When I asked on Instagram about career related topics you would want to read about, one was personal experiences with having my own business and the freelance life. Since it was my two year business anniversary yesterday, I figured I share what I exactly do and the road I’ve been on.
I just hope at the end of this blog post you’ll still want to start your own business because even with the downs, I love being my own boss.
THROWBACK TO 2017
If you did not know yet I will catch you up with how it all started. Well if we start at where the idea even started we have to go back to the early 2010s. Because the idea of being a brand designer have always been there. However I took became the official business owner of Fiona Gobbo Creative on May 15th 2017.
Why I finally took the leap? After years of struggling to get a job after graduating in 2014 I decided to take my chance with a content creation traineeship. This was at the end of 2016, big things had happened, I wasn’t in the best of places to be honest and I figured that this was an opportunity to try to get something on my resume. The traineeship consisted of one month of training and 6/7 months of working in a company. The pay was not great but my parents thankfully helped me out.
During this month of training I got a refresh of the things I already learned during my four years in college but I also learned new skills. One of them was discovering Illustrator. I was familiar with Adobe Photoshop and InDesign but Illustrator always felt like too difficult to master. But slowly but steadily during my 6 months of working in the marketing agency it became my main program to work with to create graphics for social media and newsletters.
And that’s when I realized ‘Sh*t I can do this’.
I was able to take the second step in my journey to becoming the brand designer I am today. I mixed my knowledge and feeling for branding with design. When I designed for clients I thought about what the company stood for and how I could create content that communicated who they were.
MY FIRST CLIENTS
Around my contract extension after six months of working within the agency I took the step to go to my local business registration office and became an official freelance business. I had toyed around with different names — FG studio, Fiona Gobbo Studio — I decided on Fiona Gobbo Creative. Next came the website. And then my first real client.
My first client was an event based project. It was an art route organized by my brothers now wife. I was in charge of social media and content. We had to step up the whole thing in a short amount of time and there were a lot of setbacks — from the weather to the website to the sometimes awful feedback the event organizer had to endure. But in the end I think everyone gave it their all and we made it the best event it could be in such a short amount of time.
The second client I had was through the company where I had my content creation training. It was a company that created a sales app. He wanted a Mailchimp newsletter design to use to communicate with their clients. In all honesty, I do not know if they ever used the design.
The last big client I had during my first year was the marketing agency that I worked for. After a year they decided to not extend my contract for a second time and I worked from them freelance. I kept on designing newsletter header images for them and made a pretty decent income.
THE THINGS THAT I LEARNED THAT YEAR…
Is that I should not stray from your core business and the brands and companies I want to work for.
I’m super grateful for everyone who took a chance on me that first year and I learned a lot. However, would I ever make a newsletter design? Unless I’m involved with the company, I don’t think I would. I would love to know more about the strategy behind it as well.
The same thing goes for the art event. It was a great opportunity that I’m grateful for but I also realized that social media for an art event is not something I excel at. I’m not emerged in the community and I think with social media you kind of have to be. I’m definitely still open to designing for events but for social media you need to build communities.
THE UPS & DOWNS
In the beginning of 2018 it became apparent that I couldn’t live off what I was making as a freelancer. I decided to go for a parttime job at a brand agency and I was on secondment in the offices of a big name in the beauty industry. During this period I also still worked with the marketing agency I worked at before and juggled my freelance work with 4 days in the office.
After a while it became apparent to me that the parttime job wasn’t fully for me — I loved the environment I worked in but the work itself was not on my level. I saved up all my incoming salary and decided to quit the job to start freelancing fulltime. I figured I could make it with the saved up money and the money coming in from the marketing agency.
And then on the last day at the parttime job, just before I got on the justify I decided to check my email. And there it was, the marketing agency had decided they were going to take the designing in house. I was starting my second year without any projects and no back-up plan.
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
So I’m not going to lie, that was a big step back in terms of my plan. I had kind of counted on having an income which now I didn’t have. Luckily I saved up and have managed to stay afloat til now.
So the biggest downs were definitely all growth and money related — why wasn’t I growing as fast as I planned to? Why wasn’t I making the money I had planned on making? But like with all things, it just takes time. Which is what I’m — at the very least — trying to come to terms with.
This second year has also come with a lot of ups:
• Meeting the girls from NTWRKPLK — it helps to create a community of likeminded women around you that you can vent and celebrate with.
• The founder of NTWRKPLK, Lilian, took a chance and we have worked on many design projects together. She’s also became my biggest ambassador, hustling new clients.
• My first big branding project. Also thanks to ladies from NTWRKPLK — if by now you’re still not convinced to get yourself a girl gang than I don’t know what will.
• I got to help many starting business owners by creating a beautiful brand identity for them.
• And I took the plunge into a new market: luxury branding. The place in branding I feel I can make the biggest impact with my design & branding skills.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME
The big question for this year: What is next for Fiona Gobbo Creative?
Mostly growth. I’m taking a leap into the luxury market. Something almost new to me. I’m also working on a growth plan to make my business more visible for potential clients. And along the way, I want to make more money.
The reason I got into brand design is because I want to help brands and businesses by creating a beautiful branding for them. But I also started this business because I want to have the freedom. Freedom to decide when I work and where I work — not at set times but when I’m most productive. I want the freedom of deciding on which projects I want to work on. And earning an income from the projects I work on will give me that freedom.
Other than growth, I want more projects to work on. I hate doing nothing. I want to keep developing my skills. And although there is still enough to do for my own business, I love working on projects for clients the most.