In today’s interview, I chat to Maila Zahid. Maila proudly admits that she’s never held a “normal 9-to-5” position. I think that this is so interesting, in a society that favours gaining “real-world work experience” before starting a business. So for that alone, I think she’s fantastically brave. Maila’s business makes chatbots (also called Messenger Bots) to complement your online marketing. If you haven’t heard of chatbots, you can find out more about them by reading this article by Social Media Examiner on 5 Ways to Use Facebook Messenger Bots for your Business. This is a relatively new avenue of online marketing, so, if I were you, I’d get on it right this second. And you can get hold of Maila to make one for you.
Maila is a member of The Fempreneur Collective‘s admin crew, which is how I met her. She’s a lovely lady, and I’m so excited to feature her today.
Q: Briefly tell us about your business journey. (What helped you decide to start your own business? What did you do before working for yourself?)
A: I had always been wanting to start my own online for a couple of years now. But the overwhelm that comes with deciding on HOW to do it kept me from starting. That was until this year when I couldn’t stand putting it off any longer.
My personal mantra that kept me going as I transitioned from working for others to becoming my own boss was: “You will figure it all out on the way, just get started”.
Before my own business, I used to offer an array of freelance services related to online marketing. That said, I have never had a regular 9-5 job and my last gig was the longest I had worked at any one place. It was with a tech startup where I was the marketing manager in charge of their content, email and social media marketing.
Q: What was the process you followed when starting to set up your brand?
A: Definitely not a linear process! So, I am the kind of person who loves perfection and to get it right in one go (which is impossible!). Creating a brand I loved and was proud to show off required quite a mindset change.
I had to let go of perfection and force myself to make room for error. Instead of trying to do it all in one go, I would do a bit and come back after a few days with a fresh set of eyes and perspective.
And most of the time, I would end up changing one thing or another. And I didn’t beat myself up for it because I was no longer going for perfection but rather function. What’s the point of having pretty stuff if it serves no purpose?
When starting a brand, creating a mood board is super important because you can see your branding elements all laid out in once place. So, I made mood boards (yes, I made multiple!) to help me visualise my concepts and to see what was working and what wasn’t.
Even then, as I was building my website, I took the liberty of straying away a bit because another color seemed much better and another font had more impact.
Nothing is set in stone when it comes to branding because I think a brand is always a work in progress. As long as the core values and mission statements are there, I believe it’s okay to experiment with the aesthetics.
Q: How do you manage your visual identity and make sure everything you do (from business cards, to packaging, to branding collateral) keeps in line with your brand?
A: To maintain branding across everything, I have my colors and fonts all noted down. Here’s where a final mood board for your brand comes to play. So, once you are happy with your branding elements, make sure to update your board so you can easily go back for reference.
I have also created a row of my brand’s colors in the Eye Dropper chrome extension. This way, I can easily select them from there and use anywhere I need to.
Also, I designed some templates that I can easily pull up and insert anywhere. So, I have my social media templates, my logos, headers etc.
Instead of guessing what to use, I simply go through these templates and pick the ones that do the job. So, I highly recommend you have your templates all in one place. Makes it so much easier to whip up something on the fly.
Q: How do you manage your social media commitments?
A: For fear of spreading myself too thinly, I am concentrating on just two social media platforms at the moment: Instagram and Facebook. I am present on other platforms as well but I am not focusing on them right now. They will get some love later on but since my business is new, I have to prioritise in order of importance.
That said, I like to create my visual content in batches to save time. Also, I have created groups of related hashtags so I don’t have to think of which ones to use every time (I use Planoly to save these groups of hashtags and also to schedule my Instagram posts).
Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep going when your inner critic’s voice gets a bit too loud?
A: Honestly, I just remind myself why I started in the first place – to build a life that I don’t need a vacation from. Thankfully, that has been realised because even if I am on a vacation, I can’t help but pop into my inbox to see if there is anything new or plan my future tasks. It’s just so fun and addictive.
Another thing I do when it starts to get overwhelming is just take a break, step away from work and do something to relax and unwind.
Maybe even chat with a friend, it’s amazing how like-minded people can make you feel on top of the world in an instant. Having positive people around when you feel down makes it easy to bounce back.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you started your business?
A: My biggest lesson would be to accept that things never go as planned. And that’s okay. Failure is part of success and so is rejection.
I have learnt to believe in myself and to put myself out there by doing things I normally would have run away from. It’s still an ongoing process but I no longer overthink (much!) and have given myself permission to be ME.
So, if you are reading this, I just want to say that: It’s okay to fall, just be sure to get right back up and go after your goals like a bossbabe!
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.