The Business Diaries – The journey so far

Nov 2, 2022 | Behind the scenes, Business, Mind and Motivation, Website Design

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How Imy and I became a dream team, moving forward with Velocity and overhauling our web design services

When I first started the business in 2014, my big goal was £5k months. I thought I’d get there by doing ALL the things. My tagline was actually ‘one stop design shop’. I offered everything I could possibly think of to do with design.

Over time I realised this wasn’t really making me stand out at all and actually, it wasn’t enjoyable. Yes, I could create a website or I could design printed materials but they were totally different things and a jack of all trades is a master of none. It was exhausting constantly switching skill sets, programs and briefs to do a ton of different services, even though they all came under the same bracket of ‘design’.

Eventually I decided to specialise in web design and everything became so much simpler. When you’ve got a narrower focus, you can systemise things, you can market easier, you can actually DO LESS to make more.

And I thought ‘finally! I’ve cracked the code!’.

I naively believed that once it was all figured out, I could just coast forever in a blissful little business dream that moved like clockwork.

But it doesn’t work like that. Businesses (and people!) are constantly evolving. Plus, wouldn’t it be boring if everything stayed exactly the same?

Fast forward to 2020 and I was so overwhelmingly busy that I felt ill. It was a culmination of charging too little, saying yes to everything, trying to help absolutely everyone, feeling guilty that my business was thriving when so many others weren’t, not having efficient systems, being too much of a control freak to outsource, plus the pandemic itself and all the anxiety that came with it. It led to a very burnt out Amber.

Enter the angel that is Imy, my sister.

Imy had experience with design and she’s naturally creative. I soon discovered that she’s naturally business-minded too and from an outside perspective, she could see how we could improve so many different things. I was just way too close to it to realise that actually I was strangling my business and stunting it’s growth.

Imy started helping me firstly with retainer clients to try and manage the insane workload I’d taken on.

But we worked SO well together. Ridiculously well. People say don’t mix family and business but this was a seriously good match – we’re a dream team!

We decided to work together on a more permanent basis and what was Amber Phillips Design didn’t feel quite right anymore.

So in came the rebrand!

We looked at all of our packages, our branding, our website, the business name and we became Bloom & Brave Creative, helping small businesses to bloom and show up bravely online.

We started to post more consistently on social media, we took on more perfect-fit clients, we streamlined our processes and grew the team.

But an expected bump in the road came when our mum had a heart attack, followed by triple bypass surgery. She needed a lot of help when she came out of hospital and we both found ourselves having to work a lot less and putting the business plans we had on the back burner while we helped our family recover (our mum is doing brilliantly now by the way!).

As a result our rebrand to Bloom & Brave came later than expected and we launched with a ‘done not perfect’ mindset, so there was still a lot that we wanted to work on.

Again, we thought the rebrand would help everything to fall into place, but things continued to be a little disjointed. We were still struggling to find time to work on the business, we stopped showing up on social media, we were both exhausted and I felt like I’d lost a bit of my confidence along the way as well.

Moving forward with Velocity!

In August 2022, we booked onto Velocity, a program with Amy Caiger, to try and regain some of that passion and confidence and ultimately get some clarity.

It was amazing! We loved working with Amy and I definitely think it’s easier when you work with someone so closely who is outside of the business looking in, so that they can ask the tough questions and get you to really evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.

We looked at our offers, our ideal client, our key messages, our marketing, what we love about the business, what we don’t love, and how we can grow the business to fit around our life goals.

In the spirit of business diaries and being totally transparent… I want to start a family. I’ve always wanted to be a mum but I just know the business wouldn’t support that right now. I’d have to take a massive income hit and probably let go of some clients, or grow a team to take on everything, and I don’t want to do that. I get quite bitter about the fact that it’s expected that women will take the hit with their businesses and careers when it comes to starting a family. I knew there had to be another way and we’re slowly implementing these new plans to become more efficient, make a bigger impact while doing less and grow a team sustainably.

So back to working with Amy – she helped us figure out that actually what we really love to do is membership websites. The design, the tech, the strategy, the collaboration, and most of all helping small businesses make a recurring profit while making a difference in their community.

Membership sites had always been an ‘option’ when working with us but not one that many people knew about. It’d never occurred to us to focus in on this before, but suddenly it all became clear. We’re great at membership sites, we love working closely with our clients to help them scale their impact, and while thinking of content was a struggle before, we had so much that we wanted to share with our audience about membership sites and all that goes into them.

We’ve developed a Membership Framework and we’ll expand on that over time to make it better and better and more streamlined, for us and for our clients.

In addition to this, the retainer service that we offer at the moment will be replaced with one that’s more membership focused and again, more streamlined. Instead of offering everything to everyone, the retainer could get much more specific and therefore much more efficient.

We’ve always got the option to bring back the full retainer service and its still something that we get a lot of enquiries about, however this would involve growing a bigger team. We’re not ruling it out, but it’s not the right path for us right now.

And we’re still offering custom web design, we’re just being louder about membership web design rather than having it tucked away as an optional website add-on!

Improving our web design services

In 2022, we also enrolled on a web design business course, Profitable Project Plan by Jennifer Bourn.

I naively thought I didn’t need to do a web design course as I know about web design… how wrong I was. I wish I’d done it years ago!

I’ve always focused on business or marketing courses in general, but this web design business course was a game changer! All of the content was so tailored to what we do specifically and there were so many ‘problems’ in our web design business (and apparently LOTS of other web design businesses!) that were covered in detail in this course.

Admittedly I still haven’t finished the course but I’m chipping away at it and implementing as I go. As soon as I’ve finished it, there’ll be a whole other blog post I’ll write about it. But what I have done so far has completely changed the way we work on website projects. I’m still getting used to some aspects of it, the main one being to design without having all of the content ready as we’ve always asked for content before working on a website and that’s has always caused all sorts of delays!

I feel like the business has been like a bundled up ball of tangled yarn for quite a while. Working with Imy, it loosened and unravelled a bit, then working with Amy and on Profitable Project Plan its unravelling even more to the point that we c

There are some aspects that we’re still getting used to, for example, website content. We always asked for website content before starting work on a website design project, however most of the time it’d result in delays and projects snowballing into each other – it was all a bit chaotic trying to keep on top of everything.

So now, we start on the web design before we’ve got all of the content. It creates a smoother process because we can get started quicker and fit to a more accurate timeline, and clients have more time to write and can see visually where it’ll go. It’s just taking some getting used to after 7 years doing it the other way around!

I feel like the business has been a bundled up ball of tangled yarn for so long.

Working with Imy untangled the mess a bit, then us working together with Amy Caiger and on Profitable Project Plan has untangled it even more to the point that we can start to create something new and beautiful with it.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief just writing that and imagining everything being so much simpler. I strive for simplicity in everything I do, but I just hadn’t realised how much I was actually overcomplicating things.

If you’re stuck on what to offer, who to offer it to and how to market it, or you’d like some clarity to move your business forward, I would definitely recommend working with Amy. The whole experience working with her has been amazing!

And if you’re a web designer who has stumbled across this post, I highly recommend signing up to Profitable Project Plan (affiliate link!).

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading!

And if this sort of ‘business diary’ is of any interest, please do subscribe to our email list. I’d love to share more behind the scenes of running a business and be more transparent about the journey Imy and I are on together. A lot of what we see online is the highlight reel but the reality is that business is hard – rewarding, fun and limitless, but hard!

P.S. I want you to know that if you’re running a business (I assume you are if you’re here!), you’re doing a great job ❤️

Love, Amber x

Where to next?

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Hi, we’re Amber and Imy!

We’re sisters with a true passion for empowering small businesses to grow and succeed.

On our blog, you can catch up with the latest from Bloom & Brave Creative, including inspirational and informative posts helping you to bloom in your own way and show up bravely online.