At the end of June 2015 I was asked to travel from my graphic design studio in Westport, CT, to Nashville, TN, to be one of the speakers at the inaugural Designers Roundtable Retreat (DRR). I was part of the panel Down and Dirty Interviews with Creative Experts. I also headed a lunch roundtable discussion and a speed coaching table on marketing your creative business.
My co-panel cohorts were Jim Krause and Luke Mysse. Jim has written a slew of inspirational design books, and he is also a photographer and illustrator. Luke is a creative expert who put his business on hold to help raise awareness for a cause that he and his family believe in. It was a diversified and interesting panel. We were asked questions from the creative business, to balancing business and families, to our greatest fears — my fear of inchworms got a great laugh — but seriously — they freak me out!
SO WHAT DID I LEARN AT THE DRR?
From the founder of the event, Jenny Poff, I learned that you can put your passion on the line to do what you believe in. It might take a while for your passion project to grow, but it can be kick-ass in its founding phase. She gave us a unique platform where we listened to speakers and then worked with them on labs to put into action what they just taught us.
From the Marketing Mentor Ilise Benum I learned that asking the right questions is more effective than talking, as well as the 4 C’s of Marketing: Choose • Connect • Cultivate • Credibilitate.
From Emily Cohen, consultant to creative businesses, I learned the value of Post Project Surveys, Best Practice Client Management Strategies, and a great idea that her client Sharon McMullen shared — that private Pinterest boards created by clients create great visual creative briefs.
From the Million Dollar Message Expert Maurice DiMino I learned to be crystal clear with my prospects. Do not assume they know what you are talking about. And develop a verbal business card.
From Creative Coach RaShelle Roberts I learned to hone in on the vision I have for my business as well as why this matters to me. And, from RaShelle I am concentrating on my voice, my passion, and my niche.
I interacted with a lot of great designers at the conference. Some I had met at previous design conferences; some who like me, belong to the Designers Roundtable (a community of independent creative business owners focused on supporting, encouraging, and pushing the boundaries which makes business flourish); and some new ones who I am sure I will stay in touch with.
And Nashville spoke to the party side of us all. Great music, great barbecue, great signage (we do love our type/font/lettering fixes).
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
I really enjoyed speaking at the conference, and I welcome the opportunity to do so at other venues where people want to gain insight on the creative side of creative business. I will continue to design in both my Westport, CT, studio and the Grind Spaces office I rent in New York City, but I am eliminating some of the work that is no longer part of my long-term plan and concentrating on what I love to do and do best: annual report design, logo design, ad design, and business-to-business print and digital design. And I will continue to mentor young designers as I have been doing for the past 10 years.
If you are a creative (designer, writer, photographer, illustrator, web developer) and you have a few days next year I recommend you attend. It was a great time and a great learning experience.