Taking A Look Back At 2016
Before writing this post, I went back and reviewed what I had written in 2015, and man, do I feel differently about 2016. In just 365 days, my mindset has slowly shifted from calm and focused to completely throwing itself into the biggest mixed bag of emotions you can imagine. That’s not to say that amazing things did not happen, or that this year was chaotic … because it wasn’t. I just dealt with a few more tough lessons and hard questions than expected. So let’s dig in, shall we? I promise there’s good stuff, too.
HARD LESSONS + HARD QUESTIONS
This year, I learned that burnout is illusive, which is perhaps the hardest lesson I’ve worked through in recent years. For those of you who don’t know, I suffered from chronic back pain two years ago and eventually found ways to feel better. But what I failed to do was make any sort of significant change, leaving me with solutions that were only temporary as well as remnants of pain that crept back into my life whenever they pleased.
Instead of putting myself first, I continued to shove more than I needed into a single day, an “old habits die hard” truth that I’ve always struggled with. But those days are over and I’m already breaking the cycle. Finally.
Simply put, my work is no longer first. I am.
There is much more that I’d like to say on this topic, but I’m still very much in it myself. So look out for related posts (and newsletters) in the coming months as I navigate what this change looks and feels like in real time.
goodbye be free, lance
One of the biggest bittersweet moments of 2016 was saying goodbye to Be Free, Lance, an online workshop I co-founded with my friend Jen almost three years ago. We had a successful launch earlier in the year (and more before that), but were faced with a tough question this summer. To continue or not to continue?
We were at a point where growth was essential, but neither of us had the kind of time to set aside for something like that in a way that was needed. Jen was (and is) thriving at her job in Chicago, while I was was (and am) looking to grow Rowan Made in a bigger way.
So ultimately, we decided to let go of something we love in order to make room for things that are simply more important. I’ll certainly miss Be Free, Lance, but know there are amazing things to come.
GOOD (GREAT!) THINGS
hired a designer
Earlier this year, I put out a call for help. I knew that I needed to be working less (see “gtfo burnout” section), but didn’t want to put a damper on the momentum Rowan Made had gained over the past few years. I received emails from 32 wonderful applicants and was absolutely humbled by their talent and kind words.
After narrowing things down and getting on the phone with a handful of designers, I ended up hiring Phalen, a local here in Minneapolis. We’ve successfully completely one project together and are working on another — and I absolutely cannot wait to collaborate more and more with her throughout the coming year.
There are a few of you who have asked about what it’s like to hire and work with another designer, and that is something I plan on sharing more of in the coming months. So keep an eye out for that. For now, I will tell you that two heads are definitely better than one. ;)
realized my worth
Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t raised Rowan Made’s pricing structure for maybe … two years. It seemed to be working fine and felt comfortable, which typically is a sign that you CAN (and should) raise your prices. But I didn’t listen and was ultimately scared of turning away awesome work.
In October, I had a conversation with my good friend Melissa about pricing. I shared some numbers with her, to which she replied “For what it’s worth, I thought you’d be charging a whole lot more.” This stopped me in my tracks, and forced me to face another hard truth: I wasn’t charging my full worth.
Here at Rowan Made, we don’t make things pretty for the hell of it. Our process is rooted in strategy and a lot of time is spent getting to know the ins and outs of our client’s businesses so that we can deliver with their best interests at heart. It’s not a quick fix and we definitely give it our all, from start to finish.
So I’m happy to report that we are finally raising our prices. It won’t be astronomical, but it’ll be fair. And I know that for some, this may be bad news. But for the “right” clients, AKA our people, it won’t matter.
refining rowan made’s niche
Speaking of the “right” clients, this year was a time of thoughtful refinement. Before, our general “catch all” niche was “creatives.” But more than ever, I’ve realized the importance of working with people who are like-minded. People who offer a service or product that we’re actually interested in.
This allows us to be more in tune with the clients we work with, something that I wholeheartedly believe helps strengthen not only our relationships, but the work we’re creating as well. And that’s a really cool thing. So I think we’ll continue down this path.
BY THE NUMBERS
The above overview was a little more hippie dippy than last year, so I thought I’d give the other side of my brain a chance to speak because numbers are fun, too. This year, we worked on 49 projects, both big and small. Of those projects, nearly 65% of them were branding related. The rest were mostly websites with print, packaging, and other collateral items mixed in as well.
Our average number of inquiries, per month, was 40, with 58 being our highest in August. Most inquiries came in from social media, with referrals (whether it was from past clients or creative peers), being a close second.
For those of you who have read this far (#props), are there any more statistics that you’d be interested in hearing about? I’ll definitely take them into consideration for the next time I write a comprehensive review like this ...
I have big plans for 2017, both professionally and personally. A huge part of this is putting myself first. And hopefully, that will free up the kind of space that’s needed in order to grow Rowan Made into something I’ve been dreaming about.
I see this space as one part design and one part education. But for years, my one on one design work has taken a front seat to everything else. So this year, I hope to change that. Don’t get me wrong … I love design and will continue to offer those services. But there’s something about teaching others that just feels right. And I plan on exploring that a whole lot more in the coming months.
So peace out 2016. You’ve been all of the things. And a little overwhelming at times. But despite this, I’m still absolutely grateful for each and every day I get to run this business of mine. It’s a literal dream come true and I hope to continue for years and years to come.