For the last year-and-a-bit, I have featured inspiring women in business. Because I joined The Fempreneur Collective as a crew member, I decided to create an interview mini-series featuring the rest of the crew members. I felt that the series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t answer my own questions, so here we are. I feel self-conscious about featuring myself, but I’ve got interesting answers to the questions, so I put my own feelings aside. So, as with all my other interviews in the series, I present Melissa De Klerk.
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: Before working for myself, I held various jobs. I worked in education administration for a year (2014), then I interned at a digital media agency (2015). I then landed a permanent position at an ad agency (2015/2016).
It turned out that the position wasn’t as permanent as I had thought, as I was retrenched on a Monday in May of 2016. I got married on the Saturday just before I was laid off. My husband and I didn’t let retrenchment ruin our honeymoon plans. We left for our honeymoon on the Friday and spent a week in the winelands. Then I went to Jeffreys Bay for 4 days for an Art of Living Silence Course.
While we were on honeymoon, my husband said to me that I should start my own business. If it weren’t for his confidence in me, and allowing me the space to imagine my own business, I’d probably still be battling to find a job in the media industry.
I never saw myself as an entrepreneur and I never imagined owning my own business. In my mind, to be an entrepreneur, you should have a lot of money behind you. But I’m happy to report that this is not true, as I started my business with R10 000.
Q: What was the process you followed when starting to set up your brand?
A: I created a doc on my computer, and proceeded to write down all the personality traits I wanted my brand to express. Then I thought about what sort of work I’d do, and the values that work embodies. I wrote down what makes my approach to my work different to others I’ve seen in the marketplace.
Informed by that process, I decided on a name and tagline. I did research to confirm that my name wasn’t taken anywhere, and I bought my domain. Then I claimed my business name on every social media platform. I did this to start creating a digital “footprint” for the brand.
Next, I needed colours, a logo and typefaces to create the beginnings of my visual identity. I outsourced my logo to a local graphic designer because my skills do not lie in logo design. I’m in love with my logo, and refer anybody who asks to said graphic designer.
I then created my website, designed my range of templates for social media and website graphics, and began the search for quality stock photographs to form my brand’s photo “vocabulary”.
Then 8-ish months into business, I strongly felt that my colours and aesthetic weren’t doing my brand any favours, so I went into revamp mode in April of this year. I didn’t overhaul everything, just my colours, fonts and the imagery I was using. Then I applied that to my website, social media graphics and other branding collateral.
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: My business is 90% online, so the collateral I manage mostly consists of graphics for social media, graphics for blog posts and images for my website. I designed templates for myself, and I use these each time I need to create a piece of content. I highly recommend doing this, as it saves so much time in the long run.
Occasionally, I have business cards printed, and those were created when I had my logo designed.
When I revamped my colours, I changed all my official documents and collateral as well. Everything had to change, so I spent about a week and a half updating all my templates: quotation, invoice, receipt, contracts, info booklets, letterheads, email signature, business cards, social media graphics, blog graphics, website graphics and anything I was using in client-facing communications.
When I revamped my brand, I created a colour palette, and I made sure to copy and paste the colour swatches into all my templates to ensure that I was using the correct colours each time I created anything.
Q: How do you manage your social media commitments?
A: I block out time every month to write content for my social media channels. I sometimes leave a few days each month open in my content calendar. This gives me the freedom to write a post “off the cuff”.
For the first year, I created, wrote and scheduled everything myself. Then I got too busy to do it all myself (and I just wasn’t coping on my own), so I enlisted help in the form of a VA. I trained her and explained everything in great detail, and I also made training videos that she has permanent access to, in case she needs to check up on something.
I wouldn’t have been able to outsource had I not taken the time to create a process and document each step I take to execute the work.
Now, I design all my images, write all my content and plan the schedule. I use Google Drive to share the content and the images with my VA, and she fills out the content calendars on all my social media platforms.
Before outsourcing anything, it’s vital that you first do it yourself. This helps you to understand the full scope of the work involved, and allows you to create a smooth process. This makes it easier to explain everything to the person you’ve hired. If you take the time to explain everything properly, it’s more likely that the project will turn out successfully.
Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep going when your inner critic’s voice gets a bit too loud?
A: I am my own harshest critic, and I have been for years. I’ve learned to work with it and not let it work against me.
When I’m feeling drained or when I’ve hit a stumbling block with a project, I need to step away from the computer and distance myself from work. I either read a book, take my daxie, Milo, for a walk (weather dependant – Milo doesn’t walk in puddles or on wet grass, and he doesn’t do walkies on hot days), or snuggle with Milo on the couch and watch an episode of a series I’ve already seen.
I also find that decluttering a shelf in my office cupboard can help to clear the mental cobwebs. I don’t procrastinate by cleaning, though – I’m not that dedicated to cleaning.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned since you started your business?
A: Don’t take every job that you are offered. If you get a bad gut feeling about any part of the work, don’t take it. I’ve ignored that gut feeling before (because I needed to get paid), and I’ve regretted it every single time.
It’s difficult to start a business and get paid for your skills, but if you understand the value of your work and can define it, you’ll be much better off in all aspects of business.
It’s better to have clients who see your value and are willing to pay for your combination of skills than to have clients who want you to copy somebody else’s work. (If a client wants you to make an exact copy of work they’ve seen elsewhere, politely decline and walk away.)
It’s better to have a few clients, and to build valuable relationships with each one, than to have a larger database of 50+ clients who only come to you in a crisis, or when they want a last-minute project done.
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.