2u Creative, of Longwood, Fla. uses the power of ideas to differentiate, motivate and change the world for the better.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching this business: In 2006, I was working yet again for someone who didn’t really didn’t care about the Creative people doing the work. We were just expected to pump out work so it could be billed, without care or craftsmanship. The owners didn’t care if the work was good, or even strategic — they just wanted us to hurry up and get it done. I started slowly building up a client list of my own (separate and apart from the place I worked) so I could start to work for myself. I could be in control of my own destiny and work with clients that like me, cared not only about the design and brand of a company, but in making it work…strategically in the marketplace.
Ideal customer/target market: Any company large or small, looking to spread the word on their services with good design and marketing. From logos and brand development to websites and online presence, and anything in between.
First customer or client: I reached out to other contacts I had in the industry, colleagues, friends, etc. who were all happy to hear I was out on my own. It didn’t take long for work to just start flowing in from other design studios that had overflow work and independent small businesses that knew me or had been referred! The best thing I ever did was go out on my own. I really believe when you have a love and passion for something (and are good at it) the universe will respond.
Measuring success: Keeping my clients happy is success. And of course being able to make ends meet doing what you love.
Biggest struggle: The changes to the industry that have come about due to the internet. Now there are sites offering designs, templates and illustrations for ultra cheap — prices that don’t even cover the time it takes to create them. This makes it difficult for hard working and talented people like me (and hundreds of other designers) to get paid for their time. I work to overcome it everyday, and it’s a work in progress. All I can do is keep my eyes open, pay attention, change with the times and try harder to educate my clients on why I should be paid for my time and talent.
Surprise!: The fact that you never get a break. I come from a family of entrepreneurs so the “work around the clock” mentality is nothing new to me. But I guess I didn’t realize that even in my sleep I’d be making plans for my business.
Promoting business: Customer Service — I provide my clients with great service, and great work. Which in turn has led to lots of repeat work as well as many referrals. I’m good and fast at what I do, without sacrificing quality or creative.
Two things you wish you would’ve known: 1.) I wish I had more savings in the bank, you always need a little nest egg to fall back on when you work for yourself. 2.) That whether I liked it or not I needed to make friends with MATH. Luckily for me I’m good at it, but I’ve seen lots of friends fail because of simple math — and not correctly figuring time and pricing.
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: If I will have enough for retirement….the thought that never leaves my brain.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job? Yes, I’m tempted all the time, but I don’t because I worked 10 years for other people — and I had two jobs just close without telling us. We showed up one day and doors were locked, and one company bounced all our paychecks. So when I’m tempted to get a job, I remember that it’s better to be in control of my own destiny and not put my fate into the hands of someone else.
Biggest goal over the next year: To have enough work to steadily put money away for retirement.
Pricing/advice on getting it right: It’s a trial and error kind of thing, especially with the internet ever changing things in society. People charge less and less for things making it harder to compete. I would say figure out what you need to charge and charge it. Don’t be afraid and don’t work for peanuts because you are afraid there won’t be work. You will just have to hustle more to find the right clientele that value what you do and are willing to pay you what you are worth.
Funding: It’s hard to get funding for my type of business as I don’t have a product per se to sell. I sell a service. So I just saved up what I had figured out I needed to get started and then pinched pennies until things started happening.
A few tips specific to your industry: I think the most important advice I could give is trust a knowledgeable professional to create your marketing and branding. Buying graphics from stock sites isn’t good for the industry and when you are buying a graphic that hundreds of others are also using — there is no strategy or positioning to that. You want to strategically position yourself in the market place — with a brand that is created specifically for you and what you provide. Using cookie-cutter options, while cheap — will not best serve your marketing efforts.
The absolute best part of owning my business is being in control of my own destiny and creative work.
If I had to start over again, I would have had more money in the bank.
I never imagined competing with cookie-cutter templates would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout, “We should value people for their skills and talents.”