Bonnie Bakhtiari is a self-taught brand designer for creative entrepreneurs based in Waco, Texas, and the founder of bisforbonniedesign. She’s built a six-figure business through her work in crafting high converting brands for her clients and teaching fellow designers her signature brand strategy approach.
She’s accomplished all of this in just over 7 years—building her business from the ground up as a recent college graduate. On today’s episode, Bonnie is sharing the behind-the-scenes story of how she took her little side hustle full- time and what led her to take the road less traveled.
Bonnie’s website: https://bisforbonniedesign.com/
Hi everyone and welcome back to Interact’s Creator Stories podcast. As usual, I am your host Jessmyn Solana. And with me today, I have Bonnie Bakhtiari. Bonnie, thank you so much for hopping on the show with us and welcome.
Thanks so much, Jessmyn. I’m so excited to get to chat with you today and thank you so much for having me.
Of course, of course. And just to give everyone a little bit of background on Bonnie, she’s the founder of bisforbonniedesign.com. She’s a brand strategist and designer for creative women entrepreneurs, an international speaker, and a coach for fellow graphic brand and web designers. Since 2012, Bonnie has crafted … oh my gosh. Sorry. See, I knew my voice was going to do that. Bonnie has crafted high converting brands for her design clients, and she currently teaches fellow designers her signature brand strategy approach, her five week program The Brand Strategy School. You’re based in, am I saying this right? Waco.
Okay good. Waco, Texas with her husband of almost nine years and their two rambunctious golden retrievers Boone and Clin. So exciting. So tell me a little bit more about your business, what you do, who your customers are, and the whole shebang.
Absolutely. So like you said in that just so thoughtful intro, I am a brand designer and strategist. And I work through that work. I partner with women entrepreneurs to create elevated visual identities that position them as the go-to expert that their ideal clients are looking for. So I work with a lot of service providers. So think photographers, creatives, wedding planners, event planners, fellow designers, coaches, bloggers. Just really incredibly talented people who have a product or a service that they’re using to create an impact in the lives of their clients and customers.
So it’s my job to come in and make sure that their brand and that message is resonating so they’re able to really be perceived in the way they want to so that they can have that impact with their clients and their customers, but they also can be ensuring that that is positively impacting their bottom lines as well.
So I’ve been doing that for almost a decade now, which is just such an honor. So wild. I love, love, love what I do. And I love it so much, that I started teaching fellow designers how to do the same through my course for designers, The Brand Strategy School. So yeah, that’s a little bit about what I do. And like I said, got started in 2012. Kind of an accidental entrepreneurial journey. Sort of fell into this. And I was gearing up to graduate from college. It was actually the graduating semester of my senior year at university. And I was kind of looking at the calendar and I could see on the other end graduation. And then afterwards, what happened? I was like, “Okay, I’m applying for jobs.” I’m doing that thing that you do when graduation is looming and you’re sending out all the resumes and cover letters.
And I thought okay, well I know that going through this traditional hiring process and going to that traditional nine to five corporate job, that is something that I only have so much control over. I can show up, and I can control where I’m applying, and how I’m applying, and how I’m going into those interviews. But I don’t really have any control over who hires me or what positions I’m offered if any.
So I thought about it and I thought, “You know what? I want to have more agency over my life. And I want to have more of a say what I’m doing with my time and energy.” So crazy idea. What if I started a website? And what if I started working with people and using the skills that I had at that time?
So I launched this nothing fancy, super scrappy little website. And was really fortunate that I was able to start working through brand design and logo design, and some of those graphic design pieces with friends of mine who were also starting businesses or friends of friends, kind of working that community and that network initially.
And from those very humble beginnings, things started to kind of build. And the more that I was working with people in that capacity, the more it was this little side hustle that I started to see, “Wow, I actually really enjoy doing this.” And not only do I enjoy doing this, but I’m helping people through the design work that I do. I’m helping them create these logos and these visual identities that they can then use to get out in front of their ideal clients or they can use to wow their potential clients through business cards, or a beautiful website, and things like that.
So I just thought there was a lot of potential there. So I actually decided to go the not so traditional routes and take my little side hustle full-time. And the rest is history. So I’ve been growing this from the ground up ever since. And I’m so honored that now I’ve built a six-figure business. I’ve got an amazing team that works with me. And more than that, I’m just really humbled that we get to show up, serve our clients, and help them change lives through the work that they do.
Wow. That is awesome. I love that. And it’s kind of cool because I feel like now right, online businesses are such a big thing? And not that it’s easy to get into, but I feel like it’s just more common. You see it a lot now. But you kind of got started at a time where this wasn’t a really big thing. Not a lot of people do it. And I’m sure at the time, you probably got people being like, “What, that’s what you chose to do?”
No, I absolutely did. There was a lot of confusion. My parents, love them so much. I’m still not 100% sure that they know what I do, but that’s okay. Because I know what I do. But yeah, there were totally a lot of people at the beginning who thought I was crazy, didn’t understand what I did. And especially as I started to really niche down and focus on brand design, and brand strategy, and that really-in depth work, I would still get Facebook messages from people I went to college with who were like, “Hey, we’re getting married. Can you design us a save the date?” Or, “Hey, we’re having a baby. Can you design our invitations?” And I’m like, “Thanks for thinking of me, but that’s not really what I do. I can’t really serve you in that way.”
So you’re right. I think that it’s been amazing on my end to see just how much the online entrepreneur industry has grown. And just because we have access to so many incredible tools and the internet has made it so easy, and through tools like interact and even through social media, it’s so easy for us to have an idea and then get out in front of the people that we want to serve, validate that idea, make money with that idea, and hopefully have some fun along the way.
Yeah. Yeah. No, I think that’s definitely so true. So now that you have these tools that you just mentioned, was that something that you had access to when you first started? Or was everything kind of just from scratch?
It was basically from scratch. So when I started, when I built my website, I’m kind of cringing to share this. But when I started building my very first website, it was on Blogger. I don’t even think that Blogger is a thing anymore. Some people are going to be listening to this today and they’re going to be like, “What is that even?” But it was this scrappy, scrappy is the nicest way that I can describe my very first website. It was this scrappy little website, kind of bare bones. I had my personal Facebook page, a business Facebook page, and my personal Instagram account. This is back in the day when Instagram was, we still had the chronological feed. And we did not have creator accounts. We did not have business accounts. We were all still sharing fairly heavily filtered photos of what we had for lunch that day. And it was okay. It was a different time. And I feel a little bit like a dinosaur sharing in that, but it was a fun time to be growing a business because you felt like you got to be a little bit of a scientist, and you got to experiment and try different things, and see what worked and see what didn’t work. And then based on the data that you saw, make an informed decision about how you wanted to move forward and how you wanted to market your business or connect with your customers.
But thankfully, that was also a period of time when Etsy was a really great tool for online service providers to be using. From what I understand now, there’s just changes to the algorithm and things like that on that platform can be a little bit harder to get discovered or to get out in front of your ideal customers on that platform. But I’m thinking at this point in time, I would even see photographers who would be using Etsy or fellow designers who were selling done for you services in addition to digital templates or guides, graphics, and things like that. And that built-in search engine would be a really great way to get out in front of people who would love to hire you for a service.
So that’s actually something that although the digital landscape looked a little bit different back in 2012, that’s something that every entrepreneur no matter when you come in, no matter when you’re launching or starting your business, that is something that everyone wrestles with. And everyone has to explore what works for you, where you like to engage with your audience, where you want to even invest your time and energy in building an audience. Because there are so many options out there, which is amazing. And I think that that just kind of goes to show that there’s so much opportunity out there for us if you have an idea to go out there and make it happen. But it also gives you as the entrepreneur, as the person with this idea this incredible amount of agency over where you want to show up, and how you want to connect with your people, and how you want to build that kind of community or that sense of awareness around your brand.
Yeah. I think you said it really well. And I was going to ask you from there, what were some of the challenges that you had to go through when with the rise of technology, there’s now all these tools for you to use and they all seem appealing, right? But once you get into it, you’re like, “Actually, maybe I don’t need this.” Or, “I actually don’t know how to use this at all and so on.” So I feel like that’s something that people go through a lot right now, because there’s all these options. So how do you really choose?
I think that that can be a bit of a personal kind of decision making process. Because if we think about the way that we show up day in and day out in our businesses and I mean show up for yourself and show up for the work that you’re doing, kind of behind the scenes.
So the stuff that people don’t see on social media, it’s you hanging out in your sweatpants in front of your computer with probably your third cup of coffee. And you are doing the work, actually showing up and doing the work. Everyone has a different amount of energy that they want to be spending on social media or those internal apps and tools that you’re using to grow your business.
So for example, some people, they love being the early adopter and they love trying new things. So with every new app that comes out or every new social platform, they’re like, “Yes, sign me up.” Because they get energy off of that. And they love that. And they love just being that person who shows up in that way.
Some people, the people who might be a slower adopter at that point, maybe it’s because they don’t really want to be spending their time or energy in that way of maybe they’re like, “I don’t want another app. I don’t want another social account that I need to create content for.” So I think that you as the individual, you have to decide do you want to be showing up on social media on a consistent basis? Is that something that you want to be doing? Is that something that you directly see how the needle moves forward in your business based on that action that you take? If that doesn’t excite you, if that doesn’t feel fun to you, if that doesn’t feel life-giving to you, that’s also okay. You don’t have to buy into this pressure to be everywhere at once if it’s not actually generating sales or generating consistent income for your business. Because at the end of the day, these are businesses.
And social media, those free tools especially can be really amazing, amazing at growing your business and getting in front of your ideal clients or customers. But at the end of the day, those are free tools that someone else created that Facebook, or Instagram, or Clubhouse at the end of the day, they are thinking about how they can monetize that platform for themselves. And you are not a primary consideration for them.
So it’s just important to think about you can show up there, and you can be engaging, and you can be spending your time of course, wherever you want. But you don’t need to like buy into some hyper kind of pressure about where you need to be and how you need to be acting in order to grow your business because you get to choose what that looks like.
Yeah, I love that. I think that’s a great explanation of how to do it. And a lot of people do get kind of caught in that just overwhelm, right? There’s so many options, but which one is the right one?
So earlier, you mentioned that you’ve been doing this since 2012 and you kind of started right out of college. Right? So that’s pretty, I don’t know. I remember when I was graduating college, I was dead scared because my dad at the time was like, “I’m cutting you off. I’m not helping you at all.” Which was weird for me because I luckily was able to get support from him for most of my life. So my thought at the time was like, “I have to get a nine to five,” because that was my only option at the time or so I thought. So what was kind of going through your head? What made you finally just say, “This is scary, but I’m going to do it”?
I love this question because I think that whether it’s starting a business or it’s just going after something that you really want but is intimidating and vulnerable, everyone is going to have, or has experienced something like this that they can kind of relate to. And for me personally, I thought about the kind of life that I wanted to be living and the kind of future that I wanted to create. And I thought that I could create a better future for myself. And I could create more freedom, more flexibility, more impact through my own company than going and working at a more traditional nine to five. Not that there’s anything wrong with the nine to five. I think there are some hugely fulfilling positions out there and every person is different. So my path might sound horrifying and very stressful to other people. Whereas for me personally, this is right for me.
So I think that there’s definitely something out there for everybody. But as an individual, I saw this opportunity. And I kind of saw it as a decision of okay, I can take … because actually at that point, at that point where I did actually make the decision to go full in on this business, I had a job offer from the kind of company that I always saw myself working for. The company that for the four years that I was in college, I saw myself graduating and working for that kind of company. So I was really excited with that offer. They were really excited to extend that offer to me. And I kind of sat there, and I was thinking about it. And I was actually sitting on the floor of my like post-college apartment. And I realized okay, if I take this offer, then I do not think that realistically I will go all in on this business. It will be something that at best will be a side hustle, but more than likely, it’ll probably be something that I retire. I kind of put it by the wayside.
So I thought okay, I can go to the nine to five, and I can be successful there, and I can have that security, and I can have those benefits, and I can have some really great things, and I can do really great work. Or I can build my own business and I can create whatever reality I want because it’s a blank slate. And yeah, it’s a lot riskier. But I think that I can do it. I think that I believe me. I trust in me. I trust that I will show up for myself. So let’s let’s do it. Worst case scenario, I will get a job in hospitality or the retail industry. And I will happily work for minimum wage just to pay my bills. That kind of thing.
So yeah. I think for me personally, there was a lot of thought work involved of thinking about, “Okay yeah, this is scary. This is vulnerable. This is definitely a risk.” I’m not going to be naive enough to say it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows, and I’m going to make six figures in a day. But I am going to pursue an action that will I think give me the kind of happiness and fulfillment that I think my professional career can offer. So yeah, that’s a little bit about how I thought through that decision and took that crazy action. And I do feel incredibly privileged and very fortunate that I am where I am today and that it did work out. Because of course, that success was not guaranteed.
Yeah. Yeah. Because I was going to ask next, I love that you said you trust it, you put trust in yourself and you’re like, “I need to trust that I’m going to show up for myself.” Is that something that throughout your time doing this, you just kind of kept in mind?
Yeah. I’ve definitely tried to. I’ll be honest and say that it kind of ebbs and flows there definitely some seasons of business where I forget that I can trust me. And I forget that I can depend on myself. So I will make decisions from a place of fear, or stress, or anxiety. But I really do try to keep in mind that I am a dependable person for me. I am a safe person for me. I am a trustworthy person. So when I say I’m going to do something, I can bet on myself. And if I say I’m going to go out there and pursue a goal, or I’m going to execute a new level of service, or I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, I know that barring some crazy circumstances or crazy, crazy things, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen.
So at least on my end, I cannot control the outside world, or other people, or the universe, or anything like that. But I can at least have agency over the way that I show up. So that’s something for me that when I do keep that in mind and when I operate from that head space, I’m happier and I’m able to do more impactful work because I feel the confidence if I am making a calculated risk, or if I am taking a little bit of a scary or vulnerable move. I know that I’m going to show up for myself at the end of the day, which I think that makes a big difference. I don’t know if a lot of people carry themselves with that kind of awareness. But when you do, man, you feel really secure with yourself because you know that you’ve got your back.
Yeah. I love that. Because this is something that I just kind of learned myself in my own coaching. And just that sort of positive self-talk, like assuring yourself you are going to be okay, and you’re going to do this. And I love that you do that, because I think a lot of people forget, right? You forget to kind of talk to yourself. You forget that you could be your biggest cheerleader. And I think especially in entrepreneurship, you go through so many fluctuations of good seasons, bad seasons. And how do you work through those bad seasons, right? And you have to do that for yourself.
So as you’re kind of going through this time, was there any point in time that you were just like, “I’m so over this and there’s no way I could talk myself into keep going”?
For sure. I think that I would love to meet an entrepreneur who has never felt that way. And I’d love to learn their secrets. I think that after several years of being in business, you go through these highs and lows. And some highs are really high and some lows are really low. And there have definitely been times in my business where I’ve made bad investments, or I’ve worked with not so ideal clients, or I have over-committed myself, or I have extended myself to the point where I’m just burnt out. And there are definitely times where I’ve thought, “You know what, I could totally just shut it all down and go get a more traditional job. And have that security, and not be the person calling the shots, and not be in charge.” There’s some times when that feels like so nice and so appealing.
Because I think that when you are an entrepreneur and when you are building your own business, and especially if you bring on any sort of team, whether that’s an assistant, or independent contractors, or your first full-time employee, all of a sudden, it’s not just you that you’re responsible for it. You want to be showing up for your team and you want to be supporting them in making sure that they have work that they’re doing, that they are being taken care of. And there’s that added pressure as well.
So thinking about it from that all of the challenges that happens when you grow, it’s easy to romanticize growth, especially in a business context where you think, “It’s going to be so great. I’m going to be working with all these amazing clients. I’m going to be making so much money. I’m going to be able to make money from the my laptop when I’m sitting poolside, drinking margaritas.”
Some people do get to do that. And that’s amazing. But with growth, there’s also kind of that trickier side of growing pains. And with growth and with new opportunities, there come new challenges. And that’s okay. And that’s a really normal part of growing a business. And if some days you want to kind of throw in the towel or have a pity party and take a day and feel all your feelings, you can absolutely do that. And I’ve definitely, definitely done that. But, the thing that keeps me showing back up even on the days when things are hard and when I think it would be so much easier to quit, I think about, “Okay, did I start this because it was easy? Or did I start this because I wanted this? Do I still want this? Even though it’s hard.”
And so far, every time I ask myself, I still want it and I still go after it. Because I see the potential that through through the work that any entrepreneur does, I think there’s a massive potential to have an impact on the lives of your clients or your customers. So personally in my business, I see the impact of the work that I do as a brand designer and strategist. And then also as a coach for designers.
And I see through the work I’m doing my ability to equip women entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams through brand design strategy and also through educational resources. And for me, when I think when I think outside of myself, when I think about how this can be hopefully a good thing for others and be an empowering experience for others, that’s really motivating.
I love that. I love that. I think I’ve talked to people before where they do kind of have these regular check-ins with themselves. But I like the way you put it in terms of kind of going back to the beginning, why did I start this? And what I guess encouraged me to do this in the first place? And you can still use that same thing over and over again to remind yourself, “I should keep going. I should keep doing this.”
What comes to mind for me saying that is say you’re a few years in and you hear everybody say, “Give it time. It’ll happen at some point.” How do you talk to yourself? Or I guess I want to say convince yourself, but I feel like it’s not the right word. But hopefully you guys get what I mean. How do you convince yourself “Hey, it does take a long time to get where you want to be. And nobody actually does this overnight. But you do have to keep showing up and you do have to keep putting in the work.”
Well, I think you actually just kind of set a bit of it just then. What you said is it doesn’t happen overnight and it does take time. One thing that I’ve really noticed since starting my business in 2012 versus now, the way that businesses were using … well first of all, in 2012, a lot of businesses weren’t really using Instagram the way that we are using it now. So you didn’t see people’s highlight reels in the way that you do now. Now, Instagram makes it look like everyone is making six-figures and they’re sipping margaritas poolside, and they’re working two hours a week. And it’s amazing. But the reality is that people have so much control over what they share. And the majority of people are sharing heavily edited views and highlight reels of what their lives or what their businesses actually look like.
And back in 2012, there was definitely that extent. I think people were doing that to some extent, of course. But it wasn’t to the extent that it is today. So it was easier to know then okay, this is a process. This isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s going to take time and it’s okay. It’s okay to be struggling. It’s okay to be putting in the work, and putting in the hours, and ever so slowly moving forward towards your goals.
So I think now, especially with this idea of instant gratification, it’s hard to keep that in mind. It’s hard to be mindful that success is not guaranteed and it’s also not instantaneous.
But if you think back to a time in your life when you wanted something, it could be something in your business. It could be something in your personal life. It could be something big or small. But you wanted something and you had to work to get it. Or you had to show up to get it and keep working at it.
The things that took you a little longer when you actually achieved whatever that end goal was, you probably really felt proud of yourself. And you probably really felt accomplished. And you were so excited and so grateful to have that outcome and experience that end result.
And your business is kind of the same thing. If you think about your big picture vision for the way that your business can impact your life, or can impact the lives of your customers or clients. On those days when it’s not glamorous and it’s not Instagram-worthy, and it is a bit of a struggle and things are hard, when you think about that big picture vision of how incredible your goal is, that a lot of the time still is desirable enough for you to keep at it and to keep working at it.
But if we think about just so many people that we look up to. If there’s an industry entrepreneur that you look up to, or a celebrity that you look up to, or a public figure that you admire, we see the pinnacle of success where they are today. But we don’t know all of the hustle, and heart, and hard work that went in to get them to where they are today.
So instead of getting distracted by where they are, and keeping them up on that pedestal, and thinking that they must have something that we don’t, and they must know something that we don’t. Remember that it took them, unless they had an extreme amount of privilege, it took them a lot of hard work and a lot of time to get where they are today. And you are a success story in the making. And that is worth the time I think in my opinion.
Oh my gosh. I love the way you put that. I know I keep saying it, but you’re just really hitting the spot.
Yeah. Even in my own coaching, I remember I just recently when I interact, I was thinking about my career. And I was just, “Oh gosh, they’re asking me where do you want to go? What do you want to be basically when you grow up?” At Interact. I know that sounded funny. But yeah, it was just like, “I don’t know. You see all these people online. They’re becoming managers are becoming executives. It’s going crazy.” And it wasn’t until I started this coaching that my coach was like, “You realize that most people, the peak of their careers is when they’re 50.” And I was like, “No, I did not know that.” I’m over here thinking like my life is over. I’m not doing enough. And I’m not where other people are, but I kind of love how you said that Instagram, even in businesses is just showing the highlight reels.
And we hear it all the time. Right? With, this is people’s edited versions of themselves. You only see the highlights of their life. But I never thought of it in a way of businesses kind of do the same thing. So it’s really easy to get caught up in that story of wow, they really did it overnight. And I’m nowhere near that.
Absolutely. Well, I think that a lot of people, we forget that the businesses that we follow or the other entrepreneurs that we follow, most of them are not going to be telling you about their failed lunches, or they’re not going to tell you about the hire that went totally sour. Or they’re not going to tell you about the big mistake they made where they invested in this product or this program. And it totally turned out to not be what they thought. They usually aren’t talking about the struggles that they’re experiencing that’s happening kind of behind closed doors. But what they are showing you, they’re showing you beautiful products, or sold out launches, or these incredible pictures as success. So I think it’s actually kind of easy to edit the way that through social media, it’s easy to edit the way that your business is perceived to make your business look more successful than it actually is.
But only you, only the team behind that brand or the entrepreneur behind that brand at the end of the day, only they know how things actually look or what it feels like to be in that business to be behind the scenes.
So I think about this a lot. But especially in the branding industry, there’s this desire. So many of my clients come to me and they want these beautiful brands. And yes, we do build beautiful brands together. But more than that, we’re building strategic brands. We’re starting with strategy because if it’s beautiful, it’s only going to last you for a little while. But if it’s strategic, it’s going to endure with you and it’s going to have that longevity built into it. But I always encourage people be building a life that’s more beautiful than your brand. Be building a life that is more fulfilling than your Instagram feed.
And it’s the same kind of thing with your business. Think about yes, you do get to share what you want to on social media. And that’s amazing. But don’t feel like you need to show up and perform at an authentic level in order to be perceived as some kind of successful if that’s not you and if that’s not honest. That’s not going to be something that you feel excited to keep coming back to day after day if you’re having to put forth an image of success that’s not realistic.
Because I think that it makes you kind of feel this level of disparity between where you want to be and where you actually are. I think that if we can normalize where we are, and the highs, and the lows of that entrepreneurial journey, and kind of some of the messy points, and the sticking points, and the questions, and the hard stuff, that is a worthy place to be too. And that’s totally worthwhile. And you don’t need to feel ashamed of that, or hide that, or anything like that.
Yeah. Yeah. I was going to ask you, because you had said something about how people come to you wanting these beautiful branding or, did I say that right? This beautiful branding, these beautiful brands. Anyway [crosstalk 00:32:54]. And you kind of mentioned that you need to really start strategically. And I find that super interesting because even in my own life, I used to think branding was just looks I guess, for lack of a better way to describe it. But what are some of the ways that you can kind of take a step back and make sure that your brand is true to yourself rather than trying to create something that if it’s not authentic, people can see that? Right?
Yeah, totally. Well, I think one easy way to kind of use this as a barometer is if you’re a service provider or you work with people one-on-one at a done for you level, if you go back and say look at the last quarter’s worth of inquiries, or applications, or however you receive potential clients, go back and look at those contact forms. And look at the quality of them. Are these consistently the kinds of leads that you want to be working with? Are these the kinds of people that you get excited to work with? Or are these people who they’re great, they’re nice people, but they were not ideal in some way. In the sense of maybe the project scope wasn’t what you wanted to do or it wasn’t really a good fit for you. Or their budget wasn’t where your level of service is, so you weren’t able to connect in that way. There are a lot of different things that you can look for when you’re doing that internal audit. But if you look at the quality of inquiries you’ve received over a set period, and you’re finding that yes, you’re getting really quality inquiries every single time. And you are filling your calendar with client work that you love doing. That is a really good indication to me as a strategist that your branding is connecting and your messaging is connecting with your ideal clients.
But if you’re going through that process and you’re finding that you’re getting three really quality leads, but you’re getting 10 not so ideal ones, that tells me okay, there’s a disconnect. And somewhere, somewhere, your message, your brand, your story isn’t shining through as brightly as it could be.
Also, if we think about where we’re looking for inspiration with our brands, if you find that you are scrolling Pinterest non-stop, or your saved folder on Instagram of other people’s brands is massively huge. And you are looking literally everywhere around you for inspiration of how other people are doing it and how they’re branding themselves, what their websites look like, what their messaging sounds like. That’s a pretty good indication to me that there’s an opportunity for growth. And there’s the opportunity to sit down, really be introspective, work with a professional if you have the ability to, or work with a trusted industry friend or someone who knows you well enough to be honest with you and to tell you when there’s some things you could be doing better. And take a look at your brand and create something that feels much more genuine, much more honest.
And I always start with strategy with my own clients because like I said, if we’re building something that’s beautiful, that’s great. But it is very short term and it has a very short lifespan. But if we’re starting first with strategy, if we’re diving into really those kind of foundational components like the why behind your work, your brand values, your differentiators, your mission, your vision, who your ideal clients or customers are, your brand voice, your brand message. Those things allow us to make it really strategy-based design decisions. So we’re building out your design in a way that is telling the right message to the right people. So again, you’re able to have that impact that you’re looking for and generate that revenue that you’re also looking for, because this is a business.
So I think that there’s a lot to be said for going the DIY route, especially when you’re just getting started and you’re just building your brand. But when you want to level up and go to that level where you are consistently booking high quality clients, especially at higher price points, that strategy piece from my perspective is kind of a non-negotiable.
I love that. Is there any point in time, and maybe even in your own experience, where you have to go back and look at that and maybe reevaluate? Or is it possible to build a solid enough foundation where maybe you tweak here and there? But as long as you stay true to that initial strategy, you can still grow. Even if your business is changing, your life is changing, you are changing, and so on.
Absolutely. So I definitely recommend, this is something that I do with my own brand. It’s something that I recommend for my clients to do regular recurring brand audits. And what that is, is you are just kind of carving out some time. You’re sitting down, you’re looking at all of your brand assets. So you’re looking through all of your logo marks. You’re looking at your website, you’re looking at any digital guides you send out or print collateral you have. You’re looking at your social channels, you’re looking at everything. You’re getting real nerdy with it.
And you take a look and you see, okay, is this still portraying the message that I want it to portray? Does this still reflect my level of expertise? Is this still on point with the price that I’m charging for my service or for my product? Again, am I still generating the kinds of quality increase that I want to be working with? Or am I seeing that there’s kind of a shift in something or is something kind of broke in and it’s not quite working for me?
And what you can do really easily is like you said, using that strategy as that foundation, you can just tweak things. You can refresh, you can refine. You don’t necessarily need to rebrand or go through the whole process again from scratch, unless you are dramatically pivoting to reach a new audience. You are offering a dramatically different product to a completely different audience, or you’re going out and you’re starting just a totally new business. Those are some pretty good examples of times when you want to go through the branding process and that design process again from scratch.
But most of the time, that initial brand strategy if you are staying in touch with it, if you are making decisions from that space and you’re operating from that strong foundation, you’re really only going to need to make some occasional tweaks, and updates, and refine a few things, which is usually on point with the kind of growth that you’re seeing anyway.
So for example, a lot of my clients will come back to me. We’ll have worked together years ago. And they’ll come back to me and say, “Hey Bonnie, our team is growing. So we need to update our website to reflect that we’re a team now, and I’m not a solopreneur.” Or, “We’re branching into education. So we’re creating these online courses for our students. So we need to create these online course portals and create course tools and things like that.” So there are definitely things that of course updates and those kind of refining pieces that you can put into place.
But if you have this really solid strategic brand in place so often, you’re just creating new assets that compliment what you already have versus creating things from scratch if that makes sense.
Yeah. Yeah. It does. My question from there was really just how does one kind of figure out what they do actually like in order to create or build a brand that people will resonate with?
That’s such a great question. In my experience, there are probably some things that you love doing that come really naturally to you. That your friends, or your family, or your colleagues look at, and they’re like, “How do you do that? That is amazing. I wish I could do that. Or I wish my brain works that way. Or I wish I could talk to people that way.” Anything like that. Whatever that fill in the blank thing is. A lot of the time, there’s something that you do that you enjoy doing. It comes to you really easily, that does not come easily to other people. And other people get excited about it, or they’re envious, or they want it.
That is usually something that’s a good place to kind of do a little bit of investigating around and see, “Okay, is there a service that I could create from this? Or is this a product that I could create, physical product or even a digital product? Is this an app that I could maybe hire someone to develop? Is this something that I could turn into something that I monetize?”
Because I think a lot of the time, we overcomplicate the concept of creating a business idea and then going out and validating that. But a lot of the time, the feedback that you receive in your own life can be so valuable in figuring out when you’re onto something and when you’re not really onto something.
But if it’s a matter of, people are always telling you, “Wow, you are such a great communicator. When I come to you with my problems, you’re able to hone in on the root issue so quickly. And you’re able to frame it to me in a way where I get so much clarity and I walk away knowing exactly what I need to do in order to solve that problem.”
Well, you could do one-on-one coaching services. You could become a coach or consultant. If you have a thought process that you use and you walk through in order to solve problems, and you do this with your friends or your family, you could turn that into a self-paced course that you could sell, or a digital guide that you could charge money for.
So there’s so many different things that we take for granted because we’re just out there doing it and it’s coming really naturally. But to the people around us, it’s mind-blowing. It’s like magic and they don’t understand it. So that is usually a really good indication that okay, you’re onto something there. If you wanted to turn that into something that generated revenue for you, what would that look like? How easily could you create that? And then from there, you can kind of start reaching out to strangers, and getting their feedback, and kind of going through that beta test process.
I love that. And then maybe you’ve had this in your own experience in your own business, how do you pretty much prevent yourself from taking this thing that comes naturally or that you love doing? And either you get bored of it, or now it’s not fun because you’re considering it as work.
Yeah. Well, I think that it’s important to be really careful about what you do, what you monetize. I am the kind of person where I just have to be really self-aware and honest with myself. And know that if there’s a hobby or something that I enjoy doing that I can monetize for a good chunk of my business, like the early years, I would literally take anything that I could and monetize it. I would pick up a new hobby, or I’d take an existing hobby. And I’d think about, “Okay, how can I monetize this inside my existing business?” And that just sucks the joy right out of it. And all of a sudden, it is not a hobby anymore. It is part of your business.
So you have to be really thoughtful. And what I did is I very clearly the things that come naturally that I’m willing to share with others and the things that come naturally that I am not willing to share with others. So there are very distinct parts of me, or ways that I problem solve, or ways that I view the world and kind of take action as a result that are mine and mine alone. And I keep them private. Because it would kind of cheapen them or it would be really unsustainable for me to monetize them.
Then there are other things like design, or strategy, or communication, or things like that I am happy to monetize and I’m happy to have them as part of my business. Because every project is a new challenge. So I don’t get bored with it and I don’t get tired of it because every day is a new opportunity to try something new and to approach it in a different way. But that’s going to look different for every person.
So if it’s something that’s really personal to you, or maybe it’s very vulnerable, or it’s close to your heart, or it’s really sentimental. You do not have to charge dollars for that. You do not have to monetize that and make that profitable. That can just be for you because you deserve to be your whole individual person. You are not the lifeblood of your business. There’s so much more to you than that. So then the flip side of that is thinking about what are some of those things that you’re good at that you feel good about sharing with others, that gives you that fulfillment to share it with the world? But, it’s not the be-all end-all if it doesn’t end up working out for you, or if you do decide to pivot and go in a different direction, or if you lose interest for it. It’s okay. And your life isn’t going to be dramatically altered as a result.
Right. I feel like sometimes when things like that happen, like I said earlier, I’m the type of person where I’ll be like, “Oh no, it’s over. I’m done. I’m done for.” It’s so dramatic.
And that’s okay. You get to feel all the feelings. And however you want to signify the end of whatever that was, it served you all for that season. But you’re growing, you’re moving forward. There’s going to be new opportunities for you in the future and new things that lights you up, new hobbies to explore, new skills to develop. And we can be grateful for that season, whatever that thing was that served us well. But onwards and upwards.
Yeah, I like that. It’s a more positive kind of way of I guess looking at failure, right? It’s like more of a lesson learned. I did it. I tried it. It happened. And it wasn’t for me, but we can still move forward and take something out of it.
Love that. So are coming up on time. But Bonnie, thank you so much for hopping on with us today. I do have two questions that I end every episode with just to wrap it up, if you’re up for it.
Absolutely. Let’s do it.
I’m not sure if I actually prefaced this question with you before, and I just realized it. So I’ve done it before when I forgot to tell people and they were like, “Oh shoot. I have to actually think about this.” But what are three things that most people would not know about you?
Okay. Let’s see. So three things that people might not know about me. First and foremost, I’m actually a self-taught designer. So I went to school. My degree is actually in journalism with an emphasis in news editorial. So I learned graphic design when I was learning how to design the front pages of newspapers and the covers of magazines. So I actually am a totally self-taught designer, but I actually think that my degree in journalism makes me a really great designer because I understand how copy and how graphics come together to tell a really complete and cohesive story. So fun fact number one.
Fun fact number two, I love, love, love, love salsa. Chips and salsa. Not the dance. The dance is great, but I don’t love it in that way. But salsa, I am based in Texas. And one of the most wonderful things about Texas in my opinion is the incredible Mexican food, the incredible Tex-Med. Jarred sell stuff from the grocery store all well and good, but I’m talking about homemade, spicy, flavorful, layered, really complex salsa. 100% my jam. And I could eat it all day long.
And then the third thing that people might not know about me, I actually can recall and quotes tons of random obscure sections from the show 30 Rock on NBC. This is way back. You might have seen it on Hulu or something like that, but yeah, love that show. So those are three random things that I don’t really talk about a lot. So people probably don’t know.
No, that is awesome. I actually, yesterday, so we had a friend fly in from Pennsylvania, but he used to live in Texas. And I learned in I don’t know, I feel like last few years of my life. I used to always think California Mexican food was the only place you have to get Mexican food in the U.S. And it wasn’t until I met people who were also bordering Mexico that there’s different types of Mexican food in other states, and they taste very different.
Yeah. And I think what’s so funny about it is okay, I’m so sorry for anyone who might be offended by this, but you do not get Mexican food in the New York, New Jersey area. You just don’t do it. But I am really interested in why Texas Mexican food is better than California Mexican food, for example. So just my 2 cents. I want to start a thing where I actually go and travel to other states to try the Mexican food. Because I actually got into a really heated debate one time with somebody over our Mexican food, their Mexican food. And I was like, “No, California is where it’s at.”
I love that. If you go on that trip and you start a vlog, or a podcast, or something like that, I would totally tune in and keep up with that. 100%. I want to know. I want to know all the things about all of the different types of cuisine, of state specific Mexican food. Even if we think about this is something that I just think is so amazing. The different kinds of Mexican food from the different regions in Mexico. Wow. There’s so much biodiversity. There’s so much cultural diversity. It is absolutely amazing. So yeah, that would be a really awesome sabbatical where I just took a few months off of my business and just went and traveled, and ate my way through the Southwestern parts of the U.S. or something like that, that would be really awesome.
Oh my God. Yeah. And I think it’s so funny how everyone’s so protective of their version of Mexican food. And we’re not even in Mexico, but still. So my last question to close out is what is a single piece of advice you would give to yourself at the start of it all?
Really good question. When I think back to where I was and who I was when I started my business, I think that I would tell myself now to not get caught up on doing it, whatever it is. Don’t focus on doing it right, or the best, or making it the most unique, or most creative, or most original thing that anyone has ever done. Just do the thing. Just to do the work. Just show up, do the work. Treat it like an experiment. Don’t get attached emotionally to the outcome. Learn how to take that action. Learn from that action and then grow as a result. And you’ll be a lot happier, and you’ll experience a lot less stress.
I love that. I love that. Less stress is also the ultimate goal I will say. That’s awesome. And where can people find you online if they’re looking?
Well, you can connect with me over on Instagram. You can find me @bonniejoymarie is my handle. Or you can find me on my website at bisforbonniedesign.com. Or if you are tuning into this podcast, I assume you are a fan of podcasts. I have my own actually over at the Brand Strategy Podcast. You can actually search Brand Strategy Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you tune into your favorite shows, and you should find me there.
Love it. All right. Well, thank you so much again for being on our podcast with us.
Thanks so much for having me. This was such a fantastic conversation.
Of course, of course. We loved having you. I think this was probably one of my favorites.
Oh my gosh. I’m so honored. This was just such a great conversation. The questions you asked were so introspective for me even to sit down, take a minute, and think through my responses. So I hope that this is helpful and encouraging to everyone who gets to tune in. And I just appreciate you carving out the time and the space for this to happen.
Of course. Well all right guys. And per usual, we will link everything if you’re on our site. But also if you’re listening to this, we said it for you. So we’ll see you next time. Bye.