How I Gained New Projects And Designed More Products
This is a follow up story for Chirps & Cricket Design Studio. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello again! My name is Abigail Butler and I am the owner and sole designer at Chirps & Cricket Design Studio, located here in Denver, Colorado. Chirps & Cricket is a design studio that specializes in Bespoke Wedding Stationery, Graphic Design and Illustration, and Handmade Paper Goods.
Currently, my design services are heavily rooted in custom illustrations, wedding invitations, and marketing materials, including brochures, branding, and email/digital marketing. My clients typically range in variety (which I love!) from soon-to-be-married couples, small business owners, to commercial real estate brokers.
I am currently making a little over $1k/month on average. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that amount has fluctuated over this past summer, with some months being significantly higher, and some months being a bit under that amount. However I am happy to report that not only has my average monthly income increased since this time last year, but there also seems to be a much more consistent influx of new projects every month (even despite Covid)! This includes projects coming in from repeat clients as well as new clients.
I am so grateful and excited to say that, while it’s taken a little over three years and is still a work in progress, I feel like I am catching my stride with Chirps & Cricket: my work hours and routines are consistent, projects continue to role in (ranging in variety which keeps me on my toes both as an artist and as a business owner), my network continues to grow, and, most exciting of all to me, is that I now have the privilege to work as a full-time artist, which is something I’ve been working towards for a very long time!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
As mentioned, I am so excited to report that Chirps & Cricket has definitely grown since this time last year! Gaining new projects has become a consistent weekly or monthly affair, and I have gained new, repeat clients as a result. I am also excited to report I’ve designed more wedding stationery this year than any other year I’ve been in business!
Know that doing something, every day, pushes you in the right direction, even if you don’t immediately notice it.
Towards the end of 2019, I signed on to be a contract graphic designer for an international commercial real estate company. This boosted monthly revenue and created consistent hours from week to week. I also began working with the owner of Telescope Mapping, whose company is dedicated to helping early-stage entrepreneurs develop the first six months of their new business, design their first-ever workbook, set to be published in the next couple of weeks. Other notable areas that I’ve seen Chirps & Cricket grow is through working within the wedding industry, where I am now affiliated with and advertise through WeddingPro and The Knot.
Since my first Starter Story, I have decided to move away from my online stationery store. The store remains open, and still receives any orders that come in, however, the main focus of my business remains in offering graphic design and illustration services. Quite honestly this is mostly due to an organic shift that I began to experience towards the end of last year: I was receiving more projects, and therefore making more money as a graphic designer and illustrator, than I was selling stationery.
It has been interesting being a freelancer/business owner during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. The months of March, April, and May of 2020 remained busy, and I continued to work full-time hours. Most of this time was dedicated to marketing and collateral design for commercial real estate clients. All of my wedding clients have postponed their weddings until next year, but I have been able to hold on to each of those projects. All in all, I feel relieved that the Pandemic has left me so far only minorly affected, and that the studio continues to remain open for business and able to offer its services.
Chirps & Cricket continues to be a one-woman show and will most likely continue to be so for the foreseeable future. I absolutely love working for myself and handling all of the day-to-day tasks that come my way, both as a business owner and, essentially, as its only employee.
Since this time last year, not much has changed for Chirps & Cricket concerning marketing and advertising. I have gained new business and several new projects through referrals, word of mouth, and networking. Honestly, I cannot stress enough how much customer service is important for business! Giving great, personalized customer service has brought me not only repeat business that I count on heavily but also new projects and clients by way of referrals. Because I am a one-woman show, and my operating expenses are relatively low per month, this process has really been working for me and my business!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Here is what I feel that I’ve learned overall: endurance is key. There have been several stretches that have lasted for months (not necessarily this year but in years past) where I’ve seriously considered giving up and going back to work for someone else. I didn’t feel like I was cutting it and felt lost as to how to find business. By “sticking with it” I have come to realize that I’ve been able to, albeit somewhat slowly, grow my clientele, my network, my craft as an artist, and my business. I think that if you do at least one thing, something, anything, regarding growing your business and/or your craft each day, that counts as moving in the right direction. Some days we feel less motivated than others and I think that is very normal. But I also believe developing the discipline of doing at least one thing each day for your business helps to lay the groundwork for much more to come.
Another lesson I’ve learned is to be more specific and accurate when it comes to writing proposals and contracts. I’ve made some costly mistakes because I have not explicitly stated, for example, how many rounds of edits for custom artwork I would do, or have misestimated how many hours overall I thought a project would take. My advice when it comes to proposals and contracts for other creatives just starting is, don’t underestimate your value or your time as an artist. I would say most people that are our prospective clients do not quite have an understanding as to how much time custom artwork takes to execute and execute well. Don’t be afraid to charge accordingly!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
This year I am planning on launching a minor rebrand for my business! The new logo has been made, and the new, refreshed website is almost complete. As it stands now (September 2020) my current portfolio on my current website is sorely out of date. I cannot wait to share the updated and refreshed portfolio/website with you all!
I am excited about seeing the wedding side of my business grow. I truly enjoy working with soon-to-be-married couples (of all kinds!) to create custom stationery for their upcoming celebrations. For me, it’s such a fun design problem to solve: it requires getting to know people somewhat personally and executing a creative solution for their very intimate event. It’s full of challenges but in the end, is also very rewarding both as an artist and as a human in general.
I create design mostly for print, and therefore, I’d love to explore ways in which to make my business more sustainable and eco-friendly. While I always work towards being earth-friendly, I do believe there are ways in which I can be doing more to do my part to help our Earth. I have considered saving ALL of my paper scraps (instead of putting them in the recycling bin) from past projects and creating my own paper line. It would begin as a boutique, handmade paper shop, and go from there. We shall see!
My 5-year plan is to continue to see my monthly revenue increase, to continue to work full-time hours for myself, to continue working full-time as an artist, to continue to make my repeat and new clients happy, and to gain new repeat clients. My goals are to continue learning and practicing my craft, continuing to grow, and learn about being a business owner and to maintain and make new relationships in my industry and beyond.
This will be the new Chirps & Cricket logo! I am hoping the launch of the new brand and the website/portfolio will happen a little later this year.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Oh yeah, definitely! I’ve read (and recommend for creative entrepreneurs):
- The E Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber
- How To Get Ideas, by Jack Foster
- Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland
- Show Your Work!, by Austin Kleon
- Difference, by Bernadette Jiwa
- Marketing: A Love Story, by Bernadette Jiwa
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Remember to not give up. For some, it might come down to endurance, and possibly for others, discipline. If you’re struggling with either one, remember to do at least one thing, every day, for your craft as an artist, or as an entrepreneur. It could be something as small as watching a 10-minute youtube video about marketing using Instagram, or a 5-minute video on a drawing technique you’ve been meaning to try. It could also be opening your sketch up and creating something, or it could be something even a little bit scarier and making a cold call to a prospective client. Know that doing something, every day, pushes you in the right direction, even if you don’t immediately notice it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not looking to hire right now, but I am definitely interested in collaborations and meeting new people. Please don’t hesitate to drop a line and say hi!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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