Graphic designer Louise Ayres was sad when her maternity leave ended. So she signed up to an e-course to help her start her own online design business. Seven months on, she’s just launched her website. She tells us how studying helped.
How long as have you worked as a graphic designer?
I completed a Cert IV in Graphic Design in 2006 which is a course designed to get you a folio to then get into university but I was fortunate enough to get a job from the strength of my folio.
I wrote a list of 40 design studios I wanted to work for and approached them all and it just happened that one of them was looking. It was certainly a case of being persistent and being in the right place at the right time.
How did your career change after having your daughter Eliza?
Honestly, I found it took me a while to want to go back to work. I loved my maternity leave and my happiest days were when the hardest decision was shall we walk to the park or the beach today.
But the reality set in after eight months when money was running low (we have very limited benefits from the Government in Australia regarding maternity leave pay and only receive 18 weeks at minimum wage), either return to work or sell the house.
However, once I got back into the swing of work I remembered how much I loved being creative and that it was okay to be the other me (the designer) again.
The biggest change though was my time management. Something I always prided myself on but now that I had a little one waiting at home for me I was twice as efficient to ensure I was out the door bang on home time.
What do you do now, and what would you like to do?
I am blessed to say I have been a graphic designer for over eight years now and I can honestly say I love what I do.
The only difference between now and seven months ago is I have done a lot of work and study to put the right foundations in place for my own business rather than putting all my effort in to making someone else’s business a success.
What attracted you to the The Creative Business Muma eCourse?
My New Year’s resolution this year was to do a web design course but The Creative Business Muma eCourse by Clare Greig, founder of Breathe Online, covered so much more than just designing a website.
When I looked at the modules covered in Clare’s course I realised that I needed to learn a lot more to give my business the best possible foundations.
Clare also provides accountability which works well for me, you are booked in for monthly Skype sessions which give you a chance not only to speak with Clare regarding any questions but I found it helped push me along to keep moving through the lessons.
It would be very easy to pay for an online course and then let life get in the way and never finish it, but Clare goes the extra step to provide support for her Creative Business Mumas.
How long does the course take to complete?
It is designed to go for five months, but the beauty of it is you can take your time and put your studies on hold when life gets in the way (and it does).
I found it took me seven months but promoting my business (for example through blogging, social media and content writing) will always be ongoing.
What’s included in it?
There are five modules which each run for a month:
- Month one is Big Picture Planning which covers getting focused on your Why, What and How along with focusing on who your customer will be.
- Month two is Personal Branding and includes guest experts to help you define your tone of voice for your content, how to create an amazing brand and getting started with Social Media.
- Month three is Create a website which is by far the steepest learning curve of the course but the tutorials are so beginner-friendly and yes, you will be able to create a website by the end of this course – how exciting is that!
- Month four is Grow your business which covers blogging and how to write content for your blog, making your website SEO friendly and how to grow your business with Social Media Marketing.
- Month five is Work-Life Balance and teaches you about outsourcing, delegating, how to earn Passive Income (making your business work while you aren’t), pricing your services and most importantly, looking after yourself.
What makes it different to other online courses?
The accountability is one of the ways it differs to other courses. By having three 45 minute Skype sessions with Clare you get a chance to have valuable one-on-one time to further your learning and get feedback as you move through the tutorials.
There is also the support network through the Facebook group page and monthly Google Hangouts with Clare and the other students.
How much time did you spend on it every week, and how easy was it to stay committed?
I spent between 4-6 hours a week on it. That may seem a lot on top of other work (in my case full-time work) and running a household but I found I could commit to a couple of nights a week after my little one was asleep, as well as a few hours on the weekend when she had her daily nap.
That way I didn’t miss out on too much quality time and still made time for myself. The tutorials vary in length but are generally well under an hour each (apart from the website ones) but once you have watched them it’s time to put what you have learnt to practice.
This includes writing content for your website, being active on social media, exploring the theme for your website to see which features you want to include etc so the hours do add up. I found it was easy to stay committed as I could see how far I had come from the start by what I was learning and putting in to practice.
How did you find online learning?
This was the first online course I have done but I found once I got in to the routine of study and dedicating set times each week to do the tutorials that it was quite easy. The tutorials were easy to follow bite-sized videos and that is great if you get pulled away as you can easily pick up from where you left.
Who do you think The Creative Business Muma eCourse is ideal for?
Mums who want better work-life balance and are prepared to put work in to make it happen. You need to be open to learning and going through a new experience as it can feel like a steep learning curve at times, but I certainly felt proud when I achieved something new (such as designing my own website).
It is designed for mums to run their own online businesses to allow them a better work-life balance and to fit their businesses in around their families.
Why is work important to you?
I really enjoy what I do. I love being a graphic designer and having a creative outlet so I love my work. Being creative for a living is so rewarding so it doesn’t feel like work to me.
Financially the money certainly helps and I enjoy earning money and being able to contribute to our household.
When will you launch your new freelance business?
I was fortunate to pick up a few clients while I was studying as I was able to offer a service other students needed which is designing a brand.
I helped them with their logo design, style guides and business cards and have had a steady stream of clients ever since. Technically my business launched in October as that was when my website launched.
What service do you offer and who is your ideal customer?
I help fellow creatives build brand awareness. Clients either purchase a brand package or a subscription-based design package which can be found on my website.
I believe in being upfront with my costs so that clients can comfortably purchase a design service that fits their budget. My ideal customer is a fellow creative who is as passionate about their business as I am and ready to build their brand awareness.
I help with services such as logo design, website graphics, eMag design and printed collateral such as business cards, flyers or catalogues to name a few. My clients can be anywhere in the world as I don’t need to physically be in their office to work for them and we can communicate over Skype and email.
What would you like your life to look like in two years’ time?
Ideally, I will be working for myself 2-3 days a week and having a lot more quality time with my family than what I have now.
What advice do you have for other aspiring freelance mums?
Give yourself permission to do it. We often put our partners and family ahead of ourselves, but they will also thrive seeing you passionate about something. And when it results in that sought-after work-life balance you will all benefit.