Building a Business Part 10: Back to Basics


Part 2: Sugardevil
Part 3: Groupie
Part 5: Dream Jobs

It’s been a while since I posted another piece of my Building a Business story. The truth is, I didn’t really know where to pick it back up. If you’re new here, you can get caught up by clicking the links above! The last I mentioned, my current form of business had stopped and I was getting worried that I wouldn’t find a success like that again.

Luckily, I’ve always got a backup plan and part of the reason I love design so much is that it is such a vast field. There are so many other things you can do if you have a design background… everything from simple graphic design to full out applications and websites. I decided that I wanted to try to get back to my roots and seek out some new clients for standard websites, as I had done in the beginning. With Dustin still dealing with the ridiculous immigration process and not legally being allowed to work, I used him as my little helper and sent him out on missions to recruit clients. (He was a much better salesperson than I was.)

I spent some time revamping my portfolio and adding in all of the hundreds of jobs from the previous years. I made a new website and did a bunch of SEO work to rank high in my own town. I was determined to knock the one other local web developer off of the front page of Google (haha… honestly though, he is absolutely terrible and pretty much every business uses him!!). We even went out and purchased a brand new iPad 1 so we could make a live portfolio demonstration while visiting local businesses. If you want some tips on how to get clients, check out a recent post I made about that here.

We managed to get a few clients and away I went, building websites once again. It was around this time that I also got into the handmade scene and started making plush critters and other things. Making things became my newest hobby and it was a bonus that I was actually able to make a bit of money from it at the same time.

For about six months to a year I stuck to this routine and continued to do websites and other graphic design work like print material. I was also running my little Etsy shop and it was around Christmas time when I decided to start a blog, named after my plush critters…. Wonder Forest.

The blog’s initial purpose was to just help get the word out about my Etsy shop. I had no idea what I was doing and hadn’t worked on Blogger before. I would post my newest creations and hold little contests which attracted only about 25 entries each. It was then that I started playing around with the Blogger template editors and realized that I could totally use my web design skills and create a custom blog design for myself. I spent a bunch of time getting to know the code, just as I had done for Myspace, and went through a couple of layout changes before I was happy with one for the time being.

It was around this time that I also started to check out other blogs and get into the whole idea of owning a blog myself. Some of the first ones I came across were my dear friends’ sites, Story Of My Life and Much Love, Illy. It was blogs like these that made me want to open up a bit more on my own space and actually become a blogger. I remember lurking their pages wishing that I could be as successful as them one day.  Through the power of the internet, both of these lovely ladies ended up being my blogging friends. I talked to Jenni (SOML) about blogging mostly and how she was starting to get into photography (she now has a successful business!). I also told her about my design business and how it had taken a plummet from what it once was. She was, of course, the sweetest and gave me a little hope:

“I am so sorry to hear that your business took a downturn like that, Dana, and that you’re struggling a bit now! I’m convinced this is just a little phase though, and you’ll pull yourself right out of it. Later it will be like looking at one of those charts where the numbers crashed down for a bit but then zoomed right back up. You are very talented, and I know you’ll make a big break soon!!”

I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a piece of her email (I just searched through my vault)! It was important though because shortly after, she became one of my very first blog design clients, and after that, I received a ton of inquiries from others wanting their blogs designed too.  I hadn’t even really thought too much about making a business dedicated to Blogger design, but there it was, a new opportunity right in front of me, and I sure as hell was going to take it!

Stay tuned for part 11!!

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By Dana Fox

Founder of the Wonder Forest blog and brand and bestselling author of the Watercolor With Me book series.