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Z Squared Studio's End of Year Review - Ep 27

Updated: May 22

I wanted to share my end of the year review since seeing the behind the scenes of someone else's business is always fun. I'll be talking about working on a marketing strategy, changing my focus from social media content to creating content for my podcast and blog, a little bit of my journey about what happened when I found a VA and just talking about lessons that I learned this year in general. So if you're interested let's dive in.

Implementing a marketing strategy had some great results

As you might know in 2021, I took the leap to run my business full-time after the birth of my son. 2021 was a hard year financially and I think it had to do with me not marketing myself. Fast forward to 2023, and after teaching two web design classes, attending 2-3 networking events/conferences, and adding podcasting/blogging to my marketing strategy I saw a significant difference in income which was very exciting.   By running some web design classes alongside with the JAHC I was able to get my business out to their email list, and had my name and face on their posters and digital ads which helped bring in new customers. Even if they weren't interested in attending the class they saw that I was a graphic designer and it opened a lot of new doors for me. What I noticed with attending networking events and conferences was that even if I wasn't going to land a job right then and there they would come back a couple of months later or maybe even a year later when they needed a project completed. For my podcast and blogs, I knew that in the digital landscape we live in now we need to continue to create new content to be able to get in front of new eyes and to be valuable to our current customers. I was sick of creating content through Instagram and Facebook because honestly, it drained my soul to put out content that was "cool" and not worry about those vanity metrics (likes, comments, followers) instead of just creating content I think shifting my focus to podcast and blogging has helped me create content that I actually enjoy and feels good for my soul.  What kicked my marketing strategy into drive was after taking an online class called Path to Prosperity through Spruceroot, which I learned about at the Innovation Summit Conference which I've attended annually for the past 2 years and it was such a great class, it was every Friday I think for about two months and at the end you end up with a business plan that's built on strategy which is my love language when it comes to business. Seeing the finished business plan at the end really helped me think about the long-term goals of my business and inspired me to implement the plan so I could hit those goals. I think a lot of business success comes from having a strong marketing plan and then actually implementing it. Business owners, I think often overlook marketing and we think it's just about running ads or that we can get by with just word of mouth and maybe you can but if you're struggling to get that steady flow of customers what you're missing is a marketing strategy.

Notice that I never even mentioned ads I attended networking events, taught classes, I podcast and blog. But you would be surprised how far even just networking can get you.

Embracing Batch Work for Increased Productivity Something that really helped my productivity this year especially when I was creating podcast and blogs was to batch work. By batch working I was able to get ahead by five episodes in the queue and was able to take two weeks off before diving into the next batch. Though I did realize quickly that I'm not able to do all of my client work and create podcasts and blogs without any help since I only have about 20 hours a week to work on everything. This is when I decided to hire a virtual assistant (VA) to handle some of the small things like adding the blog post covers and auto-publishing the podcasts and blogs, adding the descriptions and just other small back end things that I could delegate to help me save a lot of time, it's well worth the money.

Dedication to Personal Projects on Fridays It was hard to stick to this schedule during the busy periods of the year but for the most part, I was able to dedicate Fridays to strictly personal projects only and no client work. With this focus I was able to make substantial progress on my long time in the works DIY brand yourself mini course. I do mention it in a lot of my episodes and I currently have a waitlist since it's still not finished but I am proud of how far I've come and the strides I've made this year and I am currently one module away from finishing.

Venturing into Advertising and hiring a VA for Business Growth Something I am proud of this year is actually having enough in my finances to invest back in my business and I've decided to invest in digital advertising and hiring a VA. I ran ads by myself for a month and I was seeing a really bad return with each lead costing around $15 which is really high so I decided to turn those off and hire a Facebook ad strategist. We just turned the ads on so I don't have a lot of insight on how well it's going but the first lead came in at $2.67 which is a huge difference so I'm excited to see how far that goes. When it came to hiring a VA I finally realized that if I wanted more time in my day I had to spend money to get that time back. It definitely took years for me to get to this point to not only be in the right mindset to hire a VA but to have a good cushion of finances so that I could afford one. Right now I have hired her for five hours a week which has worked well for me at this point in my business. It did take me a full year to find a VA that works for me. Some people are more detail-oriented than others or they have different styles of design and I went through about three VA's until I found the one that I have now that has clicked with me and how I work. She can see those details that I want her to pick up on, she's responsive and timely, it's been a wonderful experience so far, and for her to give me the gift of time it's well worth it.

If you're interested in hiring a VA I would recommend having a word doc with your Standard Operating Procedures or SOP's and I would start screen recording (I like Loom or Descript) certain tasks that you want to delegate then write down the steps of the task underneath the link of your screen recording that way there's a clear understanding on how you want the task to be done and this way if you do need to switch from one VA to another you don't have to retype or re-screenrecord everything you can just send them your SOP's and you only have to do the work once. There is a right time in your business to hire a VA and I think you should wait until you have done the task you want to delegate yourself a couple of times so you know how to hand it off. I realized in my early stages of dabbling into hiring a VA that if you don't know how to do the task yourself you can't expect your VA to know how to do it let alone get it done the way that you want it to be done, you can't expect them to read your mind which is why it's so important to have that list of SOP's. If you wanna have good employees or a good VA then you have to be a good boss as well.

Strategic Focus on Growing the Email List One thing that I wanted to focus on this year was to grow my email list and that is actually why I started to run the Facebook and Instagram ads, because I wanted to grow my email list on autopilot.

If you're in the digital service space you hear a lot how important it is to have a growing email list and it took me years and years to finally see the importance and see how it's going to be such an asset to my business. After purchasing, finishing and sitting on Amy Porterfield's List Builder's Society course I decided to implement what I've learned this year and I have seen a lot of success from it.

So not only am I running those ads to grow my email list but I've implemented emailing my current email list weekly and leading them to listen to my podcast or read my blog post and after posting a weekly email, podcast, and blog post there has been a significant rise in traffic to both my podcast and my website.

It did take me a while to not be embarrassed by my podcast and that brought me back to when I first started my business when I was embarrassed to put my artwork on Instagram, show my face on Instagram, put my prices on my website, email clients my prices and just knowing that that initial embarrassment is just a hump that you will get over with time helped a lot when I finally had the courage to send that first email and broadcast that I did have a podcast. Whatever you're embarrassed to do you will get over it with time and it will feel so good when you get to that point. When you look back it will be funny to think about how embarrassed you were at first and how comfortable you feel about it now.

Some Lessons I learned this year

If you don't have consistent customer leads, marketing is what's going to change that. If your customer flow is not consistent and you don't have a marketing plan you need to implement one. You don't even have to do paid marketing you can just do free marketing like networking or creating content. Or maybe you have some business friends you can share email lists and do guest emails for eachother. Make sure to have an opt in so that you're able to grab people from eachothers lists and to make sure they are choosing to be on your email list as well so each new lead is genuinely interested in your business. As long as you guys have the same target audience that method should work well for you. It's super common for us business owners to think that if you put something out there that everyone's going to find it, everyone knows about it and they don't want to book with you because maybe they think your prices are high or your product and services aren't good enough. But in reality, you need to be constantly marketing before someone realizes that they need your services or products. It's going to take people 5, 6 ,7+ times to see your offer repeatedly before they decide to book your services or purchase your products. Which is why there's so much magic in marketing all year round. Or maybe you end up filling your books then that's the perfect time to stop marketing for the foreseeable future until you have open spots. What's going to make you money and bring in those customers is that you create a marketing plan and you take action.

Remember that there's free marketing strategies that you can implement if you're short on funds. Just be aware that it requires a greater time investment in lieu of monetary costs.

Focus on long form content, it yields better results. Instead of posting short form content on Instagram or Facebook where your post will only be there for 2 to 3 days start creating long form content where your content can be found on search results like creating blog posts so you can be found on Google, content on Pinterest so you can be found by creatives, podcasts so you can be found by business owners, YouTube so you can be found by people looking for tutorials. There is so much benefit from long form content that it only makes sense to create it and then grab snippets from it to create shorter form content for Instagram and Facebook. That way when you're creating that short form content it's coming from a place of intention and strategy and you're not just posting to post. Also, you already created it once so it will be so much faster to just reuse your content rather than starting from scratch.

Growing your email list is a slow, slow process. If you are also in the process of growing your email list know that it is a very slow process. Since I have invested in a Facebook ads strategist I have seen more of a consistent flow of people joining my list but it's still slow. I would say I am around the point of getting seven people a week to sign up for my list. Since I am running ads for people to join my list I think that's an even faster way to grow my list, even if I'm not getting 100s of signs up a week I know that if I were to only use free marketing for people to join my list (podcast, blog posts, social media) that the growth would be even slower. But I'm hoping that once my podcast and website traffic from my blog gains exponential momentum that me mentioning my freebies in those platforms will hopefully get me to a point where I can turn off those ads and be able to grow my list organically.

The only way to get time back is to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) It took me years to feel comfortable handing off design tasks to a virtual assistant but this year has taught me that the only way to get time back is to hire someone and now that I am in the right spot in my business to so it's been a life changer.

Since I don't have to pay for childcare and I get a lot of help from my family to watch Fletcher for 4 hours while I get to focus on my work part time I decided that the money that could go into daycare will be put into good use in a virtual assistant and it's just made me so much happier to have that time freedom and not worrying about the little things in my business that are time-consuming for me but can easily be handed to a VA. Conclusion Reflecting on the year, 2023 has been a journey of growth and shifts that has made me really excited to see what 2024 brings. Implementing a robust marketing strategy, including teaching web design classes, networking, and diving into podcasting and blogging, significantly impacted my income which I totally wasn't expecting at all.

Shifting my focus from short form content of Instagram and Facebook to long form content like my podcast and blog has not only been fulfilling and less stressful but has also strengthened connections with my clients.

Important lessons include understand that growing an email list is a slow yet steady process, the transformative power of hiring a Virtual Assistant has made life that much happier, and understanding patience in business keeps me working hard. Cheers to the New Year and new goals.


Z Squared Studio is a Brand and Web Design Studio based in Juneau, Alaska. Check out for custom brand design, logo design, or web design. Or sign up for our DIY Brand yourself Mini-Course if you're ready for a stand out, scroll stopping brand without hiring a designer.


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