This week in the guest chair we have Shirley Ansley. In 2015, Shirley went on a journey to start a business and tried to DIY her website only to find out that making your own website is kind of hard. She became instantly obsessed with figuring out how to build a website the right way and along the way found herself starting a business as a freelance website designer.
She ran her business on the side while still working a full time job for almost two years until finally taking the leap. She left her 9 to 5 while three months pregnant with her second child a few months before the pandemic hit.
Today, she is a successful (and profitable) freelance website designer who’s had the privilege of working with award winning podcasts, POC women-led businesses, national organizations and more.
In today’s episode we get into:
- The strategy she used to transition from her job while still growing her side hustle
- How she worked on and improved her technical design knowledge so she could shift from charging $675 for a website to now charging $5000-$10000
- And so much more!
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Side Hustle Pro – @sidehustlepro
Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02
You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started. Hey guys, before we get into today's episode, I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by Comcast rise. Now I have shared this opportunity on the show before and I will keep sharing it because I want you guys to apply apply apply at Site hustle pro.co/comcast rise. This is one of the best opportunities for small business owners. Comcast has launched this multi year multifaceted initiative designed to help strengthen small businesses owned by women of color, people of color. I personally applied and received a full Technology Package for a side house approach which included three iPads, two laptops, and a desktop, which is a game changer for my team and I so please do not talk yourself out of this amazing opportunity. Go ahead and go over to side hustle pro.co/comcast rise to apply. Qualifying businesses can apply to receive advertising and marketing consultations, production of a 32nd TV commercial plus a media strategy consultation and a 90 day media placement schedule or a complete technology makeover of computer equipment and internet voice and cybersecurity services for 12 whole months. So visit site has a pro.co/comcast rise to learn more. Hey guys, hey, welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here back with another episode of side hustle Pro. And today in the guest here I have fun fact my website designer Shirley Ansley. So in 2015, Shirley went on a journey to start a business and try to try her website, only to find out that making your own website is kind of hard. I know this, you probably know this as well. So she became instantly obsessed with figuring out how to build a website the right way, and along the way, found herself starting a business as a freelance website designer, she ran her business on the side while still working a full time job for almost two years. Until finally taking the leap. She left her nine to five while three months pregnant with her second child a few months before the pandemic hit. Today. She is a successful and profitable freelance website designer who's had the privilege of working with award winning podcasters women of color women led business national organizations and more. And in today's episode, she gets into the strategy she used to transition from her job while still growing her side hustle, how she worked on and improve her technical design knowledge. So she could shift from charging only $675 for a website to now charging between 5000 to 10,000. And so much more. Let's get right into it.
So welcome to the guest here, Shirley. I'm so happy to have you here.
Shirley Ansley 3:09
And so happy to be here Nicaila. Hey, everybody inside hustle Pro.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:12
So surely, as I already told you guys is my I want to say best kept secret, but you are no secret. I mean, I've seen your portfolio these days, like you have been working on some amazing, amazing projects websites for awesome creators. podcasters. So before you became this awesome website and graphic designer, what was your original career path? You were, I believe an engineer, right?
Shirley Ansley 3:40
Yeah, I started off in the whole engineering industry. My biggest dream was to become a Walt Disney Imagineer. And so I was like on track to do that. So imaginaires. So like, when I first got introduced to engineering, I didn't know that you could do so many things with it. But the one thing that I found fascinating was that you can use engineering in order to build like entertainment stuff. So theme park rides, themed environments, anything from doing the actual drafting of a theme of the environment to actually like building it or supervising it from a project perspective. So Imagineers do like a whole facet of things for their artists, their engineers, their project managers and things of that nature. I was really fascinated in the project management perspective of doing Imagineering. So that's basically what I was trying to do. I got a my dream job working for the Walt Disney Company for for like a little bit in 2012. Like I work with them. I did get a project management job, and a contract position. And that was wonderful. But then my contract ended, I moved back to Boston and I tried to figure out how I could keep kind of like the engineering thing going, but I wasn't finding any type of fulfillment in it. So I made a career transition from engineering into design. And that's kind of like how this whole journey He started because I was working for an organization. And then I eventually started working for myself. And it's kind of like been happily ever after sort of like, after that,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:11
I think that is, I think that is extremely cool. Because first of all, you've taught me about this role I'd never knew existed. I mean, of course, we know that they're engineers behind the scenes at Walt Disney World. But when you're in that place of just magic, that's all you see it, it almost feels like it just popped up that way. And that's just how it's always been. But what I also find intriguing is thinking about you working in the most magical creative space on Earth, you know, as some people feel it is to now what you do, and having to reimagine websites over and over again, because everyone always comes to you. And it's like, I like that. But of course, you don't want everyone's website to look the same. You're like, I cannot actually give you that same website. Right? So you're constantly tasked with reimagining. So I just like that. I don't know if you've ever connected those dots. But that
Shirley Ansley 6:04
add that to my website. I love the way you connect to that. I never I never viewed it as that. But yeah, basically, it's kind of like the same thing where you take an idea and you say, how can I re engineer this to make it work for the objectives that the client is trying to do overall, at the end of the day, and that's basically what I try to do for everybody that I work with. And it's really, really fun.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:27
Yep. And one of the things that, you know, surely does really well. And again, I don't know if you know, this, but I'm telling you now is. So on that same theme of imagining, right, when you go to a website, you don't even realize, but you're having an experience. Just same way when you walk into a store, and you have merchandisers who have designed that store to help you have a certain experience they want you to have with a website, that is what we all hope to do. But we we are as creators, or whatever it is that you do whatever you need a website for, you want to look for someone who is able to guide someone through your site and is able to tell you what you need to do to guide someone to your site. Because we don't think about this every day. If you don't live in the land of design, you don't think about the experience the person is having when they land on your site. So why did you transition from the journey of trying to be an imagineer at Walt Disney World? To started to design websites? What happened? What led to that pivot?
Shirley Ansley 7:28
Yeah. So in 2012, that's when my contract was with the Walt Disney organization. So it was a contract position, I knew it was going to end at some point in time, I believe they had extended it like twice as much as they could with the budget that they had. But eventually, the contract ended. And I went back home thinking, you know, I'm just going to be here for a couple of months, and then I'm going to find a job back in Florida again. But that never happened. So I tried to make use of, you know, kind of doing the same thing I was doing just at home in Boston. And even though like I was working at the same capacity for another organization, I kind of lost all of that motivation, and all of that gusto that I had with working with these other organizations. And I just didn't have the same passion or motivation anymore. And I wanted to try a career pivot because I was tired of literally hopping on the phone every day with my sister and crying and telling her I'm miserable at my job. So I was like, Well, let me try something that I've always done my entire life. And people say, Hey, you're really good at this, which was designed. So like, in college, I was that girl that you went to whenever you needed a flyer. Or if we needed to quickly develop some sort of like digital thing that was that was me. I created the pamphlets. I was designing the T shirts and stuff like that. But I was just doing it for fun. I never thought you could make a career out of design. But when I said I was talking to my sister, and she was just like, hey, nobody's forcing you to stay at your job. So why don't you just quit and I was like, quit. And I was like, Yeah, I know. Right? Like I wanted to. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but like I'm a first generation Haitian American. And it's like so imperative that like I make my parents proud. And I didn't want to just like quit a good paying job. Right?
Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:27
That's blasphemy. You remind me of that same and you know, my friend Cass always says this too, like you're not a trach leave like you you are not planted like you literally a lot of times we spend so much time so upset with where we are and you don't remember that you have that power know it's not going to be easy, and it might not happen overnight. But once you make that decision, like look, this is not working out. I'm gonna do something else. Then you start working towards that. Game Changer.
Shirley Ansley 9:59
Yes, yes, exactly. Oh my gosh, you get a girl. Exactly. Basically what I had, it was like a light bulb just went off in my head. I was like, oh, like, I guess I don't have to stay here. And so I started looking for different, like, basically designed positions that were not entry level, but like mid level, right? Okay. And the goal was basically to find something that would help me experiment with a career in design. Because it was completely different for me. And I just didn't know what the expectations were, especially since I didn't have like a formal degree in design, I had a formal degree in engineering and those kind of don't translate, right. So I got a job working as a learning experience. Last visual designer, like the formal position was visual designer, but it was really a learning experience designer job. So in that position, I learned how to do everything from designing pitch decks to designing sales presentations, creating courses for adult learners, that was like the biggest part of that, that job. And it was kind of like diving in deep. When I had absolutely no clue what to do, I really had to teach myself a lot of the fundamentals of like, typography, which is learning how what fonts work with what, especially with adult learners, because they're sensitive to different types of ways that you structure your fonts, I had to learn how to use color properly, I had to learn how to brand, an organization that didn't really have a brand. Brand strategist, I was not a brand or I was not familiar with that at all. So I had to learn how to create a brand for that particular organization. And then I created like, literally, I believe it was like over 70 or 80 lessons like 80 courses. In the course of the time that I worked with that particular organization. It was a lot, it was a lot of work. And I dived deep, I made a lot of mistakes. There were several times where I thought they were going to fire me. Oh my god.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:06
What are the things you said really stuck out to me? You talked about having to teach yourself? So how were you learning these things? Like, you know, how were you teaching yourself? What do you mean by that?
Shirley Ansley 12:16
Yeah. So when I started just doing design, like I was just doing it on the fly. But like, again, like I'm a first generation Haitian American, my mother had big, big plants for me. For summers, I didn't go to traditional summer camps, I went to like science, science camps, coding camps, all that type of stuff. One time she had enrolled me in an HTML coding class, where we just had to learn this, like mysterious thing called HTML. And I was like, What is this? Little did I know that I would be using that later on in life in order to start doing design and development? Now, by the time it was actually useful for me, I had like little very working knowledge of it, right? Yeah. So I had to actually, like, nights and weekends and stuff like that. I would go on Google, like searching how to do something in Photoshop, right? And I would give myself assignments. And I would create something posted up on like Facebook, because that was popular at the time. I would post it up on Facebook, people would be interested, be like, Hey, could you do something for me? And every time I got somebody who was like, Hey, could you do something for me, that was also another assignment for me. And then I would get paid to Google figure out how to do X, Y, and Z, figure it out how to do it post the backup on Facebook. After I kept doing that over and over and over again. The skills just kept building, right. So I was pretty much just getting paid to learn how to design on the fly. But every time I did it, I literally was just Googling how to do XY and Z stuff. So I'm so ever grateful for all of the people who posted how they do certain stuff online. Because at the time, everybody was just sharing everything for free. Yeah, it was, it was amazing.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:03
So when did you start taking on actual clients in terms of your web design business? When did that start?
Shirley Ansley 14:11
So for website design, I think my first client was in 2016. Somewhere around that time, like right when I had my son. My first first client was friend from college had recommended me a friend that she was working with. So she was my first client and my first project I think I charge something like $675 because I didn't know how much to charge. I was like, I don't know, I don't know what I'm doing. So I had charged like $675 And I thought that was a lot of money at the time to help this girl build her like life coaching business, and I built that first website on Wix, which I thought was like a major platform at the time. And that project probably took me about four unser so to do. She was very nice during the whole entire process. She allowed me to experiment and do different stuff with graphic design, very patient with me and stuff like that. And she was very, very happy at the end of the day with her product that and when that project ended, I was like, Oh my gosh, I did it, I charge for a website. It was so cool.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:22
So that 675 was divided by four y'all
Shirley Ansley 15:28
say thank goodness, I still had like a full time job at the time because I was like, Oh, this is this not going to cut it. This is not going to feed you
Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:35
know, what phase? Did you start to kick it in gear? Did you start to get more aggressive? Because, you know, at some point, you went from side hustling to making this your main hustle. So how did that transition happen?
Shirley Ansley 15:48
So at first, I was like, really, really scared to do anything full time. I was just like, I wasn't sure of myself, like because of the fact that like my firt, the first project that I did was 675. And I'm a numbers person. And I was just like crunching the numbers. And I was like the 675 really is not going to cut it. But who's gonna hire me like without any technical website experience, because again, I was like a self taught designer. So I wasn't really confident in myself. And I had to gain the confidence in order to actually start number one charging more in order to actually leave my job. But one of the things that motivated me was I just discovered, like lots of podcasts and audiobooks and things of that nature. But specifically, obviously, this is kind of like a plug. But side hustle, really, really inspired me as I was trying to gain the confidence to literally quit my job, right? Because I was hearing all of these stories from women who also worked full time jobs, that transitioned into owning their own business by themselves by just slowly kind of gaining the experience and the confidence. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, look at all of these women who are doing that. Some of them are also mothers, some of them, you know, like some of them were dead broke at the beginning, like some of them had just the savings and stuff like that. And I was like gaining some strategies and insights just by listening to these different stories. And that helped me gain the confidence or just at least come up with a plan on how I'm going to go from working on the side hustle to actually working full time. So first things first is I did two things. So one thing I learned from you was that I needed a savings. Okay, so I actually started creating like this job escape account, like I literally called it escape from job or something like that. And I started just like literally, I was like, Okay, I'm going to do three months, at least three months of savings for my job escape. Worst case scenario, like six months out, right? So I would aggressively save to that particular account. I wasn't like spending frivolously during those times. So I would aggressively save towards that account. And then the second thing is I started charging more, and I did it incrementally. So once I finished a project, basically incrementally, I would charge an extra three to $500 on each project. So by the time I would get to like person, six, or seven or whatever, I was charging like two or $3,000 or something like that, right? So because like every time, I would just like charge a little more charge a little more charge a little more because I was doing something bigger, grander, or whatever, or I learned a new skill. When I got to the point where I was charging 3000 per project. I was like, Okay, I feel confident enough to at least put in my notice. Put in some type of notice, right? Especially since like when I found out I was pregnant with my second and I knew I had like basically a clock that was that was running that was going to put me on maternity leave anyway. I was like, Okay, I have the confidence and to be able to actually leave.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:54
Did you take care of maternity leave first, though, like take your maternity leave and then say, by the way, I'm not coming back?
Shirley Ansley 19:01
No. I was three months pregnant when I left. Oh,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:08
you're done? You're dead?
Shirley Ansley 19:10
Yeah. So what we kind of decided to do was that. And this was a strategy that I learned from one of your guests was that I was going to work part time with the company that I was working with, but full time as a freelance designer. So how did that work? Yeah, so when I left, technically, I was like, it was technically give me giving my notification. But essentially, they would be able to still contact me if I if they ever had like a project that they wanted me to work on. But I wasn't obligated to you know, be on their clock show up at an office I show up to meetings or anything like that. It was literally almost as if I was a contractor for them. And that worked out really well because it truly gave me that feeling that I was out on my own I was a true freelance designer. So I'd work a little bit with them. I'd work a little bit on these projects that I had as a full time designer, but then I also had the savings that helped me get through the first couple of months, because I was still kind of trying to figure out how to balance money and all of that stuff like that. Yeah, so that's what basically half that was
Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:23
your transition like, yeah, you're. So Chris did it my episode with crystal crystal Rory, if you guys want to go back, I'll link to it in the show notes, too, is the guests Shirley's mentioning. And so I love the fact that you, you know, you, you took that advice of having that savings, you guys, because there's nothing worse than leaving and scrambling for money or just feeling like you are making decisions based on a desperation to cover your bills, because then you start making really bad decisions, actually. And then the second thing that you touched on that is also really important is you allowed yourself to develop your skills before you started charging more. I know that nowadays, there's this pressure, there's this narrative that you need to raise your prices, you're not charging enough. But no one is talking about the growth. No one's emphasizing that your prices will grow as your skill set grow. So you talked about, like, Hey, I was learning, I learned a new skill set that I'm going to be applying. And now they're looking at that and they want that. Yesterday's price is not today's price. Skills that I have. So emphasizing that, like I love that you emphasize that because yes, your prices should go up as your skills increase as well.
Can we talk a little bit about your, how you marketed yourself to get new clients, because, you know, I'll never forget that email you sent me when you had a whole video of this future website that I could potentially have, if I just work with you. And I was like, I have never seen this in my life. So tell tell people that story because I just love that you did that. I just I've never seen anything like that.
Shirley Ansley 22:23
So funny that you say that. Because I remember when I started making that plan to transition, I was just trying to build a portfolio like I was like, but I want to build a portfolio with people that I would love to work with in the future. So I just like literally, like I said, After work, I would do my homework. And I just created this portfolio of like clients that I would like to work with. And your podcast, I was addicted to it. Like literally I was like, but the user experience on this website? I don't know. So I was like, what would it look like? For me, as somebody who's addicted to this podcast? What would I want to see when I hop on her website. So I just decided, designed like a whole homepage around it. And I like my objective was not to pitch you. Like I was not trying to pitch anybody. I just wanted the permission to be able to showcase what I was creating on my website. So I reached out to you with this whole design idea that I had, and I think I recorded and loom or something like that. What the website would look like and I'm like, Hey, would it be okay for me to just like display this on my website? And you're like, how about we work together? And
Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:39
you I pay you for the website? And then yeah, of course, you could put it on your portfolio, but I didn't even understand what you were asking, you know, like, what, like, I need this website. And, by the way, you guys, so that was in 2019 Or maybe it was in 2018. But we work together 2019 So I was three years into podcasting. So I always tell people, you know, when you first start out, your first draft of your website should be simple. It it should be DIY, because you're you're still figuring out what your offerings are, are going to be in the things that you want. So you need some time to develop as a business owner before you invest a lot into a website. You know, that's something I've spoken about when Crystal was on the show. What's your take on that? Because I wouldn't have been able to work with you. I don't think until I really had that grasp of what my offerings were and still every day we're still we're still getting ready to tweak some more. Yeah, the website even more because I'm glad you have grown. Yeah,
Shirley Ansley 24:44
I'm so glad you brought it up. So after a while of working with different types of business owners like I've literally worked from people who are starting from scratch to people who have many years of experience in their business and I find the best projects the ones that go most smoothly are the people who are more so publish and who have been in the nitty gritty of their business for a while. And the reason for that is because when you know who your audience is, what your audience wants from you exactly what your products are, what the prices are, what platforms you're using, what you're connecting, you know, like, when you know all of that stuff, and it's already set up, it's so easy to design a user interface or an experience around all of that stuff, and just make it neater and cleaner and organize it so that it's all good. The projects, when I've worked with people who are just beginning and don't know what they're doing, they required the most amount of work, they didn't even understand what exactly the product was like, or what the service was, or, you know, like, how we're going to be displaying it on the website. And I found that like, they would be investing so much money into designing and developing a website, when you could have used that same money to just help with your marketing, your sales funnels, your your traffic and your you know, like just basically getting traction, getting clients proving that your stuff actually works before you invest in kind of like doubling down with your website. So like, if I weren't going to invest anywhere between five to $10,000, on my website, it's because it's because I've already established a system, where I know where my where my audience is coming from, what the experience that they need on their website is before, you know, like I dropped the money down. So I totally agree with you have have the website, you don't need to look pretty just right, Wyatt played with my Xbox on it.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:33
And how do you pick the best platform when you are DIY in it? Because, you know, sometimes people ask me that. And I'm like, I'm not a website designer. But here's what I use.
Shirley Ansley 26:43
So the platform is really dependent on how involved you want to be with the technical aspects of the website. Because there are, there are benefits and like disadvantages or pros and cons to every type of platform. I've worked in all types of platforms. The most popular ones are obviously going to be Wix, Squarespace, show it and WordPress. As of right now. Webflow is coming in to like I'm starting to learn that platform as well. But the ones for small business owners and personal brands, the go to ones are going to be show it Wix, Squarespace. And then like WordPress is really for the person who has more advanced stuff, right. So if you're not very technically savvy, and you just don't want to put like too much time into building your website, you probably want to consider something like Squarespace, just know that there are limitations as far as like designs are concerned, show it is also really good at doing like the whole drag and drop user interface and making something really pretty. But just know that there is a learning curve around it as well. And then WordPress has like probably like the largest learning curve, but it has, really, it's really just amazing how much you can do with it. Once you know what you want, right? Yeah, if you know what you want you you know how to put it all together, you know how to make it work. But just know that with WordPress, the caveat is that you can't just like set it and forget it. Like you have to take care of it. Or at least have somebody who's taking care of it. You know, like, yeah, if you don't do something your website will break.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:14
Yes, I've done Squarespace and I've done WordPress. And so I'm glad that you mentioned that because I find that later on down the line if you want to take advantage of things like plugins and all those things. I appreciate WordPress for that reason, and show it I never even heard of. So that's new to me.
Shirley Ansley 28:36
Yeah, I think the reasons why show it has become so popular is because especially like people who are self taught designers like myself, you don't have to get into more of the technical stuff that is involved with WordPress. So it's very, it's almost like Wix, in a way, a little bit. A little bit different but but it's very much for the person who loves design doesn't want to spend too much time on the technical aspects, wants a lot of flexibility in the way that the website is. And then also can like get it up and running and like little to no time as possible. So like, basically, with all of those platforms, you're gonna get that basically you can get your website up and running in little to no time, which is also another philosophy I have right. As small business owners, we spent way too much time working on the website projects. I personally do not believe it should take four months to do a website project coming from it was taken four to six months designing websites I have done that like like I think my one of my
Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:43
I'm guilty of letting life just strap me in indecision or like I'll get back to it. I'll get back to it before you know it's been a year and you haven't worked out or like a new project will come up so you have to really also prioritize as a business owner you have to really say okay, What is most important what's gonna move the needle and focus on that and refuse to let those distractions get you all like worked up? Like, oh, no, I need that on my website, too.
Shirley Ansley 30:11
Yeah, I wholeheartedly believe I took a course basically, that taught you how to build a website in five days. And I was like, oh, after seeing this, I was like, even like a more complex or complicated website, maybe it can be done in like two or three weeks. Like, it doesn't take long to design a website, if you're strategic, and you're organized, like, the pages like you know exactly what content is going on there. And there's like, and this is the engineering me, there's like, literally a pattern and a strategic way to like design a page. And all you have to do is kind of just fill in the stuff based on the principles that you've learned. So if you are a designer, and you're kind of watching this and wondering, oh, how do I increase the speed time of designing and developing a website, number one, choose to choose the platform, choose one that's really good for you. But also, just know that like, it's really just the pattern that you just like you go in, and then you plug and play your content. But as a small business owners, like before you do anything, what you need to focus on is organizing your contents, so that you don't take four to six months designing and developing a website,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:21
right? Because that's not your web designers job either. That's a common misconception that you can just throw all this junk at them. And they're going to take that and make it into this beautiful website. You know, you actually need to get your copy writing together, and you know, all of that.
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So we kind of took a detour there, and I don't want to miss out on sharing some other parts of your story. So I know that we were talking about you know, you leaving three months and three months pregnant and starting to incrementally raise your prices, raise your prices. At what stage would you say you really felt comfortable in saying like, I am a website designer, this is what I do full time, I'm not looking for another role. And what did it take to get there?
Shirley Ansley 33:48
For the most part, like when I left, I had so much confidence in telling people, this is who I am. And this is what I deliver. Now along the way, there were a lot of obstacles. So some of the obstacles that I encountered was that my process was not locked down for me to be able to take on more clients. So shortly after I gave birth, I didn't really take maternity leave, I probably took a couple of days to myself, but I didn't really take maternity leave. And I think that's just because I was working for myself. So I had absolutely no boundaries. But that's a story for another day. But shortly after I had my son, I was not expecting the influx of people who are going to come into my pipeline. So I just said yes to everything, which was a major lesson for me. I need to understand like, everybody is not a yes. Everybody is not a yes. And we need a screening process like Yes. Not just because of the individual who was coming into my pipeline, but it was just also I was not able to manage it. I was a one person business or you know, like I really described myself as a freelance designer because that's swipe em, like, it's just really just me. And being just me and trying to manage multiple projects. For me, it was not working because I wanted to, I wanted to give, like the best experience for my clients as possible. But when I'm not able to, you know, like, send you an email back right away, or deliver like a graphic within like a 24 to 48 hour period, like that was weighing heavy on me. I know, some of my clients did not matter, like, did not mind they were just like, okay, you know, you just have me like, it's okay. I'm just like, No, it's like, it's not okay. So, that weighed heavy on me, I didn't have a process in place in order to like, be able to handle the influx of people. So it was a blessing that a lot more people were figuring out who I was. Mostly, I know, you asked about my marketing earlier, but it was, it was mostly through word of mouth and referrals, that I was able to get client after client after client. And then all of those people came coming in. So I had to get through that obstacle of like taking a moment to actually create a solid process. And I would tweak my process with every client that would come through kind of see the things that didn't work or kind of see where I was being a bottleneck in order to figure out exactly how to fix my process. Number two, I started going into what my packages were and cutting out a lot of things. I was doing the most I was doing everything, what
Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:30
kinds of things did you cut out? How did you restructure your pack?
Shirley Ansley 36:34
Okay, so if it wasn't for the fact that I had started joining coaching programs, and like just going into Facebook groups with other designers and stuff like that, I wouldn't have known that I was like literally doing the job of four or five people, and just offering it for way less, way less than all of these other people were. And I was like, Oh, I think I need to fix this. And this is what's probably contributing to the fact that like, why my process was so slow and stuff like that. So I started cutting out like one of the things that I started cutting out was brand strategy, because I knew that wasn't like, it was not something that I was really strong at, like I understood the fundamentals of brand strategy. But there are some people out there there are people who are really good at articulating exactly why your brand should take a certain direction and why they should do that. And like be able to document and everything. I feel like brand strategy is almost lying hand in hand with marketing. And that's that's just not my my thing. I was not strong at that. So I decided to cut brand strategy out. And that gave me huge relief. The next thing was cutting out branding in general. So branding, I love doing it. It's just that like I knew that people, there were people out there who were 10 times better.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:50
So what do you mean by branding? What are you talking about helping people to kind of select their colors and select and do their logo and typography and all that stuff? Like what did you What do you mean by branding? Yeah,
Shirley Ansley 38:03
so in my kind of like learning process, the way that I was creating branding, and the way that I discovered that branding was done through other, more experienced designers, I noticed that they were providing more value that I wasn't necessarily doing. So I thought it was just oh, here's here's a color palette Olympic this for you, let me pick out some photography for you. Let me try to figure out exactly what logos we should create and stuff like that. And I would just create like a simple logo for them. But what other very, very experienced brand branders, I'm just going to call them that. Call it that they really get into the nitty gritty of it, they create so many iterations, like I probably would create maybe like 12 iterations of a logo before I actually present one to the client. Whereas other brand designers, they would iterate it maybe like 3040 50 times before they create something that they actually present to the client. And they also provided them with a variety of assets that I was not providing to my client. And I knew that in order to become like our to provide the most value to my client at large, as far as branding was concerned that like I was not going to provide that level of service for them at the price point that I was so I just I was like, it's gotta go.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:23
That's good to know. Yeah, what you need to drill down on and focus. So what did you start focusing
Shirley Ansley 39:28
on? So then I started focusing simply on website design and development. And I think at that point, I had also taken a course with Jurica Hawk, which was another one of your interviewees that I was like, really inspired by and through that course, that's when I learned, like you will always, always always be narrowing down exactly what you do. So I thought like, Hey, I'm a web designer developer that's very specific. No Oh, no, no, it can get more specific. And I literally have gotten more specific with it as well. So last year, when I, when I narrowed it down to just website design and development, I would just market that on my website, I would get like a nice influx of people who actually just wanted website design and development. But another one of the kind of like, obstacles that I had to go over is like figuring out which platform was best. Because I realized that, again, as a solo business owner, the people who were coming to me were coming to me with various different platforms, which means I had to learn different skills for each one of these different platforms. So it was like basically turning my brain on and off on and off with every single project all the time. And I was like, well, wouldn't it be nice if I just like kind of focused on one or two of these. And then that way, I know how to design and deliver in a faster paced time, right. So I started focusing on just WordPress platforms, and with a specific word, Website Builder, which is Elementor. And I started showcasing a lot of some of my work on the Elementor, like Facebook group and stuff like that. And I guess Elementor noticed that I was sharing some of that stuff. And they contacted me to interview with them. And I was like, featured on their platform, because I was also doing a whole bunch of stuff with them. So I thought that was very cool. And it actually showed me the value of actually like really narrowing down exactly what areas that you're going to do. So eventually, like basically, my packages have been almost cut down to a point where, like, if you're coming to me, and you don't have branding, you don't have copywriting, you don't have strategy, you don't have marketing. Like if you're working on a different platform, like we're not, we're not a match, I'm also able to like do one of my biggest thing is like I want websites done between two to four weeks, like it should not take longer than that. And because of that, I'm also able to charge like, anywhere between five to $10,000 for for my platforms. And that really helped with my packaging. So even though, like in the beginning, I was charging $600 to do it on any platform, and then do anything like graphic design logos of all that stuff. I'm at a point right now where I'm doing very something very specific. And I'm able to charge a higher price, because I got so many things out of my package, and got very specific and now I'm like an expert in that particular area. If that makes any sense.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:35
Yes, that makes a lot of sense. And I love the fact that you touched on. Listen, when you're a service based provider, you have to screen you have to eliminate you have to really drill down on who who is a good match for you. It is a matching process. Not everyone is your client. And that's okay, because you want them to have a good experience as well. So if this is just not the right match, that it's okay to walk away to let them know that that's not, you have to eliminate that attitude of lack. And I think when you're first starting out, at going from side hustling, where you're like just trying to get clients when you're going from being a beginner, and when you start becoming an experience and you transition into that mode, you have to trust that another client that's better for you will come along, you have to completely let go of that lack mindset and say, just because I'm turning this down, doesn't mean I won't be able to make money and pay my bills. Yeah.
Shirley Ansley 43:32
And can I add to that is that also there will be some people who get through the cracks? Like I say no to some people because you know, the red flag. So you know, there's some people who get through the cracks that happens. Like, I think that's one of the biggest lessons that I learned in creating my process. I thought that, you know, like seeing other successful designers out there. I just thought that they always had the perfect clients that were always coming through. They knew how to say no, they had boundaries and stuff like that. But I remember hearing one designer, she's running a website design business, she had like, been making multiple millions of dollars. And she was like, you have to understand that like, it's not about avoiding the the nightmare client is just anticipating the nightmare client because they will get through eventually you just have to learn how to manage when that person gets through.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:33
I know you mentioned you know that your packages have shifted but then also your process has shifted. What particularly has shifted about your process. Again, I'm really interested in this for service based providers because being a one woman show can be it's not sustainable, right like you want your income to grow while not burning yourself out. So how have you shifted your process to Allah Oh, for that, yeah, I
Shirley Ansley 45:01
find that automation is your best friend. So I, at some point in time, I got really intense about finding any platforms that allowed me to automate certain things. Things like submitting proposals contracting, submitting, like the deliverables, and things of that nature. Anything I can automate, I will try to automate to my the best of my abilities, right? A lot of communications that you provide, especially as a service provider, a lot of the communications that you will give to your clients is going to be some of the same stuff over and over and over again. So you might as well just write them all down, put them in, and just like, hey, like copy and paste the email, send it to the client, that that's definitely going to help. I spent, like literally, like one week just typing out all these types of emails or communications about like, Hey, you're just starting this, Hey, I see you're behind on this, Hey, this is what this is like, Hey, this is how I want you to provide feedback, I spent a good amount of time doing that. I've even had people taught me and I was like, Okay, go ahead and take it. So number one is automated. Number two is I do contract out certain stuff, on occasion. So I had another developer friend who was like, good on the Elementor platform. And when I feel a little bit overwhelmed, basically, I just hire her to help me with some of the development work. And that has helped me tremendously. So I'm very grateful for being able to, you know, like, get some help. Eventually, I know, I am a one woman show, but like, I know my limits. So like, I know, when I need to, like, get somebody in to help me on a contract basis, just like I'm a contract to somebody else. So that also helped with my process as well. So the two major thing is a service based business is like, really get those tools that can help you with automation. And then when you are at like your bid of biggest bandwidth, just try to see if you can contract work to somebody who has kind of like the same skill level as you.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:01
I love those tips. And one of the things you know, as a client of Shirley's that I enjoy is when you make your videos explaining, and you'll walk me through, so what's good about that is social send a video in the email, like, you know, here's what I've done, here's how it works, here's how to do it in the back end, it's good, because then I can always have that, to share with my team, when I'm training people on you know how to do stuff on my site, like my virtual assistant. And then also I can go back to that I don't have to keep emailing you. And also I'm the type of person that I might be a little too hands off, but I just, I really am not a phone call person like I, you know, I'm not a frequent phone call person, like, you know, I just want you to sum it all up for me. So that just worked for me, we don't have to jump on the phone, you're just like, boom, here's everything you need to know.
Shirley Ansley 47:58
I think that's one thing you and me have in common. And that's why I like yeah, just resonated with you so much as I was listening to you. Because I was I was that person who never like when I left my job, I was like, I don't want to hop on another call meeting with anybody. Like, if I don't need to do it, then I will not do it. Trust me, that's that's how I set up my process. Like I'm like minimum minimum costs, as much as
Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:24
I need to, like really stop and start doing more meetings. But for now, it's just been just how I prefer to work. And I think that's because corporate PTSD maybe too much.
So before we jump into the lightning round, can you just share how you have moved through these last few years, when you know, you've been juggling two kids at home and you our client based business? So you touched on it a little and that you know you have this guilt and not always being on or not being able to get back to people in the same way that you expect it because we had this huge surprise dumped on our lap in that pandemic. So, you know, how have you navigated these two years and mentally just been able to keep yourself uplifted so that you can provide the best service possible to your clients?
Shirley Ansley 49:26
Such a good question. So
Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:27
good. I'm taking notes because I'm still trying to work on it.
Shirley Ansley 49:32
I remember reading Shonda Rhimes year of Yes. And one of the parts that like really stuck out to me was when she said, I can't be everything to everybody. You know, she was like sometimes when I'm like writing a great script, I'm missing out on my little girl's recital. And sometimes when I'm sitting here like braiding my little girls here I'm missing out on like one of the script readings or something like that. And that's exactly basically what how Because to me, I had to learn that there's no such thing as balance. It's like I give my all here sometimes. And then I give my all there sometimes, and I'm okay with that. I, I've gotten to a point where I can comfortably say to my clients, this is coming from a people pleaser. And so it's hard for me sometimes, but I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable communicating to people, like, hey, my son is sick, I've got to take care of him, I'm not gonna be in office. And that's basically how I've been able to kind of like, live with it, I'm still kind of working on being comfortable with it, just because like, I'm still a recovering people pleaser. And it's hard for me to like, see somebody upset or like, if they need my immediate attention, not to be able to like quickly dive into that, I just understand that. Like, if I want to have like a good relationship with my children in the future, I need to be present for them here now. So I make time to be with them. Like now whenever they need me, and then I make time for my clients, because they also need me and I'm on a mission to help a lot of women in color in business, with their, with their endeavors as well. So I can give time to both. And that's kind of I don't want to say the way I bounced it, but that's the way I've accepted, like, go juggling between the two and being a mom, also, as well as being a wife because you know, I have a husband, and he also needs my attention outside of just taking care of the kids being able to make just time to for us to do movie nights, because that's our thing. Just like, I gotta be a wife right now, kids, sorry. You do your thing. I'll be over here with Danny. Okay. So, you know, like, I just know that there's like, you're just gonna have to kind of like, go in circles, if that makes any sense. Like and just kind of figure out exactly what's a priority for you at the time? And give him 100%?
Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:53
Key word? Yeah. So how are you managing, like revenue projections? Again, as someone who is living in this world of now you eat what you kill? And you are someone who also, you know, you rely a lot on word of mouth referrals and things like that? How do you go about just making sure that you will continue to sustain your income and grow?
Shirley Ansley 52:20
That's a good question. I've actually been trying to work on the whole hopping back into social media marketing, to make it work for me, because it works. So so well, for all of my clients, like literally all of my clients like killing it at the game, like they know it so well. So I'm trying to hop back into that. And I just know, it takes time to build an audience and grow, like getting people to know like, and trust you and stuff like that. I am fortunate that like, as of right now, I still do get referrals from people I work with. So I know I can predict how what my months are going to look like what my quarters are going to look like. So that makes me comfortable as of right now. And I'm working on a plan that will help kind of like secure my future as well. I am a numbers person. Like if you wanted to have like a private conversation with me, I will tell you what my numbers are. I'm not ashamed of that, like, I will share my news with you. So yeah, like I also hired. It's like, I want to say they're almost like a freelance CFO type of things. So it's like a collection of accountants, tax people, you know, like they they check in with me every once in a while just to kind of like, balance my QuickBooks stuff. And then like, don't tell me when to pay my taxes. I if I had a question about like whether or not I can afford something, I can check in with them and just be like, Oh, should I make this expense. But like I said, I'm I'm always crunching numbers and trying to figure out stuff. So I know how much I'm spending on a monthly basis. And then I can predict or anticipate how much I can earn per project. And if I ever feel like I'm getting low, best believe I'm going to raise the prices to try to try to get as much as I can from any any particular
Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:04
project. What's the name of that service in case anyone wants to call them collective
got it. Okay, so we'll link to that you go. So now we're going to jump into a quick lightning round. You listen to the show. So you know how this goes. Are you ready? Yes. All right. All right. All right. I mean, you just shared a resource, but we'll kick it off with what is another resource that has helped you in your business that you can share with a side hustle Pro Audio.
Shirley Ansley 54:35
Um, I know a lot of people use dubsado But I'm a big fan of bonsai. So I like a really aesthetically pleasing user interface. And they kind of like an alternative to doing automated invoicing, contracting, legal contracting to not so something you created out of a Google doc contracting. You know, all of that stuff. You can track your money and I just love them. All right,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:00
we gotta get them in the sponsorship chair. Number two, who is a black woman entrepreneur that you would switch places with for a day and why?
Shirley Ansley 55:09
So I would love to trade places with Shonda Rhimes one day because she's so mom like she's so she's able to do like a lot and she has kids. And I would love to just switch places with her and just kind of figure out like exactly what a day in her life would look like.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:23
Yes, yes. And number three, what is a non negotiable part of your daily routine?
Shirley Ansley 55:29
Having dinner with my kids? Like, I need that like family dinner time. That's one thing. I will not change. I do it every single day. We don't miss it.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:40
Yay. I love that. Number four, what is a personal habit that has helped you significantly in your business?
Shirley Ansley 55:47
I just I like checking my numbers. I like seeing like what's coming. Like, I like to see how much money did I make? How much money am I expecting? You know, like, I like checking my numbers like that makes me comfortable. So if that's a habit,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:01
I like this, I really hit us up if you want us to have a separate a bonus numbers episode somehow with with Charlie, like, let's talk about numbers. And like, you know how she's setting herself up for success? Because you know that that just motivated me to like, do more like I want to, you know, clean up my QuickBooks for the month like I have not been in there this month. Alright, number five. Last one. What is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss, but are you worried about losing that steady paycheck?
Shirley Ansley 56:32
Yeah, I definitely believe in finding inspiration where you can, this podcast is like a really good resource. But it's not like the only platform out there that can help you find good inspiration, but find that inspiration that you need in order to give you the courage to go out on your own. And to also just be a constant reminder that, you know, like when you're going through rough times, because there are rough times, just like reminding yourself that, you know, she did it too, you can do it too, you know, constantly had that, dude, you're gonna lose face sometimes. But like, keep the faith that like, you gotta like Believe in yourself believe that something better is on the other side. Can I also like, give another resource that I read in order to kind of like, inspire more inspiration, when I feel like I'm struggling with the whole entrepreneurial thing is basically the greatest salesman in the world, because it's pretty much a book of affirmations if you listen to it, and in its full extent, and then the E Myth. I can't remember who it's by, but you may have visited Yeah, yeah, it's such a great resource that helps you kind of figure out exactly what you need to do. It's literally written right there, just kind of like follow it. And that will help you kind of be guided through all of the process of your businesses.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 57:48
Love it. Well, thank you so much, Shirley. This was awesome. This was excellent. I mean, I just hope that you know, you guys let us know tag me on social Instagram Twitter, let me know what you thought of this episode because I just think that surely share it so much. Of course, you know, you guys can also watch us on Youtube. Don't forget that. These episodes are now video on YouTube. So you can check us out? Let us know in the comments what you learned what else you want to know because I mean, we might need a part two. So where where can people connect with you after this episode?
Shirley Ansley 58:21
I am sometimes on Instagram. There'll be surely T design and then my website which is ShirleyT.co Surely T is a nickname that I have if you're wondering like where did that come from? It's just a nickname that I go by.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 58:37
Well, there you have it, you guys. I'll link to all of that in the show notes. And thank you again, surely and I'll talk to you guys next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at sidehustle Pro.co/newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.