Updated: Mar 18
...and enjoy 10 minutes reading my newest blog post, 'the last year' round up! We're all living and coping (just about!) through this crazy time of a global pandemic and all of the changes it brings with it. I have taken so much from this year, it will warrant a separate blog post but I just thought I'd start by looking back at the year I've had with SK Design Studio and give you an insight on some of the things I have been up to but not necessarily shared along the way.
I'll take it back exactly one year ago today...
I had a quiet couple of months to start the year, giving me time and space to address what I needed in my business and what I wanted going forward. I signed up to a taster session with Mint Business Club at The Royal Quays Business Centre after seeing social media posts from the lovely Vicky of Tori Lo Designs and amazing Aimee of Corsetry & Couture. My intrigue grew as I watched all of Nicola's (Nicola Jayne Little, Founder of Mint Business Club) YouTube videos and anything I could cast my eager eyes on to give me an insight into this business club. I attended the free taster session on the 16th March 2020 and knew it was the right move for me... I was looking for companionship, help and support, and knew I could get all of those things from these very friendly, experienced and enthusiastic people - so I signed up and didn't look back!
This month marked the end of the tax year and the start of a new one; a bit of a number-crunching time for me where I look back at the previous year. I left my full-time employment in September 2018 so it was my first FULL tax year as a self-employed sole trader with SK DESIGN STUDIO - what an achievement!
Once I got to grips with Zoom and appearing on a webcam(!), I enjoyed online networking with my newly found 'colleagues' in Mint Business Club and started making friends! I hadn't really realised how lonely I had been at work until now. The new rules and restrictions came in to the UK to keep us safe from Covid-19 and work contracts I had with design agencies began to be cancelled, despite my offers of working from home, as was advised at the time. The doom and gloom of the unknown started to panic and worry me, my family, friends and fellow self-employed pals. I watched an unhealthy amount of news. So in an attempt to keep busy and take my mind away from 24/7 news channels, the lockdown project was born... My rainbow range came about out of wanting to brighten the lives of those working from home and creating their own workspace from the kitchen table. I sat on it for weeks before launching, frustrated with not being able to take decent images of my designs, until my best friend sent me some happy post; bright yellow joggers, (I'm sorry, loungewear!) and I just knew these were my positive pants! It was the perfect excuse to reignite my Etsy store and get to grips with the platform.
An NHS Research & Development team member bought half a dozen personalised rainbow print to boost moral in her team and I decided it would be a great opportunity to donate £1 of every sale to the NHS Charities Together fund raiser - contributing to the £150 million raised so far (as of March 2021)! We were venturing out to shops only when necessary, in masks and not feeling very safe at all. I'm diabetic and had been consciously isolating in the house since the end of March. When I did venture out, masked-up I was so anxious as others seemed more used to this social-distanced mask-wearing situation we found ourselves in. I decided to create 50x rainbow lanyards with 2m social distancing sign and had an influx of orders from Etsy from fellow vulnerable people. It felt good to help others and know I was trying to assist in keeping people safe. We even featured on BBC News via Pepper The Assistance Dog down in Telford whose owner Abbey spoke about her gorgeous companion and how she was coping with the lockdown restrictions being in a wheelchair. I created signage for business premises that could stay open, and started working with my fellow Minties on their design ideas which would aid their businesses while many had to close. All of a sudden, self-employed business owners had extra time on their hands and many looked inwards to their own business and branding to improve their services, online presence and branding.
The Friday night pub quizzes continued with my friends and we all chatted out how we were finding the whole experience, from the North East, London and Amsterdam.
I had wedding clients move their days (sob), created CHANGE THE DATE cards and a digital GIF to communicate the change in arrangements for hundreds of wedding guests. Even my best friends wedding got knocked back for a second time and my wedding couples were delaying into 2022 as we all realised this virus wasn't going to disappear from our lives quickly.
I did two brand designs this month, one a rebrand for Elev8 Web Design and a logo creation for a personal trainer DKPT. I also worked with the Duke of Kent School on some social media designs to assist them with their online presence.
I've worked from home remotely since October 2018. I'm kind of used to it, but long gone were the comments of, "Oh I wish I could work from home" which quickly turned into "how do you do it!?" Everyone (just about) was working from home; zooming, juggling the work life balance and I realised how important boundaries were. I sought the help of Laura Fellows to help me introduce my working boundaries and built client welcome packs for the first time - game changer! I soon discovered Notion and my organisation went up a level, allowing me to forward plan my diary and book work weeks in advance to help me keep on top of things.
I worked with Rachel from R&R Therapy to create some beautiful, bespoke recipe cards for her essential oil blends gift sets <- I will add a link here when I get them up on my website for you to take a look.
I also discovered the app Wave to manage my finances and would highly recommend; I send professional invoices from my phone now and save a lot of time juggling client payments and receipts - life saver!
We got to hangout with friends and family, socially distanced in gardens and on the beach... The summer was long and quite different, I'd never spent so much time outdoors and lost count of the many times we spent days at the coast. I met some Mint members face to face for the first time when we could gather in small groups and it was so refreshing meeting new people face-to-face, faces I knew but had only ever seen on screen!
I worked on a fab logo with a local business who hires our their campervans! Super cool results and a lovely couple to work with - can't wait to get out on an adventure with Dreamy Days Campers. I also designed a book cover, some wedding save the date cards, some bespoke stickers, some data sheets for a window company down south, numerous typographic personalised prints to expanded my Etsy shop... to name but a few.
Just before the Bank Holiday weekend, I secure my biggest client to date, Remy Cointreau - a French, family-owned business group whose origins date back to 1724. The group has an international portfolio of spirits and drinks brands including Mount Gay rum, Passoa the passion fruit liqueur, The Botantist gin, Bruichladdich whiskey, St Remy brandy and Cointreau of course. I worked on a job to create imagery to assist in a presentation to a prospective client, and adapted a Wahaca menu to feature a signature cocktail using one of their drinks brand Cointreau - used in making the original margarita!
My work continued with Remy Cointreau, in the form of a brochure - their National Accounts portfolio of drinks brands which is a stunning piece - will have to share on my website when I get some photographs. I also worked on a logo creation and brand identity with with The Book Detectives which was amazing! Lizzie and I got on really well and put our heads together to create this strong visual theme throughout the marketing and we really went to town on the designs, from the initial logo, icons, bookmarks, subscription boxes and more. It's been fantastic to see her business grow over the last 6 months. (Will definitely create a blog on this one about the process of design fro you to read). I also drew a 7ft rainbow giraffe for a window vinyl! See if you can spot it the next time you visit Alnwick.
I worked flat out the first 2 weeks of the month (literally 13 days straight!) in preparation for time off to recover from some surgery. This was a stressful time as a business owner when I couldn't work, with no holiday or sick pay but thankfully recovery wet well and I was back to work in November. I didn't realise how much I needed that time off to NOT work and take my mind away from the daily grind to reflect on what had been a crazy 7 months of the pandemic - realising I hadn't had any time off since a little jaunt to Malaga at the start of March. During recovery and thanks to the rules of micro-weddings (cheers Boris), I watched my best friend get married via an Instagram live stream, and was honoured to design her wedding stationery for their day after designing beautiful wedding invites last year.
I slowly got back into work and reassessed my priorities for SK, whilst also setting up a "side-hustle" to get myself away from 15 hours a day on screens. Knit Knot North (website coming soon!) was launched at the Brand Makery Merry Market on 28th Nov. I felt underprepared having prioritised my SK client work during the week (always my first priority) and feeling pretty exhausted on a weekend as I was still recovering from the op. However, I spent hours making and shooting my handmade chunky knitted products and was super proud to make my first sales that weekend. I also looked back on a tonne of past wedding stationery designs and missed designing for weddings so much! Another great job was some packaging design for Imago Skincare. I designed on-brand card sleeves to smarten up Pauline's many different gift sets just in time for Christmas.
A short but BUSY month for me. I juggled my SK work and Christmas deadlines, and knitted on an evening and weekend in preparation to have enough stock to appear at Fenwick's Christmas Market on the 20th December. A successful first experience of selling in their flagship Newcastle store, it was amazing to be able to attend so soon after launching the business just 3 weeks earlier.
On-brand xmas cards winged their way around the region from small businesses who I worked with to create special designs so they could thank their customers for supporting them through a tough year in business.
I took a well deserved break and spent time with my husband and our families.
The new year brought with it new hope. It was nice to see the back of 2020 and feel a small amount of hope that later this year, things would return to some form of 'normal' - whatever that would be. My tax return loomed and I tackled it head on. Work ranged from knitting snoods and blankets to logo design and brand identity creation. I loved working with Kathryn on her new logo (her website is yet to be updated btw), encompassing 3 areas of her business and created some Canva templates for her to use on her social channels, which she's finding really useful - a digital social media templates package for small businesses is on its way. Check out Kathryn's new logo and some other logos I have designed here.
I discovered The Norther Lass Lounge and picked up some great tips through their Instagram challenge on social media, making some lovely new connections along the way too. I was invited to the most AMAZING styled wedding shoot and met some fantastic wedding suppliers and got to talk WEDDINGS for 5 hours. Oh how we miss them! Separate blog about the whole day here (...to be revealed!) and a magazine feature in-coming soon too! Another brand job, this time for Lauren from For You Photography - the missing part of her brand puzzle, check it out! Some artworking jobs for Formica, small biz thank you cards, workshop job cards, social media templates, oh and I discovered a fab new podcast that keeps me company as I work away solo called Being Freelance - I would highly recommend listening to Steve interview a wide range of really interesting people!
YOU ARE HERE, full circle! A year after lockdown hit and I joined Mint Business Club. Despite the pandemic I have never networked and 'met' so many people in one year in my life! I have worked so hard. I have learned so much, about my business and about myself. I am so much more clued up on business and where I want SK to go in future and the clients I want to work with. I now time block the hours of my day and plan to accommodate the never-ending stream of work and fantastic clients that come my way. I have even learned to say 'no' to some things! And despite the pandemic, and an impossibly challenging year, I am happy and proud of myself for another successful year in business. I have grown so much and am really excited for what the future holds for SK Design Studio.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my mammoth 13 month round-up and you're all caught up on the happenings of this year with SK Design Studio! I look forward to sharing more detail on some of the aforementioned projects and keep my newsletter (sign up on my home page) up to date so I can update you on the happenings at the end of each month and how I could potentially help you with your design-needs. Just get in touch if any part of this has resonated with you and I'll be only too happy to chat :)
Thanks for reading and stay safe... (how long are we going to say that for!?)