Life in the Studio

Probably the best thing I did last year.

2017 was our official third year as a business and we learned a lot. A lot, a lot. All that learning gave us a better idea of where we want to take our business this year. Here’s a look at what we are celebrating and what we’re looking to improve in the new year.

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The Good

I went part time, and it was probably the best thing I did all year.

I cut back on Mad & Dusty and started working part time at our local yoga studio. Not only did I get a sweet discount on freelance uniform staples (yoga pants, yay), I got to be around people again. (A surprising win for this introvert.) Adding a part time job took a lot of pressure off our business and allowed us both to pursue projects we feel passionate about. I started using my limited time more wisely. And Bonus - I've gained a much better understanding of brick and mortar small business - the struggles, the wins and how design plays a part in that. This is probably the best thing I did for my business last year.

We joined our local network. 

We love our creative group here in town. Small Town Creatives meets monthly at Reformation Brewery. Each month we dive into a creative topic and build relationships. It’s been great connecting with people I see around town all the time. Dusty and I even got to help coordinate a Holiday Pop Up Shop with 20 local makers.

We traveled and enjoyed this business. 

Last year, we took a little trip to Savannah in combination with Plywood Presents. We spent our anniversary in New Mexico. Then Christmas came and we stayed put. I feel like this year more than last, we really took time to enjoy the things that this business allows us to do. Spend time together. Travel. Learn. Year 3! It's been really great. 

 

The Bad

We did a bad job with bookkeeping. :(

I was so used to checking in once a week and once a month. When our sale tax filing changed from monthly to yearly frequency, I dropped the habit. I was lucky to form a partnership with an excellent bookkeeper. She offers quarterly bookkeeping help. Yes, please. I’ve also got weekly check ins on my schedule again. 

We spread out too wide and lost our focus. We got too narrow and lost a few clients.

Our third year in business was a learning year. (I’ve yet to experience a not learning year.) We had grown too wide. Then we got suuuper narrow and focused into offering only 2-3 project types. It’s a smart business model, and it mostly worked for us. I now realize - I really enjoy it as a starting place with clients, but I need to think of ways to continue working with the great people we've met. (Web check ups, packaging, photography maybe?) 

We had trouble closing projects. 

I know a designer who charges a fee anytime a project runs over. I love this, but I’m a little scared to do it! Eeek! We did implement timeline and project templates, but I still struggle with wrapping up projects. A few of our clients have needed to pause their project midway. Totally cool! But it's been a struggle to get some of those back online and finished. I will be spending some time defining the project close process and what to do if a project needs to be put on hold. (Let me know any suggestions!) Time to refine.

How did your 2017 go? I'd love to hear about it! If you have any suggestions on the above ^, let me know! I'm so glad we get to do this together.

Hugs!
Mads

Where is Your Water?

“Where is your water? Know your garden.”
Hopi Teaching

Self care doesn't come easy in the small business world. Dusty and I recently took some time to think about the things we love about our business and how we could do more of it. 80 hour work weeks are the norm, but not the goal. If our business is our garden, our water is working closely and collaboratively with a few clients at a time. One at a time ideally - but no more that 3, for sure. Our water is taking time to experiment, play, push boundaries and adventure.

The last 6 months have been busy. At one point we had almost 20 active projects in various stages. That wasn't our water. That almost washed our soil out. 

We're working to move towards a more slow and deliberate pace with our design work. At first, it was hard saying "No," or "Not yet," or "We can't make your deadline and do our best work, so sorry." Now I think I'm finally in a good place with it. I woke up to an email this morning about a project that we couldn't complete within the client's deadline and I happily sent a list of brilliant designers who may have more availability. There was so much peace in that.

It's easy to get sucked into the trap where you feel like you need to take on all the work - that work is scarce and hard to find - that you'll never get "there" if you don't hustle 24/7. That's not our water. I want to be a designer for a long time. That will take a lot of water, and sunlight, and time, and laughter, and joy. Growing slow is okay with us. 


photography by Angie Webb, styled by Madison, for Marie Mae Company
succulents on loan from Brenda's House of Flowers, thank you! :)

How to Produce Content when You're Totally at Capacity

 How to get that content flowing when you're totally overwhelmed!

Producing content.
What does that even mean?

I started out last year with this grand *MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS 2016* plan, but it wasn’t practical for our team of two with a full design schedule. I was struggling to keep up and feeling like a failure. This year, I don’t have a marketing plan - or pan for communications or content. As it stands, we have 6 months of work waiting to be blogged, formatted into case studies and added to our portfolio. (2016 was quite the hustle year for us.) Our social channels are quiet and I don’t quite know how to break the silence there.

It’s hard not to look at that stack of “we should’s and should be’s” and feel overwhelmed. Producing content feels like homework.

A business coach once taught me this awesome way of reframing things. You get up out of your seat and literally move around the room and think about things from a different perspective. It’s so helpful to take time to think of things in a different way. If I feel stuck, I try to move around. See what things look like from over there.

Maybe producing our content should feel more like a celebration. I want that.
Aha... Now, how do we get to there?

Most importantly, how do we get to there without burning out, without throwing our other systems into chaos, and without destroying the joy I want it to bring?

I tend to go 180% full throttle into new things. This makes me an excellent learner, a great problem solver and a good consultant. But that full throttle can wreak havoc on my inner peace if I don't keep it in check. I have a hard time scaling my goals to my capacity.

Lately my solution for this has been writing out everything I want to accomplish and choosing 5%. I identify what the most important items are and scale them back. By just working on the 5%, I build momentum. After I successfully, non-stressfully can accomplish that 5%, I’ll add another 10%.

My 5% looks like:

  • crafting an email once a month for clients and people in on the behind the scenes newsletter
  • posting to Instagram 1x a week, I’ll have it auto push to Facebook
  • posting a blog post 2x a month
  • continuing to add work to our portfolio, scaling back the intensity of our case studies, 1-2 hours/week

Let’s see how it goes. How do you handle your social media and producing content? What would be your 5%?

Any tips, tricks or questions?

P.S. If you’re ever looking for help on the writing front, let me suggest Signify! We recently designed their branding and site. I can tell you, Kristi is on point!