Taking A Look Back At 2017
For the two years before this one, I've written "year in review" type posts for Rowan Made. And, as always, before writing this year's account, I went back and reviewed what I had written in 2016. In doing so, I was quickly reminded that the effects of burnout had permeated my body throughout the previous year, leaving me with the drive to change my own habits and finally break the cycle. I'm happy to report that to a certain degree, I've done just that. At least, I've got a good start. So let's take a closer look, shall we?
HARD LESSONS + HARD QUESTIONS
saying no ... more
Going into 2017, I knew that I wanted to work less, which was definitely easier said than done. You see, after years of going going going, it was hard to put on the breaks and settle into a slower working pace, where I often felt the urge to fill up my newfound space with more clients, simply because that's what I was used to.
Unfortunately, I gave into this feeling a handful of times, filling my schedule with more clients than necessary. But for the most part, I DID end up keeping my promise. In fact, I decreased the amount of clients Rowan Made took in by nearly 40%. So even though saying "no" and working less were difficult adjustments, I'll still chalk this particular lesson up as a success. ;)
learning forgiveness around editorial calendars
Around the start of this year, I told myself that I was going to connect with Rowan Made's community more often. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love design, but wanted to fuel my other passion for helping others find joy and success within their own businesses.
So, to kick things up a notch, I attempted to blog every Tuesday and share a newsletter every Thursday. I kept this up for maybe one or two months before the sheer pressure of sticking to an editorial calendar got to me. This happened during an unusually busy week, where I wasn't able to get a newsletter out. But instead of giving myself grace, I was tough on myself and my abilities.
One week later, after lots of reflection and rest, I ended up channeling my frustration into a post entitled "Oops I Quit My Editorial Calendar," where I explained why I was saying goodbye to obligatory posting.
The biggest lesson I got out of all of this was that creativity does not derive from force. And although I try to pop in here (or on our newsletter) once a month, I only do so if I'm feeling compelled to share ... when everything flows. And that alone has made all the difference.
GOOD (GREAT!) THINGS
continued working with a contract designer
Towards the end of 2016, I hired a contract designer to help lead branding projects that I couldn't take on myself. Phalen and I have been getting into a rhythm ever since and have had at least one project going on together for the majority of the year.
Overall, it's been really nice to bounce ideas off of one another and have a second set of eyes (especially when comparing ten versions of this letter M) so that what we're putting out into the world not only tells the brand story, but is strong and succinct.
Phalen and her husband are having a baby around Christmas (!!!), so she'll be taking a few months off at the beginning of next year. She'll be missed, but I'm excited to see their little family grow and I'm sure we'll have some fun projects lined up once she's ready to come back.
raised our prices
During last year's review, I mentioned the idea of raising our pricing here at Rowan Made. I was nervous to do this at first, simply because it seemed like there would be a fine line between what's affordable and what's not when working with small businesses.
But! I'm happy to report that we did end up increase our prices, and started working with like-minded clients who were truly invested in our process. This is a big reason why I was able to work less this year, for which I couldn't be more grateful.
strengthened my own craft
Have you ever gone back to look at work of yours from years past and cringed? Yeah, me too. ;) This year, however, after utilizing the one concept method, I've found that I have a lot more time to hone in on my craft, and eventually, started noticing a shift.
I'm not quite sure how to explain it, other than it's almost as if my eye is becoming sharper? I don't know ... this kind of thing is weird to share because I'm not trying to overtly pat myself on the back, but in a way, I am. ;) I'm proud of the time I've put into strengthening my craft and believe that we all are worthy of celebrating ourselves.
That said, I know that there is always room for improvement, so I'm excited to see how that takes shape. But for now, I'm going to revel in the fact that I finally feel a sense of confidence as a designer. And that's really (really) cool.
BY THE NUMBERS
While the above is a nice overview of how I've felt throughout the year, I always like to give the other side of my brain a chance to speak because numbers and statistics are fun, too. This year, we worked on 30 projects, both big and small. Of those project, nearly 60% of them were branding related, while the rest were mostly websites with print, packaging, and other collateral items mixed in as well.
Our average number of inquiries, per month, was 30, with 57 being our highest in January. Most inquiries came in from social media, with referrals (whether it was from past clients or creative peers), being a close second. We also had a record number of past clients come back to us for follow up services, which is always fun.
If I'm being completely honest, I don't have any goals for 2018, other than to follow my own intuition and see what happens. Is that weird to admit? Probably, but if I've learned anything over the past year, it's that I thrive the MOST whenever I'm following my heart. So why not let it carve the way? Until then, peace out 2017.
PS. If you're interested in hearing a more personal detailing of the past twelve months, feel free to sign up for our newsletter. I'll be pulling back the curtain just a little bit more over there, as I typically do. ;)
PPS. Just in case you haven't heard, I'll be launching a workshop style class this winter that's all about establishing a holistic branding process that works for you, not against you. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in, feel free to share your email address for updates. I haven't officially figured out when this will all launch, or how I'll go about doing it, but I do know that the first go around WILL be more affordable as a thank you to whoever signs up as beta testers at the start.