There are a couple of big decisions that designers eventually face in their business. When you’re first starting your business, you have to decide if you’re going to work with local or online clients, or a mix of both. Later, as your business grows, you’ll likely find yourself thinking about how to work with a team for your clients.
We know that some of you are interested in these topics, so this week we’re introducing you to Amber Brannon, the Founder and Creative Director of Copperheart Creative.
She’s sharing her experience in building a team of contractors to work with her clients. She’s also sharing what it’s like to work primarily with local businesses.
How Amber got started
She worked at branding agencies for 5 years and saw herself as a bit of a job jumper for some time. She credits that time to helping her see how to run a business, work with clients, and a vast amount of other things. So she’s grateful for that experience.
The last agency she worked at turned out to be a bit of a toxic environment. At one point in a meeting she found herself saying she couldn’t do it anymore and essentially accidentally quitting.
After that, she decided she’d just do freelance. Previous employers started giving her contract work and was able to stay busy. Between that and getting her own clients, her business sort of naturally took off from there.
Why she started building a team
Amber started bringing in contractors specifically when she wanted to start doing WordPress website builds for her clients. She knew she would need a developer, copywriter, and a photographer to be able to offer that service.
To find her first contractors she pulled out her contacts from the agencies she’d worked with and freelancers she already knew. She started pulling people in to different projects, and before she knew it she realized she wasn’t just a freelancer anymore, but she was running a business.
Finding the right people
While Amber already had some connections with contractors she could work with in Copperheart, she found a lot of other connections through her college alumni. She stays really connected with the students and staff, so she knows who’s coming up and graduating from there looking from work. She likes to ask the professors to give her a real insight into the student so she knows what to expect from them.
She also loves doing a lot of networking and has met some other designers through industry networking. Ladies, Wine & Design is one of her favorite groups to connect with locally.
Amber also mentions that she loves meeting with people over margaritas to have an honest heart-to-heart. This gives her a chance to really get to know them, what their goals are, and how they’d work together.
How she got her first local client
First couple of clients came through agency connections. It’s not a parameter that clients have to be local to work with them, but it’s natural that as you start working with local clients you’ll begin to work with more. Copperheart Creative works with about 60% clients in Nashville, 30% clients in Amber’s hometown, and 10% remote clients.
How Amber handles meetings
Generally, if she needs to talk business with her clients she’ll schedule a call or book an in-person meeting in advance. If she knows that clients in Ohio, for example, are onboarding, she loves to schedule a trip so she can go meet them if it’s convenient for both parties.
However, sometimes it doesn’t always work for clients to meet in person. Local clients are generally balancing a lot of different things so they have less time to sit down for hours to talk.
Unexpected benefit of working with local clients
Amber says there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the work you’ve done in person. Whether it’s on a sign or seeing the logo you created in the business, seeing your work in the wild is a really special feeling.
She also mentions she loves to support the businesses she works with. For example, they worked with a jewelry business, and she loves to purchase products to give as gifts.
Her biggest piece of advice for finding local clients
She recommends closing your laptop and going to events local to you to network with local business owners. Don’t go with expectations of landing a client, but instead establish relationships knowing that your work to meet other business owners will eventually pay off.
Remember, no one connects with overly salesy people when meeting the first time.
Learn more about Amber
I am a dreamer, a doer, a lover of people, and a seeker. To me, that’s the makeup of a great creative: dream big, work hard, find connections, and push boundaries. I dreamed up my perfect job, and then quit my 9-5 job to create it. Years of agency experience gave me a passion for the work I’m doing today: serving clients with heart and connecting people through amazing design! I’m honored to be listed among the Top 10 Designers in Tennessee, but experience has taught me I can’t do it all alone. The best lesson I’ve learned in business is to hire talented people who complement my skills. That’s how Copperheart Creative was born 🙂 So until closing time, I’ll be over here working away to serve our wonderful clients, fully embracing the daily Nike attire, my beyond-tall height, and sunshine-filled personality.
Great interview. Great questions, I think it will help others be inspired and enable them to ask the right questions of themselves.
Amber continues to make us proud!