On January 29, 2016, I plopped a case of beer on the desk of my employer, thanked them for a great opportunity and walked out the door of the last office job I’ll ever have. In doing so, my career title immediately elevated from “Senior Designer & Strategist” to “Business Owner.” Now here we are, a year later and Quill & Co. is having its first anniversary.
I’ve learned a lot this past year. “A lot” being a severe understatement. Everyone has their own way of going freelance full-time, me being one of them. From every blog post and Business Owning for Dummies book I read, the most tried and true way of forming a company is through strict planning, careful evaluation, budgeting and baby steps. I’m not one of those people. I’m one of those “all in” or nothing type of people. My timeline looked a little more like this:
- Decide I’m going to start my own business
- Put in 2 weeks notice at work
- Form an LLC
- Slap together a website
- Hunt for clients
- See what happens
- Adjust strategy
While I wasn’t unsuccessful per say, I was far from the goals of what I defined in my mind as “success.” I was spending a lot of time looking for clients and weeding through administrative work. As the months went on of simply reacting to my circumstance, I knew I had to take control for the sake of my own sanity.
Why You Should Rebrand Your Business
// To Reflect Your Ideal Client + Personal Business Style
You’re probably wondering what palm trees, pineapples and bright colors have to do with web design. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But they have everything to do with me.
When I began Quill & Co., I had a vague idea at best of who my company was. And honestly, I think that’s the norm of most founders in their first year. It’s a strategic process of trial and error in discovering who you want to work with and what types of services potential clients are looking for. Both of which things need to be communicated through your branding.
While your branding needs to attract your target audience, it should also reflect your personality as well. In my first year, my website was vague and I had created a look for my business based on what I thought people wanted to see rather than creating a brand that reflected my personality as a designer and marketer. I took on a number of clients whom I wasn’t necessarily a fit for and vice versa. A big part of this was because of my branding. If you’re a laid-back, witty type of character, you’ll have a hard time working with a more serious type employed in a traditional mutual funds role. Letting your brand portray who you are as a business will filter out those that won’t mesh well with your way of doing business.
You don’t have to sacrifice your business personality in the sake of professionalism.
// Specialize in Your Service Bread + Butter
It’s better to do one thing really well than ten things poorly.
– Heather Hart
When I worked in agencies, I was a plug. I filled the holes of what the agency needed working as a writer, designer, SEO specialist, art director, marketer…wherever they needed me. So when I jumped into Quill & Co., I had no clue what services I should focus on. I just offered them all. This led to mismanagements of my time, unstructured projects, unruly clients and a watered down brand. Not to mention my elevator pitch for Quill & Co. was more like a lecture when I tried to explain what it is exactly that I do. It was time to specialize.
I took a hard look at my services, expertise, past clients and potential clients. I wrote out pros and cons for each and looked for patterns. My happiest clients are my web design and digital marketing clients. I also enjoy these two services the most and have the largest source of potential customers. It was pretty clear that this is where my bread + butter lies and are the services I highlight the most. Branding became my other main service after realizing just about every client I’ve had has needed some scale of branding and uniformity to their business.
Now that I had my services down, it was time to streamline. Every contract, process and workflow was reformated and structured in detail for optimum time use, automation and simple customization when need be.
// Apply Lessons of Trial + Error
A good company is constantly growing. I don’t mean this financially (though that’s always nice) but in terms of learning and self-management. As your company grows, you grow with it.
Looking through your analytics, you’ve learned that Twitter isn’t your biggest lead generator. However, Pinterest is pulling in a couple thousand site visitors a month. Maybe it’s time to drop a little money in sponsored Pinterest ads to capitalize. Perhaps you’ve discovered you have a strange knack at working with clients in the food industry. Had you considered tailoring your business to working with strictly food bloggers and chefs?
These seemingly unconnected discoveries aren’t coincidences but telltale lessons in the art of trial and error. Failure is a part of life. One project that runs amuck costing you time + money isn’t a defining moment in who you are within your career – it’s a learning opportunity. It’s through “failure” of meeting goals that I discovered I need a rebrand and through “failing” to create a correct look for my brand that I developed that right one.