Every other Wednesday, Wethos CEO Rachel Renock hosts an IG Live series highlighting the stories of creative entrepreneurs who took the leap toward working independently or starting their own project. For this episode, Rachel sat down with Brittany Wilson, founder of The Idea Girl, a boutique design studio and creative community. They discussed Brittany’s leap toward building her own studio and launching The Idea Girl.
Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity.
RR: To start, how did you get here? What pushed you initially to take that leap?
BW: I’ve always been a creative director. I’ve always been a designer. But at my last job, I was on a project management team at a large fashion luxury retailer. And that was the job where I learned everything about project management, which is also crucial, especially for running any kind of business. When they let me go, I had already given myself permission to just experiment with the things that I wanted to do.
So what I really did was take everything that I was good at doing that was applicable to my agency, and from there pretty much built out my services and my offerings. In the beginning, I was just doing random things. I educated myself and I made sure that if I wanted this, then I’m going to teach myself because no one’s responsible for my happiness and my life except for me. And I was tired of life happening to me. I was tired of these jobs. And I thought to myself: You know what? These guys need me, right? I’m an asset. I must be an asset to them. What can I do to make myself even more of an asset? And how can I utilize myself, my skills, my resources, and my connections in order to create a job for myself? And that is the foundation of The Idea Girl.
It’s technically been ten years. So this is no get rich quick scheme. There is no cheat sheet. There is no shortcut. But when you sit down, you actually think about who you are, what you’re here for, and when you actually think about the things that you’re capable of doing and you think about your gifts. I was able to take my gifts, which is my eye, which is my taste and my ability to put things together and make people feel from it. I’ve been able to take that and build a company based off of that.
RR: That’s incredible. So I’m curious. One of the things about growing a business or a company is that you get create jobs for other people. I always say I’m firing myself from things that I shouldn’t be doing any more. What’s the first thing that you fire yourself from? Like what was the number one thing that you did not want to hurt?
BW: I fired myself from operations and client relations management. Those are the two jobs I had to fire myself from because being head of creative and then having to deal with clients and keep them happy and then being able to project manage took such a toll on me to the point where it actually made me physically sick. So I had to even take a step back from everything and just reevaluate because I scaled in such a short period of time.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I make mistakes and I keep pushing. I make mistakes and I keep learning. I don’t sob about it. I figure out how can I keep this from happening again, you know, and from there I’ve been able to delegate because when you’re first starting out, I had about maybe twenty something roles that are now maybe down to about ten
loved about that book, they mentioned that you should always, at least at the very least, take 10 percent of your revenue between 50 and 10 percent. To pay yourself back to yourself first and after you pay yourself, you figure out, OK, now I can pay for taxes, now I can pay for I have a profit account so that money is only set aside. Then you have your operations, your access account, your operations account, and it doesn’t matter how big or how small you are doing. This method has helped me so much. And again, I would recommend everyone to take our mentorship program. I’m going to take our mentorship program. You always want to learn know I haven’t even updated my portfolio because I’m just here working and learning.
RR: I feel like there’s a lot of overlap between the creative side of your job and the sales side of your job. How do you set goals for your business? How do you build up that pipeline or know when to say no?
BW: You have to figure out what your lifestyle is and how to make your business work for you. You are not in the business of working for everyone else. You’re in the business of making a business work for you. And I feel that that’s something that we all get twisted sometimes, especially if you have a service based business.
You pay yourself at the least 10% to 50%. So if you can even pay yourself anything, please start at least at 10% for yourself.
When it comes to charging, you want to think about your lifestyle. You need to think about your bills. You need to think about how much money you need to survive. And from there, you can calculate exactly how much you need to be charging built in with what you’re offering.
You can be as confident as you want. But let me tell you something. Everything is about building trust with the customer. If you are telling me you charge twenty thousand dollars, but you’re not capable of showing the work that you’ve done that looks like it’s worth that much money, then that’s a problem. And you need to show that your value is there. And that looks like having a really in-depth portfolio. That looks like being able to show the results. You want to be able to show the features, the benefits, and the advantages of working with you. And that is how you raise your price.
Ready to start charging your worth with pre-priced scope of work templates?
RR: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So really quick last question. Is there a big takeaway for folks who are thinking about taking the leap and what they should know in terms of your experience and how to get there?
BW: Absolutely. I learned a lot, so I’m here to share. One thing I would recommend is if you are taking the leap and you’re thinking about freelancing full time or you’re even thinking about starting your own company of some sort, I would recommend the following:
First things first: Whatever the name of your company is, ownership is key and you want to make sure that you’re securing ownership, from your domain to the actual name of your brand. Kylie Jenner owns so many trademarks, it’s unreal.
Some people want to jump into design. Everything needs to come step by step. Get your legalities in order, making sure that you even have a business advisor or some type of legal rep that can help you go over contracts, prepare your contracts for you, prepare your proposals for you, or work with someone who can actually help you get set up with the legalities of your business.
The next thing I would definitely suggest is forming and incorporating your business, figuring out whether or not you want to be a single member, LLC, whether or not you’re going to be a partnership. If there are other people involved, whether or not you want to be an S corp so taxes are easier, or whether or not you want to be a C corp. So you need to figure out what is going to work best for you.
Now, project management is internal versus client management, which is external. And with client management that looks like customer support, that looks like account managers. That’s what that looks like. So you can choose whichever route you want to go, depending on how many hours you need. But it is nice to have someone else dealing with clients in particular, because it’s part of sales. And the goal is to keep the relationship instead of burning the bridge. And sometimes you need someone who is very well equipped, well-spoken in order to keep the client with you. Then project management again is also super important, having a specific process for the way things need to get done in order for you to see a specific result or in order for you to complete that specific milestone.
From there, invest in continuously doing work. Even if you’re doing mock work, if you don’t have any clients, maybe try to do some self-starting projects. I did that in the beginning when I first started and doing self-started projects helped me out.
RR: Amazing. Well, listen, I just learned a shit ton, so thank you for that. Thank you so much for taking the time and the energy and the effort, as always.
BW: Thanks, everybody. I thank you for having me. Let’s get this money. Let’s do it. Yes, let’s go.
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