have a lot of like we we know One of our friends who has put over well, she also started out doing hers as a side hustle.

So she was able to put a lot of money into saving. So if she has a slow month, it’s no big deal. It’s just pulls from the savings and then puts more in later. That’s a great model. I would have loved to do that. We did not do that. We started off at like zero and needed to immediately bring in paychecks and needed to build up clientele and like.

So, it was just, we never got to the place that we’re getting to now. So, sometimes it takes you almost five years to get to this place. But, we’re doing, like, the business that we literally sat down and dreamed up all those years ago. Like, when we were in corporate and met once a week. Like, this is the business.

Actually, I don’t even think we knew that this was possible. Like, the thing that we were doing. This is better than the business we were planning. Yeah. Like, we were like, we want to design websites and brands. What if they were for, like, these clients that it was just, like, pretty and, like, Creative. Women.

Creative and fun. Yeah. Yeah. And I was just like, oh, that’s not possible. Because I told myself it wasn’t possible, but it is possible. Right. Yeah. It does, it does feel like a, a bit of a full circle moment. And even just sitting down to record a new episode of this podcast is, like, and last week we actually, like, cleaned up our studio and hung new stuff on the wall and it just, Is showing like a new season of, I posted something on Instagram a lot.

It’s like way down on our feed, but it’s the seasons like, and you go through the seasons and I feel like I just came out of, even though it was summer in Ohio, the season of winter where I just didn’t have a lot of energy around the business. And I really, we were traveling, my son plays 94 sports and we are going travel now.

And it’s just, it takes up a ton of time and energy. Maybe business summer happens during winter for us. During actual winter. Yeah, you’re right. Which doesn’t make sense because both of us like need the sunshine and everything like that. But like, we have as much light as we possibly can get in, in this studio.

Maybe it’s fall. I feel, okay, so I, what I was going to say is I do feel like This is like our business spring where we have like all these new ideas. We’re starting to put them into place. Hopefully you go into summer. It’s like, then you’re executing on these new things. Fall is where you start to see it.

Like, you know, I don’t bloom isn’t the right word, but flourish. I don’t know. Whatever. Like fall, I don’t know when it all starts to go into hibernation, but just, I think for, especially for creatives, just giving yourself grace at different times of the year. Not being so hard on yourself about. kabe.

And our previous talk about X and Y. And how, how, and. How are we going to do that? I had a loser backpack presenter who Ah, I’m the one hosting a podcast, so I

have been involved with these places and it’s a Farbridge.

Has ever bared as much fruit as the energy that it takes. Our primary marketing channel is Instagram and let’s not add more stressful things to our plate. And we decided to do this podcast day because we actually wanted to, and we were excited about it and that’s why I want to do things. And we also decided to, like, not make things as hard.

It’s been a long time and I could have, both of us could have sat at our desk and like, hemmed and hawed about doing the podcast. Like, oh god, like, I don’t know. What are we going to talk about? What are we going to talk about? I don’t remember the intro. Like, how do we do our outro? Like, I don’t know how any of it goes, but.

We’re just like, yeah, let’s just do it. Just sit down and do it. Yeah. Let’s not overthink it. Okay. So the other thing that we’re going to do, and next time we do an episode, we’ll talk about how this went, or maybe we’ll try to record some stuff during it. So later this week, one of the sort of dreams that we’ve had for a while is launching what are called semi custom brands.

So it’s basically like creating a brand that can be customized for different businesses. So we would create it. It, it would sort of come to life through social graphics and a logo, and then. And if a client wanted to buy it, then we would customize the logo and the colors to match their vision. And so we are going to do it.

We’re going to actually launch our first few and we’re going to set aside a day to do like a sprint. So we’re going to start in the morning. We’re each going to make the mood board and then we’re going to build out all the pieces together, give each other feedback. And then by the end of the day, hopefully we’ll have two finished brands that we can put up online and see if anybody’s interested in buying them.

And guess what? If nobody buys them, then we won’t do it again. And we’re not going to try to perfect this process. We’re not going to try. We’re not going to make a page on our website. We’re not going to make a big thing out of it. If it becomes a page on our website, that means it’s working. Yes. Let’s see if the idea works before we put in a bunch of energy around it.

And. Yeah, like also sometimes when you’re making something new you’ll read that there’s like this like promotion arc you need to do it I just can’t it’s too much shut. I’ve now shut down

Gwen has left the room. She’d stop recording This is where things start to get hard because I’m like, oh god I don’t know how to do that and then I just like start to freeze versus it’s like Let’s just make it and we’ll just figure it out as we go That’s true. You know what I also just realized is that in our last photo shoot that we had shout out Lizzie Schlafer photography best we did our last photo shoot.

We took a bunch of photos of us podcasting because we were like, well, we podcast now and we don’t have any photos. And then literally like as soon as we got the photo shoot back, we stopped podcasting and I have all these photos we haven’t used. So I’m going to use one for this episode. I love that. Oh my God.

I love that. I mean, that makes me feel like we need to do another photo shoot at some point because it’s been a while. It’s true. Okay guys, this has been so fun and we’re glad to be back. Season two, apparently. And if there’s anything that you want us to talk about, or you have questions about, send us a DM on Instagram and we would love to know what you want to hear.

And we’ll talk about it next time. We’ll see you. Alright. Do we have an outro? Do we have a way we go? Bye! Is that it? Yeah. Are you sure? Yeah, because Robbie hates it. Okay. It’s great when your husband tells you. Yeah, my husband finds our intro and our outro annoying, and I don’t care. Could you also DM us if you find our intro and outro annoying?

So if we know that our listeners don’t like it either, then we should stop doing it. That’s true. My husband is not our like, Ideal client. Yeah, I don’t want to say like ideal, but like he’s not like our Target. Yeah, target. audience, but I love that he listens. I love you. Thank you for listening. You’re the best.

I appreciate your support. Okay. Bye.

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