Business | Graphic design
2018 Year in Review
December 27, 2018
As 2018 comes to a close, I want to look back at how my business has changed and what I’ve learned in the past year. It was my first full year in business and it went better than I expected, although I still have a lot of room to grow.
A friend in one of my networking groups told me last summer that it will take about 18 months to start seeing growth and she was spot on. The year started out slow for me but really picked up around August and kept going until December. I know I need to keep the momentum rolling and stick to my efforts to bring in new clients.
Here are a few things I either implemented or learned in the past year:
I’ve tried to streamline all of my processes this year so that I can spend less time on admin things and more on design. I now have an onboarding process for new visual identity clients, although it still needs a bit of finesse. I’ve also created a way to plan out my days and keep track of my various work items, from client work to admin work to volunteer work. Once I started to increase my client workload, things were a little unorganized and I was in need of a good system to stay on track. One process that I’ve really spent some time on is my actual logo/branding design process, both the client-facing side and the behind-the-scenes side. I did some research on how others handled it and incorporated some things I liked. I feel confident in the process now and the clients seem satisfied.
One of the most difficult hurdles that I overcame this year was to get out and network. I’ve never been a social butterfly and always felt more comfortable with people I know, rather than strangers. But getting out to events and meeting new people was necessary for my business to grow. Now it is something I sincerely enjoy doing, as long as I stick to events that fit my networking style. That’s definitely something I’ve learned. I’ve tried all kinds of networking and it took a while to realize that you don’t have to go to everything or you’ll get burned out. Try a meeting/event with a few different groups and once you get a feel for them, choose the ones that make you feel most comfortable and get involved with those groups. Networking is about relationships and you can’t create relationships by meeting someone at a networking event once. Getting involved helps you to get to know the people in the group and create those relationships. I’ve become quite involved with two local groups, Rochester Women’s Network and Rochester Professional Consultants Network.
In June, I implemented a social media ‘strategy’. I use ‘strategy’ loosely. I hadn’t been posting much of anything on my Facebook page and had focused mostly on connecting with people on LinkedIn. A friend of mine who is a REAL social media strategist (Tamara MacDuff, Now Digital Marketing, in case you need some strategy in your life), gave me some suggestions and I ran with them. I decided it was time to really spend some time and effort managing an online identity for my business. I created an Instagram account, which is where my design work can really shine and built a simple schedule, religiously posting for many months. I admit I kind of fell off of the wagon in November but am committed to ramping it up in the new year. What I’ve found is that I probably won’t gain random people as clients through my social media, but I keep ‘top of mind’ in my network. I have had a few people I haven’t spoken to in years reach out when they, or someone they knew, needed work. I feel like if they hadn’t seen my posts throughout the past six months, they might not have reached out to me.
I was reading someone else’s end of the year blog from a few years ago (www.sprucerd.com) and I saw this chart she created showing how her clients came to her. I really liked the idea of figuring that out and decided to use it here in my year-end review.
As you can see, most of my clients came from either my previous connections or from networking. When I left my full-time job in April 2017, I reached out to my previous co-workers and some other contacts I had made through my job. They became a rich source of both work and referrals to others. These were the people who knew my talents and became cheerleaders for me, telling others about my new availability. Most of the referrals in the chart were from these previous connections, although a few were from my new connections through networking. The volunteer section is comprised of the organizations that I’ve become involved in and the work I do to help them. And, as I mentioned earlier, social media has been more useful as a ‘top of mind’ to my network as opposed to a source of completely new clients.
Here is a sample of some of the projects I worked on this year:
To see more of my work, click here.
Looking toward 2019
So now a new year begins in a few days and there is still so much to look forward to. I plan to continue improving my processes and I’ve purchased some new branding books with Christmas cash so I can keep learning on that front. I am committed to being more regular in my blogging and to ramp up my social media a little more, as well as updating some sections of my website. And scariest of all, I’ve been challenged by a friend to do a speaking/presentation/workshop for one of my organizations. I’m very afraid of public speaking but … I felt the same way about networking last year, so I’ll just have to suck it up and overcome that hurdle too.
I wish all of you a prosperous and wonderful new year!