…the year of change
My last post inspired me to talk more about my goals and plans for &Something going into 2023. In truth, it's easier to give advice than to follow it – and that's something I'll try to focus on much more this year.
You see, for a while now, I've felt like I've hit a plateau in my design business. While I recognise that I've worked on some amazing projects over the past few years, I also need to step up and allow the business to move forward somehow. I've outgrown the current model, but I've been trying to figure out the next logical evolution for a long time.
I've got myself stuck in a cycle of taking jobs that I feel comfortable with, the kind that I like and know. It's a dangerous place where my mind is telling me, "It pays the bills; you need this." It's where I feel safe, but it doesn't always excite me.
It wasn't until I spoke to a designer friend about my thoughts that I realised that this feeling of stagnation ran so deep. I started questioning myself, and then I sat down with him and asked him what he thought I should do about it. That meeting was a game-changer. A giant neon lightbulb flashed on, and I felt optimistic for the first time in ages. And now, I have a plan.
The story so far
I live and work in a fairly small, well-established market town on the English-Welsh border. I've mentioned in several of my posts before that it can be challenging to have a creative agency in a place like this because it's not a city, it's not near London, and there are very few, if any, large corporate businesses here.
Despite the issues, though, I like the sense of community here. And I enjoy the opportunity to work so closely with the businesses that thrive here. Many of the businesses I've worked with over the years have become friends, and I've been able to get involved in all sorts of things that I wouldn't necessarily have done anywhere else.
For a small town, it is diverse. There are a lot of little boutique businesses, as well as the better-known high-street brands, and so I've been lucky that I've got to work with some interesting people.
But the downside is that it's difficult to break out of this community. No one gets to hear much about a small studio like mine in places like Birmingham, Manchester, or London. That's where the bigger places are, and there are much bigger fish in their pools.
So my bread-and-butter tends to come from the businesses around my location, and they are predominately looking for branding projects such as logo design and websites. And while I enjoy getting involved in those, it's hard to find stuff that stretches my wings.
Getting good advice
Those already following me might remember that I changed my business name last year. Looking back, that was another sign that I was craving something more. I'd already started to recognise that I needed to evolve, and this was the one thing I could control – by rebranding.
I also knew that I couldn't make any serious changes on my own. I've always tried to maintain relationships with other designers, but asking for help? That's a whole different ballgame, isn't it? Though I knew that's exactly what I'd have to do if I wanted to make changes. I needed help deciding how to use my marketing knowledge to promote my own business growth. So I took a deep breath, and I reached out to someone I knew and trusted – more so, who I admired – and had already achieved some of the growth I wanted for my own business.
He was good enough to listen to my woes and willing to advise me on how he'd approached things from the start. He talked me through the obstacles and how to push through them. The most important advice was to be patient. Marketing, the way he'd described it, is a long game. Things aren't going to happen today or next week. Probably not even next month. But you have to remain consistent, and, in time, you will get results.
Patience and consistency. That's the hard part, isn't it?
There's a lot of noise online about knowing your audience and niching and all that stuff. Yes, I recognise that marketing has changed – it's no longer about the hard sell (which is great because I dread that) and more about being where your ideal client is and giving consistent value. It's all about building community and sharing. I know all that – but how do you do it?
My first task is to find the right platform. My focus will be LinkedIn because I already have a following, and I realise that the type of people I want to connect with are there, too.
The next challenge is to make more effort to interact…
This part I've always found hard – posting valuable content. I'll put more effort into sharing my work, views, and vision about the things I'm interested in. For example, I'd love to be involved in larger projects – not just on paper or screen but actual places, environments and exhibitions, etc., and more or the enjoyably challenging jobs that came in last year.
I already have experience on a smaller scale that I can talk about. Perhaps I haven't pushed those projects enough? How much is too much?
This is a reminder to myself – but I hope you can find value in it too. Now I have this roadmap to follow; I'm hoping that I can maintain it:
- Keep things simple by using one central platform.
- Connect with the right people.
- Be useful with my content – post stuff that lets people learn about what I do and who I am.
- Build community – make an effort to talk to people, like and share.
What about you? Can you add anything to this? I'd love to hear about your experiences (and pick up more tips).