Another installment of Entrepreneur Fridays. This week we are featuring Lara Jeanneret, the talented graphic designer and owner of Lara J Designs.
Financial Success for Young Adults: Lara thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. What made you decide to get into the graphic design business?
FSYA: You mentioned that as a freelance graphic designer you get to pick your own projects. How do you choose the projects you decide to take on?
LJ: You don’t want to get stuck in a rut, you have to have your creative juices flowing constantly.
FSYA: Where did you start learning the business skills you have now?
From there I learned by watching and seeing what the business did, good things and bad things. You know, you learn a lot from watching other people. Especially if you want to be your own boss or work freelance or own your own company, it helps to work for a small business first so you can see all elements of the business.
FSYA: So what prompted you to start your own business?
LJ: When I worked for that company I was telling you about, I worked on their lifestyle magazine. I also worked on a real estate magazine after I left my previous job. But there was no room for creative growth, really. Because you have to fit in the mold of what that company is doing. Which makes sense for that company but you have to pick what it is that you want to do and what you’re best at. Even if it is a huge financial risk, like it was for us.
FSYA: You said it was a financial risk for you to get started. How did you pay for your business start up costs and what would you recommend for new entrepreneurs?
LJ: As a graphic designer all you really need is a computer and your programs and your creative skills. You really have to think how small can you keep it and what is the lowest possible costs that you can operate with. And don’t get a loan unless you absolutely have to!
I had my laptop which was my personal laptop and I bought the programs I needed and for the first two years of doing it I sat at my dining room table. Just this past year we built an office extension onto our house. So that we have an actual office for me. I also opened up a free business checking account and I keep an small amount of money in there for print projects and that’s it.
I would say just keep it small and don’t spend money when you don’t have to.
FSYA: How do you market your business?
One of the nice things about being a graphic designer is that I can create my own marketing materials. –Laughs– You know, your logo and your branding is so important when you start a business because that’s the first thing that people see.
And even if you are a small business and just work out of your house, if you have a good logo and good business card and good marketing, they don’t know that. Unless you have to have a brick and mortar office. I have a lot of clients that are small business start ups and they’ll come to me
That was one of the keys to my success having my logo and my website on the back of my card. and now I have a local business so when people see me driving around with my brand image on my car, they know who I am.
FSYA: How to you define the success for your business and what are your goals for your business?
LJ: It’s changed over time, initially it was trying to test the waters and see if this was something that would work before I jumped in full force and put my kids in daycare full time. Because that’s my biggest expense with my business.
Now that I’ve overcome that, its kinda changed a little bit, now it’s how do I get new clients and focusing a lot on marketing my website and ranking higher on search engines. Search engine optimization is a constant project that I work on and I offer that SEO service to my clients as well.
I have to watch my own website and Google myself, because now, and this has changed so much over the past few years, if someone is looking for a company and they say well I want to find a graphic designer in Cartersville they’re more likely to go to Google to find it. They’re not going to look in the Yellow Pages nowadays.
Right now for this year, my goal is to be able to book enough projects so that I’m able to work 40 hours a week. But I know its not going to happen overnight.
FSYA: We noticed a project that has your name as the designer. Can you tell us a little bit about The Diddlysquats?
LJ: The Diddlysquats is actually a funny side project. Actually, a friend and client of mine Mike Weightman came up with the idea. It started out as a t-shirt design for their triathlon team. And he’s quite a character and he came up with “Drown, Crash and Stumble” for swimming, biking, and running the triathlon. That was their team name and and he wanted me to do an electronic illustration for characters for each of them. And I made up these silly characters and everybody at the triathlon loved it so much he said, “We need to make some more of these!”
It’s just a side business that I have with them. We design the different characters and make t-shirts out of them. That’s a fun business to do, but I have learned that you can’t really make much money making t-shirts; but it is fun!
I just love doing it and I make kids t-shirts too with my mom at larajkids.com so that’s been fun too. But those are side projects that I just enjoy doing.
FSYA: Any new projects that we can look forward to?
LJ: Well I’m working on lots of different projects right now. The biggest project that I’ve worked on recently has been for the Bartow History Museum. A friend and I did all the text panels for the entire museum when they relocated. I’m also doing lot of rebranding for different companies.
And I have a client that invented something, I’m not allowed to say what it is yet because they haven’t released it, and I designed the logo, business cards and letterhead. We’re also working on the website. I’ll post the product details on Facebook once we get the o.k. and once it’s in stores. Its a product that will probably be in a Walgreens or CVS. So that’s exciting for us cause we don’t get to do project packaging very often.
FSYA: It sounds like you will be pretty busy this year. How our readers contact you to order designs or check out your portfolio?
LJ: They can go to LaraJDesigns.com. My portfolio of work, pricing information and everything is there.