Holy guacamole what a year it was. Who else feels like #HNY2019 just happened?
Over the last 12 months, our business goals were to:
Find the industries we should serve, based on our values and mission ✔️
Rebrand our studio based on that mission and those values ✔️
Make time for planning/organizing/strategy ✔️/ ✖
We hit most of our goals, but we want to get better at looking ahead and making time to plan. That is something we’re going to focus on a lot this year, starting with a mini creative retreat in January. We have so many ideas to start working on, we just need to create the space in our busy lives to make it happen. Exactly where and when this retreat will happen is still TBD, but we know it’s going to.
As we started to plan for the new year, we spent some time reflecting on the things we learned in the last 12 months:
Consistently standing by your values– and your pricing – may hurt your business in the very short-term, but it will strengthen it in the long run. I’ve been in in this game for 14 years (12 as a very steady side gig, the last two as my full time career), and I’ve been asked to lower my prices periodically the entire time. When I was charging $15 an hour just starting out, and now – at $75 an hour. Same game. Different ballpark. Before, we generally said “yes”. In 2018, we started saying “no”. And in 2019 we said “no” pretty much every single time (exception: retainer contracts). And we raised our prices for branding based on how much work we actually put into those projects (hint: it’s a massive amount of work). That didn’t work for at least one client. No matter what the situation or how amicably you part, it’s still a bummer. We’re growing and transitioning as a business, and growing pains are legit.
BUT: A funny thing happens when you create space by parting ways with what isn’t working: the right people and projects rush in to fill that space. We’re working with some really amazing clients right now in the health/wellness, nutrition, environmental and food/ beverage industries. Our clients are people we’ve become close with and we believe in them and their brands. We have been working hard for them on branding, packaging design, book design, infographic and illustration projects. We’ve found our voice as a creative studio and are now aligning with the right people at the right time. None of that would be possible if we hadn’t made space for it to be.
Learning to set boundaries is not optional. This is a short and sweet explanation: you will not be able to give your best to those you’re promising to give your best to (including yourself) if you don’t set – and enforce – boundaries and learn to say “no” to people.
Referrals are where it’s at. We haven’t advertised, bid on projects, or promoted the business in any way outside of our passionate discussions about branding and all things creative with clients and random strangers who we probably engaged with on a totally unrelated subject. Happy clients pass our name on to friends, family and customers, or someone sees our work on a bottle of wine or kombucha. They become our next happy client. A couple of our goals in 2020 are to grow and to expand our offerings – after some time off for strategy and organization – so referrals may not be 100% of the pie next year, but we’re blown away we haven’t had to advertise, bid or really seek out work in the last two years.
Simplify when it is just too much. We closed our Little Forest Etsy shop in the spring. The main reason was because we just were not feeling selling “things” online anymore. We love working with clients on big, complex branding, book and packaging projects. We started to not love – and to not feel like we could also be good at – selling custom artwork/designs online. That’s the second reason we closed it – we couldn’t give 110% to all of the things. So we simplified. The Little Forest has transitioned to a place where we write about our land in Ely and our adventures outdoors. There is no money-making aspect to that (yet ;), and really no pressure. Studio Vogl now gets 100% of our creative energy, and the transition has been noticeable.
Looking ahead to this new year, we couldn’t be more ready to create amazing work with our inspiring clients, put more good into the world, and to expand our offerings to include some exciting new things.
Back to it,