If I could turn back time (anyone else hear Cher singing?)
No really, if I could turn back time, what would I do differently... lots of things.
I would have picked a really specific niche of clients to work with.
When I first started I was just putting myself out there as I could design anything for anyone. Then I started getting clients who were looking for design on the cheap and it didn't really matter who they hired.
After I had a few clients under my belt I really understood who I worked best with and the type of services I wanted to offer. I started off offering the world, but it's really effing hard to offer the world as a one-woman show. You can't offer every design service under the sun and be profitable with the amount of money you need to invest in.
Lesson: get focused on who you want to work with and what you need to service them well.
I wouldn't do free consults.
I offered to do free consults just so I could get in front of local clients. The clients then expected me to share every great design idea I had. On demand like a circus performer. Talk about pressure I didn't need and totally unprofitable. It goes back to not being selective about who I wanted to work with.
Lesson: Free consults only work if you're super disciplined and you limit the time and investment on your part (time +travel). If you can't figure out how to structure a free consult to lead to a sale, don't offer them
I would have a contract signed and a deposit paid for before I started on a project.
Being the eager beaver that I was when I first started, I would be so full of fabulous ideas that I would start designing the project based on the client's word. Wrong way to go about it. People's word isn't as good as a signed contract with a deposit. Let them put their money where their mouth is.
Lesson: Never ever work without a signed contract and get a deposit. If you need help with your contract you can check out this book on Amazon.
I would have the confidence to know I'm good enough.
Because I wasn't attracting the dream clients I wanted to work with, I was attracting shitty cheap clients. Which when they don't want to invest in working with you has an effect on your psyche wondering why doesn't anyone want to pay to work with me.
Lesson: You're worth it, so don't get in the jam to begin with that you're not chasing down your dream clients who will be happy to spend money to work with an expert like you.
I would have created design services that solved my client's problem.
One of the best lessons I learned from a coach was that there is always a triggering event to why your clients are seeking your help to solve their problem. When you figure out why they were spurred to find you, you can create services that speak directly to them RIGHT NOW. Example: I'm an entrepreneur and hosting my first video webinar, I need my office to look fly online. I need this service now because the webinar is happening next month.
Lesson: Find out the triggering events in your client's life that make it so they need your help now.
I would have created invested in researching keywords sooner.
Keywords are really crucial to your business. You know how I tell you all the time that you need a website (full of your personality), but keywords really help Google to help you. If you want to get eyeballs on your website, take some time to do your research. While you think that your clients would search for a certain term, it's better to see what's really happening on the Google.
Lesson: You might think you know what your clients are searching for, but until you do the research you won't know for sure.
I would've spent more time learning how to do copywriting.
Copywriting is so valuable and I always thought there was some crazy secret that I was missing. Why could some people write so well and get me hooked every time into buying something they had for sale? I mean that's all copywriting is - words that sell.
So I would take all of these courses and each course had some bits and pieces that helped, but it's been a long struggle for me. It's something I still work on.
Lesson: Invest the time in learning copywriting because while you can always hire a copywriter, it's a skill you should learn so you can eventually do for yourself.
I would have had a couple of projects under my belt that I did for free (or low-cost) to get my design process down.
I had no clue how much time it took me to do a real residential design project so when I got my first clients I couldn't bill them for my on-the-job learning. I was charging a flat rate, but I was losing profit by the amount of things I was doing for the fee and having to assemble it all together.
Lesson: However you decide to accomplish this, know how long it actually takes you to complete a project from beginning to end and write it down so you can keep an eye on your numbers as your speed increases. It's the only way you're going to find out if you're profitable.
I would have socialized more with others.
I was really introverted and hid behind my computer screen. I wouldn't reach out to others on the online world, it was just plain old scary. And forget about talking on the phone. Pffft, eff that noise. A lot of it did with me not feeling like I belonged in the design industry. I didn't have a clique I felt safe in.
Lesson: Find your tribe and get out there and socialize, most people won't bite and are looking for new contacts.
I would have focused on blogging sooner.
I blogged, but never consistently in the beginning. And I felt totally clueless about what I should be writing about. I didn't know what I would right about that anyone would care about. What could I possibly have to offer to the conversation? Turns out, a lot. But, again it goes back to who are you writing for? Then figuring out what they struggle with and offering them really helpful stuff in your blogs. Consistently.
Lesson: Don't be shy to blog, because that is where I got a lot of my clients from was from them searching about what I was writing.
I would have started tracking my income on a daily basis.
I didn't start tracking my income daily until this year. I could tell you at the end of the year how much I made, but frankly I didn't like looking at the numbers on daily basis. Money just freaked me the eff out. It came from not growing up with a lot of money and thinking that I didn't deserve to be paid for my services. Now, I track every dollar that comes into my business everyday, and you know what? I make more money than I thought I did. It's because I have my pulse on my business.
Lesson: Start tracking your daily income in a spreadsheet. You might just prove to yourself that you're more successful than you think.
I would have carved out time every day in the morning to work on marketing.
This is something I started doing within the last few months and it has really made a difference. I set aside time in the morning to work on marketing my business. This way I am consistently marketing, not working with clients and then marketing and then working with clients, well you get the point.
Lesson: Carve out time each morning to work on marketing your business first.
I would have spent the time to get a visual design template for my branding in place.
My visual branding was all over the place even when I found my voice. One week I like gold, one week I liked teal, and I always loved pink. I never wanted to restrict myself to a visual brand. In the end I was only doing a disservice to myself in that no one could say "Ah, that looks like something Alycia did". I've taken the time to layout a visual brand that fully represents me and what I do.
Lesson: Take a day to map out how your brand looks, implement it and stick to it.
I would have advertised sooner.
I resisted advertising because at first, like you know, money is slow to come in. But the world is so damn big and if you don't promote yourself no one will do it for you (unless they are a really kind soul with time to kill). Spend a few bucks and run an ad on Facebook or a DIY home blog. People on DIY blogs love design and some of them are looking for help from you. Show up where they're already hanging out.
Lesson: Advertising isn't as scary as you think and can help boost your bottom line faster.
I wouldn't have joined the chamber of commerce.
I joined the Chamber of Commerce and it brought me no business. While the message in the group was to work and promote those within the chamber, I was constantly being sold to by the other members who were out for themselves.
Lesson: Chambers aren't all that and a bag of chips. Do research first to find out if there really is a business opportunity there.
I wouldn't have joined ASID.
I joined thinking I needed some more letters after my name to boost my street cred. I went to a few meetings and found out it wasn't my bag. I did get one client who was looking for an ASID professional, but most of my other client's didn't give a shit.
Lesson: Don't join a design society thinking it will automatically boost your bottom line.
I would have figured out sooner what made me different, instead of trying to mimic others.
Being new to being in business for myself I mimicked what I saw online. All it did was make me look like more of the same and I confused myself on what my intrinsic value was.
Lesson: Keep your eyes on your own paper and do what feels right for you, not what someone else is doing.
I would have stood firm in who I was instead of trying to fit a mold of how others thought I should be.
It isn't easy being me. I'm not your typical business person. I push buttons, I curse and I don't give a shit what people think of me. Now. It wasn't always this way. I thought I had to fit in with the typical designer persona and it sooo wasn't me (really? dur).
Lesson: Be who you are and give not one flying fuck what other people think about you. They usually just want to bring you back down to their level.
I would have been more patient and strategic when it came to planning out my business.
Bright-shiny-object syndrome popped up quite frequently. Oh! I need to use that design tool! Oh that website template would be perfect! I must have that font for sure. What a new course on how to do Pinterest? I am in.
Lesson: Take the time to figure out where you want to go, what you need to get there and stick to it.
I would have affirmed to myself every day that I'm good enough.
I candidly share that I haven't always believed in myself. I've battled depression and all the shit thoughts that go with it. I would listen to the bullshit tape in my head (on repeat) telling me I was no good and to give up. I have since run over and decimated the bullshit tape and now changed the script in my head to believing that I do have something worthwhile to offer this world. So do you.
Lesson: You're already awesome, now it's time to show the world.
I believe you CAN and SHOULD make this dream a reality because you’re damn good at what you do – and to NOT share that with the world would be batshit crazy. Need help doing this? Join the Society today and get access to everything you need.
Alycia Wicker is an interior design business coach specializing in online marketing strategies.Her clients land more of their own dream clients and make more cash, period. Celebrity gossip whore. Elvis-obsessed.