How I Started a Graphic Design
Business for Female Serviced-Based Entrepreneurs
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Hollie Ellis and my business is Hollie Ellis Design. I’m a freelance graphic designer specialising in brand design, print and digital design for service-based female entrepreneurs.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an artist, but it’s only when I discovered Graphics at school when I was 17 that everything changed. After some research, I realised I could be a Graphic Designer, so that’s the career I pursued. I went on to study Graphic Design and earned my Foundation and Honours degree.
I worked at a web development company for six years before being made redundant at the age of 26. After that, I began freelancing again because I’d always wanted to be my own boss.
After a while, I went back into employment. On paper, the job I had was amazing, but in reality, I wasn’t happy there so I went into freelancing again! And here I am five years later. My clientele has changed since starting my business. I work with a lot of 6 figure+ female entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
When I first started up, the biggest challenge was getting my name out there. No-one knew I existed and had a service to offer, so I quickly had to learn how to market myself effectively.
I also, when quitting my job, only had half a month’s salary to keep me afloat, so I had to do what I could to get new business through the door. I found networking in Facebook groups to be really effective and I made sure my service packages were tailored to my ideal client.
Who is your target market?
Over the years my ideal client has changed. I used to work with a lot of start-up businesses (and I still do now), but over the last couple of years, my ideal client is now a service-based female entrepreneur (preferably a coach, consultant or beauty and wellness professional), based in the UK or worldwide who either is looking to re-brand or needs regular graphic design support monthly.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I’ve used social media over the years to help market my business, mainly using Facebook and Instagram. I also have a Facebook group to help build a community, which has worked well. I also make sure I am active in the Facebook groups, adding value where I can. Business is all about creating relationships and connecting to others, so the Facebook groups I’m in are groups where my ideal client would be hanging out. Regularly being involved like this will help you to build a good reputation.
Most of my business over the last year has come from client referrals, but I still keep my social media going so as to reach new people.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Offering excellent service to your clients. For the last year, all my business has come from referrals. This just says it all! Clients are constantly returning and asking for more design work to be done.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
At the moment, it’s just me in my business. I’ve made sure that I only work four days a week and have Fridays off. This is because when building the business, I initially worked very long hours and realised I didn’t value myself properly by doing that. I was constantly tired, didn’t take any time off (only for my birthday and at Christmas). I realised that I needed to change something.
Now I work four days a week and make sure I have all notifications turned off. I also make sure I take the weekend off. Any work completed on Saturdays or Sundays is purely business development work. I like to take myself out for ‘creative days’ once a month too. This could be a visit to a local art gallery or a trip to a local coffee shop. These trips help to ensure that I’m feeding my creative need and opening up myself to fresh inspiration.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
For productivity, I use my Mastery Planner (I’m a pen and paper girl). This really helps me time block, express daily gratitude (to get me into the right mindset each day) and it also has a section on sales too.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
If I could go back and start again, I would have made sure that I valued myself more from the beginning. I was very clear on who I wanted to work with and the packages I offered. But, I didn’t value myself or my skillset. I would have also made sure I worked on my mindset a lot earlier than now. Believing in myself more as a business owner and believing I would succeed.
I would have kept the level of customer service I provide the same because I wouldn’t get so many referrals if I didn’t have that in place. It’s all about being personable, being yourself and building relationships.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom! Having the freedom to do what I want, when I want. It’s always been about freedom for me and having the joy of being my own boss. Doing things on my terms, marketing the business in a way that feels right to me and taking the time to really support my clients.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The inconsistency that comes with what you do. Some months are good, some are bad. It can definitely be a rollercoaster at times, but the good always outweighs the challenges.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I have read SO many books! Some of the best have been She Means Business by Carrie Green, First Sh!t Version by Lisa Bean and I’m currently reading The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles which is great and very insightful. Carrie Green’s book is particularly brilliant because there are sections that help you to take action on what you’ve just learnt. The same with Lisa’s. It’s compelling, easy to read and contains a section on ‘doing’ the work.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
So in 2-3 years time, I see my business growing very successfully. That means increased revenue, at least one virtual team member and collaborating with some pretty amazing businesswomen.