The other day I woke up and realized it’s been one year since I quit my in-house design job to do this on my own fully. OWS started out about 4 years ago as a side-hustle and a home-goods/stationery line. Which still exists! But it’s a bit smaller and is now my main passion project. The past year has been a whirlwind, but I’m so happy to have made this jump into full-time biz life, as it’s exactly where I need to be at this moment.
Reflecting on the past year made me realize how far I’ve come, and how much my business has already grown. Since starting I had months so busy where I worked nights and weekends to make my deadlines, and months so slow where I cycled through feelings of self-doubt and second-guessing my decision to knowing that this is what I’m here to do, and it’ll all work out just as it needs to (1, 2, 3 deep breaths). Along the way, I learned a lot about how to stay sane during slower months, plus ensure success and ease during those busy months. Below are a few things I’ve done this past year to find long-term success and sanity in my business.
Yes, change out of those stretchy yoga pants, put on some real clothes and go meet some new people, make some new biz friends, and new connections! The reason why I put this first? Well in my experience, this has been the fastest and most direct way to book clients. So if things are as slow as ever, start looking into meet-ups, conferences, events that make sense for your biz and ideal clients, and start filling up your calendar. Making face-to-face connections is vital for a successful business, or at least for someone who works in the service industry with higher-paying clientele. People buy from other people, and when they feel a connection with you a sense of trust is established. And better yet, if they need what it is you offer, they’ll come to you first, because, well, they trust you and feel comfortable giving you their money.
One thing to note: I am an introvert by nature, so I understand how exhausting and scary these things can be, but the payoff is well worth all of the possible amazing connections. It also gets easier (maybe still exhausting) but easier as you go. Running a business is all about stepping out of your comfort zone (as long as it aligns with you) for something better. So go ahead and try it out, and give yourself a little pat on the back when it’s done : )
Is there a particular client/industry you’d like to work with? Make a list of dream clients and narrow it down to one in order to keep things a bit simpler and more focused. Start researching your dream client and put together a fictitious project that would appeal to them. Depending on your industry this may look a bit different. As someone in the design field, I’ve done this a few times in the past, mocking up a fictitious brand and how it would look IRL.
Once your mockups are ready, start sharing that project! Share where your ideal clients are… Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, on your blog, and/or in your portfolio. This will look different for everyone, and there’s no need to spread yourself thin—share it where you think it will have the most impact. When sharing your project on platforms like Instagram, make sure to interact with those dream clients and get their attention. Don’t sell to them at this time, but befriend them and let them make the decision to chose you when they need your services.
This may be a slower process, but if you can afford to spend some time on a passion project and see where it goes, it can pay off in the long run. And, bonus, it’s such a fun process allowing creative freedom and growth!
Start creating content, which may seem obvious, but it can be tough to do when you’re way to busy and even tougher to do when you’re stressed and business is OH SO SLOW. Best way to do this? Get into the right mindset and think bigger picture. Creating this content now will have such a positive impact in attracting your ideal clients. Before creating this content, think about who your ideal audience is and what it is they need to hear and/or benefit from. Think about your offerings and how they connect with your content.
New content does not and should not be a once and done thing. Create that blog, newsletter, YouTube video, Instagram post, etc., and re-use that content! Only a handful of your people will see that one blog post or video, and if you don’t re-construct it and spread it around the interwebs, they may never see it. Also, as humans, we need to digest content a few times to let it really sink in. We need to see things, again and again, to let things click. The beauty of this is that we don’t need to be a content creating machine, we can spread our messaging and get some extra mileage out of it. This is also great for those busier months when you don’t have the bandwidth to do anything else.
Sometimes being slow is a blessing in disguise. It allows you to slow down, and take a look at where you are, your surroundings, your daily life, what’s working and what’s not. Take a few deep breaths and let go of any money-related stress, see where your mind goes. If money wasn’t a part of the equation, what would you do with your time? Is there something you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t had the time? Is there something you’ve wanted to learn or explore?
Catching up on courses, reading, and meditating have been a few things I’ve focused in on during the slower months. Working through limiting beliefs has been huge for me, and has kept me resilient during times of uncertainty. Have trust that things will turn around and things will pick up, but during this time, enjoy the luxury of slowness.
If you haven’t had the time to update or even establish your project management/sales systems, this may just be the time! Having your systems in place is a huge help keeping you sane, especially during the busier months. Start utilizing systems that work for you, so you can work less on recreating the wheel for every project or sale.
A few things that I have done for my branding/web design projects are to work on smoother onboarding with Hello Bonsai (contracts, invoicing, and accounting), smoother project management with Asana (project scheduling, and communication), and easier sales/project call scheduling with Calendly (no more back and forth on when to schedule a call!).
A huge bonus with Hello Bonsai is that you can connect your business credit card or bank account directly, this way it can track all of your expenses without having to manually add them yourself. This has been a HUGE help during quarterly tax time. It has saved me hours and hours of work. Asana has also been amazing in my business, helping me schedule every little thing, both in business, personal, and for client projects. It’s so easy to use and has saved me a tone of headaches.
These are just a few systems I love to use, however, there are so many great ones out there. I recommend getting on Google and start exploring what works for your specific needs. Most of them will have a trial period as well so you can really see if it’s right for you!
Set up your systems now, so when things do get busy, you’ll be able to take it on with far fewer headaches.
Review your past projects and make sure your timeline and process work best for you and for your clients. When things are a little slow, this is the time to review the processes in your business, may that be your project timeline, sales system, onboarding, etc. Have things been running smoothly or is there room for improvement? Work on making these changes now for a better experience in your business.
I know this one is a bit vague, but it truly depends on your unique brand and business. A few things that I’ve done are establishing realistic timelines for my branding/web design projects, adding Asana to my project management, and Hello Bonsai to my onboarding process.
Your business can be a slow build, things don’t tend to look perfect right at the beginning, and that’s perfectly ok! You’re here to learn, grow and evolve in your business (and in life of course). Trust the process and find trust in yourself. Running a business can involve a lot of self-development work. By working on yourself/mindset can ensure long-term success in whatever you do.
Best wishes on your next year friends!