More often than not, we talk about the different “red flags” to look out for when considering a new potential client. What we don’t talk about nearly as often, however, is the importance of truly understanding the anatomy of a successful project. Don’t get me wrong, I spent years hunting down red flags and came up with a decent list of my own. But it wasn’t until I actually flipped the script and considered all of the things that make a project WORK, that I began making much better decisions about the type of clients we collaborate with here at Rowan Made.
As someone who (happily) spends the majority of time at home, there’s a slew of resources I’ve utilized over the years that help me take care of myself and feel less alone. I don’t normally use this space to share recommendations, but this week, I couldn’t help it.
For almost as long as I’ve been designing, I’ve also been blogging and / or teaching in some way, shape, or form. And while I call myself a designer by trade, this particular label has begun to feel a bit off. Yes, it describes what I spend the majority of my time doing. But it also alienates Rowan Made’s “educational” side … something that I actually enjoy quite a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, this blog and the community I’ve established through social media is very much alive and well. But from my perspective, it all feels a bit messy. You see, there are two distinct audiences that I interact with on a daily basis.
The first is our one-on-one crowd. Also known as, the people who are in need of Rowan Made’s design services. These individuals often visit our website to learn more about our process, sift through work, and in general, get to know who we are. And if they choose to move forward, we guide them through a tailored process in order to produce thoughtfully refined design.
Our second audience, on the other hand, is a crowd of many. Also known as, our online community. These are the people who faithfully follow along on both our blog and social media accounts. They interact, discuss, and often become regulars around here (yes, I notice!!).
As you can imagine, there is some overlap between these two audiences. Where some of our clients are, in fact, community members as well. And visa versa. But for the most part, I’m required to be conscious of both audiences, which brings me right back to that messy feeling I mentioned above.
Okay. Maybe messy isn’t the right word. It’s more of a balancing act. Yeah, let’s go with that. ;)
For awhile, I thought this meant that I could only speak to one audience at a time, as to not confuse anyone or myself. But over the past year, as our community grew, I started embracing the overlap a whole lot more.
As it turns out, our people, whether they’re clients or readers (or both), have a lot more in common than not, and it all comes down to one key phrase: like-mindedness. The majority of these individuals either own their own business, or are looking to start one in the near future. So yes, sometimes that means they’ll need our design services. But most (if not all) of them can also benefit from the things we share, write, and teach online.
The overlap was always there, it just took me awhile to sort out and fully embrace, bear hug style. But now that I’m doing it, I couldn’t imagine thinking of our audience any other way. Aligned, as one.
So now, it’s your turn. You may already have a good handle on who your people are, but humor me and give this exercise a try. It’s something that I have all of Rowan Made’s clients do and the response is always eye opening.
* I’ll follow up the exercise with my own answer as an example …
(Q) Pretend your audience is one person and describe them in detail. Give them a name and answer questions like: what kind of house do they live in? Where do they shop? What kind of music do they listen to? What are their biggest problems, needs, and wants? What are they passionate about? Etcetera etcetera. Use your imagination and get creative:
(A) Frankie is 26 years old. She lives in a beautiful old apartment (built ins and all) in Minneapolis with her boyfriend, Oliver, and their dog, Twix. After working as a designer at a big time agency for several years, she finally had enough of the go go go atmosphere and went off on her own. Now, she brands small businesses around the world from her home studio and can’t imagine going back to the 9-5.
She feels the weight of running her own business every single day, but has the work ethic to push through and pursue her dreams. This can lead to workaholic tendencies (more often than she’d care to admit), but she tries her best to maintain a sense of balance between work and life.
Frankie believes in continued education as well as community over competition. She signs up for online courses that she believes are in alignment with what she needs, and has established a handful of strong relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs online. All of this helps her learn and grow within her own business every single day.
When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga at the neighborhood community center, planning upcoming trips, or hosting dinner parties with close friends and family. Frankie, however, is also a by the books introvert, so she’s happy to snuggle up with a bowl of ice cream and a good movie, too. Garden State is her favorite.
Frankie is currently learning how to enjoy the here and now. She has lofty goals and big dreams, but realizes that tomorrow is never guaranteed, so she may as well enjoy today. She doesn’t need a million dollars or followers. She just wants to do what she loves, in a way that feels right. It’s as simple as that.
As you can see from the above example, I just got SUPER specific about Rowan Made’s audience. Sure, not everyone in our tribe is going to have the same description, but there are certainly some common threads to be found:
— Hard working
— Business owner (or to be owner)
Now, keeping this in mind … does it really matter if the above attributes describe one of our clients or a reader of this blog? Nope, not really. Like-mindedness is what connects our people, and I think that’s a really cool thing.
Just remember: you don’t have to be everything to everyone. But you also don’t have to be only one thing to one type of person, either. Your audience is unique, just like you. So take some time and give this exercise a try! I know it requires you to be a bit more imaginative than other exercises … but that’s where the magic is. ;)
PS. I’m curious to hear about what you find out and if anything surprised you after working through this exercise. If so, let me know in the comments!
Following up with clients that go silent is one of the toughest situations within the world of running your own business. Just like with any typical contract, both parties are supposed to perform and communicate to the best of their abilities. But unfortunately, there are times when problems occur, which can be frustrating beyond belief. So what do you do? Personally, I’ve found that the best plan of action is to be persistent, yet fair. Not only to yourself, but to your client as well.
Now that Be Free, Lance (a workshop for freelancing that I co-founded) is coming to a close, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about collaboration. Because over the last three years, that’s exactly what Jen and myself have been figuring out and perfecting in order to run our online community as smooth as possible. We’ve picked up quite a few tips, tricks, and resources along the way, all of which I’ll share below. These will work well for any sort of collaboration between humans, and I’m going to dig deep, so here we go:
About one year ago, I decided to step up Rowan Made’s instagram game, noticing that it truly could be (and is) a wonderful platform for community development and micro-blogging. At the time, I wasn’t posting as much to this blog and wanted to connect with our audience in a bigger way. So I went from posting random thoughts and imagery “every once in awhile” to thoughtfully posting almost everyday. And as a result, I saw a huge spike in growth as well as overall interaction.
I don’t know about you, but I produce the best work when I’m fully engaged in any given project I’m working on. This means that I’m not only interested in what my client has to offer (and am probably a member of their target market), but have taken the time to really understand the ins and outs of their business so that I can design in the best way possible. Because of this, the research + discovery phase of my process is absolutely pivotal.
After chatting about email management last week for my mini series on business tools + resources, I thought I’d switch things up and talk about bookkeeping and money management this time around, both of which aren’t always the most fun admin tasks. But! If you keep everything simple and establish a system, it’s absolutely easy to manage it all. I promise.
I am forever intrigued by the different tools and resources that other creatives use, so I thought I’d share a list of my own. But then, when I started writing this post, I realized that I had a LOT to say about each resource. So instead of writing the world’s longest blog post, I’ve decided to turn this into a mini series. First up is email!
Before I started Rowan Made, I freelanced under my own name: Breanna Rose. And for four years, I grew an online presence that was built around myself (which still feels a bit odd if I’m being honest). Because of this, I shared both business and personal posts on my own blog and social media accounts, simply because everything was already intertwined. So when I said hello to Rowan Made and officially ditched working under my own name, things got a bit confusing.
If you are a service based small business, chances are that you’re working one-on-one with a handful of clients at any given time. And those same people are the ones that will help keep your business running (to a certain degree) through word of mouth and referrals. So today, I wanted to chat about keeping your clients happy in unexpected ways, because a little goes a long way …
Last week, I wrote a post about how I use canned email responses to help spend LESS time in my inbox and create a more efficient working environment. But I also kinda left you all with a cliff-hanger about the actual email I send to each and every starting client (via a canned response). That’s because I felt that this particular email deserved it’s own post …