I really can’t believe Hollie Ellis Design turns 4 today! And what a journey it has been, so I thought I would re-introduce myself to you again with how I got here and the four important lessons I’ve learnt over the last 4 years.
I had initially set Hollie Ellis Design up after I was made redundant from my 6 year job at a web development company. I had looked at getting another job but every graphic designer job description I looked at required you to know HTML and CSS, which is a skill set I didn’t and still don’t hold and there’s a strong reason for that. I was never passionate about coding and developing websites so I never saw the need to learn those two coding languages.
The other jobs that I could apply for, I either didn’t hear back from them or the feedback I got was I didn’t have enough ‘experience’. At the time I was really confused by this because I thought 6 years working for a company was plenty of experience, but I soon realised what they meant was I had only ever worked at the one company.
After much internal debate with myself, I listened to what I really wanted at the time and that was to go freelance. I had always wanted to be a freelance graphic designer so this was my opportunity to make it happen.
I used my redundancy money to set me up with the equipment and software I needed to run my business – a macbook pro, an apple magic mouse, an external hard drive and the suite of design programs I needed. I was ready to go… Now I just needed some clients to do some work for. Luckily, a very small handful (about 3 clients) decided to move with me when I had been made redundant, but I knew in order to survive I needed a lot more clients.
So, I developed some start up design packages. I figured I was a start up, so my prices needed to reflect this (even with 6 years industry experience under my belt) and I would target start up businesses because I could relate. This worked well for a while, but I also ended up saying yes to a lot of designs jobs that in hindsight weren’t worthwhile.
After 7 months I started freelancing for a packaging company and ended up being interviewed for a full time job with them which I was offered. I really enjoyed working within a design team, which I hadn’t had experience of before, but there was one thing that I couldn’t shake. I was being bullied and I was in my late 20’s. I had experienced bullying over the span of a good number of years at school and I wasn’t expecting to be bullied in my 20’s. So even though I was designing for some really well known brands at the time and on the highest salary I’d ever been paid, I decided to quit my job after 7 months and start Hollie Ellis Design back up again.
As soon as I worked my notice, the very next day I resurrected Hollie Ellis Design and started the business from scratch again. It was hard, but so worthwhile. 4 years later, here I am with a strong client base, I get to work with amazing clients who are also now really good friends of mine and I have international clients as well as local North East clients.
So what are the 4 important lessons I’ve learnt over the last 4 years of running my business?
- A business coach is the best investment you could make. I started working with Kirsty Carden in 2018 as part of her group mastermind and it was THE best investment I ever made for myself and my business. The support received and accountability meant you took action no matter what on a weekly, even daily basis and learning from Kirsty was monumental in helping me not only make huge improvements with my mindset, but it helped me grow my business to the point where I had my highest earning month ever.
- It’s okay to change direction. Whilst I was working with Kirsty, I decided to do some work on my brand as a whole and I really took the time to work on WHO exactly it was I wanted to work with. I realised my current logo and brand just didn’t do it for me anymore, which is a hard thing to admit when you’re a graphic designer. My previous logo and brand had served me well (for 11 years), but it was time for an upgrade. I discovered my dream customer had changed quite a few times over the last 4 years and my visual brand needed to reflect my now dream customer. I also stripped back my service offering to one core service which simplified things greatly.
- YOU are your greatest asset. Over the last four years when I’ve become ill with a cold or suffered with a cluster of migraines, I powered through and didn’t really take a break. I struggle to relax because I have been ‘on the go’ for so long – do you ever feel like this too? So to take a proper break, stop everything, take a day or few days off to get better again was an alien concept to me. As business owners, when it’s just you as the service provider and people are effectively buying into you, your skills and expertise, you NEED to make taking care of YOU a priority. More self care, more healthy food, more regular exercise and more awareness of your energy on a day to day basis. When clients are relying on you to be the best version of you, you need to look after yourself as much as possible.
- You can’t please everyone. And this is something that can be hard to admit as well. Over the last four years there’s been a small handful of clients where it just didn’t work out and this isn’t spoken about often enough. Everyone has their own set of expectations and communication is KEY when you have a service based business. Being open and honest with your clients is important. Not only do your clients expect a certain level of service from you, but as a business owner it’s also important to expect the same level of respect and value back.
So, here’s to four great years in business and I’m very much looking forward to what the next 4 years and beyond have in store for me!
Tell me, how long have you been running your business for and what important lessons have you learnt along the way?