The importance of good design for your biz
So excited to share this week's episode of the podcast! This is a long one so buckle in! I'm talking to Melanie Lea of My Billie Design Studio, who is a talented graphic, brand and web designer. Melanie helped our host Jenna with rebranding her biz & was so excited to have her on the podcast! As the episode progresses we talk about some really interesting things regarding having your own business, making connections & sharing your true self as well as the importance of design!
Jenna Redfield is the leader of the Twin Cities Collective, the largest resource in the Twin Cities for bloggers, small business, entrepreneurs & creatives.
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But I'm really excited because there's a lot of really great content and super fun interview with Melanie she runs my belly designs and she is so talented and so awesome. And one of the most kick ass girls that I know so make sure to follow her. She'll have the links in the description as well as at the end of the podcast but this whole month is all about brand
web design, graphic design. It's all about how to make your website function while but also be beautiful. So I really hope that you guys enjoyed this interview. And let's get started. Hey, everyone, welcome to the Twin Cities Collective podcast. This is our one of our June episodes for our month of branding. So I'm very excited to have Melanie here with us. Melody. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Melanie Lea 1:22
Sure. Hi, guys. My name is Melanie Lee. I am a graphic designer at my village design studio. And yeah, they said Minneapolis excited to be here. Thank you.
Jenna Redfield 1:32
Yeah, we're really excited to have you I met you last year with Kayla's group. And that was just like I'm fun networking meetup. And then we have reconnected and you help me redo my website. So can you kind of explain like what you do currently, with your current position, you do graphic design and web design, can you just kind of explain the process?
Melanie Lea 1:54
Sure. So, um, my services are mostly brand identity and website design. And I work with a lot of businesses who maybe have been around for a while, but they're not feeling very connected to their brand or business anymore. Or maybe they've added a new product or offering and no matter what most of the time just their their branding and core aren't really aligned. So we, we kind of get together go over strategy, and then implement some visuals and marketing items and have your website for them.
Jenna Redfield 2:32
Awesome. So how did you get started in this? What's your background?
Melanie Lea 2:37
Um, so I am self taught. And this happened very organically. It started back in 2012. When I was blogging, I don't know if you know what blogger is.
Very, very humble beginning so I did kind of like a lifestyle blog and I shared a lot of like, I'm tutorial
on making your own clothing and recipes, and I was just playing around with the design of my blogger blog, and I had people come to me and want me to design their blogs. And then I found out about Squarespace. And so I kind of moved my blog over there and started designing for Squarespace. And like I said, very, very humble beginnings. I was not trying to do this. So it's kind of funny that you know, I kind of live and breathe design now. Yeah, for sure. And you're very talented. So how did you did you? How did you like even like, just decided to even start designing blogger blogs? Were you just always a creative person growing up or did you were you design oriented? Um, yes, I would say that I have always been kind of creatively minded. And it was actually very confusing growing up because I feel like you know, I have this kind of mindset that's very creative, but I didn't really have anything to channel it into so kind of
You know, web design and graphic design in general, landed in my lap. And it was wonderful because it kind of felt like, Oh my gosh, I have this theme that just makes sense now, and I have this thing to channel it into, which has been really wonderful. But my dad, um, he's a, kind of like a computer programmer. So I grew up around computers, like we would build computers together, and he bought Photoshop, like early 90s. And we would like play around together. So it kind of always played around with computers and design software. So it's kind of a natural thing to like, really get into once I started blogging, for sure. So did you learn how to code or was it more just just being on the computer?
Well, I would say that I was pretty good at coding. Before websites really needed to be responsive. Now I feel like it's way over my head. And I I just don't naturally like to code like I'm pretty good with HTC melon CSS, but the really complex stuff kind of just goes over my head. So I play with CSS a lot with what I do still like because, you know, I designed mostly on Squarespace now, which is, you know, you you build off of templates. And it makes sure that what I give my clients doesn't look like anything else. That requires a lot of kind of styling and extra things that don't really come with the template. So I still do use coding quite often, actually.
Jenna Redfield 5:32
Yeah. So you aren't from here. You're from Mississippi, right?
Melanie Lea 5:37
Yes, that's right.
Jenna Redfield 5:38
So what How did you decide to move up to the Twin Cities? or What What kept you here?
Melanie Lea 5:44
Yeah, so mostly adventure here with our guys that I've been dating at the time, and we were both in the south. Um, and he lived in Louisiana. And I was in Mississippi, and we just really wanted to kind of get out and see what else is out there. And Minneapolis just kind of kept coming up in like, top 10 list for this top 10 list for that. And we were like, let's do it.
Jenna Redfield 6:09
Here. Yeah. That's so fun. So So when did you start your business? And I know you transition to being full time. So how did that what's the process behind that? Um,
Melanie Lea 6:22
well, so I started very, very part time in 2012. And, and then I moved to Minneapolis and 2013. And I'd say for a few months, when I first started, or excuse me, when I first moved here, I was just doing graphic design. And it was really hard to kind of, to kind of make ends meet that way. So I worked at a coffee shop for a while. And then I went to this real estate office and was kind of like their in house graphic designer. And then I realized that I hated house center. And I was like, it's time to kind of like, go full time again with us. And I thought, you know, way more ready and kind of more confident. I think in my house too. It's just really important. So it's been granted a year since I've been full time again.
Jenna Redfield 7:15
That's awesome. Congratulate Yes. So what are your What are your favorite things about being self employed? Like what what what, what kind of projects do you take on right now?
Melanie Lea 7:27
I so I really love to do brand identities and websites together. And I tend to work with a lot of kind of creative businesses. Okay, um, I look, I work with a lot of hair stylists, okay, they love me, and I love them. And so that can be you know, like someone who's just renting a chair from a salon, or I'm working with people who are opening salons work with the lady who started a beauty agency. And that was really cool to
that, yes, mostly creative businesses.
Jenna Redfield 8:04
Okay, cool. And so how did you even get into the actual deciding what you wanted to do with your business? So you said that you liked graphic design, and you like web design? How did you kind of merge those together into this current services that you provide?
Melanie Lea 8:21
Um, what kind of make sense to do that for me. You know, I want I want one, when I do brand identities, I create marketing items along with that. So you get kind of like, okay, we do your, your foundation, your visuals, your logo. But there's also a lot of strategy that goes into my services. So I really get to know your business mission, your core values, who you're trying to target your ideal customer, and where you want your business to go, when we take into consideration, kind of like your tone and messaging, and then we start on your visuals, after all of that foundation work has been leading down. Um, and I kind of just got there because I, I don't know, I just don't think that, uh, businesses, just the logo, I saw that with my earlier work. I was creating stuff for my clients. But you know, then what I didn't really still back then, like I was equipping them to, like, move forward after our project is over. And I feel like now that their strategy, you know, they feel good with how they should move forward, like we really laid that foundation, and that their business can grow off of so. And that's another important reason why include websites, too. Because that's kind of your hub, that's your 24 seven marketing material. And it's always working for you. I think it's just so smart to invest in a website, if you're a business, it just does so much for you. So that's why I like to pair them together.
Jenna Redfield 9:54
Yeah, for sure. So what do you find is the biggest mistake that people make when they come to you? What are they doing wrong?
Melanie Lea 10:02
I would say, You mean like in their business, or
Jenna Redfield 10:08
like in their branding in general, like, say, you, you they already have a website, but you know, it obviously isn't converting or it isn't, you know, attracting the right clients. So what what, what, what do you see a lot that people are making mistakes on their websites. Um,
Melanie Lea 10:22
I would say that overall, the thing that is going to help you the most with any kind of branding or website is getting very clear on your place in the market and who you want to serve and targeting your market. I think, if you don't know those two things, then, you know, you're really just creating kind of fluff around your business, you can have a cool business card, but is it appealing to the right people? Or you can have a website, but does it make sense for your business? You know, if you're, if you're kind of more modern and edgy. You don't want like a stuffy pink website? Mm hmm. You know? Yeah, totally works like yours is like that. And that's why I see it. It makes you so happy. And this is Jenna. Yeah. But that doesn't work for everyone. Yeah, that's why it's really important to think about those things, your your, what your business is supposed to stand for and who you want to target.
Jenna Redfield 11:24
It kind of bleeds into everything. Yeah, for sure. And so what is like, what is the first steps that you take? when you're when you're helping someone? Do you go? So you said that you go over there, like core values and stuff? And how does that work? So I guess my guess my question is, what services do you specifically offer? Because I know you've, for me, you did a site audit, but like, what are some of the other things that you specifically like sell?
Melanie Lea 11:50
So it's, there's really three offerings that I have one is brand identities. One is web design. And then the other one is site audits.
Jenna Redfield 12:00
So talk, talk a little bit more about the site honest, because I know that's newer
Melanie Lea 12:03
Redis. That's brand new. So what I really wanted to do was appeal to people who you like, I'm, I'm, as I said, I'm a DIY designer, I call myself design, and that's kind of what I'm doing my business right now. So I have a heart for people who make their own websites. And, you know, like, so I see them, I know that they know, it's important to have one. But that doesn't really mean that they're hitting the mark. Exactly. They want to Yeah, so I thought, okay, maybe maybe these people can't invest in designer know that they can do it themselves, but they just need someone here to notice the strategy to look at it, and tell them what's working, what's not. So that's kind of where it was born from.
Jenna Redfield 12:56
Yeah, so what made you decide to do those? Is it just based on you had gotten feedback from maybe previous clients? or How did you decide to start offering side of it? Um,
Melanie Lea 13:08
I want to say that I saw
on social media, maybe like Instagram, someone had done a site audit for free, and they got such a good response. I'm like, Oh, hey, can you do my here's my web address in the comments. And I was like, oh, there's obviously a need for do want to hear what they're doing wrong. You know, because that was, yeah, your mind is? Why don't want to be mean. Yeah. But I do want people you know, if it's going to be helpful, and and help their business grow, then it's really good at if people are open to hearing that. So then, I guess that kind of gave me the push, like, Oh, no, this actually is something that people could use and that their business could benefit from,
Jenna Redfield 13:49
for sure. So I guess going back to some of our listeners might be on blogger, or blogspot or WordPress, why do you pick Squarespace out of all of the platforms?
Melanie Lea 14:03
There are a ton of reasons. Squarespace I think, is just so user friendly, and intuitive. And there's constantly I mean, they are constantly doing updates. Its weekly, if not daily, I'm just trying to improve the platform. I like that it's all hosted in one space. So you can buy your domain from them, you can host your site through them, you can store all of your your content there. It doesn't have to come from another site. Like I know with WordPress, to me, it's so complicated. You have to buy your domain from you have to host from another. And you have to like if there's an update or something like it could affect your plans. It just seems really complex. So I like that Squarespace is so streamlined and easy. And like I said, it's very intuitive. It's kind of drag and drop too. So you don't have to know code, which I think is awesome. And it's easily customizable. Like I said, I do CSS and like code styling with every website I create for clients. So it's and you can sell stuff. It's not just like a blogging platform. But you can blog you can do your podcasts. Yeah, you know, through there, you can do video. So it's very versatile, too.
Jenna Redfield 15:27
Yeah, we actually do our podcast through Squarespace. So. So
Melanie Lea 15:32
it's actually just rolled out this new feature with acuity scheduling, so you can kind of like book appointments through there too. It's just very like group bus. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield 15:41
for sure. And I mean, I personally use Squarespace too. And I know I want to have someone on the podcast that does WordPress so we can get like another, you know, viewpoint but I personally pick Squarespace just because it was a lot easier for me and like I felt like I was spending so much time on WordPress I figured it out. But it's still like, you know, the time to for plugins and all that stuff. Personally, it was just it was taken way too much.
Melanie Lea 16:05
Yeah, well and the thing is, is I want to create something this is probably even bigger, I want to create something that is easily my clients like you know, I don't I don't want them to have to wait for my schedule or pay my fees if they need an update, you know, like able to run your website after you for the easy you know, maintenance and updates. And that's another big reason. But I will say that there's a lot of stuff that WordPress offers that Squarespace definitely I just don't take the clients are targeting really need all that extra stuff. Yeah, this point my business for
Jenna Redfield 16:41
sure. Because I think there's a difference between the people that are like hardcore, like sellers. And then there's also the people that just need a website for maybe a portfolio like a lot of I feel like a lot of like wedding photographers, they don't need all the stuff that WordPress offers. But if you're like an e commerce and you need to use like woo commerce and stuff, I think that's more what you need. I don't know if that makes sense. Like I think it just depends on who you are. If you're a blogger, you probably don't need all the stuff that WordPress offers. You just need the blog. And like you know it make it look pretty and and so that's that's another reason I think it's a very pretty website. So and
Melanie Lea 17:18
also say like, it's easy to do a car on Squarespace. And also, like I like I said, I'm not very well versed in WordPress, but I know Yeah, you can do like plugins. And again, that starts to get really complicated. But you know, like your blog can be found through SEO like animations that are really easy to implement on Squarespace also. Um, and it integrates with Pinterest, it has rich pins. So like I was I can something from a new blog post yesterday and it kind of feeds you the type the title of your blog posts. And the first like little excerpt I think it's so it like I said, Squarespace integrates with social media to there's other things too, but maybe we don't go into that.
Jenna Redfield 18:11
Well, no, I mean, it's fine. Because I think being being in the graphic design sphere. I mean, Pinterest is a huge thing. So Howdy. My next question was how do you get your customers? How do you how do they find you? How do you find them?
Melanie Lea 18:25
I would say right now at this point, my business, the biggest thing is, you know, I do my best to make sure my clients are really taken care of and really happy. And so most of my new business comes from word of mouth. But I do get inquiries and leads from Instagram, Pinterest, and people who told me that they found me through like a search engine.
Jenna Redfield 18:56
What What, what for the search engine? What do they do, you know, do ask what they search for? I think it's mostly
Melanie Lea 19:02
Squarespace. Okay, like Squarespace designers I think they're looking for. Yeah, or people will find me because I do. I do blog posts on how to customize Squarespace. So and people are really interested in that. I think people find me through that to like just searching for how to customize it. And then they're like, okay, rather have someone else do this. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield 19:25
that's actually a really good way to if you're a service based business to like, come up with tips, and then they find out that you're really good at it, and then they end up hiring you because they're like, I don't want to do this myself. Is that kind of what you found?
Melanie Lea 19:39
Yeah, I mean, that happens sometimes. But also, I mean, I make the post so people can do their own. So it's great, you know, if someone doesn't need my help you there. Like I said, I have such a heart for people who are just like, Huh, try it. And I want businesses who are at that stage, you know, not ready to invest. Professional design, like I want them to look good. And I want them to be, you know, highly functional and in converting the way it needs to. So that's why those are out there. But it does help with SEO to you know, so that's just like a good general tip for anyone who's
doing your website through Squarespace.
Jenna Redfield 20:19
Yeah. So when you help me with mine, you kind of went through a lot of different things, including like, the colors and the fonts, how do you kind of get a sense of the person's like, overall, look and feel their website? Do you kind of do it based on what they currently have? Or do you do like a questionnaire like usually when you're doing brand identity and all that stuff?
Melanie Lea 20:39
Yeah. So what I did was I try my best to condense the questionnaire, like the little intake form that you have to fill out to submit your site audit order, I think there's maybe six questions like my contact information, like here, let's get to like the meat of the what your businesses doing. I think there's like six questions. And they're, they're very strategic. So it's, like, I want to get to what your business goals are, I want to get to what your set goals are, I get customers to fill out like, Okay, if your business had a style, how would you describe it, and so I just kind of picked up on like, key, just very, very essential. key things. And really, just from there, like, that's, that's the strategy I pull from, and then I and then I just go to your site and be a part of design is strategy, but part of it is kind of like, gut feelings and activity and trusting your judgment. So I don't know, I tried to, like keep a foot on both sides, like one part super strategic one part, creative and intuitive. And, and, and, and put more weight on the on one foot or the other, depending on what's needed. It's kind of a balance. But yeah, so just pull out kind of like, key information and then go from there.
Jenna Redfield 22:06
Yeah, that's so cool. So completely changing topics. Um, what so you you moved here from Mississippi, and you've lived here How long?
Melanie Lea 22:16
It's been three and a half years. Okay. And
Jenna Redfield 22:19
yeah. And so, what I always asked us on every podcast episode, what what do you like to do around town? Oh,
Melanie Lea 22:27
yeah, it's, this is such a beautiful city. And I live right across from a park. So me and my dog are there and why? I'm walking around and it started to warm up recently. So I've been running outside a lot means great, especially like, when you're at the end of winter, and you're like, Come on, get ticket out some energy.
do rock climbing at this gym called vertical endeavors. So cool. That's something I picked up since moving to Minnesota. And then I'd say I probably go to a lot of shows to like music shows. My boyfriend's in this punk rock band and I got a little punk rock shows all the time. That's pretty awesome.
Jenna Redfield 23:16
Yeah, I was gonna say I just went to Brooklyn Devers last week. So yeah, the Bloomington one. No, I had been once before to my friends go a lot. And so I decided to go with them. I got
Melanie Lea 23:29
Jenna Redfield 23:30
Yeah, really. So that would be really fun. Thanks for the idea, because that's actually a really fun because, because they they are. It's funny. My brother is really into rock climbing. So I used his gear. So that was nice enough to pay rent to rental for the rental. But yeah, it's so fun. Like, there's so many things that people don't realize are around you know, and like, especially a very physical things like, you know, all the different classes like I went to Sky Zone, I'm your day, and it was part of class pass and they have an adult like class. Fitness. That's guys. Wait, what is? Sorry guys on is a trampoline park indoors. Okay,
Unknown Speaker 24:06
I was kind of hoping.
Unknown Speaker 24:09
I guess maybe the name is like Sky Zone? I don't know. That's awesome. I actually
Melanie Lea 24:13
have that on like a little bucket list of mine. I really want to have like a birthday. Oh, yeah.
Jenna Redfield 24:19
That would be so fun to Yeah, it's fun. It's fun. Because like, as the class was ending, it was like an early morning on a Saturday. And when the class was ending, you could hear the screams of like the third graders like coming in. Because they're like, that's why one reason I don't really like Sky Zone is there's so many kids, but you can go in the morning when it's just adults. And it's a lot quieter. And and it was it was a hard workout. But I mean, I I'm just Yeah, no, but but thank you. You jumped from trampoline, the trampoline. And it's all cardio. Like, it's like I was dead. When I was done. I was so tired. Like, it's like so because you're just bouncing for like an hour straight. No, and it's, yeah, yeah, I think it's like 12 bucks or something. And you can just go whenever, but so shout out to Sky Zone. Do you have trouble coming up with beautiful images for your Instagram? Do you have a lot of products that you need photographing, and just don't know what to do? Hey, everyone, I'm here today to talk about my business generate foot designs, which is a
Melanie Lea 25:24
style stock photography and custom stock photography, business.
Jenna Redfield 25:28
So what I do is I take props that I've collected over the past two years, and make beautiful style images with your products. So if you sell mugs, if you sell hats, if you sell any type of product, we do awesome styled images with those products. We also work with web designers and graphic designers to do mock ups, which are basically like frames, iPads, iPhones, blank screens that can be used to display your website or logo. In addition, we also work with service based companies where we can just do a basic simple custom stock photo that you can use on your website on your social media to show off text or a blog post. So those are the three different audiences that I work with to create beautiful stock images for your website or social media. I absolutely love doing it. And since I'm local, it's going to be super easy for me to work with you. So if you're interested in learning more, make sure to go to generate the designs.com you like to go and do stuff around how what about like food? What do you like to go eat? I know you said you like to eat a lot of different places as well.
Melanie Lea 26:37
I so I whenever I'm wanting like comfort food or for food from back home, I'll go to Revival which is Okay, thanks, chicken. And it's awesome. They have really, really spicy chicken. They're like the last time Well, no, it wasn't the last time Okay, so I went like earlier this year. Hey, I got this chicken. It's called the poultry guys. And within 10 minutes, I was crying at the table. And like, you know, full recipe. And the servers are like, are you sure you want this? And we were like, yeah, clearly, like 10 minutes later, I was crying so so hot. So you just like eat more macaroni and biscuits.
Jenna Redfield 27:22
That sounds really good.
Melanie Lea 27:24
So I would say don't try that really, really hot chicken if you go there, but I love going there. It's revival. I'm a big fan of pizza.
Jenna Redfield 27:34
Oh, me too. Um, what's the best pizza you go? What's the best pizza place?
Melanie Lea 27:40
Well, I really like black sheep. And there's one right next to vertical endeavors and many common thing is okay, go climb and number one. Pizza. But I got pizza Luciana last, say a few delivery. I'm in there. Awesome. Yeah, I love chocolate you.
Jenna Redfield 28:00
Yeah, and pizza. Lu j, they have a bunch of different locations, which is super nice. And I have an app on your phone. I thought Oh, really? Oh,
Melanie Lea 28:08
yeah. And I have it. Oh, wow.
Jenna Redfield 28:12
Yeah, cuz you have to be it. You have to be within like the delivery zone to even get that you know?
Melanie Lea 28:17
Yeah. So yeah. Oh, yeah. Cuz you live in that top. So I don't know.
Jenna Redfield 28:21
Yeah, I live within the Hopkins like area that I can deliver. But I just I guess I always just like I like going there. So like, that's what's it's got? They've got gluten free stuff, which my brother is gluten free. So whenever we go out to dinner like with my brother, we got it usually go to pizza chain because they have gluten free
Melanie Lea 28:40
crust? Do they have a lot of options? Yes,
Jenna Redfield 28:43
yes. And they have some like, dairy free stuff, too. I think which I have other family members who are dairy free. So it's like a one place my whole family can go or we can all eat something.
Melanie Lea 28:56
Like oh, family get together? We gotta go get pizza.
Jenna Redfield 28:59
Yeah, for sure. So So do you do a lot? I know that you are kind of active around town. Do you? Are you active in like, the business world like the networking world? Or do you just I'm just curious about what you do around town like with since you work at home and self employed? Like what do you do like to meet people and network?
Melanie Lea 29:23
I would say like for I would say for local business stuff. I really only started trying to make an effort.
Two months ago, or three months ago, within this year. And I know I, I I want to do more of it. I don't think I do enough. Um, I guess just right now it's kind of like, I'm, my business is undergoing a lot of changes right now. So either by the time this podcast is out, out, I think it'll probably be different. Yeah, but it is like, right, yeah, March. Um, so I just feel like I kind of have my head down right now really trying to to get these changes and transitions underway. But that's something that I want to do more of, you know, in the future, I guess. But I really am. And I and I liked it that even local groups have online presences. That makes it easier that way you can still feel plugged in. Even if you can't go to the actual events or meetups.
Jenna Redfield 30:37
Yeah, I mean, that's what we're trying to do in the collective is I mean, I know there are people that live you know, hours away, and they don't really have a community. It's a way to also be able to connect online. So yeah, that's just that's just that's that's something that I really enjoy. Totally. And, and then so when to meet in person, you're like, Oh, I know who you are, like we follow that happened at the event on Tuesday. That's person's like, Oh, I just started falling on Pinterest. So I was like, Oh, cool. So like these people get to finally meet in real life, which is pretty cool.
Melanie Lea 31:07
So like that the a lot of the networking things that I have been to in the cities have been more of these are places where I can find peers necessarily network for clients, but that's so great. And actually, what Sonny is our friend, you know, Kayla, and I met her total. I mean, it was totally random. I was I, another designer had like, mentioned her in a tweet or something. And I and then I saw that Kayla had to go to Kayla's profile. And it's like, ways to capture your audience with your Instagram captions or something. So then I'm like, Okay, well, I gotta go to this girl's Instagram. And so then I go to her Instagram, and I'm like, she's in Minneapolis. How crazy. So we connect, and, uh, you know, met up, and now she's on my dear friends. And she introduced me to Allison Hmm, we kind of collected or sorry, we kind of started this little kind of like a mastermind. And that I think, is probably like, my biggest anchor as far as like, local business support goes. And I just love that kind of intimate group, even though I love big groups and having fun and like, you know, yeah, larger stuff, too. But I think that's grounds me as far as local support
Jenna Redfield 32:31
go for sure. Because that's why we are launching masterminds. You know? Yeah. So like I and I, I've actually masterminded with the blogger breakfast group that meets, you know, on a Monday mornings, once a month with Laura. And so she leads that and so I've actually asked that group being like, Hey, I'm going to start masterminds? What should I do? So like, it's kind of like a good way to bounce ideas off of people. And I think every need that because, especially if you're like a solo printer or something, you don't have anyone, I mean, maybe online, you you're in a Facebook group and ask a question, but it's like, there's so many things where like, I have no idea how to do this. And there are other people that are experts at it, that you can, like, help each other, you know, learn and like grow your business. So I think,
Melanie Lea 33:19
Oh, just so essential, and I feel like I feel like getting to talk to someone about your business. Also, for me anyway, it makes me feel more confident. And when I'm doing like, I have someone to go, Yeah, no, that's a great idea. Have you considered this? Well, I feel like before having that, I was maybe a little bit more insecure about my offerings. And it's been kind of great, because, for me, at least, I feel like I'm constantly putting stuff out there. But I don't really know, how it's being perceived. You know, I know how I want people to perceive my business. And so it's been really validating, and kind of affirming to have that support group into to me other people who can relate to you on that level. Um, it's, it's, I think it's just so much for my confidence. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield 34:09
For sure. Do you ever look at I mean, I guess this is a like, kind of off topic, but not really. But do you ever? Do you ever get like jealous of other companies? Like, do you ever look at another business? And I'm like, oh, man, I wish I could be more like that. Because I feel like that happens to me a lot. And I'm just curious, from your perspective, do you ever be like, Oh, I wish I could do that.
Melanie Lea 34:27
I'm actually really glad that you asked that. Because I think I tend to have the opposite reaction. Oh, really? Like if I see something, I actually don't get it. I texted Caitlin outs and the other day, because I saw I had like, done something that I thought was super cool and unique on Instagram. And then like two weeks later, I saw that someone had posted something very similar, like a month before that. And I was devastated. I was like, Oh, no, I can't do it. Because now I look like someone else. Like I have just this huge aversion to looking like someone else or do you know, so if I see somebody do something, I automatically go, I have to come up with a plan B, or I have to come up with a plan to do it better, or different, or whatever. Which is why it's so important to always know, your your differentiators or what makes you unique. Like you can't, you can't even just worry about your business and where you go, you have to, you have to look at your competition and your market and you have to go what makes you different? What makes money? Why should customers come to me versus someone else? I think having a really good like solid foundation around that really helps you in those situations where maybe someone else is doing something cool. I'll never be able to do that. You don't want to do that. Yeah, that's good to hear business, but maybe it's not for yours. Or if you can do something so MI for your business. How can you make it your own? And I'm sorry, just look at that. It's like challenges. I really, I really like to challenge myself and Okay, how can I make this better? Or more me or more you hear me? Or, you know, something like that?
Jenna Redfield 36:13
Yeah. How do you deal with a client who's like, I wanted to look just like this person's like, does that happen? Where they're like, like, they're like, Oh, I really like this person. I want it to be just like this.
Melanie Lea 36:24
You know, I feel like that used to happen a lot more in my business. But I think customers are my clients come to me because of my creativity. And so since that's kind of like a unique, or something that was like a deciding factor. I don't think that they would expect me to do that. I don't think they know, okay, I'm not doing
I'm not gonna rip somebody else's idea
Jenna Redfield 36:47
off. Sure. And like how much I guess going back to like, how you tell your clients, what they're doing? How much do you deal with client education? I know, we talked a little bit about this, but like, what do you do to educate your clients on what they should be doing?
Melanie Lea 37:01
Um, as far as,
Jenna Redfield 37:03
like branding, or like, like, like, while you're going through the process with them, as they have these out of the, you know, out of the field questions, and you're like, Whoa, we need to like focus, like hot. Like, I feel like a lot of people don't know much about branding, and they don't know much about design. So they might come in with all these ideas that you're like, No, no, no. So you kind of have to, like, you know, like, I feel like that happens probably a lot, especially if they're coming to you because they're not expert. So how do you deal with that? Like, how do you tell them like, like, Oh, no, like, we only need to pick two fonts. We don't need 10. Like that. For me. When I first started my blog, I wanted to use a different font for every single thing, because I was like, oh, that font like works with that topic. And this font works with that topic. And then over the years, I'm like, No, I have to have like a specific font that people can recognize me for. And that took a long time for me to be like, like, because I just was like, man, I have all these fonts I want to use, like, so it's like, you know, cuz I'm not a designer, but like, I kind of had that thing where I was just like, I want to be different every time. But now I'm like, No, you need to be consistent. So what like, I guess that's the question is like, how do you kind of get people to wrap their minds around the consistency of a brand?
Melanie Lea 38:09
Um, I would say that, I would say that I, this has happened from a lot of a lot of trial and error. Hmm. But my current process now, like I said, involves a lot of strategy. So I make sure to explain, yep, all the decisions I've made. So like, here's what it looks like on the surface. And here's a breakdown of why I made those decisions. Like I don't, you know, I don't do anything just for the heck of it. So the customer comes to me, or a client comes to me and they go, this is the idea I have, you know, my first responses. Well, how do you think that's going to improve your brand? How do you mean customers are going to look at it and see, you just kind of have to reframe it. And I'd say that sometimes, I would say most of the time, my clients want to know what my opinion is, and want to want to move forward with high opinion because they like you said, they came to me, because they're not designers, they came, they needed help. So and that hasn't always been the case ever, it's really hard to get to that, where we're kind of go, you know, and it helps that I explained stuff, you know, I'm not just Hey, I decided this is the color for your brand. And I don't want you to fight back on this, you know, like that. That's not productive. And it doesn't make sense. Like, it's not about what I want, either, you know, um, but I think the biggest thing is like reframing design
the lens of what are your business goals? What's going to appeal to your target customer always go back to those two things? Is this going to help us get you closer to your business goal? Is this going to appeal more to your target customer? Because I think that's probably the biggest thing is when you know, when, when you get professional design, actually, I shouldn't say that when you want to design for your business. In general, when you come to a designer, you're you're the designers client, but they're not designing for you, they're designing for your customer. I think that's like a really smart if you if you look at it that way. You know, it's kind of like, because here's the thing, if you're running a business, maybe you're selling to people that are just like you so in that case, your customer, you, you know, like your visions really line up. And so it's it makes sense to kind of go with what appeals to you as
the design client.
But a lot of times, you know, like, your, your the clients target customer, isn't them. Like my target customer isn't me. Mm hmm. Because I'm
Jenna Redfield 40:43
a DI Yeah, that's true. Yeah. So so
Melanie Lea 40:47
I think just kind of reframing things through the lens of what's your customer?
For sure. Are they going to think about it?
Jenna Redfield 40:53
Yeah. Because that's true. Because if your target customer was you, they'd already know how to design.
Melanie Lea 41:00
This, you know, like the preference. Yeah, true. Yeah. Cuz then, like, there'd be some kind of like boundaries and play
Jenna Redfield 41:06
for sure. Well, why do I like, yeah, like, I've had issues with that. Because my, my style is so girly, but I'm like, I don't need your style to be girly. Like, it doesn't have to be like, I can obviously work with people who don't have like pink and gold as their colors, you know? Yeah. But that's just my personal preference. And I am better at that kind of design, just because that's who I am. So when people look at my stock photos, they're like, Oh, this is the kind of photo she does. And that's because it's who I am, I guess.
Melanie Lea 41:36
Yeah, well, you know, and I think it's, that's the kind of work
you want to be doing. Like if you if somebody sat you
down and said, you know, what kind of work do you want to be doing? He said, I want to be doing the ultra feminine stuff.
then I'd say then your your site, and the work
you put on your site should look ultra? Yeah, you know, conceptually work you want to be up yet. Mm hmm.
And maybe you do, you maybe do like that super techie or masculine
videos or stock photos. And
you do that you have a happy customer.
Unknown Speaker 42:09
Melanie Lea 42:11
but if that's not the kind of work you want to be doing, then maybe you shouldn't put it on your site. And truly okay. Yeah, it's you need to do things to get more of the Yes, really want to be doing Yes,
life doesn't limit you to the work you actually can do. Yes. You just want to bring in the most
amount of ideal customers,
Jenna Redfield 42:30
as for sure. And yeah, and so I feel like, Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think a lot of people don't think about it that way. They just kind of jump at whatever is offering them money. And then in the end, you're like have all these different projects where you're like, oh, like none of this looks like each other, you know?
Melanie Lea 42:47
Jenna Redfield 42:48
So do you hear that? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's good over time, though. And I think so. So for your website, do you have a lot of like, portfolio stuff that's like, what kind of stuff you want to do?
Melanie Lea 43:02
Yes, it's only the stuff that I want to be doing. I, you know, this is something else that I was just kind of thinking about. Maybe you don't have a lot of work that you want to be doing more of. So though your portfolio with, like case study projects, sample projects, you know, so if you, you know, we'll just use yours an example, say, you want it to be doing more of a certain type of video. If even if you don't have like five client examples, you can put in your portfolio. That doesn't mean you can't create like two or three examples. On your portfolio. We people just want to see the type of work you're capable of doing. And if and like for me, when I when I do portfolio projects on websites, I don't even link up to the actual website that my client, I just do screenshots? Because, like, say they click through, and it's a you know, six months later, and the climate
has changed. Yeah, that's true. That's
not my work anymore. So I don't want it.
Yeah, really. It's your website, you can see the preference you're getting,
Jenna Redfield 44:17
yeah, because that has happened to me before where I've designed an Etsy banner for someone, and then I linked to their site, and then they like change it every six months. So they don't have it anymore. You know, it's just like, No, no, like, I wanted to see like to see it on Etsy. But that's why you do do a lot of those screenshots, which is nice. Yeah.
Melanie Lea 44:32
Because me, like I said, I want to make sure when people are looking at my work, it's,
it's my strong day off,
you know, impression is given to them. So I think, yeah, so your portfolio or examples on your website of the kind of work you want to be doing. And if you need to fill it with fake projects, yeah.
Studies, the colonists case study.
Jenna Redfield 45:00
So So case studies aren't real for you,
Melanie Lea 45:03
which some of them are using right now. Like on my on my website, my core, I call it a portfolio and it's just work I've done.
Okay, I do think that
I just don't, I don't necessarily think that it's misleading to call it a portfolio. Because you are presenting what you're capable. Yeah. And that's, that's what potential customers want to see for
Jenna Redfield 45:28
sure. I've kind of used my youtube channel as my portfolio because it's, I can use myself and then try out new editing styles. Tom, so that's something that I do, because then it's like, people are like, Oh, I really like that. Like I actually had someone be like, I like that one thing you did in that one video. And I'm like, Okay, well, that's good to know. Like, cuz it's like, then they wouldn't have known that I could do that. Otherwise.
Melanie Lea 45:49
Yeah, I mean, I think that's so smart. I think getting creative with them showcase your work is really about to like I'm such my work is so visual. So I point people to my Instagram, all your work is
your work is video so
and stock photography. So Instagram is good for you. I know you post examples of your stock photos there, but yet, point people to your YouTube. Like, that's such a good idea. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield 46:18
I just kind of, it's funny because like, while I'm talking to you, I'm like realizing this. Like, like my youtube channel is technically my portfolio. I guess I
Melanie Lea 46:27
never thought about it that way. It's like, I didn't update my portfolio for like, six months. This is last year, and I was getting ready to read your my site. And sorry, I had it down and a cover page up. And I was so thankful that I could send people to Instagram. And then I make sure to post a you know, like,
in progress projects, or,
hey, here's some mock ups of a project I just wrapped up, you know, like always posting stuff about my work. So that was so great to be able to say people there. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield 47:01
Like, I know, a lot of people, they start on Instagram, and then they eventually get a website and stuff. Is that what you kind of did too? Or did you start your Instagram after your website?
Melanie Lea 47:11
I did my Instagram after my website. Okay. Yeah. And and it was I think I had my website before even
Jenna Redfield 47:19
That's true. Yeah, that's true. I guess now that Think about it. Yeah, that probably is a lot of people. Because it's funny. It's funny, because it's like, I don't understand why people don't have Instagram. I'm like, it's like the best medium for connecting, especially if you're a visual person. Like, I don't understand when like, a web designer doesn't have Instagram. I'm like, Are you kidding? Like, I just like, to me, that's just your like, there's so much wasted potential for business business growth, in my opinion.
Melanie Lea 47:47
Well, I mean, I guess it just depends. Because it's true. Business is booming without it. Yeah, that's why you're playing is a really smart and,
um, you know, if you want to use it, for sure, yeah.
Jenna Redfield 48:05
Um, yeah, I think at least for the Twin Cities Collective, it's been our biggest I mean, way that we that at least it's the most, it's the, it's the thing I spend the most time on. It's the thing, I think that has grown the fastest. And it's the thing that I think has brought in the most interest for us. And that's mostly because I'm incorporating other people's photos that Yeah, like I had a girl today that, again, we're recording this in March, and I shared her photo and I just connected with her on like a Facebook group. And I found out she lived in Minnesota, I started following her. And then she started using our hashtag, I shared her photo and she got like, 10 to 15 new followers from our group who saw that she had done you know, I tagged her, and then they went over to her account. And then they saw that she had like this really beautiful Instagram. So then people started following her. So I'm like, you know, yeah, so like, I just like I like to try to like share the wealth in terms of like, telling people about new fun accounts, I found.
Melanie Lea 48:57
You know, is there a way on the Twin Cities Collective and stick around to get your word?
Jenna Redfield 49:06
yes. So we I take from either the hashtag Twin Cities Collective or hashtag 20s bloggers, which is the name of what the group used to be before, used to be the Twin Cities Collective. And then we changed the name to just the Twin Cities Collective. Just because I wanted to incorporate all people, and not just bloggers, including, like, the entire creative community, which I felt like didn't really have. I mean, there are some creative communities around town. But like, I didn't think there was one that united both bloggers and creatives, which can totally like work together. So I felt like that was like something I didn't want to lose that blogging route, you know, the group? Because like, I obviously, I think you should still have a blog. If you have a business, you should have a blog. I personally believe that. I mean, I used to work for a moving company and online business. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So well, it's funny, because I used to work for a moving company. And I made a blog for them, because I'm like, we need to, like have content, you know, that I can share on Facebook and on Instagram. So and sometimes it is kind of hard to come up with, like content for certain businesses. But like, yeah, I think if you have an online business, for sure, you definitely need to have like a blog. It's just something where you can put out content and then share about your business. I think that's the most important part is the content, you know,
Melanie Lea 50:18
totally. And actually, I'm going to go back on that. Because, you know, if you're not an online business, I think it's so smart for coming up in search engines.
Yeah, it's gonna help people find you organically. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield 50:31
there's just, there's just like, no negatives to it, I guess. Like, I just feel like, you know, like, especially it's interesting how blogging, I was thinking about this earlier this week, how blogging has kind of transformed over the years like it used to be just kind of like this, like thing like some people did, no one really got it. And now it's like a must have, you know, it's just interesting how and like how like most businesses have one. And like, even like the lifestyle blogging has changed to it's become almost like a business for them. And using social media to like, promote yourself. And like all the automation there. It's just changed a lot even since when I started, which was in I think 2014 was when I started. And so it's just like, it seems like even the platforms have changed. Like Squarespace was not big, like, like, four or five years ago. And now it's like the biggest one. I think, for people that are starting new site. I think Squarespace is the one that most people like just if they're just starting website, they pick Squarespace. Yeah. But
Melanie Lea 51:21
yeah, so totally. I mean, I think that's so great that that in smart, so keep the Twin Cities Collective rooted in blog. Yes. A lot of sense.
Jenna Redfield 51:30
Yeah. And I think that I mean, part of the thing is the fact that I'm trying to add, I'm trying to add content that helps both bloggers and businesses, which is hard, sometimes. But so that's why like, I think having a web design person on the podcast makes sense, because both can utilize a web design, you know, like, you know, so I'm trying to find guests that can come up with interesting, you know, info that everyone can use, so
Melanie Lea 52:05
pretty applicable. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield 52:07
Yeah. Like, even if you don't have a business where you sell something, you're selling your blog, or you're selling, you're trying to market your something. Yeah, I mean, everyone
Melanie Lea 52:16
has to market something, even if your existing for a reason not to just exactly. And I
Jenna Redfield 52:23
was gonna say I think that like, even if you're trying to sell yourself, not sell yourself, but like, as like, say you're trying to find a job, and you're trying to sell your skills to a potential like interviewer. I mean, you need to learn how to market yourself how to sell yourself, and I think every person, no matter what your job is, you should have like a website that just shows like your either your like, resume, or your portfolio or whatever, especially if you're creative.
Melanie Lea 52:47
Yeah. Even that is kind of getting to that's the bare minimum. Mm hmm. I call those just like brochure sites or Yeah, sites that where it's, you know, it's not really dynamic content is kind of more static, where you say information there in its existing. Um, but yeah, even even that, to me is kind of getting to be the bare minimum requirement for anyone with an online presence. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield 53:15
Do you ever go on like those artists see what I don't even go to them but like, be hands and like some of those, like, do you ever put like portfolios on there?
Melanie Lea 53:24
I, I go to those sites for just to kind of like source mood board image, okay, for inspiration, but I don't personally like post stuff. Okay. And that's because I kind of has an aversion to social media. I love it. But it's like always one more thing that I yeah. And so I kind of just like to nail down the ones that I am active in and and maybe once those are more streamlined, I can start adding new things that I'd have to update. Um, but no, sorry. I don't do those. But I love this idea.
dance. And it seems like Pinterest a lot for like newborn inspiration.
Yeah, that's a great,
Jenna Redfield 54:10
yeah. Awesome. Well, we're coming up on to about 15 minutes, so I'm probably going to end the podcast. Thank you so much for talking with me today. I'm really excited for this podcast come out during our month of branding info. Do you want to maybe share like your social media links, so that we can find you online?
Melanie Lea 54:30
Oh, yeah, sure. Um, so my handle for pretty much everything. I'm on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as this is Melanie and Lee, and it's MPLANIEANNELEA. And then on Facebook, it's just facebook.com slash my belly designs. Awesome.