Lindsay Kelly is the Founder and Creative Director of JaneMade, a full service branding studio that focuses on working with female-founded and female-led brands with an ethos of community over competition. She is also a member of the Creative Lady Directory!
We’ve loved watching her company grow and really enjoyed hearing how she’s handled that rapid growth. Be sure to read all the way through to Lindsay’s just starting out advice. We have a hunch that you’ll want to add it to your mantra list.
Tell us about your path to becoming JaneMade.
After working in-house for over ten years, I wanted to partner on projects with clients that shared my mission and values of women helping women and community over competition. I built up enough freelance work to be able to be able to take the plunge to working for myself and never looked back. After 6 months or so of freelancing full time, I officially established the company and have poured my heart into it since then.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
After working for so long, I had built up quite a network over the years. Those former co-workers gave me work, and referred me to other folks. In this sense, maintaining strong relationships was really important. I let former colleagues and friends know that I was out on my own, and got a lot of referrals that way. I also learned, very early on, the benefits Instagram has and receive a lot of inquiries through it after posting work. I’d say about 90% of our inquiries still come from Instagram, which is wild, but we definitely use it to our advantage and post what seems to work.
When did you make the decision to grow your team and how has that growth been?
I’m not one to say no if there’s a project I want to do, and knew it was important for the growth of JaneMade to say yes to everything that aligned with us. This meant finding the support of designers I’d worked with over the years and bringing on a writer in the early days. Since then, I’ve brought on a partner who leads strategy and marketing and several gals who help out with design and copy. My client relationships are very important to me, so it’s been a tug and pull to find team members that completely mesh with us, but we’ve found several along the way and have a solid team in place.
As your team has grown has your role within JaneMade evolved?
Truthfully, not really! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I’m still touching every project, every logo, working directly with all of our clients. Our reputation is really important to me, and I want to make sure that every client feels as important as the next, regardless of project size. I’m trying to be better and let go of some responsibilities, and have brought on a studio manager to help with those efforts. As we grow, there’s more phone calls, more emails to answer, and less time to design, so I’m really trying to take some steps to get back to doing what I do best.
Do you have any tips for creatives who are looking to expand their team?
I think it’s paramount to make sure that you work with people who “fit”. Everyone has different skill sets, strengths + weaknesses, but what’s most important is that any team member you bring on is working for the greater good of your business. Make sure that your supporting team members are clear on what’s expected of them, what your process and timelines are like, and if you have any “rules” they need to follow. But if you’re getting busy, find the help sooner rather than later. This will definitely remove some of the stress of being overwhelmed and needing to find help in that moment.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
My partner, Kerri, has started doing some really great outreach to like-minded women in categories we want to work in or build up our client base in. I also try to go above and beyond to make sure all of our clients feel their needs are met, because a recommendation from a former client is a huge mark of success for me. We get a lot of referrals from past clients, so we really try our best to make all of our relationships smooth and successful. And, of course, still Instagram! We make sure to push relevant content, both visual and strategy wise, to really reflect who we are as a brand: aesthetically and value-wise.
What has been your greatest struggle as a creative business owner so far?
I’m a right-brained thinker, through and through. Owning a business means managing clients, taxes, payroll… all the things that aren’t intuitive to me. I’ve hit some bumps along the way (all of which I’ve learned from!) but definitely still struggle with some of the more “business” related side of things. I got myself a new accountant, brought on a studio manager, and started to put more processes in place to help with the management aspect of it. Rapid success is definitely met with growing pains! But we’re constantly evolving our ways of doing things for what’s best for us.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive individually and as a team?
Making lists definitely helps me. Sometimes thinking about everything I need to do gets really overwhelming, so I’ll list out what I need to accomplish each day. It keeps me focused, organized, and feels great when I start to check things off. I also try to not schedule too many calls in one day, so that I have enough time to do “actual work.” As a team, I try to make sure everyone has the information they need to work efficiently and to the best of their ability, which means getting things organized before they get started. There’s nothing worse than wasted time when there’s so much to do, so keeping everything documented is great. We use both Trello and monday.com to help us from a project management perspective.
Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details?
So many! My biggest advice is definitely to get an accountant. Like immediately. I’m 3 years into being self employed and am still messing up (less now!) and wish I had known what I know now back then. Also, make sure you’re protected, which means using a contract for every job. And.co makes a great free one. I track everything through Quickbooks, which is an easy way for me to forecast financially.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Truthfully, I wish I’d known it would all work out. I had a lot of anxiety around taking the plunge -- we’ve got kids and a mortgage so i needed to be able to contribute my share. Projects would end and I’d get nervous from time to time that there wasn’t enough work in the pipeline. But everytime, something amazing would come along and my worry was for nothing. It’s been a lot of work and I’ve certainly been spread a little too thin on occasion, but it’s so worth it.
How do you stay creatively inspired? What do you like to daydream about?
My team does a great job at keeping me inspired. Our newest designer, Ashley, is a breath of fresh air -- she’s so thoughtful in how she thinks about design, and it’s refreshing to see things through a different set of eyes. I love to look at photography for color palette and layout inspiration, and all of our branding projects stem from a huge gathering of images. I do my best not to go down a bunny hole of design references -- sometimes it’s hard to get them out of your head and stay original (especially in the Instagram world), so I really like to stick to studying photography and typefaces to get my juices flowing.
I love to daydream about the future! I’m always asking “what’s next?” for JaneMade and brainstorming with Kerri about how we can constantly grow and evolve. Our hope is to leave a successful, thriving business to our daughters so it’s important to us to always strive for greater.
Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?
I get way too distracted to listen to podcasts, though I try sometimes! Reading is also a luxury I unfortunately don’t have, with two small kids and a business. But! I’m really into Spotify’s daily mixes and discover weekly. I listen to music all day long while designing. Faves include Alt-J, Langhorne Slim, Keaton Henson, and old folk music.
Anything else that you'd like to share?
If you’ve thought about / are thinking about becoming a freelancer, do it. There is so much work and opportunity out there, and I wish I had taken the jump sooner. Full time jobs will always be there to apply to, but you were born with talent for a reason!
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
humility, tenacity, kindness