Welcome to the ‘Dear Dreamer’ series – my monthly business chats with amazing entrepreneurs! Today’s guest just like a lot of other business owners followed the traditional path of going to university because she didn’t believe that she could make a living by being creative. And yet the idea of dealing with finances or accounting for the rest of her career also didn’t make her jump for joy. Fast forward to today and meet the owner of Sofistico Studio. Irina is a very talented website and branding designer, who took the leap and left her 9-5 job in 2020 in order to focus on her business full time.
- What made you want to be a designer?
I was always a creative kid that attended art classes and did oil on canvas exhibits even in elementary school. I tried photography for a while too but ended up choosing a “safer” corporate path because society taught me I can’t really survive on being creative. I was in fact in university studying economics and business when I was kinda drawn into the graphic design by accident. I was helping my mum figure out how to use Corel Draw for her biz and I became amazed by the world of vector graphics. I started playing with them for fun and exploring the possibilities. Spent many days and late nights teaching myself how to use it, and then landed my first freelance gig through Reddit r/jobsforbitcoin. That was when I realized I could actually earn money by doing what I love!
- What do you love the most about working for yourself?
Oh, the freedom! I love that extra hour of sleep I get in the morning. And grabbing a cup of coffee with my fiance before we start our workdays. I love having the freedom to schedule my doctor or hairstylist appointments during working hours when they are less busy. I love being able to pick the people I work with and choose the projects I really enjoy. I love working from home wearing my yoga pants and bathrobe. 😀 There are so many pros to being your own boss!
- What does the process of working with you look like?
After getting the formalities like the contract and down payment out of the way, we usually start with a 1:1 strategy call. It’s a relaxed chat where I’m learning about your business, your process, ideal clients, etc. and we are laying down the foundations that your brand or website will be built upon. After that, you’ll be given a fun “homework” of creating a mood board for your project and, in case we are building a website, I’ll guide you on how to create the content. Then I’ll take over and do my design magic while combining all the information you provided. I like to keep my clients very supported and guided through the process and really help them improve their business through the design, not just make it pretty on the outside.
- What would you say to someone who’s starting their own business right now?
I went full-time into my business in January 2020, just before the world turned upside down. And of course, that was the scariest decision I ever made in my life. Became even more terrifying once the lockdowns started. But what really helped me is that I already had some contracts signed before I quit my 9-5, so I wasn’t really starting from zero. So if you are in the same position, I would definitely recommend getting a few ongoing projects and some kind of client base before you dive in full time. Other than that, be ready to get to know parts of yourself that you never even figured existed. Because running your own business is one of the most intensive paths of self-discovery.
- When someone’s just starting out – would you recommend hiring a designer straight away or try D-I-Y?
That’s a great question! So, during that first year of business, our brand usually changes and evolves a lot while we are trying to find our niche, testing out what works, what doesn’t work, trying to figure out who is our ideal client, etc. So if you are still unsure about who you are as a business, I would recommend trying to DIY or use premade templates until you find stable foundations. Educate yourself about some design rules and guidelines, there are some great free resources out there that can help you at the beginning (feel free to follow me on Instagram @sofistico.studio, I’m sharing some tips there too). Then, when you have a clear picture of who your target audience is and who you wanna be as a business, find a great designer who can help you create custom branding and a website that will reflect that. I usually work with businesses that are 1.5 to 2 years old. Once you start growing and raising your prices, you will want to create branding that will make you look professional and help you build authority with those higher-paying clients. And pro-tip – I recommend finding a great designer and doing it right once. I saw too many new business owners trying to save some money by hiring a “cheaper” designer, and then end up throwing that money away because they didn’t like the outcome or the result was completely useless for their business. The irony is – it would actually be cheaper for them if they waited a bit longer to save some money and then hire a higher quality designer from the start.
Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this biz series, Irina! Loved learning more about you and your business! Your work is fantastic and I am so excited to see all of your upcoming projects! I can’t wait to see your business grow this year. If you’d like to see Irina’s work, start following her journey or contact her, here’s where you can find her: Instagram & Website (it’s so beautiful!).
P.S. If you’d like to join my email club and not miss any of the ‘Dear Dreamer’ letters then you can sign up at the bottom of the page here. You’ll also receive a free guide with 7 steps to help you feel more confident during your personal branding session when you join! 🙂