A lot of times in the entrepreneurial space we feel a pressure to grow bigger and better as our competition boasts their own expansions and big leaps forward. Hiring staff, getting office space, working with more and more contractors… These are often regarded as the quote-unquote sexy parts of a business on the rise. But are those steps right for your business? Do you need them to be successful and scale your income?
You know I’m always talking about what hiring a team allowed me to do with my business, but my guest is the counterpoint to that. For almost two years, Olivia Herrick has been running her business as lean as possible. No contractors, she didn’t replace her studio manager, and she ditched her out of home studio space. But instead of her revenue scaling back as she scaled back her operations, she actually generated more income and learned a lot along the way.
Fun fact, Olivia was the original designer I worked with when starting this podcast and I’m so excited to have her back for another conversation. We’ll dig into what it’s like to scale back and still grow your business in a way that feels right for you. Olivia also has some interesting perspective on running a personal brand without ever sharing anything personal on social media.
Scaling Back Amidst the Noise
In the past few years since we last heard from designer Olivia Herrick on the Goal Digger Podcast, she became a mom to two children. During her pregnancy with baby number two, she felt a pull to scale back and do less. It was around this same time that her studio manager who had once been her right-hand woman helping to run her business took a job at an agency. She wondered what would happen if she didn’t replace her?
“I had kind of been at this place where I felt this very intense pressure to build a team,” Olivia shared. “I was using some contractors, I had my studio manager and I just felt like there was a lot of noise coming at me externally saying, you need to have a team to be legitimate. You need to have an agency model.”
But that model didn’t feel right for Olivia. She explained, “It just wasn’t vibing with me, even though I was dabbling in that. And so I just decided to really turn it on its head and spend basically a year, and now it’s been a little bit longer than that, running my business in the most simple way.”
Olivia’s big epiphany that she was ready to scale back and run her design business as simply as possible was becoming a mom to two children, but motherhood isn’t the only moment that might spur you to make a change in your life or business.
“It could be any turning point in your life and it can be self-constructed,” she began. “You can just hit a point where you say, I am done feeling this way. Or I’m done with this overwhelm. It doesn’t have to be like some big dramatic life thing. I think sometimes we see that glamorized in popular media and also just on social media, but sometimes it’s just a conscious choice of, I’m ready to try something different.”
Shedding the External Expectations
A big part of Olivia making the change and running her business lean was realizing that she didn’t have to build her business to other people’s expectations. “Most of what I struggled with was…feeling this external pressure to be a certain way. Like what is making it? And I was spending a lot of emotional bandwidth thinking about what that looked like to other people.”
“So it was a lot of untangling of that – What do I actually want my business to look like? The point of running my own business is so that I have some say in what it looks like.”
Scaling Back and Making More
If you’ve toyed with the idea of scaling back your business and leaning out your operations but you worry about your income scaling back, too, Olivia actually experienced the opposite. She told me, “I actually increased my monthly revenue by just over 25%.”
Part of leaning out and not working with contractors or hiring a team meant referring projects directly to other designers that weren’t necessarily her specialty, but that she used to serve as a middleman for in the past. Serving as the go-between for these projects made her feel like she needed to provide a constant stream of projects for her contractors. Cutting that out meant she didn’t have as many clients, but she did have more quality, long-term clients.
“It made me feel like I could charge more because I wasn’t tied up in a bigger project total,” Olivia explained, “And I also started to work with clients in a deeper way. I work with very few new clients because I’m really fortunate that when people start working with me, they want to continue working with me. And so I think part of that has been just having more bandwidth to go deeper instead of trying to churn through as many clients as possible.”
More from Olivia Herrick
This conversation is rich with wisdom from a talented designer who has experienced many different seasons of business. Press play to hear her talk more about running lean, never getting personal online, and so much more.