We've been following Laura Huebner on social media for a long time and have always loved her work. She is the delightful graphic designer behind the shop Dotted Design. Based in Milwaukee, Laura has worked with numerous brands to create impressive designs that perfectly reflect their business. Just check out her portfolio and shop, then you'll know what I'm talking about.
What is your background?
I definitely took a nontraditional path to end up where I am! I studied nonprofit management and music in college, and started my career working in marketing at a few different arts organizations. While I took communications, marketing, and design classes in school, I didn’t know how much I would end up loving design. I got experience working on a lot of marketing collateral and advertising while working my day jobs, and I began reading and studying all I could about design and freelancing in my free time.
What is the story behind the concept of Dotted Design?
When I started doing freelance design work, I wanted to work under a studio name rather than my own name to help me remember that this is something bigger than me. I love alliterations, and I started brainstorming what could go with either “design” or “creative.” I’ve always loved polka dots, and so Dotted Design just clicked. Might not be the most well thought out naming process, but it works well enough! I design logo & brand identities for small creative businesses, as well as websites and brand collateral.
When did you know it was time to launch your business and what steps did you take?
The first step for me was figuring out that this was even a thing that people do. I was always bored working a standard 9-5 job, but I kind of assumed this was just the way things were. Somewhere along the way, I started reading blogs about designers that did their own freelance work or started their own design business, and it started to light a little fire. I learned everything I could about starting a service-based business through blogs, podcasts, and anything I could find. Eventually, I knew I had to give it a shot, so I set up a website and a blog myself and simply went for it!
What are the biggest lessons you have learned since launching your business?
Everything takes time. In the internet world, it is easy to feel like everyone launches and has great success overnight and are living these dreamy lives. If you want to build something that will last, it takes time to get systems in place and do the work. Don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile to find those right clients! Also, make sure you only share things in your portfolio or on your website that display the type of work you want in the future. If you share a project that you hated the final outcome or don’t feel it fits the style you want to do, then don’t show it! Choose your best and favorite work; otherwise, people will someone always reference the project you didn’t like and want one just like it ;)
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
Having the guts to go for it! I don’t have any personal friends that have taken a path like this, so taking a leap of faith to start the business seemed like such an unusual path. Putting yourself out there can be scary, especially when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Take the time to learn about everything you don’t know, like accounting or web design or whatever it is, but know that you’ll never feel 100% ready. At some point you’ve just got to go for it!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to keep to a general schedule because I love routines. I get up between 7:30 and 8am, make coffee, and read the news while I have breakfast. Then, I assess what has come into my email overnight and make my game plan for the day and perhaps take care of a few small tasks. Next, I go for a run, usually while listening to a podcast. The rest of my day is spent tackling my to-do list, which could be anything from client work to writing blog posts or catching up on accounting, and making sure to take breaks to go for a walk or move in some way. I love having the flexibility to fit other things into my day if I need to, like running errands or making appointments, even if it means I work a little later after I’m done. But, I have a strict no email after dinner rule! It’s so important to take a mental break each day.
What is the best part of your job?
I love helping people bring their businesses to life with great design. Yes, one part is being creative and making something beautiful, but even more powerful is seeing how a functional design, whether it’s in a media kit or a website or even cohesive social media posts, can make a big impact on a business. You want your customers to recognize and connect with your business, but most importantly, understand it. Happy clients make it all worth it!
And to keep it real, what is the worst?
The worst part is probably dealing with rude people. I realize they are unavoidable in life, but it always baffles me the things that people will say and do to their fellow small business owners. An example is when I email back and forth several times with a potential client (sometimes even have a phone call), answer lots of questions, send them a custom quote...and then hear nothing back. I fully understand that the style or budget could end up not being a good fit for that person, but why is it so difficult to reply back and say, “Thanks so much but I’ve decided to go another way” after we’ve both put so much time into exploring the option?
Looking back is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I try to see most things as learning opportunities and worth the battle, so there isn’t a ton a wish I had done differently. But, I wish I had learned sooner how other people in your industry or in related industries are your allies and your peers - not your competition. There is enough work for everyone, and we all have different styles. It benefits everyone when we collaborate and learn from each other rather than staying in our own bubbles.
What is a goal you have for your business that you hope to accomplish in the next year or two?
I hope to grow my business enough in the next year or two that I can support taking on an assistant and possibly a junior designer. Dealing with the logistics of a business like emails, billing, social media, etc. can be so time consuming and freeing up that time to put more into the creative side would be lovely. Hand in hand with this, I am always working on refining my client process to make things as smooth, efficient, and effective for both the client and me.
Being a busy business owner how do you stay organized?
I keep lots of lists so that I can always see what is ahead. My overall planning is done in Trello. I have a card for each client that contains the list of deliverables they’re receive during their project, and I have boards for things like blog post topics and newsletter ideas. Then, I keep a paper list of each day’s to-do tasks so I can easily jot down new items as they come in. If I don’t write it down, it will likely be forgotten! I also set aside time each week to take care of tasks like accounting, scheduling social media posts, and so on all in batches so that it isn’t forgotten or done piecemeal over the course of the week.
What has been one surreal moment you've experienced since launching Dotted Design?
One moment that stuck with me was the first time I got an inquiry from someone who was not a referral from a family member or even a past client - they had simply found me online somewhere, liked what I did, and contacted me. The internet is amazing!
What is your best piece of advice for others who hope to someday be a business owner?
Have a thick skin, patience, and confidence. If you don’t believe you can do it, who else will? It is a fine balance of doing everything you can to help your clients while still remembering that your time and expertise is valuable and worthy of compensation. No one can take advantage of you without your permission.
You can learn more about Dotted Design by checking out their:
images provide by: Dotted Design