The Lab Report: My Monthly Freelance Biz Breakdown – May 2014
Each month I write a detailed report about my freelance business, Never North Labs, and the journey I’m going on to CRUSH IT! I go over the direction I’m taking my business, lessons learned, mistakes I made, and other important happenings.
I do this because I believe in transparency and authenticity online and you should know who I am what I’m doing in my own business (the good, the bad, and the ugly). I’m just an ordinary person like you, with my own baggage and life problems, yet I’m working hard to build the life and business I’ve been dreaming of.
I want to take you along for the ride so you can not only see that it’s possible, but that we all struggle in our own ways. At Never North we go to battle together as doers and by participating here you’ll see your own journey expand.
This is not all about me, please post your own monthly update in the comments section. Let’s follow each other’s journey and grow together as a community that wants to use our creativity to design a better tomorrow.
So let’s get into it!
Last month I talked about how I dropped most of my design clients and began to create a new design consulting offer that better fits my life and the learnings I’ve made the past few years since ‘quitting’ my biz and starting over in 2011.
While I love the creative design projects I do now… I don’t love doing the technical design part of the work. This was a huge realization for me since I’m such a perfectionist it can take me an ungodly amount of time to create. This makes my time estimates wildly inaccurate.
For the last six months I’ve been really overwhelmed with work due to life circumstances, months of scheduled projects (blessing and a curse), and medical issues so something had to change fast.Since it takes me a long time to do my design work, this only made it worse… I refuse to put out crap work just to deliver faster. I want to be known for quality.
I’ve been working to restructure my business to focus on the tasks I actually love doing and hiring more contractors to help with various aspects of my projects to speed things up and ease frusteration.
Last months report went into a lot of details for the overall picture since it was the first one, so this month I’m going to fill in more of my personal learnings as they’ve developed this past month.
When I thought about my own personal genius and the type of tasks I loved doing I came up with the following:
- Brutally Honest Feedback. Not for the faint of heart. Pointing out flaws in design (and other creative mediums) and giving specific feedback for improvement.
- Ability to immerse myself in a target audience and create unique ideas and new ways of seeing things.
- Identifying problems or areas of improvement in user experience and marketing models along with ways to improve or fix them.
- Creative directing and pushing people to do great work.
So to do some research I went to reddit and posted an AMA (Ask me anything) to the subreddit r/entrepreneur. In this thread and via private message I helped a ton of businesses with brutally honest feedback and suggestions for improvement.
This helped me understand how I could shape my offer and understand what my target audience really needed my help with. It was very well received and landed me my first consulting sale.
Here are a few things people have said to validate the above (clients or people I helped):
- “Let me tell you guys, Quinn is the bomb! She’s so good at what she does and she will be honest. Sometimes I want to close my ears as I just want to be lazy, but she really helps us to stretch and do better.”
- “I have been going through all your tips in that thread (lots of solid gold in there) and I noticed that you mentioned offerings. I would certainly be interested, so hey, please name your price and take my money!”
- “Thanks Quinn. Truth bomb is right! lol. I really appreciate you taking the time to have a look and make a video!”
- “MASSIVE THANKS Quinn. Have just watched the video – twice – and written down all of your suggestions. You’ve really understood where I’ve actually been struggling so it was great to have it all laid out for me. Will def concentrate on the wording and home page first, might have to find a new template now that’s a bit more flexible Thanks again xxx”
Score! This means I’m on the right track and on to something, but I’m not out of the woods just yet. More research and process development is needed.
The Creative Practice
Because everything got out of wack, so was my creative practice. When you have so much on your plate, it feels like you don’t have time for anything else, but really it just holds you back even more. I should know better.
Getting out, relaxing, and doing physical exercise boosts creativity so ignoring this only make the battle more difficult. It is also imperative for my health condition that I never stop exercising. Because of this I am dealing with additional health problems that could have totally been prevented had I kept this practice up.
Bad Quinn. Lesson Learned.
Since I made such a huge pivot and dropped my security as well as hired contractors to help me complete things it really placed a strain on finances. I committed to several large financial obligations without the money in my account or a guaranteed way to pay for them.
I had to have faith in my abilities to figure it out and make shit happen.
Last month I talked about the money trees in my mind and focusing on my ability to create the money. This mindset has never failed me, but there is definitely a pucker factor going on.
I ended up getting hit this month with several financial blows, but the fort is still standing and I survived. I know it won’t stay that way for long—this is a transition period—I just need to continue to move forward on my consulting offer and make sales.
Stuck In the Weeds.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but yet it seems so far away at the same time. I feel like I’ve climbed all 7 summits with the amount of things I’ve dealt with and the number of things on my plate that need to be completed. Given the financial situation I’ve had to focus most of my energy on money-generating activities and clearing my plate.
This meant that I had to neglect momentum with Never North for a bit, but soon as I get out of the weeds. We’re golden.
I had hired Chanelle to project manage and take care of processes, but it ends up that the kind of project management help I need was not something she was able to do. Her superpower lies in automation and process development which is secondary to the project management at this time.
So I put this new system on hold and went back to my current system until I could properly dedicate the time to make it right. This month was about prioritization and redesigning project management and systems did not make the list.
Plans and Pivots
My goals in the last lab report were:
- Complete my new consulting offer and be ready to launch it by June 1st.
- Get the last two big projects off my plate and start designing Dark Sail live on Never North by the end of May.
- Complete the new project management system for my business with Chanelle.
- Take No Zero Day one step further and add in one of The Creative Practices each day. One baby step at a time.
Well none of those things happened in the way I intended them to. *Facepalm*
One – Complete my new consulting offer and be ready to launch it by June 1st
I made the decision to not launch my consulting service for at least a few months. After working with my beta users I realized that I needed to go through the process a few times to fully develop out the offer before I launched it officially.
It’s okay to change plans when you realize something like this. It’s better to pivot and do what’s right than continue to move in the wrong direction.
It's better to pivot in your biz, than continue moving in the wrong direction. Click to tweet.
It's better to pivot in your biz, than continue moving in the wrong direction. Click to tweet.
I will continue to use Reddit to build up my username and better understand how my audience values my genius.
One big key learning was that businesses that were not making money valued my advice around $5 at best, whereas businesses that were making money and had user experience or conversion problems valued it from $500 to $10,000. They understood that fixing these problems would open up the flood gates and make them more money.
The people who were not making money could not see this. They were not beliebers.
It’s better to spend the time to figure this out and do it right than just rush to put something up. Results will pay off in the long run.
Two – Get the last two big projects off my plate and start designing Dark Sail live on Never North by the end of May.
I did complete my final projects that I needed to get off of my plate so my workload is now manageable. There is still a lot to do, but it has moved forward albeit slowly. I will post the final Never North launch article next week and the week after the Dark Sail Voyage will begin. It will be a fun experience to design a brand and website live with you guys.
If anyone has any suggestions or things they would like to see in this post series, please contact me. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Three – Complete the new project management system for my business with Chanelle.
This was set aside for the time being as described above and will be picked up next month.
Four – Take No Zero Day one step further and add in one of The Creative Practices each day. One baby step at a time.
I have been doing my No Zero Day without fail, but my creative practice suffered as described above.
On May 28th we left Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and headed on an epic 3-day journey to Rome, Italy.
We had a few hours in New York City with a fellow Northie, Patrizio, who was able to pick us up and bring us to the next airport. We will be in Rome for the next 3 months and I will be learning Italian. Our apartment is just outside the center and next to a historical park where we can take long walks with our traveling dog, Zulu.
If anyone is in Rome and would like to meet up please contact me. I love meeting Northies!!!
- Figure out how to replace my design income without launching my consulting offer. (More beta users)
- Find someone to help me with project management and setting up the new system.
- Build credibility/karma on Reddit and spend more time researching my target audience.
- Begin designing Dark Sail Voyage live on Never North with the first logo process post.
Each month I highlight my favorite e-mail I’ve received and have it illustrated. This month’s illustration is one of my favs.
“This little corner in the Universe of the Internet emits feelings of safety, possibility, and creativity. I’ve never experienced such emotions with a blog before.
“I’m a 21 year fun-loving, entrepreneur currently residing in sunny California. In the last 48 months my life has dramatically shifted on many fronts. Ups, downs, and side-to-sides. Not as severe as your frequent hospital visits, but certainly impactful nonetheless. I’ve been scammed, robbed, graduated, won, lost, been heartbroken, witnessed my parents split up, and tasted victory. And you know what? In retrospect, I am in love with all that has happened and that IS happening. Right now, in this very moment. I’ve come away with such an inspired and happy outlook on life – and this what I connected with on a very deep, core level.
So it goes.
I heard once that those who are brave (read: crazy) enough to think they can change the world, end up doing it.So it goes.”
Yes. Yes, they do. Rock On.
OKAY, Now IT’S YOUR TURN.
Today I want you to tell me one area of your life where you want to accomplish something big—start a freelance business, land your dream client, build confidence, etc.— but you’re stuck.
Share your story in the comments below.