2017 Year in Review: Highlights, wins, lessons + what's next

Breathe in.... aaaand exhale.

2017 was quite the year. A year of change. Connection. Relationship building. Adventuring. Putting-my-head-down-and-doing-the-work. And growth... oh, the growth.

In preparation for the new year that's upon us, I've been thinking a lot about where I was a year ago and the huge leaps and bounds I've taken in my business and personally. My business has gone through a transformation over the past 12 months, and crazy amazing things have happened in my personal life too. You know, just getting married, taking an incredible two-week honeymoon in Europe, and buying a house in December, among other things... no big deal (!).

That being said, after re-reading my small business lessons learned in 2016 post, I realized many of the same themes were present in my 2017 year. I needed to continue to remind myself that I don't need to do it all, to trust myself with my vision for AllieMarie Design, and to feel confident in defining what "success" looks like to me. I had the pleasure of continuing to work with amazing clients and making real, genuine connections with other entrepreneurs both in real life and online. 

So many similarities... yet everything feels different. 

And that's because it is.

I'm excited to share with you my 2017 year in review. My highlights and wins, some lessons and changes I have planned, a look back at the beautiful brands I crafted with my incredible clients, and the inspiring people I had the chance to collaborate with.

 
2017 Year in Review: Wins, highlights, lessons and what's next  |  AllieMarie Design, Brand Stylist and Graphic Designer
 

 

HIGHLIGHTS + WINS


15 BEAUTIFUL NEW VISUAL BRANDS DESIGNED + collaborations

I'm still pinching myself. In 2017, I collaborated with 15 entrepreneurs to design gorgeous visual brand styling for their small businesses.

These incredible people worked one-on-one with me to solidify their brand foundation, develop a clear visual direction that resonates with them -and- their target audience, and design a beautiful full custom visual brand for their business with intention, authenticity, and a whole lotta love behind it.

I feel so honored to be a part of their business journey. Watching them invest in their business in this big way, seeing their confidence grow, and helping them elevate their brand... the feeling it has given me is beyond words.
 


Without further ado, here they are!
Click on each image to see the full brand styling in my portfolio.

Oh, and if you're counting... there are 13 below... 2 more will be launching in early 2018! ;)

Oh my goodness, and my loyal and amazing clients Lyric Arts and Fair Anita, with whom I collaborate on print design throughout the year. We created some beautiful pieces this year and I'm so honored to design for them! A peek at just a few projects we worked on:


LYRIC ARTS SEASON BROCHURE + mailer postcards

See all the show imagery and learn more about Lyric Arts

Lyric Arts Season Brochure Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Lyric Arts Season Brochure Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Lyric Arts Season Brochure Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Lyric Arts Season Postcards Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Lyric Arts Season Brochure Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Lyric Arts Season Brochure Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Fair Anita Lookbook Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design
Fair Anita Lookbook Layout and Design by AllieMarie Design

 

A SUCCESSFUL brand REFRESH OF MY OWN

Early in the year, I did a brand refresh of my own -- a subtle update to my visual brand, new personal branding photos by the incredible Brett & Janelle Photography (who also took our wedding photos!), and new website copy by my dear friend Kayla Hollatz

This not only helped me elevate my marketing and boost my confidence in sharing my brand with the world... it also helped me increase my visibility and ability to be found online due to the dramatic increase in my SEO (thanks to you, Miss Kayla!). Now, over 50% of inquiries that come my way are from business owners searching for a graphic designer via the Google machine. I'm continuing to be booked out 3-6 months in advance and nearly everyone that books with me I'd consider to be an ideal client. Craziness!

Hands down, if I hadn't invested in my business in these ways, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to design 15 visual brands this year or even come close to the growth I experienced.

The lesson?

Hire professionals to help you make your brand come to life. Let people into your world and bring their talent to the table. It's worth it in every way... and gives you the opportunity to focus on what YOU do best. Yes, you've heard this before and it's so true.

AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett and Janelle Photography
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AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett & Janelle Photography
AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett and Janelle Photography
AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett and Janelle Photography
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AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett & Janelle Photography
AllieMarie Design Branding Photos by Brett & Janelle Photography
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Photography by Brett & Janelle Photography

 

INSPIRING OTHERS + sharing my story with small business communities

One of my favorite things about being a small business owner is connecting with fellow entrepreneurs, helping and encouraging them in their marketing and branding, and sharing my story in hopes it will inspire others to build a business they love.

Gosh do I feel lucky to have done so much of this in 2017! Some highlights:

Twin Cities Collective Podcast Interview

Loved chatting with my friend Jenna Redfield about all things business, branding, and living in the beautiful Twin Cities area.

 

Under the Veil Podcast Interview

A non-business related, candid chat with my friend Josey of Sixpence Events all about my spring wedding that didn't exactly go as planned... but why it was still the best day ever. 

The Real Female Entrepreneur Podcast Interview

A really vulnerable conversation with the lovely Lauren Frontiera about creating and losing freedom in your business... all the feels!

 

3 Steps To Creating A Brand Identity

I was a guest contributor on the amazing Trena Little's YouTube Channel, giving tips on creating a better brand identity for your small business.

BLOG INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE HICKEY DESIGN

An in-depth interview about my story of building a visual branding business. Michelle is the sweetest to feature me on her blog!

 

Your Own Way Conference panel

I am beyond honored to have been a panelist at Your Own Way charitable conference here in Minneapolis in November, hosted by the incredible Kayla Hollatz!

 

 

LESSONS + CHANGES COMING

With growth comes challenges and with challenges come change.

In 2017, I surpassed my goal of booking out 3 months in advance and working with 9 branding clients (again, pinch me!). This meant a full project schedule and more financial security than I've felt since I started my business. Being able to more accurately predict my income from month-to-month and pay myself a consistent salary has been a game changer!

But I also ended up in a state of constant hustle.

I worked A LOT of hours in 2017. Many of them were spent on projects for dreamy clients, which is why I had a hard time saying "no" when opportunities came my way. This led to too much work, not enough play. Too many nights in front of my laptop and not enough quality time with my new hubby. Too much energy spent on keeping up with the "shoulds" and chasing perfect, while not having enough energy left over to give to my loved ones and myself.

When my mastermind met in December to reflect on the year and think about what 2018 will bring, it came my turn to share and I tearfully started with, "I'm just so.... tired." (Melanie and Kayla -- y'all are the best for dealing with me!)

Not good. This way of living is certainly not aligned with my values. My actions weren't reflecting what's in my heart and it's not how I want to look back on this time of my life. I was out of alignment and not taking enough time to breathe and reflect on what I truly want my days and weeks to look and feel like. I didn't feel the FREEDOM that I wanted in running my own business.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been sharing pretty openly about this topic and I've been on a journey to making positive changes in my life.

So... what does 2018 look like for me?
 

SIMPLIFYING + REMAINING FOCUSED ON WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT

In the fall, I was a part of Amanda Beilke's Wholehearted Living coaching program which helped me gain so much clarity surrounding where I'm heading, what success looks like to me, and the mindset blocks that are in my way. In addition to having an emotional and transformative experience during a visualization exercise when we "met" our future selves 20 years from now (ask me about it sometime!) and naming my inner critic to better identify when she's making an appearance (it's Regina George, by the way), I also developed a personal purpose statement that will remain at the forefront this year:

I want to live a heart-centered life that allows me to give my energy to what’s most important, give myself and others grace when we most need it, and infuse joy and connection into my relationships.

This is what it's all about, my friends.

I will continue to approach my client collaborations with intention, a bright energy, and a whole lotta heart, but I can't do that -AND- love on my husband, family, friends, and myself (!) the way I want to if I'm constantly working and full of anxiety.

So, I'll be simplifying and refining. For me, this means:

  • Working with less clients to better serve every one of them, and better serve myself and my creativity.
  • Booking branding projects by quarter (as opposed to making myself available to schedule projects 6+ months in advance). This gives me more flexibility and freedom with my schedule, so I'm not tied down with project after project, month after month. I'm getting off the hamster wheel!
  • Refining my processes to maximize my time and make it easier to bring people into the AllieMarie design world. Building a big team isn't in my future, but I've been taking steps to get the design production, bookkeeping and admin help I do desire!
  • Finding a morning routine that works for me and finding my flow (thanks to Tiffany Han's 31 Days to Flow class)!
     

SEEKING HARMONY OVER HUSTLE

That all being said, there will always be seasons of busy. I know I'll need to put in the extra hours to make things happen when need be (especially with the upcoming launch of my mini-courses... stay tuned!) and I'm more than happy to do that because I love what I do.

But I'm committed to "hustle" no longer being my norm. Instead, I'll be seeking HARMONY. Complimenting those long work days/weeks/months with seasons of rest. Putting up even better boundaries of when I work. And, perhaps most importantly...

Being EXTREMELY aware of my energy and where I'm spending it.


Cheers to a wonderful, heart-centered year ahead!
 


TELL ME, my friend...

what were your biggest wins, highlights + lessons from 2017?

I sincerely would love to know in the comments below!

Preparing for your Rebrand: 7 tips to effectively prepare and collaborate with your brand stylist

You've taken the leap. You've decided to invest in your business and give your established business a branding facelift (or start things off on the right foot with a full visual brand for your new biz!). You have taken the time to find a designer who's the perfect fit you and your vision, and you've officially booked with them. And now that you've signed that agreement and paid your downpayment, things are starting to get real.

This is an exciting time! Jump up and down and clap and smile and squeal! I'm serious! If you're working with the right designer for you and you have a good vibe, you should be that excited. Developing a brand for your business is a big deal and a big investment of time and money. 

CONGRATS to you on making it all happen. Your business deserves it. You deserve it.

Friends, the branding process is so much fun and I want you to get the most out of the experience! And to do that, it will take some preparation, research and planning. But don't feel overwhelmed! Today, I have some tips to help you effectively prepare for your rebrand and the collaboration with your brand stylist. 

 

 
Preparing for your Rebrand: 7 tips to effectively prepare and collaborate with your brand stylist
 

 

1. Take the pre-project homework / discovery and inspiration process seriously.

Many professional designers start the branding process with some sort of brand discovery and inspiration gathering phase. This will look different from designer to designer of course, but regardless of the ins-and-outs of what it involves, I encourage you to truly engage in it and take it seriously. 

I believe it to be the most important part of the branding process, as it sets up the project for success. It helps your designer get to know you and your business better AND it helps you hone in on your mission, your goals, how you stand apart in your industry, your style, etc. It helps both you and your designer prepare for your time working together. 

So fill out that workbook, collect visual inspiration on Pinterest (it's fun, I promise!), do whatever your designer is asking you to do. I promise you, there is a rhyme and reason for it and not only will the final product will be better, but the whole branding journey will be more enjoyable and focused if you dive into these pre-project activities. And give it 100%.

HINT: For those of you who aren't AllieMarie Design clients already and are looking for an extra exercise designed to give you brand clarity... download my free branding workbook!
 

2. Review your project schedule and set aside time on your calendar for your project in advance. Your designer will thank you.

Before you begin the branding process, review the project schedule your designer put together and mark your calendar with appropriate deadlines. Just as you are excited and expect to receive logo concepts and other special deliveries from your designer on certain days, your designer is excited and expects to receive your feedback and thoughts on time too.

They most likely set aside time in advance to work on your branding, so when projects get really off schedule, it can be tricky to get back on track. I know I value my clients' time an incredible amount and I do whatever I can to ensure my projects launch on time. Knowing my clients are committed to this as well is so helpful -- it's amazing how following the project schedule and keeping your momentum alone can make the project go so smoothly!

So... get out your calendar, make notes of all those deadlines now and work your schedule around them. Your designer will thank you and you will be so happy you planned ahead for this important investment you've made in your business.
 

3. Make a list of all marketing platforms and design pieces your rebrand will affect. And plan ahead.

Sometimes, we forget how many places our logo actually appears or all the places we would like our logo to appear. Then, when it comes time to rebrand, we start realizing... oh my goodness, I have to make new business cards, order new signage, update my Facebook business page, create new electronic PDFs for my website (not to mention a redesign of your website itself).

Don't let it all creep up on you! Here are some quick to-dos to help you get organized.

First, make a list of all communication pieces, signage, social platforms, etc. that will need to be updated with your new logo and brand. Then, next to each piece, note:

  1. What is the purpose of each piece is and in what context is it seen?
  2. When do you need each piece completed by (i.e. if you have an upcoming event you need your business cards for or an event you're sponsoring when you'll need a new banner)?
  3. What specific content needs to be written and/or assembled by you before it is designed (i.e. text for that electronic PDF or updated photos for that brochure)?
  4. Would you like your designer to design it or do you plan on DIYing it?

For the pieces you'd like your designer's help with -- especially the time-sensitive ones -- you may want to reach out to them about those projects right away. Your designer will most likely want to know details about what you have in mind, then provide a custom quote to you (if the design pieces aren't a part of your branding package or original quote). They can also book the project in their calendar in advance to ensure they meet your deadline and leave enough time for printing and/or production.

Making this list will also help you during the branding process, keeping top of mind HOW your logos, watermarks, patterns, textures, icons, etc. will be used and where they will appear. It helps give you context!

HINT: Thinking of DIYing your print materials? Check out my beginner's guide to working with a professional printer
 

4. Get to know your ideal client. Like, really get to know them.

This may be part of your designer's pre-project / brand discovery process and at the very least, it will most likely be a topic of conversation before the design process begins. Regardless, it's up to you to communicate to your designer the audience you're trying to reach and how they interact with your business and brand. 

While you're waiting for your branding project to begin, do research. Find out where they're hanging out, the social media platforms they're on, their likes and dislikes, where they shop, and what problem you're solving for them.

If you really want to get inside their head, do one-on-one interviews with a few people in your life who you consider to be an ideal client / customer. In addition to the above, you could also find out anecdotally what they might look for in a business like yours. How can you best help them? What would attract them to you? Where would they go to find information about you? 

Alternatively, you could do this kind of research online by posting a survey or general inquiry in a Facebook group. Just make sure you're getting information from your *ideal client or customer*. That is who you'll be targeting when you start the design process, so it's important that you're specific with who you're gathering these details from.

What do you do with what you learn? Write it down! Add it to your branding workbook or, at the very least, communicate it to your designer. These things matter and all of these details will help you two make decisions as you develop a visual brand styling that catches the eye of the people you want to attract.
 

5. Review what's included in your package and know your responsibilities.

Copywriting, photography, email marketing. These are just some of the things that may not be a part of your branding package and your designer will not be completing for you.

Be sure to fully understand what will be covered during the branding process and what the final deliverables will be. Then make a list of all the areas you're responsible for that you will for sure need. And, similar to #3 above, note which of these you will be outsourcing and which you will DIY. 

If you're considering hiring someone to help you in these areas, start researching and booking the creatives that will be the best fit. Your designer may be able to point you in a good direction, so consider asking them before! Who doesn't like a great referral? 

HINT: If you're working with me, (or even if you're not!) I am happy to refer you to some uber talented creatives that will work along side us as we develop your brand. As a team, we'll ensure your brand experience is consistent, cohesive and authentically you from every angle!
 

6. Find your support person for during the branding process

Your designer will be sending you design concepts, logo revisions, different options, final designs to approve... all-of-the-things during the branding process. This is your brand and your business, so although your designer is there to guide you and give you professional advice, it's up to you to make the final decisions.

At times, some people find it to be a little overwhelming, especially if you're having a hard time deciding between concepts or you just want an extra set of eyes to check for any inaccuracies or errors.

That's why I encourage you to find your "person." ONE person. Your go-to during the branding process who knows you and your business well, and can give you constructive feedback during the process. Before you begin the design process, sit down with this person and explain your goals, why you are rebranding, and what kind of feedback will be helpful to you.

There's a fine line between receiving feedback and receiving too much feedback. I've worked with a few clients who have received way too much feedback from a huge mastermind group or every single member of their family. It caused a ton of stress and uncertainty for my clients and caused them to constantly question themselves unnecessarily, not to mention it stunted our process and set us back in our project schedule.

At the end of the day, you do need to trust yourself, trust your gut and remember only YOU know your business the way you do. But it does help to have someone on your team who can support you, reflect back to you your values and mission when you feel yourself stray, and encourage you so that you feel confident with the direction of your brand.
 

7. Get pumped up!

I'll say it again... this is such an exciting time! You have every reason to get pumped up and have lil' butterflies in your stomach when you think about the strategic, beautiful, and authentic brand that will soon be all yours. Investing in a full visual brand has so many benefits -- if you're feeling fully prepared to dive in and you're working with the right designer who gets you, you won't look back.