While preparing a presentation about branding and marketing to photographers I couldn't help but do some of my own soul-searching about who I am, what I do, why I do it and who I do it for.
I'm a firm believer that when you are ready for what you want, things will happen. It's like you are sending out some kind of awesome energy to the universe and it sends you what you need.
What I needed, though I didn't know it, was an email newsletter from Amy Hoy of Unicorn Free about a blog post by Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz.com. Naomi challenged her readers to answer some of those exact questions!
So I'm taking up Amy and Naomi on their challenge to do the same.
These are not easy questions and they are rock solid questions for anyone wanting to figure out what makes them unique or for those wanting a refresher (like me). Things may have changed and it's always a good idea to reevaluate to make sure you are on the right track. It's a lot like car maintenance: the 30K check or 60K tune-up.
Just like Amy and Naomi, I challenge you to answer these questions and post your link in the comments.
What’s your game? What do you do?
I help smart people take the scary out of being online. I help them navigate the chaos of choices when it comes to building a website.
I like to think of myself as the visual partner for businesses. I love a good brainstorm (I'm full of ideas) about ways to market a product, design content and distribute it.
We design logos, identity systems, print collateral, books for self-publishing, websites, and more. I have one part-time employee, Rachel Yoakum, and we have a great time working closely with our customers.
Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?
Love it. Love it. Love it. I'm not sure what a creepy knack is so I'll stick with the Luuuuuv :)
Design is magical because it affects our everyday lives. Everything has been designed (good or bad) from the way traffic moves through a city to the fork you use to eat.
Design isn't just about typefaces, colors, or graphics. I love the full range of how design can solve problems; how it affects the way people interact or how a product is used; how to communicate a message, a story, a feeling.
I love working with passionate, optimistic people who are committed to their dreams and go into business saying, "Yes!" to success.
Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?
My customers include a wide-range of small businesses: editorial photographers, wedding photographer, nonprofit foundations, jewelry designers, letterpress printer, winery, copywriter, a bed & breakfast...
The big deal is that recently I've decided to fine-tune my niche, my “target market” more to be the go-to designer for editorial and wedding photographers who need a designer to help them with their branding and marketing.
When I worked full-time for newspapers and magazines, I did my best to make sure pictures were used well; that the best pictures were used for a story. Before that, I went through a graduate program where most of my friends were photographers (photojournalists to be specific). I listened to their challenges, frustrations, hopes, joys, etc., and went out into the design world determined to be one of their advocates.
If there was a “picture friendly section” of the newspaper, I was usually assigned the section. When I moved into magazines I felt like hit the jackpot. It also helps that I'm married to a photographer and picture editor who also understands the challenges, the beauty and the business of design. We complement each other very well.
The kind of people who would need or want what I offer are people who are serious about their business and ready to invest in a professional solution. They understand the value of working with a professional designer.
I love working with people who have a dream, believe they deserve it and are totally committed to their business — anyone who needs a marketing-web-and-print-savvy designer and partner-in-crime to help them reach their fans.
They believe they have something special to offer and want to share it with the world. It's a lot of work, sure, and it's fun, exciting and the beauty is they get to be themselves.
What’s your marketing USP? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?
Some people think I’m the bomb. Really, go ahead and read what they have to say.
In all seriousness, I think big picture and I can get into the nitty gritty details. My background is in publishing and there are many similarities with producing a magazine and producing a website. I can easily maneuver from web to print so if you need an ebook or printed book or magazine, no problem. If you need a website, logo, business cards, brochures...let's talk!
I believe you can be small and powerful. You may not need all the accoutrements. I don't try to sell you features you don't need. I help you find what works best for your resources and goals. If we aren't the best fit, I'll try to make recommendations.
Photographers benefit from my experience being on the receiving end of their websites, promotions, etc. As a magazine art director I received TONS of promotional pieces. (Would you believe I still have several promotions from photographers and illustrators that made a lasting impression?) I also visited thousands of websites and back then, it was painful as a user. Now as an independent designer I approach my work to meet the goals of the photographer and to be compelling and useful as possible for art directors, picture editors, buyers or really whomever is determined to be the target audience.
My style is also not heavy on crazy graphics or web 2.0 glossy shit. I lean more minimalist and classy, especially for photographers. I have a special love for typography which I feel is at the heart of what makes websites “pretty”. Busy backgrounds? Crazy Photoshop effects? If that's what you are looking for, we're not a good match.
We also work closely with our developers to make sure the site is coded to be future proof. There are varying degrees of this depending on budgets and that's where we start. How can we design a website to scale easily and be backward compatible as technology evolves? We also do not use Flash unless it is needed for a specific use. Design and development work together from beginning to end.
What’s next for you? What’s the big plan?
More affordable website solutions for photographers who have smaller budgets and big dreams. I keep thinking there has to be a way for people to start out the gate without an enormous lump sum payment and look really polished and current (design + technology). I'm really excited. We already have some designs in the works.
We're also planning to create some print design solutions and I would love to develop some packages with my husband and picture editor, Mike Davis. We work well together so I think it'll be super fun.
The coming months will also bring a mini retreat where I'll be focusing on me, my business and what other types of solutions I can offer for photographers and businesses who really need some help getting out there. I have big plans to rock 2011 so I need some physical and mental space to create so I can tackle the new year fully armed and rested!