It’s not secret that running a business takes a multitude of skills *insert Liam Neeson quote about having a certain set of skills*.
Look, I have an entrepreneurial spirit through and through. I love creating business ideas and making them into *actual*, tangible things because the process of selling something that people want to buy brings me SUCH a rush. That’s why, when I realized 5 years into my photography business that I wanted to create an additional source of income from being a brand designer, I thought it was going to be an easy transition.
And for the most part, I did have solid systems in place in my photography business. I knew how to do bookkeeping, how to maintain a profitable business, and how to serve people to the best of my ability.
But the other stuff that involves becoming a professional brand and web designer? Yeah, I had like NO idea what I was getting myself into.
One of Press and Palm’s core values is to maintain transparency and honesty throughout every step of working together, and that’s exactly what I want to maintain throughout this blog post. Here are some mistakes I’ve made as a brand designer.
Please – if there’s one thing I ask, it’s that you take my experience with a grain of salt. We all have unique and different perspectives in the world, and translating that to my business can be difficult sometimes. If you can learn from my mistakes, great! If you’re thinking my mistakes are a load of BS, well, that’s your perspective too.
Which brings me to my mistakes….
I KNOW I KNOWWWW, as a wedding photographer my contracts were SOLID. I’ve thankfully never had to revert to my contract in anything because my wedding couples have been amazing (*knock on wood*) BUT when I started Press and Palm I never thought a solidified contract would be needed for a brand designer.
I knew I needed some sort of contract put in place, so I googled basic templates and just plugged it in without reading over it very much.
And then, I got my first web design client.
From the get-go (and this should have been my sign), she picked apart a lot of pieces of my contract, didn’t know what she wanted for her brand OR website, wrote condescending emails, contacted me at all hours of the night, and then asked me to copy another designer’s work.
Basically, my anxiety went through the roof any time I had an email from her.
And why? BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING. I had the “fake it till you make it” mentality without looking over my contracts and processes and seeing where the gaps were. It was understandable that she was frustrated, and I ended up not getting paid at the end of this nightmare.
Subtle note: I’m not upset she picked apart my contract, I’m upset because I didn’t even know what was in the contract to reinforce boundaries, and ended up not getting paid for some of the hardest and best work I had done.
2. My Pricing Model
This is actually a new one for me, especially coming from another service-based industry!
As a wedding photographer, I offer project-based packages, meaning I charge $X amount of money for X amount of hours of coverage. Makes sense, yeah?
For brand design, I started off on an hourly rate. Then realized that I’m an efficient worker and don’t take a lot of time to finish projects. Hence, I was leaving money on the table.
Then, I switched to a project-based strategy, where I charged $X for my premium brand design package, and $X for web design.
Again, each client that comes to me has different needs. One client who needed a 5-page website with minimal text is VERY different from an e-commerce brand that needs a store of 20+ items.
And again, I realized I was leaving MONEY RIGHT ON THE FRICKEN TABLE.
That’s when I switched to Value-Based Pricing.
When I’m on the phone with a potential client, I ask a lot of questions about money. And sometimes people can view this as slimy, dirty, and salesy, but I truly don’t think it’s any of those things. I think it’s being transparent where businesses are at and if they can afford my services.
For example: I had a wedding photography client that needed a new brand identity/website, and was transitioning from photography into an educational role as well.
I asked how much money she made a year. Then I asked how much money she WANTED to make in a year.
And it was awkward, I totally get it. I used to hate talking about money, but now I’m much more comfortable with it and will gladly go into detail about my own financial situation (and that’s just me).
BUT after asking her that question and getting her answer, I charged based on a small percentage of what she WANTED to earn after transitioning.
And then? I booked my biggest client ever. And I realized the value of my services AND the value of this pricing model. Since we stuck a number to her goal, it made us both more accountable to produce high-quality work.
P.S. Let’s end the stigma that talking about money is rude.
3. Onboarding and Offboarding Processes
I didn’t realize the importance of having an onboarding AND offbaording process with brand design.
I took a look at my workflows in January and understood that there was some sort of gap in communication with my clients, and it basically stemmed from the onboarding process.
I wasn’t clarifying communication boundaries, timelines, or contracts. I had just assumed that my clients knew what the timeline was, and then I got frustrated when I was getting questions about things we’d already discussed.
I was blaming others for MY miscommunication errors. And it was a hard pill to swallow.
So when I created my onboarding packet and process, as well as an off boarding packet and checklist, my clients feel so much better taken care of. I feel like there are no more awkward “hi here are your final files, see you around?” emails, and more email templates, “Goodbye Guides”, and testimonials that speak as to how much they loved working with me.
Pro tip: even if you discuss a topic via email/phone call, ADD IT INTO YOUR ONBOARDING/OFFBOARDING KIT because things can never be said too much.
4. Brand Strategy
OOOF this is a big one. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I talk a LOT about the importance of brand strategy. When I first began, it had just started becoming a huge buzz-word. I had no idea what it was.
After taking Branding with Bre and a free class by Bonnie Bahktiari, I slightly understood what brand strategy was and knew it could bring value to my clients.
Basically, brand strategy is taking a deep-dive into your business, audience, and online presence and making it a cohesive and well-thought-out process that you can implement into TANGIBLE results.
Like are you FREAKIN KIDDING ME? THAT’S SO EFFING COOL and I get to do that for business owners as my JOB and also my passion? Who. Knew.
5. Not Trusting My Gut
Back to that nightmare client for a sec (and we all have them at one time or another), I KNEW from the beginning that I should not take her on. My gut was literally telling me not to, but my bank account said something else.
Long story short: I ended up not even getting paid for the project. So I had wasted MONTHS of my time on a client that belittled me to no end. The good (but hard) part about this? I’ve learned to trust my gut when it comes to client calls. And as soon as I see a potential red flag, I KNOW that my gut is right and I shouldn’t take on that client.
Overall, I hope that these mistakes have broadened your horizons on different aspects of being a brand and web designer. I HOPE that you learned something from this and learn from my mistakes,
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