Connect Your Way to Success: Showing Up and Networking for New Web Designers with Claire

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Episode Transcription

Galen: Hey everyone. And welcome back to the Intentional Creative podcast. Today, I’m chatting with my friend at Claire from Blooming Design Co. She’s a web designer and branding expert. Who’s been in business for about a year and a half down. Who’s going to share with us how she got started in web design, how her business has grown to the point where it’s at now, and some of the struggles she’s faced along the way.

Claire was a speaker last year at our very first online conference, Square Summit. I enjoyed her presentation so much and I thought you would enjoy learning from her as well. We talk about a lot of things in our conversation today, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Tag us on Instagram. I’m @Localcreative.co Claire’s @bloomingdesign.co. We’d love to connect with you and hear your biggest takeaways. Let’s dive in…

Galen: Welcome Claire. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Claire: Hey, thank you for having me. I’m super excited.

Galen: Let’s start by just having you tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got into the world of web design and branding.

Claire: Sure. Well, I’m Claire and I own the company, Blooming Design Co. I do mostly custom web and branding design for female entrepreneurs. Usually, they’re just kind of getting started in their business. And so, I help them you know, bring their brand visually to life. Build them a website and just help them get started digitally. And then I also sell a Squarespace templates for people who maybe can’t afford that custom design yet who still need a website and need that online presence. They can get that at a little bit more of a discount and do it themselves.

Galen: I love that. And what did you do before you got into the world of web design? How did this become your career and your life?

Claire: Yeah, totally. I, that question is, so it goes so far back. Honestly, my mom is actually a graphic designer. She’s a typography professor and the director of a school of art. So, she’s like very cool. So, I grew up like helping her grade student projects and she kind of taught me everything I know visually. So that was, I was super fortunate to have that upbringing. She even designed our city’s logo. That’s like on all the garbage trucks and like random things. So that was really cool. And I ended up going to school actually for film production. My degree is in video production, not web or graphic design at all. I took a computer class and sort of just fell in love with CSS and code and all of that while in college, and then ended up actually more leaning towards that. Once I got out of college, I went to work at a media house in Tampa. And I, it was one of those places where everyone’s the Jack of all trades.

Everyone kind of just did everything. So, I went in thinking I would mostly be doing video. And then I sort of ended up weaseling my way into one web design project after another. Soon, I became kind of known as the web person and not the video person. And then once I. Once I really realized that that’s kind of what I wanted to do, that I had a knack for it I kind of felt like it was maybe time for me to start my own thing. Which was terrifying. That was never on my radar. I am, I am a strange person. I love working for people. I love just being told what to do. And it was never in my wildest dreams to have my own business, but that is just sort of what I felt like I was supposed to do.

So, in 2019, I left that media place, and I started my own thing. I was just doing web design mostly, but I kind of had that graphic design background. And so, people started, I realized they kind of needed both things. A lot of times they needed a website, but they also needed better branding. So, I started to combine those services.

Now I offer them each individually kind of as like three different packages and it’s really just come out of this love for web design and people’s need for things that are beautiful online, that don’t look terrible because they want to attract their ideal client and look professional online.

So that’s my journey as a business owner. So, I’ve been doing this now only for a year and a half, which is crazy. It does not seem like that long, but it also seems like forever at the same time.

Galen: That’s crazy. I didn’t realize it had been so short. Also, if you haven’t already go check out Claire on Instagram, because she has amazing Reels. You can see her video knowledge come to life and her Reels they’re so, so good. I like struggle with Reels so much. I love seeing you just like thrive in that space.

Claire: It’s so funny because I never kind of, after I left video behind and started doing web and, and branding, I never thought the video aspect would like to come back and help me at all, but it totally has. And if I could really lose myself in Reels and totally get sucked in and spend all my time doing like crazy edits and these. I could just lose myself in it so fast.

So, I try not to like go too hard on that, but I do have a lot of fun doing them so come find me on Reels.

Galen: Yeah. They’re, they’re wonderful. So, when you were making that transition from a full-time job to doing your own thing, was that something that you did cold Turkey overnight? Was there planning involved in that process? What did that look like?

Claire: Yeah, it kind of started out. Well, first of all, I had the best boss in the whole world, every, every quarter, we would write our own goals for that quarter. And that kind of was our job description in a way, which was really, I really loved that. And she always encouraged me to, I think she saw it in me first and she was like, I think you’re going to have your own business someday.

I want you to make goals that will like help you get there. And I would always like brush her off. I’m like, I’m not going to have my own business, but like, whatever. So, it started off as like writing little goals, like build an email list of this many people. And just these small beginning steps, even though I didn’t think it was going to happen.

And then, I don’t know, just a few months after that, I just, I kept having this nagging, feeling that it was what I was supposed to do, which was terrifying because I didn’t want to do that. And so eventually I ended up talking to her, to my boss and I was just like, I think I’m supposed to do this thing.

And she’s like, okay. We’ll just like, take some time, think about it. And let me know what you need to do. Cause I want to support you however I can. And so, she was amazing and super supportive of that whole thing and, and yeah, it ended up. It ended up being a pretty fast turnaround. I was just kind of like; I think this is what I’m supposed to do.

And they’re like, okay, well you better go get to it. That was, in around September of 2019.

Galen: Did you work part-time for them at all? Or did you just go straight at, you went straight in.

Claire: I went straight in, I, I went straight in, and I left and I, it was one of those moments where I don’t know it’s like your parents drop you off for college and then they drive away and then you kind of realize, oh what do I do now?

I don’t have anyone telling me how to look at my life. I can just, I could just sit here all day, technically I could, and so it was, it was scary. I had a few weeks, a few weeks of like turnaround of okay, like I need a business name. We’re talking like ground zero. So luckily, I don’t, I’m like so fortunate to have a lot of like close friends at that time in my life who were also small business owners who are three, four or five years ahead of me who had been doing this.

So, while I was working that job, I had watched them, take steps, make mistakes, watch them do things. And so, I definitely. Count that as a blessing to kind of have that like foresight into like, oh, having your own businesses, not just sunshine and rainbows, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong.

And a lot of decisions you have to make and things you have to think about like finance and a CPA and like trademarking and the legal, like staying legal, which is not fun, but there’s so much that goes into business. So, I’m really lucky to have been able to watch. Other women in my life go before me and kind of encourage me along the way and shared things that they had learned with me in that.

Galen: Having that support system is huge. It’s amazing that you had that both from a career perspective and from your personal life, because I feel like so many of us struggled to have even just one of those, or even just to have somebody with you or near you or around you that you can look to. And I think a lot of us find people to look up. To find mentors that don’t even know we exist. Like we find them in the online space, but it’s wonderful when you can find somebody who’s just a little bit ahead of you that you can actually talk to and ask questions to and watch them go through all of those things that you’re about to go through in your business and see how they handle them.

Claire: Yes. Oh my gosh. Exactly. Yeah, I’m it. I feel like part of the reason I even just like. It, it’s kind of a long story. I was born and raised in Illinois, and I moved to Florida for those years that I worked at that media house. And then we recently moved back to Illinois. So, it just felt like, why did we go there?
We were only there for a few years just, but the people that I met in Florida, and I seriously would not be where I am today in business, without those people that I met to encourage me and just show me the ropes and what could even be. I say this all the time on my Instagram, people who follow me are probably tired of hearing it, but there are like there’s dreamers and there’s doers.

And I am 115000% a doer. I am not a dreamer at all. But there are so many people around me who are dreamers. Like my husband is a huge dreamer. He’s the one who dreams of having his own business someday. Those women that I talked about before in my life, like they are definitely dreamers. And so, I feel like I’ve got to, I’ve gotten input and like the inspiration from like all these amazing dreamers.

And so now I have the fun part that I love of just doing and just like nose to the grind, which I love doing. Yeah.

Galen: I feel like there’s so much power in sometimes just doing the work, instead of thinking about it too much while I think dreaming is so powerful, because you can really get behind this idea and get excited about it and then make things happen because you want that goal so badly. But sometimes fear gets in the way, because if you think about something too much, you won’t do it.
And sometimes I think for myself, I just need to put my head down and start taking the steps that I know I need to take to get to that goal and stop thinking about all the things that can go wrong or all the things that are going to be on the other side, waiting for me. Like I just need to put one foot in front of the other.
And I loved when you were talking about making those goals, even while you were at your job, like, Oh, I’m going to start growing an email list or, Oh, I’m going to start doing these small steps because no, one’s really an overnight success. Right? We’re all just, we’re all just a series of small steps taken to get to a larger goal at some point, hopefully in the near future, but for a lot of us it’s far off.

So now that you’ve had your web design business for a little bit, and you’re about a year and a half in, you said, what do you feel like? What was those first couple weeks like getting those first clients as opposed to now, how has that changed for you?

Claire: One of the first clients that I ever worked with her name is Jessica Massey and she has a brand called Hustle Sanely. She was one of my first kind of major clients and seriously from her flowed so many more clients. You never know, you just never know where exactly your clients are going to come from until they do, which I realized that that means it feels like it makes no sense, but honestly, she, well, she’s an amazing business owner. She was one of those people who was encouraging me and kind of walking through me as I started.

And honestly, so many of my clients after her found me through her. To this day, people, I should just have a question on my intake form. Did you hear about me from Jessica Massey? Because I’m sure like 80% of people will say yes.

Galen: So how did you get connected with her?

Claire: Yeah. And so, I got connected with her by this random. I, when I moved to Tampa, I didn’t, we didn’t know anybody there.
I moved for the job. So, we, we didn’t have anybody. And there was this girl that was holding a Bible study in a coffee shop. In the coffee shop that I followed, they posted about it. So, I randomly went and I’m randomly met this girl who was there. And she is one of those people who is a connector. She loves connecting people.
And so she was like your web designer, my best friend Jessica, needs a website, I’ll connect you. And so honestly, if that would not have happened, my business would look so different today. And I know that’s not the like golden, like I ran Pinterest ads, or I like cold pitch to people. People want to hear all the ways that they can do things.

Sometimes it’s just, it comes down to networking and who you’re willing to put yourself out there for.

Galen: And showing up. It sounds like you could have said, I just moved to this new town. I’m feeling really introverted. I don’t really want to meet people right now. It’ll like you; I feel like those situations don’t just happen. You have to put yourself in those situations and you have to be looking like, if you hadn’t followed that coffee shop. If you hadn’t kind of embraced the local business scene and sort of seen what’s going on and just been a part of it and followed it on social or wherever you found out about it, that wouldn’t have happened. So, it’s all about just making room for the opportunities, right?

Like it’s not, you’re not, they’re not going to come to you. You kind of have to put yourself in situations where you’re going to get lucky when things like that happen.

Claire: Yeah. That’s that is so true. And I won’t lie. I, I mean, there were the first few months I was at introverted, like I just need time to adjust. And then finally I was like, okay. I at least need some friends who don’t. I don’t see every day from nine to five. So yeah, putting yourself out there can be hard, but for real, you never know who you’re going to meet.

And who they’re going to know and who, you know, they could connect you with. And so that, that was like a huge pivotal moment for my business. I love the whole, like women supporting women movement, in small business too. Without that support, my business would either not exist or look, would look very different.

So. That’s where that’s really where my first few clients started coming from. One piece of advice I’ve heard for newer service providers who are trying to land clients is to, create fake personal projects for your portfolio, just create these pieces. So, then people will see, what your style is.

And I, that’s a great idea. That’s a great idea to get started, but I actually never even had to do that because they just kept coming from this one referral. And then from that, I was creating things that I loved that represented me in my brand and I was able to showcase those. And from there clients just kept coming and it’s so crazy.

It’s, I was truly meant to do this because every time. I know a lot of businesses; design businesses will book out in advance. There’ll be booked out months or like a quarter in advance. And that is that’s awesome for them. But the way my business is just always gone is I will have; I usually like to take on around three or four clients at a time and I’ll have those clients.

And usually they’re kind of, they’re staggered, whatever. As soon as the projects are about to be over, I’m thinking to myself, I don’t. I don’t have anyone else lined up. I don’t know what’s going to happen and more always come always at the perfect times. I, I can’t even explain how that works.

And I know everyone’s not that fortunate, but it’s just like, even more validation that like, this is what I was supposed to be doing because they, they start coming and they don’t stop coming.

Galen: I love that. No, please never apologize. I’m all about the puns. All about the puns.

Claire: Yeah.

Galen: Okay. So that’s, that’s like amazing. That is so wonderful to hear. And I feel like part of that is just like doing the work, doing good work and then creating those relationships with your clients. Do you have a client process that you follow or has that changed at all since you’ve started?

Claire: One of the first things I did when I got started, which honestly, looking back is one of the best decisions maybe that I’ve made so far was to invest in a CRM. I did that immediately. I got Dubsado, like the second week after quitting my other job and I just learned the ins and outs of it.

And truth be told. I do not have this like broad vision view of my business. So, this just goes to show you, if you don’t feel like you are this huge dreamer with this big, like visionary, mental, view of your business, you can still run a business.

You don’t have to look like that. And I think a lot of times I get caught up thinking that I have to be this like big vision to be a business owner, but I’m actually a very detail-oriented person. I love being told what to do. I’m a doer. So client experience, like the whole process is honestly not my forte, which is why I knew immediately that I wanted to invest in something liked Dubsado that could automatically give me an up-leveled client experience without too much work on my end. And my husband loves thinking about client experience. So honestly, he helped me think through a lot of the things in Dubsado.

And, and I learned about the automations and how that kind of, that whole process works. So that is one really great decision I’m glad I made. So, investing in a CRM, I think definitely helped my client process from day one. A real like nitpicky thing that I think has changed over the course of just learning, learning what information I need for my clients ahead of time. And learning what’s going to help me start to dream for their brand or their website is my questionnaire. So, every project starts out with a client questionnaire, whether it’s branding or website. And I think out of the whole process, something that’s changed the most is that questionnaire just because you learn things that you need from clients, you learn things that.

There, there’s new things in web design that come up and styles of branding. Things are just always changing and evolving. So, the things that I ask my clients at the beginning of the process I think that has changed and grown. And I even think my, like delivering, I have some to realize that that’s the most exciting part of this whole thing for people is when they receive their logo, their branding files, or when they receive their website. Like when I pass it off to them and realizing that’s actually like a really big deal that I need to hype up and make that a fun experience. So, I started doing things like recording a Loom video, walking them through all the branding files and kind of showing them what’s there and how to use it in Canva and different things like that, walking them through the whole website and just trying to step outside of my doer’s mindset to just get it done and here you go. And to try to make it an experience because people don’t remember really what you’ve done. They remember the experience that they had with you. And like I said, that’s not my strong suit, so I think I’ve had to pour a lot of like time and energy. And in thinking about that and wanting to make that a great experience.

Galen: That’s really interesting. So, I, I feel like I’m kind of the visionary and the doer, but I missed the whole middle part, which is that relationships piece. I feel like I’m pretty introverted, which most people who see me online, I feel like don’t realize that I’m extremely introverted, like showing up on Stories.
I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but it’s definitely painful at times. Those little details that can enhance the experience for your clients or customers. Sometimes those details to me seem like details I should just skip or details I should just go over because I don’t necessarily have time for them.

And I’d rather be in the numbers, or I’d rather be kind of working on this other sequence or funnel or automation or something else kind of like techie and nerdy behind the scenes. Or I would rather be big picture brainstorming. And so, I kind of forget these little details in the middle, and those are so important, especially when you’re first starting, because you can really do a lot of these things that aren’t necessarily that scalable in the long-term, but they’re wonderful for when you’re first getting started, because the more positive experience that your first 10, 15, 20 clients have.

The more likely they are to refer you. And then later on you can start to pull pieces that you’ve done manually and find ways to automate them. I’m a huge fan of HoneyBook. That’s what I use for all my client relationship management. And it has saved my life. And I’m so embarrassed to say that I waited.

So many, I waited years to put a client management system in place. I was doing everything with all these different tools and using one tool for online signatures and another one for invoices. And it was a nightmare and every, every proposal was completely custom. I wasn’t reusing anything, and it was wasting so much time.

So, I’m so glad you did that from day one. The more and more. I hear people tell us saying that they started that way. The better granted, like when I first started, I don’t think HoneyBook existed or Dubsado even existed. But maybe it did. And I just, I didn’t know, but it’s so, so important because that investment is going to pay you back 10, fold a hundred, a hundred percent.

So that’s really neat. So, you got your first clients through this word-of-mouth connection. Where do most of your clients come from now? Is it still a lot of word of mouth? I know you’re pretty big on Instagram.

Claire: it is still a lot of word of mouth. And actually, I, I was just reflecting on this, an hour before our call. So, it’s currently it’s like middle of February and I’ve actually been having like ongoing chronic, health issues for the past, whatever. And it’s just taken I’m fine. I’m going to be fine, but it’s taken so much out of me, physically and mentally.

And I have just been drained and I have not really been showing up on Instagram for weeks and that was kind of just nagging at me and weighing at me because most of my clients do come from Instagram from word of mouth or from Instagram. And I’m thinking to myself like, okay, well, if I don’t show up on Instagram are they going to come?

And I actually just had a dream client reach out to me last week and she found me on Pinterest. And I think maybe that’s one of the first. People that I have booked with, who has at least told me that they found me through Pinterest. And so that was kind of like this reassurance. I know people were always like multiple streams, multiple, like whatever, but it’s so true.
And so, it was just kind of this validation of okay, even if I don’t show up on Instagram for a few weeks, like I can still book clients through, you know, people will still find me through. Pinterest through other, uh, that’s really, it actually just is Pinterest.

Galen: You’ve laid the foundation for other channels for other ways of people to find you.

Claire: Right. And so mostly, mostly I do find clients on Instagram, but now it is growing number of people who have found me.

I have a few random, like pins that have gone viral. Is that the word on Pinterest, but people who have found me through there? So, I’m yeah. So, I’m really glad that I like kind of laid that groundwork. A few months ago, I have since abandoned my Pinterest and my poor Tailwind and all of that, but it just goes to show you, you can put different effort into different platforms, and you can see what works for you and your business.

Sometimes it’s one thing. Sometimes it’s all of it, but really just trying those different methods out of marketing and you know, and that’ll really pay off in the long run. I think.

Galen: How do you deal with this pressure that you have to show up all the places all the time, because as marketers or as business owners who are. Also wearing the marketer hat, because that’s what we’re all doing right now is how do you be like, okay, I need to be on Instagram. I need to be on Pinterest. I need to write a blog.
I need to do be on Clubhouse. Like, how do you deal with that stress? And I think part of it comes from like being forgiving to yourself when you don’t show up on all those platforms. But how do you balance that?

Claire: That’s such a hard, I think, I put a lot of expectation on myself and I, I am truly a one-woman show. I don’t have a VA; I don’t have a social media manager. I don’t have someone looking through my inbox. Like it is a hundred percent me. And actually, I just, I’m starting business coaching next week and I’m sure that’s going to be the first thing she’s going to tell me that I need help.

But it’s just me and before, Oh my goodness. So much has changed between 2020 and 2021. In 2020, I was running myself ragged trying to do all the things. I think I there’s like when you try to do all the things you just burn out on all of them. So, there’s like a whole timeline of my burnout. I think I gave up on blogging in September.

I gave up on blogging biweekly, and then Clubhouse. I was in that for like a week and then it was just too much. And then I gave up there. I’ve been just exhausted, and I’m burned out on Instagram. So, for the past few weeks, I’ve given up on that. But. I think realizing, you know, especially to all the people who are just starting out if you are a one-person show, like you can’t do it all you have to pick and choose where the energy is going to go.
And like I was saying before, I was really stressed out because normally I show up on Instagram. I’m on Stories. I’m making Reels, I’m like posting. And I was kind of freaking out because I haven’t been doing that the past few weeks, but I just had to stop and I had to realize that this is taking a toll on me and I own right now in the season of life, I only have so much energy.

What is really important to me? What is really important to me is showing up for my clients and also making sure like my business stays alive. So I have pretty much, I like have given up on Instagram for a few weeks and you know what, I still for somehow get new followers every day. And people are liking things to it’s okay.

It’s not the end of the world. So, I, I think taking your energy into account. And I, that sounds so boo people say that all the time.

But like, but for real, you’ll you only have a certain amount of energy. So, I think it’s prioritizing, especially when you think about, kind of what you were saying all the different, you know, Clubhouse, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, which I loathe Facebook.
So, I stay away from that as much as possible. There are so many different avenues for marketing and in your business. And I think really finding, I just feel like people say this all the time, but finding what works for you, where your client base is at, who’s your ideal client and where are they right now?

Are they hanging out on Clubhouse? Because then you should be there too. And, and not feeling like you have to do it all because when you try to do it all.

Nothing goes, right. You burn out. It’s not great. So.

Galen: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. I, I feel like back in 2019, I told myself I was really going to start being consistent, showing up consistently. And for me, honestly, like that meant getting to a point where I did need a team and I, and I had a small team at the time and now I have. Um, basically like a two-person content team or two people to help me with my content part-time on a monthly basis.

And, and I’ve just, just now really started having a process in place to show up consistently. And I’m actually going to do another episode about my new content marketing process, but I’ve had a bunch of people message me and say like, wow, it’s so cool that you’re like posting so much and you’re putting so much out there and I’m like, it’s not just me.

Like, please know that I am not a one woman show right now. And it took a very long time to get to a point with the right people doing the right things and also. A lot of it was just looking inward and I made assumptions about the things that I wanted to do in my business and the things I wanted to outsource.

And it turns out I was totally wrong. I was outsourcing the wrong things and I was doing the wrong things and that’s why my process wasn’t flowing. So, I had to flip it and actually start myself doing different things and start outsourcing. It’s just liked this whole process, but it took so long to get here.

And now, even now, like just barely to a place where I feel like things are running really smoothly on that front, but it’s a challenge. It is a challenge going through that.

Claire: Yeah, I actually, my business coaching starts next, next week and kind of on our initial, just discovery calls, who was like, it sounds like we need to figure out what you do love in your business and what you don’t love in your business and outsource what you don’t love, because you don’t have to do it.
And it was just like this light bulb moment for me. I don’t have to think about my Instagram content pillars and then write a caption for it. And I think. Yeah. You know, sometimes you don’t have the budget to hire out and you do have to one person and that’s okay for some seasons, but it comes to a point that you’re going to burn yourself out.

And then you’re just either going to do it really poorly, or you’re not going to do it at all. And I think it’s worth it at that time point to hire out or to hire help or a coach or something too, to help you stay afloat in those areas that are actually really important to your business. I think. What happens to me is I put so much expectation on myself and then I burn out and then I just stop caring about it.

And I just like to write it off. And that’s not healthy either because Instagram is actually really great for my business. And I love the platform and I love being on it and I don’t want to feel burned out on it.

Galen: That makes so much sense. I think for me, one of the biggest lessons I learned was not just looking at what I enjoy doing and what I don’t enjoy doing. But looking at the things that I would do. Even if I didn’t have to versus the things that I have to do. So, like, there are things on your to-do list that are urgent and important that I’m going to get done no matter what.

And then there’s things on my to do list that are important, but not so urgent. And those are the things that I was leaving off. And I was always pushing to the next week and always pushing. And they were things that I actually enjoy doing. They were things that I was actually good at doing, but what I realized was that I wasn’t doing them because they didn’t seem important.

Or urgent enough on my task list. So those are the things I started outsourcing, even though I could do them, myself and I actually was good at them, or I enjoyed them. They were things that I was procrastinating on. So, like looking at your to-do list and figuring out what do you enjoy? What do you not enjoy?
But also, what are the things that always get pushed to the next week? Because those are the things that you need to start outsourcing because otherwise, they will always be next week, next week, next week. And you’ll just never get around to them.

Claire: That’s so good. This kind of has to do with that, but that just makes me think of like client offices. So, this has made me such a tangent. It makes me think of like client relationships. Honestly, when it comes to serving clients, the clients that I feel like I have a better relationship with.

Those are the ones I want to do stuff right away for. The ones that I, the ones where like they’ve sent me a rude email or whatever. Those are the things that I put off until the next week. So I, this is going back to like the whole client relationship, conversation we were having, but I totally find myself doing those things, putting things off to the next week.

I feel like I’m not excited about the project anymore because they hate everything. I’ve sent them with no feedback or they’re difficult to work with or whatever.

Galen: Touch on that quickly. How do you deal with problem clients, especially when you’re first starting out and you haven’t had a ton of them or you’re coming upon new situations that you haven’t experienced before, even if your answer is not perfect? And you’re like, I don’t have this all figured out because for real, who does, but what are some ways that you have dealt with that? Or some ways that maybe you’ve learned not to do that?

Claire: That is so hard. A lot of I spend, you know, sometime venting to somebody who knows and loves me. If you’re in the service-based industry, you just know these clients just don’t know, they don’t know the work it takes. They don’t necessarily understand all the ins and outs of your process of you know, for example, like Squarespace, they don’t know its capabilities, they have no idea.

And, and so to kind of take a step back and realize that they don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes. Really trying to ask myself, okay, is this feedback. That they’ve given me. It’s not personal. I think that’s one of the first things I had to learn about working with difficult clients that, I mean 99% of the time, it’s not personal.

And I used to take things very personally. That is something I have grown at. Grown in like hugely in my business is not taking those things. Personally. I used to pitch something to a client and if they didn’t like it, I’d like, go cry for like, whatever. And that’s so bad now. I’m like, okay, that’s great.

I’m glad that we know that you don’t like it because now we can move on to something else and figure out what you do. Like, so that’s, that’s one thing that I’ve had to really grow in when it comes to client relations, but yeah. Dealing with difficult clients, it’s I just, you have to always give them the benefit of the doubt, even when you don’t want to, even when they don’t pay you on time.

I had a client who was months behind on payments. And I just would send an occasional reminder email turns out she had lost her job in COVID and had hired me when she thought she’d be able to pay and was going through like this whole thing. And in my head, I had turned this client into oh my gosh, she’s not paying me.
You shouldn’t even like what I did for her. Like, I worked so hard. Can you believe it? And it turns out that That was not the case at all. Like could, both of us have handled it differently. Probably, but she ended up paying me and apologizing and being like, you know, these past few months have been so terrible. I’m so sorry. And like it turned out, you know? Okay. But I think one thing that really helps too with difficult client relationships are boundaries and that is something that I am having to learn. Yeah. I know you; I feel like you like to talk about boundaries, and you probably have, you probably have it.

Much more advice than.

Galen: Only because I was so bad at it for so long that I have a lot of opinions and I’m to a place now that I’m pretty happy with, but it took again, it took a long time to get here.

Claire: That’s one of the things that I’m learning. I, luckily, I have really not had, I have not had that many, like, you know, quote, nightmare

Galen: And you start to spot them too earlier on in the process. And when you’re not. When you’re not as in need of the cashflow, because you have that trust, you have that faith that the next client’s going to come, the next good client’s going to come. You’re attracting the right kind of people. You can let those clients go.

And I’m like, you know what? I’m not a great fit for you. And that’s something that’s really hard to say, but it’s something that feels so good afterwards to be like, yeah, I just turned down a $3,000 project or a $5,000 project, but it would not have worked out for either of us in the long run. If I had just let it come to fruition.

Claire: Yeah. It’s the best feeling to like, be able to turn that down and to realize you don’t have to work with that person that you maybe don’t want to work with. It’s the worst feeling in the world to sign that, have them sign that contract, make that down payment and then the first week you started the project, like to just have the sinking feeling.
You were not excited to work with them. They are not good at communicating with you. They don’t respect your boundaries. They email you a billion times asking these just like a nightmare client, the worst feeling in the world to like, have that. So, it’s better to nip that in the butt to, not even go there and to say no initially.

And a lot of times, you know, when we’re first getting started, we are working out of this scarcity mindset that if I say, no, nobody else is going to come. So, I have to say yes. And I know that I worked out of that for probably the first year. And so, I was just saying yes to anyone and everyone who came, but now I’ve, I’ve learned, you know, kind of like what you’re saying, how to spot them.

And I have, I have very intentional questions in my intake form that might seem really like innocent. Even, so the two questions I have in my form that usually are a tell for if someone’s going to be a nightmare to work with. The first one is it just says, like, what are your goals for this project in? What do you want to accomplish together?

I’ve had people leave that blank before, so it’s going to be a no for me, if you don’t know. What you want. I’ve had people fill that out who say, I don’t really know what my goals are. I don’t really know what I want. I just know like that I need a website. Cause everyone tells me I need a website. I’m like, okay, that’s going to be a no for me, if you don’t know why you need a website and where you want to go.

So that question is always very telling. You can usually gauge people like how invested they are in their website, because I want clients who are. Invested in their website success and want to see growth there. And then the other one is very, usually above my intake form. I have, I say, when I’m booking next, this is just, I just want people who pay attention to details.

So, at the top, I say like right now, now booking April 2021 projects. And then at the very bottom, it just says, what is your ideal launch date? Keep in mind. Branding usually takes four to five weeks, websites take seven to eight weeks. So many people say they would like to launch next week. That’s not going to work for me.

Do you? And I just, so, and that might seem really dumb, but it’s like, I want people who, number one, respect my time. Even if you didn’t read what I’m booking next, you can read the sentence that says this is going to take a week, or this is going to take eight weeks, not one week. So, I think just learning how to spot learning to, to know what you want in a client and how to spot when that’s not there is going to save you a lot of time when you are even just in the inquiry phase to just respond and say I’m not taking any projects on like that right now, or I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit.

Here’s someone I know that might be, you know, a better fit for your budget or a better fit for your time. Etc.

Galen: Yeah. And have you noticed, do you look, do you list your prices on your website

Claire: I do. I’m a big proponent of listing.

Galen: Really? And has that, has your pricing changed since you started in business? Like has, have you noticed, have you noticed that’s changed the quality of client that you receive?

Claire: I think so. I will occasionally get the person who wants a website for a thousand dollars and that’s not going to work. I also have, in my intake form, I update my there’s a dropdown that says, which service are you interested in? And it lists the service. And then right next to it, it lists the pricing range for that service.
So. That has actually helped filter out. A lot of people, I used to get like web site clients who, their budget, they said it was like under a thousand dollars. Like that’s…

Galen: Yeah. What is?

Claire: My price for that right now, currently. And again, I’m hiring a business coach now because I’m starting next week. So, I’m sure it’s going to change because.

Galen: Of course.

Claire: Job is to tell you to raise your prices.
But right now, my branding, my full branding package is around 1,600. To 2,000 ish. And then my websites start at around 25- 2,700, I think. And that’s for like a custom, six, seven-page website. And then for people who need both of those services, I usually take like a couple hundred off just for kind of a bundle.

Galen: To do like a package deal? Yeah. And what about like your, do you remember, like when you first started what you were charging? Hey, I think my first ever website, like seven years ago, it must’ve been like $300. No joke. I think I did a one-page website for somebody, and I was like, sure, I will take whatever you got.

Claire: I know, right? Yeah. We’ll, we’ll take what you have. No, I, I think when I first started, my websites were around a thousand. Each, and then, my branding was around like $600. So I can successfully say I’ve, I guess yeah, doubled and tripled those, those numbers. And it’s just been a slow. I think a lot of, I see a question a lot of times, like, how do you raise your prices?
How do you know when whatever, and it’s just kind of just been the slow increase for me, which I don’t know if that’s the right way to do it, but when I’m booked out a couple months and I’m still getting inquiries, that’s when you raise your prices. When, when you, you know, you have enough client’s kind of lined up and people are still coming, then that’s when you know that you’re in demand and that people want your services.

So, you can go ahead and raise them. So. That would happen. I’d book out a little bit in advance and I just say, okay, what if I just bumped it up a little bit? Okay. What if I just bumped up a little bit and they are still coming. And so, it’s ever been this full, like full on, like I tripled my prices this day.

It’s, it’s been like a slow gradual climb and pricing is still, it’s so hard for me. I hate money. I hate talking about money. I hate pricing. It’s how do you like put a price on. Your own work and your time. I don’t know. And I, I still, I, I’m hoping to like, you know, work with my business coach on that and really get some more like guidance on that.

But I think a lot of times I find myself comparing to like other service providers who are at a similar place as me and I think, okay, well they’re way over, trending for that. Okay. Well, or am I under charging for that? It’s, it’s hard to compare yourself, especially like, I’m sure you feel this too on Instagram.
There’s like this Squarespace designers, like bubble kind of, of like all these, like everyone who kind of like knows each other. And, and I love that for the community aspect. Like it’s super great, but then you find yourself like comparing and pricing and I don’t know, it’s, it’s hard. It’s a hard conversation.

Galen: It’s really hard. And I think you’re right. I feel like the best time to adjust your prices. It’s not an exact science. It’s going to be different for everybody. And even when someone lists pricing on their website, you’re not seeing their contracts. You don’t know what’s actually included in that website.

Isn’t it? Two revisions. Is it six revisions? Is it no support? Is it six weeks of support? Does it take them this long or that long? Like you don’t know? So just looking at these numbers, looking at what people put on their website, you can’t actually get a real idea of how many years of experience that person has.

What’s actually included in the project? So, the comparison game is not a good one to be a part of, but it is. Extremely tempting and something that you have to kind of train yourself to ignore and just keep your blinders on, stay on your own path and do what feels right for you. We talked a lot about client work and growing the client side of your business. I wanted to briefly touch on how you’ve diversified your income in the last year.

Claire: Yeah. Yeah. that’s the hot topic now, right? Diversify your income streams, multiple streams of income. And the way that I have done that, I’ve done it a couple of ways, but the most successful and long-standing way is through my website templates which this will just even go to show you how much of a dreamer I am.

I literally the idea for my template shop was not even, I mean, I know the idea existed long before this, but I had a friend who was close to me and my business. And she was like, I think I was in this season of making websites for clients. And I just, their style wasn’t mine. I wasn’t in the place where I was saying no to client work, that, that wasn’t, my style or what I wanted to be doing.
And so, I was kind of in this Phase of grumbling. And I wish I could just make whatever I want to make. And I had a friend said to me like, well, why don’t you like start a template shop? You could make whatever you want to make. And it was this light bulb moment for me. Like I could make the web designs that.

I want to make that are actually really good. And there’s not going to be a client there to slap me down. And so that’s where the idea, the idea just kind of started. And all of a sudden I just started building and I remember I built my first full on website template probably in like two hours.

And it’s still, it’s my best-selling one today, which I think is hilarious, but I, it just came out of this place of what if I just could make whatever I want to do?

Galen: You build it with a client in mind, like an ideal client in mind, or did you just build it for yourself?

Claire: Yes, I did actually. It was a very specific client that I had actually. That I actually didn’t love to work with to be, to be quite honest. And that, so it was kind of funny because I knew exactly what they wanted, and I almost built this as an excuse for when I got those inquiries for people like that.

I could kind of say like, oh, I actually am not taking on products like that, but have you checked out this website template and actually it’s I think steered people in that demographic away from inquire with me because they see the website template and it is kind of up their alley and it’s cheaper than custom.

So, like why not? And so that was one of the, that was one of the best things I think I did was building a specific avatar for the, for that website template. I think. I think after that, I’ve kind of had the struggle of I want to make these templates really broad, and you know, so anyone could buy it because then it’ll open it up to more people who could purchase.

Going broad is usually not helpful when it comes to things like this. When you really niche down and make your product something specific is when those specific people will find it. And. That’s where I’ve seen the most success, at least with website templates. So, so yeah, it’s just kind of, it’s gone from there.
I’ve kind of just figured it out piece by piece, on my own. And even pricing. Those was hard. And I had to look around what are other people who are doing. Dislike me what do they charge? I have no idea what the charge. Um, and I’ve had people even question those templates and I’ve become secure enough to not take that to heart.

Galen: I love that.

Claire: Everyone’s website templates are different kind of the way my template shop works is after you purchased the template you receive access to a full website already built out for you.
That is essentially. Looks exactly like the demo site that you saw and were able to click through before purchasing and then I give you access to a library of like customized video tutorials that walk you through page by page, how to edit each, each page of that website, shows you how to launch.

It shows you how to use Squarespace, just like general basics of Squarespace. There’s a lot of involved and actually, the most strenuous part of the website template, launching process are tutorial videos. That’s what takes me the most time out of anything, pretty much in building the website, I’ll build you a website and like two hours.

Like I can do that. That’s probably a little cocky, but that’s not the hard part for me. The hard part is really. Teaching people how to actually use it. Cause I think that’s something I’m really passionate about when it comes to websites, is people feeling confident using their own websites, because if you’re not confident using it and you don’t know how, then you’re never going to do it and it’s going to become outdated and not useful for you.

So, yeah, so, so I think in that pricing, I have to realize, okay, it’s not, they’re not just buying a website, they’re buying, they’re buying my years of experience and design and the research I’ve done on how to lay out a good website. I don’t just make websites to look pretty. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

I use the Story Brand framework and that shows in my templates I’ve made lots of hours of tutorial videos that who knows what people actually watch them or not. There’s the marketing side of it. There’s the, you know, there’s just so much that goes into it. And so, I think thinking through that also helped me to like, be more secure in my, in my pricing and yeah.

Galen: There’s a lot that goes, I mean, the same thing for services can be set as well. It’s like, it’s not just the cost of doing the work. There’s the cost of doing business. That’s not, that should be rolled up into what your clients are paying for. It’s all of the time spent before, during, and after working with that client or working on that particular project.

There’s so, so much that goes into it. We’re actually looking at launching a template shop in the next couple. Hopefully in the next month or so, we’ll see if we get them done in time. So, I’m really excited about that, cause I’m just a huge fan of Squarespace and I am the same way. I get a lot of web design clients who don’t necessarily, or inquiries that don’t necessarily have the budget for a full website, but they want something to get started with right away.

And there’s a, there is a lot that goes into it. So that’s, that’s pretty amazing. When you launched your template, did you launch with any sort of launch plan or launch strategy or did you just kind of put it out into the world? And say here it is, take it or leave it.

Claire: Yeah, it was, oh my gosh, I I’m trying to think back. So, when I launched, I had three templates. I’m all for like very, they were very specific. I had one for like fitness bloggers, one for photographers, and one that I had kind of aimed at, essential oils people. And they were like very specific and there was, it’s actually hilarious, I think because one of those never sold a single template. Ever, I’ve never sold one of them, like one of the specific designs, which just goes to show is like, okay, well that’s not my demographic. And it actually, yeah, right now it’s actually the photographer one. I thought that was going to go crazy.

But actually, it didn’t sell. And it, I just realized like, Oh, okay. I guess there’s not a whole ton of photographers in my demographic. And I learned from that, and I pivoted and for a while that template existed in my shop and that, and then I was just like, you know what time to give it up and it’s not there anymore.

So anyway, I launched those three templates. And at the time, one of the women who, one of my friends who was like a small business owner, she had recently started her business, kind of like me. We were in it together. She is, she’s a Story Brand certified guide. She’s all about marketing and messaging.

And so, she actually helped me. I remember we sat down at a coffee shop one day and she showed me how she plans out her Instagram content. And she helped me think through like a launch strategy because marketing is not my strong suit either. Like I just, I hate marketing. So, she helped me really think through that.

And I’m, I am so thankful that she did, and she helped me think through, she helped me do my first giveaway on Instagram. When I launched, I did a giveaway and me. That was also the first time I ever went live on Instagram to announce the winner. And she like hyped me up. It was like, Oh my gosh. Without her, I don’t even know where I’d be, but it was, I, I feel like I, myself, if left to my own devices would have just started posting about it the week before, and then like just put out there in the world and let it die.

So, I think my launch strategy was mostly Instagram based. I probably would do things differently now, but you know, it worked, and it was what it was. And it also some email marketing since I had been growing that email list. And I think I put a waiting list out for templates.

For like my template shop coming probably a few months before. So that was also growing. So that was kind of comforting to know that okay, there’s actually a need for this. And people actually want this, and they were waiting for it.

Galen: Yeah. That’s like marketing 101 is start your email list. Start growing your email list as soon as you can. If you don’t have one. Get on it and you’ll just, you know, nurture that list slowly over time. And then when you do have something, whether that’s an opening for client work or a new service you’re launching, or a new product you’re launching, like, it’s so amazing to have that list of potential customers ready to buy and ready to work with you.

Claire: Totally. Yeah. Even right now, I hate this, but with where I’m at, I don’t really, I don’t send out emails to my email list right now. And I’m sure you will. Marketers everywhere are cringing at that, but it’s just. It’s not where I can put my energy right now, and I’m still getting client work and I’m still growing the email list with the automated things that I have set in place with my, my like my freebie and that like nurturing sequence and the email list is still growing.

And so, the next time I launch a template, like they’re going to be there the next time I launch a new service, there’ll be there, and I can utilize that. And I know that’s probably not the best way to go about email marketing, but.

Galen: It works. Yeah. It’s, it’s better than not doing anything at all.

Right. And it’s doing what you can when you can and forgetting the rest. That’s how.

Claire: Exactly. Yeah. That’s being a, being a small business owner is hard and there’s so much involved. So, we just need to give ourselves grace for like five seconds.

Galen: A hundred percent. Yeah. If you can’t post on Instagram regularly, if you skip a couple of weeks with your email list or a couple months, cause that’s happened to me too, that’s it all just at the end of the day. It all ends up working out. And I think someone, we, I was talking about being consistent and, and we were just talking about like really consistently is not posts being consistent is not about posting every single day.

It’s just about trying to show up more frequently than not, right. Like, it’s just trying to show up on average more, have more days where you’re showing up in Instagram stories then days where you are just. Ignoring it altogether. So as long as on average, you are quote on quote showing up and putting yourself out there.
That’s a win. I consider that a straight win.

Claire: For real and finding something that you can actually maintain and stick to that’s consistency too, whether that’s once a week or. Every day, if you can do that every day, then good for you. That’s awesome for me. It’s going to look right now more like maybe once a week

Galen: Yup. Yeah, it depends on the channel too.
Right?

Claire: True.
It does. Yeah.

Galen: Like some people I know are really successful with a monthly email newsletter. Whereas other people feel the pressure to send every week, or their audience wants that. Like, it depends on your audience. Depends on the medium, all of that. So many, so many ways to be successful.

There’s not just one path.

Claire: Totally.

Galen: Claire. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I really enjoyed listening to you. Tell us your story of getting started in business and working with clients. Tell us where we can find more about you online.

Claire: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. This was so fun. You can keep up with me on Instagram @bloomingdesign.co. My Clubhouse, however, is bloomingdesign because only 15 characters, sad. So that’s where you can find me.

Galen: Well, thank you so much. And I look forward to watching some more of your Reels soon.

Thank you so much for tuning in to today’s episode of the Intentional Creative podcast. If you enjoy listening to our conversation, make sure to take a screenshot of your podcast app, put it on Instagram stories and tag us both. So we can join in on the conversation with you reshare and say hello.

Also, if you’re listening on Apple podcast, don’t forget to leave us a review. So more creative business owners like yourself can learn about the show.

After moving to Tampa for her first job after college, Claire found herself alone in a new city with no network to speak of. Then, she took a chance, quit her corporate job, and started her own web design and branding business, Blooming Design Co.

New town, new business, and absolutely no connections. What’s an introvert to do?!

Claire happened upon her first client in a coffee shop, and that single client became her top referral source to this day. Since then, Claire has established herself as a true expert in the web design space, and Blooming Design Co. has proven itself to be a reliable, sustainable business.

Listen to us chat about starting a web design business, networking, and landing your first client in this week’s episode of the Intentional Creative Podcast.

About Claire

Claire is a Midwestern native, enneagram type 4 who loves to create. She started Blooming Design Co. a year and a half ago to help female business owners create purposeful branding and easy-to-use websites. A few of her favorite things include musicals, cheese, all things superhero, and of course–beautiful design.

Follow Claire on Instagram here.

If you love the show, be sure to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Your feedback helps us continue creating valuable content and connect with even more creatives.

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