Nicole Corbett

This week we have the pleasure of speaking with Creative Lady Directory member, Nicole Corbett. Nicole is the founder of Worn, a mission-based creative agency that empowers women to lead. Worn works with female-led companies and their advocates to launch new products, produce bold campaigns, and design powerful content.

Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your empowering entrepreneurial insights!

Nicole Corbett | Freelance Wisdom

Worn was first a print publication. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it blossomed into a full service creative agency?

When I was 22, I started a photography and fashion print magazine in DC called Worn Magazine. I published it for four years and in 2013 I turned it into a creative agency called Worn. I had two months of living expenses left in the bank and still refused to get a “real” job. I knew I needed to turn my passion into a business. That was when I decided to turn the magazine into a full service creative agency. We were perfectly positioned to do that because we had built a brand, we were skilled in every creative area we needed to be, and we had a fresh take on content. Our first six issues of the magazine served as our portfolio at the very beginning. Now we’ve grown so much as an agency that not many people know it used to be a magazine.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients for Worn?

Our first ever client found us through the magazine. The CEO walked into an event we were doing where we had the magazine on display and told us he liked the work and he might need some photography. It was very casual. But I called the restaurant that he owned the next day and said “You said you needed photography. Let’s talk.” We ended up working with &pizza for a couple of years and helped them open 6 locations. They were our first client and I’m still friends with the CEO today.
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom

Was Worn always a team? If not, how did you make the decision to bring on additional head coaches?

I’ve always been an extremely ambitious person and I’ve always fed off the creative energy a team brings, so I knew I wanted to build a company vs. be a solo freelancer. One is not better than the other, that is what simply was right for me. Plus, the impact your company can have on a team of people is immense.

Do you have any advice for handling communication as a CEO?

Transparency is key and there is no such thing as over-communicating. The better your communication is, the more autonomy you can give your team, which frees you up to focus on what’s most important and gives them more freedom.
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom

Freelancing can be a lonely industry. What is your favorite thing about working with a team of women?

The part I love most about my job is working with the Worn team. We have such an uplifting, positive environment at the office. I could wake up in a bad mood and the second I step into the office, I’m instantly happy. Our team also really values interpersonal harmony, so even when we’re extremely busy, the environment is encouraging instead of tense. We play Beyoncé a lot :)

What has been your greatest struggle as a female creative and leader of a creative agency so far?

Dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Early on it was very taxing emotionally. One day you’re kicking ass and you’re convinced you’re going to rule the world, and a hour later you could feel like the biggest failure. It’s a roller coaster. Over time I have gotten better at taking things less personally and I give myself permission to do things that are good for me, like work out in the middle of the day.
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

Calculate how much your time is worth per hour, and then anything that you could get done for less than that hourly amount, pay someone else to do it so you can focus on what’s most valuable to you. That could be anything from cleaning your apartment to mailing packages.

How do you whet your creative appetite?

Traveling. I travel quite a bit internationally and I’m always so curious about new products abroad, creative packaging (especially Korean beauty products), and foreign approaches to design. I also find it helpful to explore things totally unrelated to design, like surfing. I love reading surf magazines and I find that they bring me back to appreciating beauty and clearing my head.
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom
Nicole Corbett | Worn | Freelance Wisdom

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I sure do!
1. Don’t be uncomfortable talking about money. This will put you at a disadvantage in any business deal.
2. DROOM. Don’t run out of money. Be wise about what you invest in.
3. If you didn’t go to business school (I didn’t) then fill in the gaps in knowledge through a class or online course of some kind, and then hire an expert to do the important things like accounting. I am about to graduate from Goldman Sachs 10KSB program, which I recommend to all entrepreneurs.

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

It goes without saying that it’s very hard to maintain balance in life as an entrepreneur. I am married to another entrepreneur, so it’s doubly hard. I hit a low point at the beginning of this year where I felt I couldn’t be a great wife and entrepreneur at the same time. I was really down about it until I realized I didn’t have to do everything alone and perhaps it was okay to ask for help. So I decided to hire a personal assistant and it was one of the best most life changing decisions I’ve ever made. My assistant Angela is a rockstar and she makes it possible for me to have time with my husband at the end of the day and be as efficient as I can be at the office.

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

business savvy (creative talent isn’t enough), great customer service, creative talent with the ability to take constructive criticism.

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