As we wrap up 2022 and our first year in business, we’ve been preparing for the new year and reflecting on everything that’s happened in this one. It has been a great journey so far filled with wonderful clients, lessons learned and a lot of what we like to call “everyday wins.” Here’s a quick overview of some of the milestones, lessons and tips we’ve learned from our first year in business.
September 2021 // First Client
While we’d been talking about starting our own graphic design business for a while, our first client referral, Messy Faces and Unicorn Laces, really kick started us and served as the catalyst we needed to get started. This small business entrepreneur started a children’s clothing line and was looking for a logo inspired by her child’s artwork.
September 2021 // Site + Socials Launch
Being in the content creation world, we know the importance of having an online presence including social media accounts and a website. For this reason, we made it a priority to start an active Instagram and Facebook, and launch our site as a place where we could clearly communicate our mission, vision, and services to potential clients.
October 2021 // LLC Incorporation
At the same time we were wrapping up our first client, we had been putting a lot of work behind the scenes to get our business up and running. This included a lot of research, setting up our accounts, payment capabilities, buying domain and hosting for a website, and most importantly, becoming an LLC.
From our first client to our most recent ones, we have been lucky enough to work with a wide variety of creative entrepreneurs. While most come to us for branding needs, some come to us for other graphic design needs such as event flyers and t-shirt designs. Regardless, we love each unique project and using our creativity to bring a client’s vision to life in a strategic and visually pleasing way.
What We’ve Learned
While there have been countless lessons both big and small, here’s a few of our top ones.
- Slowly evolving organization systems. Rather than try and overhaul our organization systems, we’ve found that making multiple small changes as we grow has worked for us. From re-doing our email folder system to changing the way we name client files in our Drive, these little changes have helped us streamline our process as a whole.
- Asking for reviews and referrals. With our first few clients, we didn’t formally ask them to leave us a review or give us a referral. We’ve since found that simply asking clients for these makes them much more likely to do so, and we include these requests at the end of every project.
- Handling client requests that clash with good design. Sometimes a client requests something that we know won’t look the best. While we of course try to stay true to their vision in a visually pleasing way, we have also learned to weigh in with our recommendations as design experts. This is why we’ve implemented a “Designer’s Note” for all of our work that gets presented to clients. Sometimes it’s just a place to explain our design choices, but often we make a case for why we believe their logo or design would be better off a certain way.
- Streamlining the onboarding process. Since we began, we have made an effort to streamline our onboarding process in order to simplify the amount of back-and-forth communications that can bog down the process. Now, prospective clients need only to fill out one questionnaire and sign one contract before starting the collaborative creative process.
- Not undervaluing ourselves. Our biggest lesson in 2022 has been to not undervalue ourselves. Because we wanted to focus on building our portfolio, we started with pricing on the (very) low side of what you would find from comparable graphic designers. Going into 2023, we have decided to raise our prices given our experience, quality of work and everything our clients were getting as “freebies” at the original pricing.
Our Top Tips for Your First Year in Business
Are you looking to start a business or are in the first few months of running your own enterprise? Here’s our top tips for your first year as a small business owner!
- Just go for it. There is no perfect time to start, to launch a website, or anything else when it comes to running a small business.
- Take advantage of gmail features to batch your client communications to maximize your time and quality of your emails. We utilize drafts frequently, especially since there are two of us. One person can write the email, then the other can go in and edit it whenever they have time. We also use the ‘schedule send’ feature extensively since we work across multiple time zones that span over 17 hours in time difference!
- Invest back into your business. Our money sits in a joint account that’s used for expenses and upgrades such as hosting, site plug-ins, keeping up our LLC, etc. We also use our personal money to make investments back into the business. For instance, buying new hardware or software that will add efficiency and value for your business and deliverables.
- Ensure you’re advertising where your target customer is. We like to utilize Facebook groups for this. While we started out advertising in small business groups, we realized that many of these businesses were farther along in the process and already had a logo that they loved. So, we redirected and now advertise in more niche groups aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners just starting out.
- Find your flow. As a two-person team and knowing each other’s strengths, we have unofficially designated certain tasks to each person to help things run more smoothly. But on the other side of that coin, being such a small team, we both need to know how to do the other’s jobs so we can step in as needed.
Looking Ahead to Next Year
Going into 2023, we are looking at increasing our prices, fine-tuning our offerings and undergoing a rebrand of our own. We don’t know exactly what the future will hold in terms of prospective clients and upcoming projects, but we’re so excited for year two of our small business journey. Thanks to all our wonderful friends, family and clients for an amazing year!