5 min read
Picture this: it’s the summer of 2022. I’m riding a high after landing my first five-figure brand design project earlier that spring. At that point, I was used to closing every single sales call I went on. But after getting ghosted not once, not twice, but four times in a row, I slightly began to panic.
Who could blame me? Other creatives from the digital marketing industry were flooding my newsletter inbox and Instagram feed, talking about how inquiries were down and how to adapt your business for a recession. So many brand and web designers, like myself, started offering a single day of “done for you” design service.
Until then, I typically worked with clients for around six months, so cutting design down to a day was a massive shift in my business.
For the better part of a year, I booked day-rate services called Studio Days for brand strategy and design. However, during that time, I didn’t pitch or book one of the higher-priced Comprehensive Brand Design packages that were my bread and butter.
Even though I was busy, my bottom line took a hit, and so did the customer experience.
Ouch. That one hurt to admit.
Almost a year later, I can confidently say that Offering day rates changed how I do business, but I stopped offering them anyways.
Initially, A “design in a day” package sounded appealing to clients, but building your brand involves emotional decisions. Making choices on a logo suite or website in a single day wasn’t in line with my passion-driven, creative entrepreneur clients. In addition, the day rate model didn’t suit my creative process, design style, or workflow.
But some things about these services were working, mainly when it came to the strategy side of things.
For example, the Brand Audit, Planning, and Strategy days I worked on went wonderfully. Those days lit me up. I had so much fun and felt it was a sustainable piece of that service.
So, I bit the bullet, pulled on my high-waisted, bell-bottomed, big-girl pants, and asked for feedback from other service-based creatives. Then, I did a deep dive into my brand strategy and updated my service model to create three tiers of services. These tiers were based on the individual branding journey and were redesigned to keep that custom thread that speaks to my creative process.
Strategy-based Studio Days shifted from a day rate to a week-long project, and design-based Studio Days transformed into 2-week Branding Intensives.
Studio Day and Brand Intensive packages were redesigned so clients could combine services in à la carte style to fit their budget, with returning clients in mind.
I positioned my comprehensive, custom work as my signature service, stopped selling based on deliverables, and started selling based on the difference in experience.
And guess what… I started booking more of my signature service: Comprehensive Brand Design.
Now, I’m well on my way to meeting my Q2 revenue goal for Cedar June.
Even if you don’t offer a done-for-you service-based brand (I’m talking to you, creatives, and coaches), some of the lessons I learned from trying and somewhat failing at day rates can still apply to your brand and business.
During my journey of “to day rate or not to day rate,” I revived Cedar June’s brand strategy. This included gaining a deeper understanding of my audience and ideal clients and how I could best serve them by offering products and services for different brand-building seasons.
Once I coined my Comprehensive Brand Experience as my signature service, I could set better expectations for the difference in client experience. Everyone wants to be in the front row, but unless you’re Catie circa 2013 sneaking into the front row of Dave Matthews Band, you won’t get the front row experience on a lawn seat budget. That doesn’t mean you’ll have a bad night on the lawn, but you should expect a different experience than a VIP.
For the last year, I have meticulously tracked my time and performed monthly and quarterly reflections to evaluate what has been working and not working in my business. This practice helps me to identify problems, modify my services to serve clients, and create from a place of strategy.
Building and managing a brand is an ongoing task that requires tracking conversions and revenue and being open to making changes when necessary. This is especially important in the early stages of establishing a brand (the first 3-5 years).
I’m only two years into building Cedar June, and I’ve tried many things. Each misstep has brought me closer to the business I want at the five-year mark.
Part of building a brand is testing new offers and products. It is easy to look at what other creators in your industry are selling and think you need to offer the same things. However, the more you understand your brand’s strategy, the better you can gauge what works for your unique audience.
With the right strategy in tow, you can position your services effectively, gain an awareness of your time and workflow, and confidently make strategic decisions. Remember, challenges are part of building a brand. So, keep pivoting until you find the right formula for your business.
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