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.
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
FAIR ANITA LOOKBOOK DESIGNS
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.
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.
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!