ImagiNation with Chelsea Blackwell

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Occupation:  Owner + Designer at Honey & Co. Creative Branding Studio

Favorite Productivity Tool:

Dubsado — a client management software that totally kicks a** if you ask me. It automates and streamlines so many facets of my business, from contracts, to questionnaires, to invoicing and scheduling meetings; allowing me to spend more time doing what I value most (design!) 

Most Recommended App:

Planoly — an Instagram planner app. Because my work is SO content based (I basically create content all day, if you really break it down), there is a LOT that I want to share with my people on a daily basis, whether it be a moodboard, a work in progress, a mockup, an inspiring quote, a business card… You get the picture. Planoly allows me to input all of my content and freely organize it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing (this is what I’m known for so this is very important to me). I can even pre-write out captions for the photos and automatically schedule them to post; though to be honest I don’t take advantage of these features too much as I’m quite spontaneous and like to stay in the moment with my followers.

Last Thing You Read:

Crushing It! By Gary Vee (I’m almost finished… I read a couple of chapters every evening that I always look forward to. This book is packed with such amazing knowledge whether you are an aspiring or already established entrepreneur!

How did you get your start in the marketing industry?

My story is quite unusual- I basically picked up and moved to Asia to launch my business when I was 24. Six months prior, I graduated from university with a double major in Environmental Studies and Sociology. About one year before moving, while I was just finishing up my degree, I discovered and became obsessed with travel podcasts, specifically those focused on the digital nomad lifestyle. I was in that faze that I’m sure most near-university grads go through, of “Oh my gosh what the heck am I going to do after I graduate?”. I fell in love with the Johnny FD “Travel Like A Boss” podcast. I listened to it all the time- before bed, when I was driving, when I was setting up for a shift at the bar I worked at… You get the picture. I felt so inspired by Johnny and his guest’s stories, and had a feeling deep down that I could make it work somehow. Crazily enough, one year later I met Johnny in Chiang Mai, Thailand and actually had the pleasure of becoming good friends with him.

During the six months leading up to moving and the peak of my obsessive podcast listening and travel/ digital nomad research, I decided to start taking online courses so that I could prepare myself with marketable skills. The first thing that caught my attention was graphic design. During my first online course, I became hooked. I had this insane “ah-ha” moment that I had been yearning for, but had never found me during my university career. It felt like coming home… I had found my passion. I saved up my money working in a bar following graduation, I sold ALL of my things, and I booked my flight to Bali. I landed a super-casual, remote, unpaid internship with a popular influencer, and took the opportunity to lap up all her Instagram marketing knowledge, create all of her graphics, and do small tasks like scheduling her Instagram posts. Following the internship, I kept creating and taking graphic design courses.

I began building a sizable portfolio of personal projects (as I was traveling) and eventually launched my website. I began posting all of my work on my Instagram page, which links all of my viewers through to my website. I posted EVERYTHING, and as the work gradually got better and better, my following also increased. I think that my audience has really enjoyed watching me grow as a designer. Instagram is still the main vehicle in which clients find me, and I feel very fortunate to say that I’m at a point where I no longer need to cold-call companies I’d like to work with… They come to me!

What's your favorite marketing platform to connect with your customers?

Instagram. I don’t actually have a newsletter at the moment which I know some see as a huge “no no” but I am currently operating under the model of doing one thing really well rather than trying to do #allthethings half-heartedly.

Favorite recent marketing trend?

Instagram stories! I love connecting with my followers and engaging through stories. I often share more “real life” in my stories and business/design in my feed, which I think strikes a great balance and provides an excellent way to interact.

Where do you turn for marketing news, tips, and resources?

I very much consider myself to be a designer and brand strategist rather than a marketer in the traditional sense. I work with brands on honing in our their audience and connecting with them in an authentic way. That said, my favourite resource for staying up to date on design trends and strategy tips is the youtube channel The Futur.

How do you stay inspired?

Creating for myself — I always try to have at least one personal project on the go that I can turn to to be freely creative within. There’s something really special about creating for yourself because you don’t have to worry about impressing anyone or going out on a limb with your design. Also, these can turn into really awesome portfolio projects to display on your site- whether you designed for a real client or not, you still designed it, and that has a lot of value!

Traveling and changing up my scenery — I started my business in Asia and feel personally and professionally drawn to life there. I’ve lived in three different cities/countries so far over the past year: Canggu (Bali), Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam). I found that whenever I made a move, whether it was simply a weekend away in the countryside, or a full fledged move of countries, my creative energy would skyrocket. On a smaller scale, when I’m camped out and living somewhere long term, I also switch up my workspaces very frequently. For example, when I was most recently living in Bali, I would spend my morning in my home, answering emails and doing client calls, then I would jump on my scooter and head to lunch, and then I would head to my co-working space to work the rest of the afternoon among other nomads.

What current marketing tool/platform do you think will go away in 10 years? 

I don’t personally dabble in Twitter or Snapchat, but that’s not to say they aren’t powerful in their own right. If I absolutely had to choose, I’d say Twitter, as to my knowledge Snapchat is more of an entertainment app than vehicle for marketing.

What do you think will take its place?

I’m rooting for Instagram (as you can tell), and I also find YouTube to be really powerful. I think that even in the age of Netflix, many people are turning to YouTube at the end of the day to catch up with their favourite “real” people. Marketing is hugely about building a bridge of relativity between yourself/your product and your audience, and I think that YouTube is extremely powerful for this purpose. I’m actually in the process of launching my own channel geared towards other aspiring designers and entrepreneurs.

What’s one element of marketing that will never go out of style and why?

Authentically connecting with your audience in a way that they can relate and connect to. Consumers are far more likely to buy from you if they like you, and can relate to the human behind your brand and what you offer. Business is all about relationship building- and this took me longer to realize than I care to admit!

What is the most valuable piece of marketing advice you’ve ever received?

In the design world, it would be to never stop creating. EVEN (and especially) when you don’t have clients. Like I mentioned before, create for yourself, and create with your ideal client in mind. If the work that you put out into the world aligns with and resonates with your ideal client, there is no doubt that they will be attracted to you and want to work with you.

What does imagining more mean to you and the business?

Pushing boundaries and constantly innovating in a way that brings high quality work and content to my audience and client base. I think of it as “how can I offer value to my audience in a way that is totally unique?” I am really passionate about bringing value, particularly in a way that feels authentic to my business. I think that to stand out, you need to always be re-imagining the ways you can bring more value to your audience.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started in the industry? 

“Skills are cheap. Passion is priceless.” - Gary Vee

I wish I would have realized that it is equally important to share your journey, passion, and humanity as it is to display your kick-a** work. Like I mentioned before, clients want to know you and connect with you before they buy from you, so not being afraid to show your personality, real-life, and even struggles in business can be huge to building an audiences that cares about not only your work, but also you and your success in your business. Now that I have realized and implemented this, I feel like I have a second family on my Instagram, which is the first place I go to share everything: my wins in life and work, my struggles and hard times (for example my battle with anxiety and imposter syndrome), and of course my work-in-progress and final projects. I’ve also made it my mission to be more transparent with my audience with my journey up until this point, how I’ve gotten to where I am so far, and what it has taken to get here. I want to inspire other young designers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out to feel “if she can do it, then I can too.”