Our first panel discussion and networking event was fun and super insightful. I wanted to recap just a few points of what we learned at See Girl Work SS17.
On May 11th, we brought together a small group of women to network, mix and mingle at a loft studio space in downtown Toronto.
The discussions of the evening focused on branding, brand strategy and how to market your business in order to attract clients and grow our businesses.
Our curated panel lineup included Janelle Morgan, Founder and Agency Director at Morgan Model Management, Emilia Farrace, Founder and Creative Director at Simply Elaborate Creative, Kim Miyama, Founder and Principal Planner at Kim Miyama Events, and Maria Piñeros, Creative Director at Joint Development Collective (JDC).
It was refreshing to have a professionally diverse group of women with real talk on the strategic thinking and planning that goes into building a sustainable brand.
Building a brand is not just about a logo, a colour scheme or a website. As business owners — we really have to know our business values, our unique offering, and most importantly, we really have to know our customers.
It was a fun and super insightful event and I wanted to recap just a few points of what we learned at See Girl Work SS17.
Know Your Business and Your Goals
When it comes to the first steps in branding and marketing our businesses, Maria Piñeros pointed out how essential it is for us to know our goals and what we want to accomplish in our business.
It’s almost impossible to successfully design a well thought-out brand design without knowing what that brand is supposed to accomplish.
Unless we have a thorough understanding of our industry, values, mission and the goals we’d like to achieve for our businesses and for our customers or clients, we’re not going to able to design a brand that responds to those other components.
It was imperative to hear from Maria that the first step in building a brand identity is not creating a logo or a website or jumping onto social media, it’s knowing our business goals.
Develop Competitor Analysis
When asked about some of her early stage planning, Janelle Morgan talked about researching her competitors. It’s important to do our competitor research.
Not only do we need to know who’s out their offering similar services so we can ensure we’re offering our customers something unique, but we also need to know our competitors so we can know how to rank our businesses with the top players.
There’s nothing wrong with “looking up” at businesses in a similar industry to see what works for them in regards to their brand placement.
I definitely integrated this way of thinking when I was building See Girl Work (I still do it now, since technically I’m never not building).
I remember cyber stalking the now shuttered, Lotus Leaf Communications website. Even though I’m not in the business of fashion PR and I’m not a full-service agency, I wanted to have a cool, lifestyle look in order to attract a young audience.
It was that brand that also inspired me to create my blog outside of my business website. I liked how founder, Julia Che created the Lotus Leaf Style blog to support the agency business, but how it also acted separately as a style incubator of sorts.
We definitely do not want to copy or emulate, but as freelancers or small business owners, we can “look up” and get inspiration from more established brands to figure out what we can learn and adapt in our own brands.
Act Like You’re Already Successful
Emilia Farrace talked about implementing processes now instead of waiting to “get there.” This one really resonated with me as it’s something I focused on even while I was working another job full-time. I wanted to put systems in place and act like I already had a full slate of clients, like I was “already successful.”
It’s important to put practices into place now while your client list is still light or while your workload is still manageable. This way, when things do get crazy busy and amped up, you’ve already got those good systems in place that are already second nature.
Systems that we can put into place now include client onboarding, batch processing, invoicing and admin, or social media planning.
It could also mean routines that impact our lifestyle such as meal prepping, our gym schedule or adhering to which days are going to be for doing groceries and doing laundry.
It could also mean goal-setting and having a set plan of what we want to accomplish each week. It’s such a great way of approaching productivity and work when we can act like we’re already successful.
Are You Doing it For Love or For Money?
In a perfect world, we love every client and they’re able to compensate us well. But sometimes that’s not the case.
Kim Miyama pointed out that we’re not always going to love all of our clients, but those are the clients that might help us keep the lights on.
Meanwhile other clients might not have ideal budgets for project execution. But we really love working with those clients. They have big hearts, their passionate about their business and they have worthwhile causes.
As small business owners, sometimes we have to acknowledge whether we’re working with clients for love or for money.
There’s nothing wrong with donating our talents to a project that we care about. Just as much as there’s nothing wrong with taking on a higher paying client even if we don’t love them.
But it does help to recognize which is which. We can manage our own expectations and know how to invest our emotions.
Next time you’re on the fence about taking on a new client or deciding whether to continue working with an existing one, think about it and ask, “Do I love you?”
Work Life Balance
It was wonderful to also touch on work life balance. I feel like this is something elusive that we all talk about, but no one truly has a handle on.
But again, it’s something that we can aspire to daily. Maria mentioned that one of the things she tries to do is to not pick up her phone to check emails as her first act of the day.
It’s tough! But if we continue to keep these small things in mind each day we can work towards them a little bit more.
I could probably write four or five blog posts about this one short evening. In fact, I could have moderated the panel and picked the brains of these amazing women for another hour.
Being experts in their respective fields, each of them had a wealth of experience and knowledge. Our panel lineup of speakers provided great tips and take aways that I’ll definitely start implementing immediately and I hope the audience left feeling the same way.
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Thank you again to all our sponsors: Freshbooks, Ajani Cosmetics, CurlShoppe, Kaia Naturals, Zaya Eco Skincare, Tealish and LoveFresh.
It was really important to me that our first event set the tone and set a high standard for the future events that we’d like to do. I hope that See Girl Work SS17 did just that!