I was very lucky to get to work with Nicole from January Made Design when I first started getting serious about my business and was looking at creating a coherent brand. And while my business has morphed and pivoted quite a bit since then, the elements of the brand she created for me have continued to reflect the messages I want to convey about my business. A large part of this was due to wonderful processes she had for identifying the messages and values I wanted to convey.
One aspect of working with Nicole that stood out for me at the time (besides my beautiful brand) was that she achieved the results she did without having to get on the phone with me. It shifted my own thinking about how I needed to be delivering my own services. To deliver in ways that work with my introversion.
Nicole is a brand and Squarespace designer who works intentionally with passionate, committed and driven businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs to outfit their business with stunning, timeless and functional design.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I had been working a normal graphic design job at a local council and while I loved the atmosphere, team and reliability of it, I soon realised that there was too much red tape and regulations surrounding government work and all I wanted to do was work with my own clients, design in my own style and set my own rules – and so January Made was born as a side hustle and creative outlet in my spare time while I continued to work at council until I was certain it was a viable business. I had it on the side for about 2 years before going full time freelancing and am now in my third financial year!
What is the number one thing you have done in your business so that it works with your introversion rather than against it?
Set up as many rules, systems, automations, software and processes so it makes it easy to communicate without being too over the top and draining. Things like using a scheduling software so it puts the onus on the client to make a day/time to get in touch rather than getting a phone call in the middle of the day when you haven’t prepared your pitch or research. And using project management software to send reminder emails etc so I don’t need to feel like I’m harassing someone and it takes away the anxiety of it.
What introvert super power do think has particularly helped you build your business?
I LOVE to talk business and share my highs and lows, it’s something I am so passionate about and I can talk to anyone about it if they get me started. I used to think I was terrible at public engagement and speaking (I do hate small talk and awkward chats still) but I’ve used that passion and just share as much as possible online and in person when called for and I think it has helped center me as a go to for asking questions or advice. So it’s helped my business in terms of designer > designer, business to business engagement a lot!
What has been your biggest challenge being an introvert in business?
I still have a lot of anxiety around client management. I am great at design, but I struggle with communication at times with clients and just setting boundaries, or probably taking the time to explain things. It’s just not my strong point and something I hope to alleviate in future by bringing on a manager who can be the go between me and clients. Delegate to people who do have people skills!
What does a normal (or ideal) work week look like and have you been intentional in this set up to support your introversion and need for quiet?
An ideal week for me starts with the first clients of the month delivering me content/completed homework in order for me to kick off their project. I’ve been very intentional about setting start and end dates as well as timelines and milestones so everyone should know what is expected – this allows me to breathe a bit easier and know exactly how we are tracking.
I also have set up a lot of automatic reminder emails in my system so it takes the stress away from me having to be on their backs constantly and sets them up to get back to me with content/feedback etc.
I then work throughout the day at home but if inspiration isn’t there I will still be productive but I might do dishes or housework or exercise until I feel ready to design again, so I might start earlier the next day in order to make up the time, and I never feel guilty for this. It allows me to always feel like when I do design, it’s at my best, and when I’m not, I’m still being productive. I work Mon-Fri and never work weekends or take calls/emails as these are precious days for my family, and I need them to recharge after a long week.
I also made the decision not to go into a co working space which a lot of people suggested, as I don’t feel I can work around a lot of people at one time even if they are other creatives or quiet (a big reason for leaving my previous job was also that I was in an open plan office and it was loud and in your face to say the least haha). Instead, to make sure I still get some human interaction, I do touch base with friends and creatives for quality 1:1 time over coffee once a week.
Are there any systems you have put in place that have been crucial to managing your energy?
My whole system in Dubsado is such a energy-saver, it allows me to take a step back once I’ve set up a system and then it takes care of so much. The biggest one would be canned emails, if someone enquires it automatically sends out an email and info depending on what the person has enquired about so I don’t need to spend crucial design energy on admin duties!
Are there any other introvert businesses that inspire you that people should check out?
Amber Ladd has to be one of my favourite introverted business owners, she is so open about her process and how she is intentional about her time etc. She’s amazing at what she does!
How has your introversion informed your own branding?
I do think so, whether it was intended to or not when I created it haha! I have a very simple logo that I created so it would never detract from whatever I was using it on – so the actual design/product is always the focus and never my branding. I very much like to be more behind the scenes and showcase others and let them shine, and then maybe have people click through to get in touch of course, but it’s never my intention for my own brand to shine as such and I like it that way.
As introverts, sharing our message can be challenging. Branding is a great way to help enhance our messages without having to be physically out there all the time. What is your best advice for developing a brand that conveys the right message?
Identify your idea target audience!! This is my biggest advice for anyone getting branding developed, and more so for introverts whose energy is so very special. You want to attract people who you WANT to work with or to sell to etc. That ideal audience that makes you excited to work each day, who you want to help and who need your product/service. Once you know your target audience or choose your ideal audience, then you can shape your branding accordingly so those people show up for you.
The services you provide, branding and web design, require you to get to know your clients well to deliver the branding and websites that reflect the personality of their business. How do you manage those relationships in a way that works with your introversion?
I am a big believer in forms and email communication, and giving people time to read over them and fill them out. In a lot of Facebook groups I see (extroverts I think mostly haha) rave about jumping on phone calls or have in person meetings, and you can’t do business without it. To that, I say each business to their own and play to your strengths, your business will not fail because you don’t personally find phone calls etc effective. My clients come to me for great design and my way of ensuring this is to elicit as much info as possible as I can from them and I find it the most efficient to do it with thoughtful forms. They don’t come to me for my phone manner or a good chat! So this way everything is recorded digitally, there is no stress about taking a phone call or forgetting to write down something during one, and I can still feel like I have a close and quality relationship with a client.
Where can people find out more about your business:
Website: January Made Design
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