Melissa Scott Jackson is the owner and lead designer at Cranberry Blue, a full-service design studio. Although Melissa didn’t set out to start a business, her paid hobby turned into one when she was laid off from her corporate job.
Find out how Melissa was able to turn her paid hobby into a successful full-time design business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
While I was employed in the traditional corporate world, I always received design requests from friends, mostly from those starting their own businesses.
At first, after working 10 hours a day at the office, I took on a limited number of projects. As my skills developed with each project and my friends were impressed with the outcomes, and I took on more work and began to really enjoy this newly found “paid hobby”.
Word of mouth spread with momentum, and I was getting continuous referral work. I was getting compensated for doing something I loved. It slowly dawned on me that I was building a business that was making money. When I was laid off from my job, it was a natural and easy choice to transition into this business full-time.
What did you do before launching your own design business?
I worked in the Internal Communications Department at Home Depot where I provided company-wide presentations and projects for employee communications at the retail store level. Although I enjoyed the role, I felt there was a lack of creativity being mainly focused on written correspondence.
At Bank of America as a Communications Manager, I led activities for the customer service team, while creating elementary presentations in PowerPoint and Publisher to assist in training. I didn’t have substantial design skills then, but I had a strong desire to make a greater impact through visual communication.
I’ve enjoyed these jobs, but especially when I was able to use my visually creative spirit. I didn’t know what I was truly missing until I was laid off and had the wonderful opportunity to unlock my passion for design.
How did you fund your business?
All I need to run my business is a laptop! My business is funded through my projects, personal and online contests.
How many hours do you work a week and how much time is spent in your home office?
I spend many hours a day on my laptop working around my family schedule. I usually work during the morning in a coffee shop and late in the evening on the sofa, probably around 8 hours depending on my project load.
How would you rate your success?
I’d rate my success very high at this point. Entering the online design contests and word of mouth seems to work for me. I always have projects going on.
What has been your biggest business struggle as a freelance web designer?
I’ve always had the equipment to run my business. Referrals are always coming through and there seems to always be a contest to enter online. I can’t say that I’ve had any business struggles.
What advice would you give to a new freelance designer?
Too often, inexperienced freelance designers start off underpricing and undervaluing everything because they feel it is the only way to get clients. If you are not uncomfortable with the price you are requesting, then you are underbidding yourself. Do not be afraid to lose some business because someone was not willing to pay the price. Know your value! Always keep learning. Do this by reading books, magazines, blogs, practicing and teaching others. Never give up. Keep practicing … CREATE. INSPIRE. DESIGN.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
First and foremost, I’m a Mom. That itself is a full-time job. Interwoven between my role as matriarch and wife, I love being a creative designer. Being a designer and doing what I love is the most amazing occupation I could imagine. As a mompreneur, I pride myself on being organized. I create lists and calendars to keep up with schedules and activities for my family and business. The flexibility of being a freelance professional allows me to design my family responsibilities.
Thanks to Melissa Scott Jackson for sharing her story!
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