Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Kelsey Chance and I run Good Chance Creative, a creative agency specializing in social media content creation! I work with companies to manage their social media pages, take and post custom lifestyle imagery of their products and services, and strategize creative ways to keep their social media posts, reels, stories, and videos on-trend and successful!
I’ve found my niche in working with small in-house marketing teams and start-ups managing their social content. I do everything from creating eCommerce campaign concepts to the actual shooting of the images in my studio, all the way to posting the content and engaging on client social accounts. I run a full-service social media creative agency, and it is quite literally full-service. The goal is to allow companies the freedom to focus on their own services and products, and not think twice about the daunting world that is ‘social media’ and its ever-changing algorithms.
The key services I offer are:
- Custom lifestyle brand photography
- Social media account management
- Copywriting for social captions and blog posts
- Studio product photography
- Creative, social, and eCommerce strategy consulting
With the success of Good Chance Creative, I was able to launch a photo studio where I work and shoot content. I also rent the space out to other photographers and content creators and have formed a secondary revenue stream through this.
In just 3 years of business, I am a one-woman entrepreneur making $20,000.00 in monthly revenue at the age of 33.
How I got there:
- Lifestyle and studio photo shoots: $5.5k/mo (on average)
- Social media account management: $12.5k/mo, 10 clients on a monthly retainer
- Studio rentals: $2k/mo (on average)
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I love social media. That’s really the heart and soul of all of this. I started an Instagram account for my dog in 2014 and it blew up to 15k followers in a few months, quickly teaching me the ins and outs of social influence and the power and hilarity that comes with a large online network. I was working as a paralegal at the time and found myself quickly getting more excited about my dog’s next cute photo and brand deal than I was about studying case law. I was hooked. But I never in a million years pictured myself turning social media into my career.
Protect your time at all costs. Time is your most valuable asset, and that means that as soon as a client books you for a shoot date, you collect a deposit to hold that date.
From 2014-2017, I weaseled my way into the creative scene in my hometown: helping style local photoshoots, learning photography as a second shooter for a wedding photographer, and eventually canceling law school plans and turning them into art school plans. I spent 2 years in art school studying graphic design before getting a job offer doing marketing and branding for a winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon in 2017.
This is where the story truly begins. I ran around all day every day taking photos and posting them on the winery’s social media pages. The accounts I managed started to gain attention in the wine industry - a place where social media marketing hadn’t really caught on yet. After a year, I left the winery and started working freelance for other wine brands who were wanting to level up their social media game. Good Chance Creative was started in 2018 as a side-hustle social media agency for wineries while I went to work in-house doing social media work for Kroger Co. in Portland, OR. I quickly learned the ins and outs of corporate social media budgets, campaign-driven social content, and PR management on accounts with massive followings. While I worked in the Kroger marketing department, I continued to build up my client list for Good Chance and took on photoshoots, consultations, and client calls outside of my 9-5 job. In August 2019, I finally took the plunge and quit my full-time corporate creative job for my freelance creative job. I had waited until I was making the same in annual revenue with a Good Chance that I was making in my annual salary at Kroger before I felt comfortable making the move. And oh, did it pay off!
Working for myself was always the end goal. Feeling small and creatively limited in a massive corporation was one of the most challenging experiences of my professional life, and I was ready to drive my own career decisions and manage my own client’s creative campaigns. As soon as I went full-time with Good Chance, it felt like the work just quadrupled. Word of mouth, client referrals, and putting myself out there at every possible networking event was and always has been my only method of marketing. Besides my social media accounts, of course.
My first 6 months full-time with Good Chance was spent attending women in business conferences, grabbing coffee with other creatives, co-working with women in my industry, and collaborating as often as I possibly could around Portland. I wasn’t focused on seeking out new clients; I was focused on seeking out new creative inspiration and business advice to lay the foundation of something successful. I knew that if I did want to be successful, I was going to have to blend the campaign-driven corporate creative structure I had so deeply come to know at Kroger with that other deep love of running around a vineyard taking photos. Creating a career of structure and deadlines mixed with total, uninhibited creativity was the goal, and I absorbed all of the advice and wisdom I possibly could. I met with free small business mentors through SCORE, reached out to women in business that I admired (the power of a DM is amazing!), attended Design Week PDX to listen to speakers, joined the League of Women Designers, co-worked with inspiring women at countless events, and just soaked in all of the shared insight I could glean.
I am so grateful for the creative women in Portland I met during those 6 months. When COVID hit, it all shifted. March of 2020, I started refocusing on the clients I had and the world of PR crisis management. Social media managers in 2020 were busy, to say the least. I stopped shooting carefree content and started to lean into social media messaging with purpose. It was a year of incredible thought, endless at-home photoshoots, and a rethinking of social media strategy for most of my clients. I only lost one client due to the pandemic, and I am forever grateful for the stability I was able to maintain during this time. Keeping my social media clients well served during 2020 required more of my time, and eventually also required a private studio space outside of my home. During November of 2020, I took the leap and signed a lease on a studio back home in Bellingham, WA, hired an assistant, and have continued to grow my client list exponentially.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Having a love for social media means I’ve always kept pretty close tabs on all platforms, algorithms, trends, and case studies. It was always an interest of mine, so discovering that people would pay me for this knowledge was really enlightening. But, HOW MUCH?!
When I was putting together my initial services and offerings, I really had no frame of reference. There aren’t many one-person creative agencies out there who are doing what I’m doing: strategy, photography, and social media account management. I knew these services were a huge value but also knew my initial target client base would likely be small businesses with not much budget. I started by offering “trial months” for $300/month to businesses who wanted to see what it was like to have someone else manage their social media, with no strings attached. I started an Instagram account for Good Chance Creative, and just like that - my own network started to send me work and referrals! I was staying active on my social pages (and offering good content), so others were more likely to trust me and pay me to manage theirs.
My first real client was a wine brand with a brand manager I just totally jived with. We saw each others' visions, and she didn’t bat an eye at me when I threw out $500/month for full account management with custom photography. I cringe now thinking about how much I lowballed myself, but I’ve kept this client for all 3 years of my business, gradually raising rates, and I believe this client single-handedly grew my niche in wine marketing and eventually led me to work with 20+ wineries and counting. Talk about the payoff. There is value in working with lower-budget companies if it’s a vision you totally align with. If you jive and it doesn’t feel like work, run with that.
I now charge much more than $500/month for this work, but pricing was and still is an ongoing struggle. It is something I continually stay mindful of and do as much research as possible on to ensure I’m staying competitive. The greatest piece of advice I was given when determining my price was this: Don’t price yourself based on what you think others should pay, price yourself based on what will excite you to do the job. The busier I get, the more I realize that my time is becoming more and more valuable, which has led to impulsive and on-the-fly price increases as needed. I’m still figuring it all out, and it’ll likely be a continual assessing and reassessing process.
Describe the process of launching the business.
My “launch” looked like this: me, sitting alone in a Starbucks in Beaverton, OR. I had to return my laptop and camera when I left the winery I was working at, so I had just met up with someone from Craigslist to buy his Canon 5D Mark II for $400. I didn’t have enough money to buy my own laptop, so my boyfriend Spencer (now husband) bought me one and I paid him back later. I had a new (used) laptop and a new (used) camera and felt absolutely terrified. I sat down in Starbucks and googled everything I possibly could to figure out how to file for a business license. The name Good Chance Creative came to me on a whim, and I started my Squarespace website, email account, and bank account all on that same day - February 5th, 2018. In total, I spent $1700 on all startup costs including gear, business filings, and website.
My concept was simple: I wanted to run around wineries taking photos and running their social media pages. Oregon is home to 700+ wineries, so I knew this would be my niche. I launched my business and then waited, waited for creative work to come my way. And it didn’t come all that quick. So I said yes to anything and everything: I designed wedding invitations, designed logos, took engagement photos, and mostly just spent full days writing blog posts, taking photos of things around my apartment, and trying to keep myself busy on personal projects and self-promotion of my new business. But I was running out of cash. So I found myself a job on the social media team in-house at Kroger while pursuing my dreams on the side.
I landed my first real client, Wine By Joe, about a month after launching a Good Chance. They were my absolute life-changing clients. About 6 months later I booked a photoshoot for another wine brand that I found by chance - I had posted a couple of wine photos on a free stock website (unsplash.com) and they were getting seen. 6 months after that, at my 1-year mark, I finally landed a second social media wine brand client, and I started to gain confidence. By a year and a half in business, I had 5 social media clients and was booking wine photoshoots about every 2 months or so. Word was spreading about what I was doing in a niche that hadn’t really been tapped yet, and I started getting inquiries every single week for photo and social media work! I was making about $4,000 a month on Good Chance income and was ready to leave my full-time job. It’s amazing how much respect you seem to get from your employer when you tell them you’re leaving to pursue your dreams. I’ll always be grateful for that.
After a year and a half in business, in August of 2019, I officially launched as a fully self-employed entrepreneur. I am so glad I waited as long as I did. I was able to build up my client base and feel more self-confident. I am also so glad I didn’t wait any longer. I was having to turn down my own photoshoot opportunities because they overlapped with shoots I was doing for Kroger, and that’s when I knew I needed to fledge from the corporate world to start prioritizing my own creative endeavors.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launching, the biggest thing that has helped me attract and retain customers has been having a strong network of humans in my life who refer me to anyone and everyone. This is not something I take for granted - every single referral that comes my way has been such a gift! Promoting myself to my network and making sure everyone I know is aware of the business I do will always feel weird. But it’s gotten me work and for that, I am so thankful.
Retaining clients once I onboard them has simply come down to this: building a fun relationship backed by reliable work. Never dropping the ball has been the driving force behind my work. I’m a perfectionist. Having my name (and my name alone) associated with publicly shared brand content means I must ensure that content is truthful, beautiful, authentic, legal, and absolutely scroll-stopping. The wine industry has a lot of rules about what you can and cannot post!
The key to client retention for me has been always talking human to human rather than business to business. My clients are friends and I think those relationships mean more than anything in client partnership longevity. Hopping on zoom calls and chatting about new hair, weekend plans, pets, etc. helps me know the true humans behind the brands I’m working with. It may be business, but forming connections is the key to good work.
I am so grateful that all of my traffic and sales come from people finding me. If it’s not a referral, it’s typical clients finding me on Instagram! Ironically: as someone who helps brands promote their message online, learning the art of self-promotion on social media has been absolutely painful for me. I hate it. But keeping your accounts active with new projects, new work, and little daily updates is a really great way to keep people engaged in what you do and how you work!
Do your own thing - if you’re authentically yourself online, you’ll attract the type of client that wants to work with you for YOU. And that’s the dream.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As of today, I’m the busiest I’ve ever been, with June 2021 being the busiest month of my career. I’ll bill for $25k revenue. My margins are good, as I don’t have to worry about any cost of goods or too much overhead. I have several contractors that I pay as well as my studio rent, but in general this business has been more successful than I ever dreamed. I plan to bring on more contractors to help with project-based creative work, which will allow me to work with more clients in more industries.
Short-term goals for Good Chance Creative include moving into a new, larger studio space and restructuring some contracts to remove some of the day-to-day social media work I’m doing and make it more focused on creative photo work. Long-term goals include scaling! I need to lean into the service people are seeking me out for more and more: fully produced lifestyle photoshoots! It’s the work I love to do the most, and it’s becoming the bulk of my work more and more. I’m also excited to hire more help, get systems in place, work with new clients, and build stronger work/life boundaries!
My new studio space:
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest learning moments I’ve had all come from making big mistakes along the way. Here are my biggest:
Don’t hire friends. No matter how talented they are. I’ve heard this advice given a million times, but sometimes lines get blurred when you are building a professional network in the creative community. Like, are we friends, or are we just coworking and shooting photos together while having a good time? Tough to know sometimes. But if someone is a friend you hang out with and share a close personal bond with, don’t bring professional work dynamics into the mix. Either a friendship will suffer or your work will suffer, and sometimes both.
Protect your time at all costs. Time is your most valuable asset, and that means that as soon as a client books you for a shoot date, you collect a deposit to hold that date. I operated on good faith that I’d be paid in full upon delivery of images, and that just isn’t enough. I have had out-of-state shoots canceled while en route or shoots canceled the day before with no way to recoup lost time and lost potential work on those dates. Always collect deposits!
Speak openly and honestly about your rates for your work with others in your field. If you don’t, you have no idea who you could be undercutting or who could be undercutting you. One of the biggest mistakes of my career was agreeing to do some creative work for a very low price, and setting up multiple other creative women in my field to have their (very appropriate) prices scoffed at by that same client later on. I am forever grateful that I found out about this, and immediately adjusted my prices thereafter.
If you don’t know how to do something, know that countless contractors and partners can aid you. I’ve been really grateful to work alongside digital agency partners who bring me on for creative work, and who can take on the paid ads portion of my client needs. The best business decisions I’ve ever made include outsourcing work to others when I don’t have the time or skill. It’s humbling and thrilling to be reminded that there are others out there much more qualified to do the work you’re too overwhelmed with to do well!
Stay open to work outside of your geography. I owe a lot of my success to branding myself as more than just a creative agency in the geolocation that I live in. I happily work remote for most of my job and travel to clients at the drop of a hat as needed. This has helped me expand my business to clientele with larger project scopes, looser marketing budgets, and bigger productions. Small creative agencies can tend to think on a smaller scale. We have fewer resources so box ourselves into smaller niches. But I’m learning that fewer resources just means more opportunity to build partnerships, stay nimble, and keep client relations human-centered.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I wouldn’t be able to survive without Quickbooks! I use this tool for all of my invoicing and it keeps track of my expenses and categorizes them as well. As someone who has no financial mind and no desire to keep track of any of the backend numbers, my bookkeeper and my accountant are also absolute treasures to me.
For my social media client work, I love Sprout Social for its reporting tools. For planning content and posts, I love Planoly and Later. Later offers intuitive hashtags which I appreciate. I have also used Sprinklr and Tailwind in the past which have higher price tags but are powerful social media tools!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz has been my favorite podcast to listen to for entrepreneurial inspiration. A successful business owner is interviewed and gives their full story from idea to launch and beyond. I’m intimidated and full of self-doubt, so I find it reassuring to gain insight into others’ struggles and the ability to overcome fear. Starting a business is not for the risk-averse, so inherently this podcast features many wild personalities with wonderful stories to share.
I also cannot stress enough how influential it has been to network with other creative women in this industry. Grabbing coffee with people who are doing exactly what you hope to be doing in 10 years is a really inspiring way to spend time, gain insights, and build new relationships. I am endlessly grateful for every woman I have ever talked shop with and those nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned are some I hold dear.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My top tip is to find the thing that sucks you in wholeheartedly and make THAT thing your business. The thing you never dreamed of making a career out of, but would love to do for the rest of your life. If you’re not working for your own dreams, you’re working for someone else’s. It sounds so simple because it really is that simple!
Starting slow and doing as much prep work and research as possible should never delay your LAUNCH! You just have to do it. You’ll psych yourself out if you overthink it and we really are our own worst critics. So just start. File the LLC, start the website, and just start. It can be done in an afternoon at a Starbucks.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
In the next few months, I will be planning to hire additional contract workers! Specifically, I’d love to find people who are skilled in copywriting for social media posts, social media post scheduling, shooting and editing reels, and managing social accounts. Paid, contract, part-time.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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