The Leap with Rachel Renock and Bailey Thibodeaux

The Leap: Starting a studio from scratch with Bailey Thibodeaux

Welcome to The Leap! For this IG Live series, Wethos CEO Rachel Renock sits down with entrepreneurs who took the leap toward working independently or starting their own project.

In this episode, Rachel chatted with Bailey Thibodeaux, the founder and head designer of Honeywave Creative which specializes in brand and website designs. Bailey has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and a master’s degree in business admin from the University of Mississippi. Bailey’s focus is on helping visionaries grow their business and strategically designing brands and websites so that they don’t just look great, but are communicating and selling to the right customers.

Watch the full episode here or read the interview below to learn more about how Bailey took the leap into entrepreneurship straight out of school. 

Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

RR: Super excited to chat today. You’ve got such an interesting perspective as somebody who went right from school into starting your own business, so I’d love to start there. Tell us a little bit more about your journey and starting the business and how it’s evolved over time.

BT: I do feel like I have a bit of a unique perspective and it was not even something I was looking for whenever I was in school. I went to undergrad for marketing and when I was about to graduate, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and nobody wanted to hire me. So I said, “Okay, I’ll go and do grad school.” So I got my master’s. And then at the end of that year, I still couldn’t find a job and nobody was hiring — then we were in the middle of COVID and I was like, “Oh my gosh, really nobody’s hiring.” 

That was when I got interested in websites and brand design. I started following some people on Instagram and I realized that was even a thing. I tried finding a local business to apprenticeship for; just get mentored and almost be an intern for them and start with no pay. I found somebody in my hometown [to work with], then on the first day of work, a hurricane hit our city.

We were probably four hours away living in a hotel for three months after that. And I was trying to reach out to [the local business] and he wasn’t responding, which is understandable because people didn’t have homes. I didn’t even know what was going on with him, but I’m just sitting in a hotel and I was like, “this is crazy, nobody wants to hire me. Why don’t I just hire myself?” 

There’s no better time than now. So I just sat in the lobby in the hotel for two to three months and taught myself how to do websites and brand design by watching YouTube videos.

RR: A lot of the people that we’ve talked to come from a background where they were either in-house at big companies or at agencies and then they went off to start their own business. I imagine it’s a very different ballgame starting from scratch. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you went about building your professional network? You touched a little bit about your first client, but I know this is a barrier to a lot of folks who are just starting out. So tell us a little bit more about how you thought about building that network from day one and the client base.

BT: Whenever I first started, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. So at the very beginning stage, I invested in a course, and that is something I highly recommend — especially for somebody that hasn’t worked at one of these agencies before. Find somebody in the industry that you really look up to and basically has the business that you want to have or is living the life that you want to live. And then if they have a course, invest in it. 

The one that I did was amazing (shout out to Alex at High Moon Studio). She actually taught me how I should set up my business, the type of packages I could offer, and showed me the ropes of what people are expecting from me because I honestly didn’t have a clue. I was like, “yeah, I’ll build you a website.” But I didn’t know what they were expecting. The course really helped me in the beginning [and taught me] what to expect and what others were expecting of me so that I could actually give them products that delivered results.

RR: From a friends and family standpoint, I was really curious to get your thoughts on this. I will never forget when I quit my job at 25, and called my mom and my dad separately. They both had completely different reactions, but nothing that surprised me. My dad was wondering how I’m going to survive. And my mom, who has been an entrepreneur was like, “Fuck yeah, girl, quit that job.” So I was curious to get your thoughts on how your friends or family reacted when you told them that you were going to start your own business instead of going down a more traditional path. How’d that conversation go and how’d you navigate it?

BT: For me, I didn’t have a job and like I said, we were in a hotel, so I was like, “Hey, I’m going to start my own business and I’m just going to learn it while we’re at this hotel.” Knowing me, they should’ve known that I was actually going to do it, but I think they were all just like, “Okay yeah, go learn, but whenever we get back, you can actually go work for somebody.” But one of my first clients [I met at] the gym that we were working out of there. He was a personal trainer and I made a logo for him while we were at that hotel.

I don’t think they believed that I was going to do it, but I think overall everybody was supportive. And then after I actually got into it, I of course heard the typical from [my] grandparents like, “what are you going to do about retirement?” Or “you’re going to have to pay your own health insurance.” A lot of people, especially the older generation, don’t realize the opportunity that’s out there on the internet and what’s possible. So to anybody listening, even if you have the doubters out there, don’t let them get in your head. Just believe in yourself. You know it’s going to work, so make it work and make it happen.

RR: Was there an inflection point or a turning point where you realized, I’m actually never going to get a traditional full-time job. If so, what was that like?

BT: Honestly, I think it was probably in the hotel, even before I really got into it. I always knew I wanted to start a business, I just didn’t think it would be that soon. As soon as I saw that it could be possible, I was like this is it. We’re not doing anything else ever again, this is it.

RR: One of the things that we hear a lot from people who are just starting out is how they should think about their hourly rates or their pricing or their packages. I noticed on your website that you have a bunch of different services and packages and pricing. I wanted to understand a little bit better how you thought about your offerings and your services and how that strategy around pricing and packaging has evolved over time.

BT: I like to start with thinking, okay, what’s the life that I want to live? And then work backwards and figure out, okay, if I want to travel this much a year and only work this much a week, what is that going to look like? And what types of packages do I have to put out there?

But I will say, whenever you’re first getting started, there is a grind period because you can’t come out the gates charging $10,000 for a website, for example. Especially if you’re just getting started, [because] you probably won’t have the experience unless you’re coming from an agency. I know I didn’t whenever I started. I think I started out charging $800 for a full brand design, which in comparison, now it’s $2,500. Then for a full website, I charged $1,000 [at first] and now I charge $5,000. I started small, but I was just trying to get clients into the door so that I had examples and testimonials to show people.

What I found worked really well was every time I signed somebody at that price, I bumped it up a little bit. And if I started hitting resistance points, I’d slow down. But once you get the experience, there’s really not a limit. As long as you’re selling and people are buying, you don’t have to limit yourself. Charge what you want, and you might have less clients, but if you have those few that are paying, that might be all you need.

RR: I love the perspective of starting with what a real growth trajectory sort of looks like for you. Because I think there’s a lot of advice out there that tells people to just start with, what do you need to cover your expenses? And then go from there. And I do think that it’s a good and interesting mindset shift to start with “what do I want to be bringing in so that I can do the things that I want to be doing?” versus just, “what do I need to scrape by?”

BT: And just because you think something’s expensive, does not mean that whoever you’re selling to is going to think it’s even remotely expensive. Pricing is so subjective — put the value out there and people are going to come.

RR: Any advice for folks who are looking to take the leap?

BT: Just do it. Everybody’s scared whenever they get started, everybody feels like they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re not qualified. The only way you’re going to get the experience is by doing it. You can watch YouTube videos all day long, but if you don’t ever take that action, it’s never going to happen. You’re just going to watch everybody else start these businesses and you’re going to be like, “man, I wish that was me.” But you just need to take action — take the first step and you’ll learn as you go.

Ready to take the leap?