Juliette Dudley has been a friend of mine since 2012 when she first came to a Makers Co Christmas Meet up in Canberra, and I’ve loved seeing her tackle new projects and challenges over the last 5 years with so much gusto, she’s a force to be reckoned with – along with an uber talented artist and designer!
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a graphic designer and illustrator working under the studio name Poyo, which I started last year after working as a designer in various organisations for about six years. I decided to make the move to running my own business after I got a contract as resident illustrator last year with Urban Walkabout.
I’d done a few freelance jobs over the years but that gave me the confidence I needed to take the plunge. Most of the work I do is for other studios and agencies, as well as small businesses. The main services I offer are graphic design, illustration, art direction and copywriting. I currently live in Canberra with my partner and two cats Mugen and Jin.
What is the most significant way in which your life has improved since starting your own business or what is the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
Having the flexibility to work from home and give myself more time for professional development has been amazing. I like to surround myself with lots of visual inspiration so it’s also nice being able to customise my workspace to match my mood and the projects I’m working on. Also I feel like it’s definitely had a positive impact on my mental and physical health – just little things like being able to go on a break whenever I want, open windows, play with cats, and have lots of plants around.
I enjoy the work I do but I also get a bit of a thrill out of the challenge of growing a business. It’s very rewarding to set goals and then every so often look back at how much you’ve achieved.
Why do people love your product/service?
I think the fact that I love what I do plays a big part in the quality of service I provide. I pride myself on my ability to really listen to my clients, and come up with creative solutions that go beyond their initial expectations. Plus I have experience working with clients from a lot of different backgrounds (retail, media, events, government, not for profit, arts) so I tend to approach each new project with an open mind an genuine interest to understand what they’re about and how I can help. I think continuing professional development is really important too, so I make time each week to build upon my skills through research, tutorials and passion projects.
How did you work out exactly who your ideal customers were?
I think it is an ongoing process, but also the concept of an ideal customer is pretty broad for me because there are so many factors that come into play. Most designers would agree that it’s always nice to have customers that are open to new ideas and let you push boundaries creatively. I think that for me it’s really rewarding to help grow businesses and organisations who have values and goals that I share or admire.
What was the motivation to move your business from a casual gig to a full time business?
I’ve wanted to run my own business for a long time, I just needed the right mix of experience, skills, savings and confidence to make the move. I’ve also been lucky to have a partner and family who support what I want to do, and are there to listen to my wacky ideas and rants.
Where do you go for inspiration on how to continue to build and grow your business?
I like to read about how designers and studios I admire got to where they are today, on blogs and watching them talk about their experiences on Youtube and Vimeo. I also do online tutorials when I have time, to further build upon my skills.
I also started taking my blog Good Design Club a bit more seriously this year. I find that I actually learn a lot through blogging, by researching and interviewing other designers, and in turn learning about what inspires them.
I’m interested in building more connections with designers and studios overseas too. I started learning Japanese and Korean last year, so I want to keep that up and someday collaborate on a bilingual project.
What would you say your biggest strength or asset specifically as a woman has been, in running your biz?
I don’t think that being a woman in itself really affects my ability as a designer, but I think my life experience has certainly provided me with the ability to approach projects with an open mind. Representing diversity is very important to me, on a personal and professional level. I think that once you start to think more crticically about how people are represented in marketing and advertising, and how we communicate to different audiences, it opens up opportunities for new ways of thinking.
As a small business owner, what is one thing you would say that every business owner should be doing right now in their business?
Don’t forget to schedule time for looking after your mental and physical health. Last year I went through a phase where I was taking on too many jobs and doing a lot of late nights. Sometimes you need to push yourself, but remember to take care of your biggest asset – you!
What words of wisdom can you give to anyone just starting out on their small business adventure?
Do your research – online videos and forums are good, but be strategic and specific about what information you need to know so you don’t get overwhelmed. Also write a business plan – there are plenty of good templates online, or you could do a workshop (sometimes more motivating when you have people to talk to in person). There are also a lot of free government resources for new businesses online as well as some in-person services – I took advantage of a free business consultation a few years ago that really helped.
What excites you when looking ahead at the next three years for your business?
Building relationships with new clients and other designers and studios. One day I’d like to work towards hiring staff and growing the business further. There are many women in the design industry but few in leadership positions.