We are so excited to chat with Promise Tangeman, a graphic designer, certified digital marketing strategist, style curator, and owner of the webdesign firm, Go Live Hq.
Promise helps creative girlbosses KILL IT online in a simple, stylish and strategic way. Her clients include the original #Girlboss herself, Sophia Amoruso, of Nasty Gal, TLC star Randy Fenoli of Say Yes to The Dress, Fashion Blogger Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What, Jaclyn Johnson of Create & Cultivate, Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess, and many other inspiring small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. You may also know her from Designer Vaca, which she co-founded.
We loved learning more about her intentional yet flexible business growth and hope you will to!
Tell us about your path to becoming a freelance graphic and web designer and eventual creative director of Go Live.
After marrying my husband, Brian in 2009, I decided to skip out on the corporate world and go out on my own as a freelance graphic and web designer. Following the high demand for custom design, I assembled a design team in 2012 and we began hosting in-person events to help creative entrepreneurs by the masses to build, design, and launch their own websites in two days flat.
Now, in 2018, the business has transformed into a Template Shop, custom website design, and we create more and more resources and education for entrepreneurs and small business owners on our blog, through webinars, and through one-on-one skype calls.
In the beginning of your freelance career, how did you attract your first good clients?
When I was first getting started, I did what a lot of people do when they are starting out and designed for friends and family. BUT, what I did that a lot of people miss out on the opportunity to do is to actively post about what you are creating or what you are doing.
When you post about what you are doing, even when you are just starting out, it looks like your business is active and thriving, and people are more likely to talk about you, refer you, and hire you just from that. If you have no proof on the web or on social media that you actually do what you say you do, no one is going to hire you.
From your solo beginnings, how did you decide to take the leap, grow your team, and become Go Live?
It really came down to time and talent! In order to be successful, you really have to think about making your business scalable, and utilize the time you have to dedicate to the things that really need YOU and your unique skills or talents to get done. For me, the demand grew so much for my design services that I wasn’t able to keep up on social media, or my blog, or even just managing my flooded inbox. I knew that I didn’t have the time, or honestly the desire, to spend on things that did not allow me to use my unique talents for my business. So, I figured out what I didn’t want to do and hired a team to help me out!
What is your primary role at Go Live?
I am the CEO and Creative Director at Go Live HQ, and I’m most often managing my team as they kill it from all corners of the continent, and that can look so different depending on what we’re working on! If I’m working with my Brand Strategist, Danielle, we are working with our custom clients and our designers and moving them through our onboarding and branding process. If I’m working with my Communications Strategist, Hunter, we’re working on blog, social media and marketing content for the whole year!
I also take on consulting calls with people who need more direction in their business, so I block out one afternoon a week to take those calls to talk design, marketing and business strategy. Oh, and then of course, I’m always working to whittle down my email inbox to zero.
Your team has totally turned the normal 4-8 week website design process upside down by offering your clients a 5 day turnaround, what was the inspiration behind this new structure?
There’s really 2 big reasons that we offer the 5-day design process. First, I really value the customer experience. What I learned early on is that the longer the design process and the relationship with a client carries on, the more you lose momentum with both the project and with the client relationship. Your timeline keeps getting pushed back. You rethink things that were all set to go a week ago. I’ve found that keeping it in a short sprint keeps the momentum, energy and excitement up.
Second, we really believe in launching quickly and refining later so that you can open the doors for business as soon as possible. We’ve heard people who go through a year or more of branding and design and then don’t even end up loving the final product, or by the time the final product is finished, it already needs changing. We believe in the words of Amy Poehler, “Great people do things before they are ready.” We believe in launching quickly so you can actually get to running your business and doing what you love!
Do you have any advice for handling communication as the leader of a design team?
Our team works remotely all across the continent, so we use a lot of different communication tools to stay in touch and make sure that we are all on the same page. But generally, the two things that I try to do with both clients and with team members is over communicate and set expectations early.
We want to give as much information as possible to each other on the team and to our clients so that nothing ever comes out of left field, so that everyone is tracking with each other, and so that we all know the full scope of a project.
As far as setting expectations, it is vital in both a team setting and in serving clients to do this well and to do this early on in the process of a relationship or a project. I’ve found, in most cases, that it avoids any potential pitfalls before they even arise, and that’s the key to a successful working relationship.
As Go Live, how do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
That’s a good question! I will say that it’s actually been fun to see our ideal client change and evolve. And I think that’s also key to a good business - recognizing that your target market has changed and take the steps to move with them.
Originally, we did start off working with a lot of photographers since that was the niche I came in on when I started off. Now, we’ve grown in a huge way working with small businesses, bloggers, coaches, authors, you name it! And that’s really just because the internet has expanded to be able to create online businesses for just about anyone.
Now that our audience has changed, our offerings have changed. Our Website Templates are not just geared towards photographers anymore. We have Website Templates for creative entrepreneurs, speakers, bloggers, online shops and more. We also target all of the resources and blog content toward our ideal client so that we are speaking directly to them, and speaking their language.
You are also the co-founder of Designer Vaca. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for this retreat and how you'd like it to grow and flourish moving forward?
It all started with a phone call to my business partner for Designer Vaca, Alyssa Yuhas, when we were trying to chat out handling a difficult client situation. After talking it all out and having each other to bounce ideas off of each other, we realized that we really wanted and needed to be able to do that more often with more female designers in our industry.
In 2012, we put that into motion and decided try and create that space in the design industry - a space to give designers a chance to step away from their computers, learn, share experiences & recharge alongside influential women.
Since the first year, we have sold out the conference (or retreat!) within a matter of days each year. We still love putting it on and keeping it centered around that mission of giving fellow female designers a chance to get away, breathe, get inspired and connect with other women in the industry.
You are in charge of so many different things! Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I know myself well enough at this point to know that I am not a multitasker!! I do not thrive in that and I do not do well getting pulled into different directions all at once. I am a huge believer in batch working. That’s where you group all of the similar things that are on your to do list together into one time chunk. So, for example, I spend Mondays dedicated to answering emails and doing any major administrative tasks. Or for another example, Wednesdays are dedicated content creation days where I’m writing and editing helpful content for the blog and social media all day. It keeps each day interesting and different, but also keeps us focused on the one task instead of the 50 that are ahead.
What has been your greatest struggle as a business owner so far?
My greatest struggle has been accepting the fact that there will always be constant change in my business. I used to say, “I can’t wait to get to the place where my business doesn’t feel like it’s in transition and everything is just smooth sailing.” However, I’ve now come to realize that’s never going to happen with an online business. When technology and the internet changes CONSTANTLY, your online business has to be constantly shifting and changing with it. So, I’ve learned to embrace change and transition as it’s proof that we’re going places. :)
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
I outsource the details of those things to the experts as much as I can. But owning a business still has its fair share of tasks that I HAVE to do and don’t like doing. As far as dealing with things that seem hard, not in my wheelhouse, or just a pain to do, one of my mentors has always said to “eat the sh*t sandwich as fast as you can.” It’s cheeky, but that’s the same principle I follow. I aim to deal with the situation head on, right away, and get it done as fast as I can. Otherwise, I know I’ll put it off. If you do it slowly, it’s going to taste yucky for longer.
What are your favorite ways to stay creatively inspired?
One of the things I have learned and am still learning is that it’s important to have creative hobbies outside of your business, and - even further - that these hobbies don’t have to be made into a money-making business model for you. They can simply remain hobbies that bring you joy and creativity and inspiration.
I think creative entrepreneurs often get trapped in the thought that the ultimate dream is doing absolutely everything you love and getting paid for it. But, everything you’re passionate about does not have to be part of your job description, and everything you love doing does not have to make you money.
So, I have different creative hobbies and interests like painting, interior design and fashion that I love investing my time in that keep me creatively inspired.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Integrity, hustle, and having an intentional customer experience.