I’ve known Charlotte for a couple of years now, and her keen eye for design and detail, as well as her personal growth, has always left me inspired. I asked her if she could spare some time to share her journey with some of my blog readers, and she jumped at the chance, so here you go…….
Charlotte, tell me about your background and why you started your own business.
I’ve always been creative and had an eye for detail and design. Throughout school, craft and design projects always peaked my interest, and I used to spend my free time writing, drawing, and creating things. I remember designing chocolate bar wrappers and funny greetings cards just for fun!
With this in mind, I knew I wanted a creative job in the future, so I studied Graphic Design, Media, Business & IT in my GCSE’s and A-Levels. My teachers persuaded me to go on to University to study Design further, but I really wasn’t happy in the school environment.
I already had the skills and knowledge I needed to start a career in the design industry, so as soon as I left sixth form at the age of the 18, I started offering web design and graphic design services locally. Originally I just planned to do freelance work whilst I built up my portfolio and experience so I could show it to employers, but I loved the freedom that came with working for myself and being able to set my own targets, rules and prices. And so, CRJ Design was born.
Can you explain to us the services you currently offer?
CRJ Design is a Graphic Design, Web Design & Marketing business. I specialise in user-friendly website design, but I offer a huge range of other services including logo design/branding, SEO, social media management, marketing, copywriting, Google Ads, and web hosting.
I mainly work with local start-up businesses in Cornwall, but I’ve worked with clients all over the country (and some even further afield) including an Egg Processer in Leicester, an award-winning florist in Gloucester, and a Yoga & Pilates Instructor in London. Some well-known local names I’ve worked with include Gwills Yoga, Wet Dog Pizza Co., Zaman’s Restaurant and Walk Happy Dog Walking.
Have you faced any challenges since starting your own business?
I’ve faced numerous challenges whilst trying to run my own business, including things like trying to stand out amongst the competition, figuring out how to set the right prices, not being taken seriously because of my age, and keeping up with the latest marketing and web design trends and standards. It’s also challenging having to manage every single aspect of my business, from marketing to accounts and everything in between – but it’s all a learning curve!
So what would you say has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge for me has been trying to keep work flowing whilst attempting to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It’s all too easy to spend all your time on your business and lose sight of what’s really important. I’ve also dealt with illness in the last 12 months, including having a major operation, which has put a real strain on me and my business. When I’m unwell, there’s no-one to cover my work for me, so I continue working as much as I can even throughout illness and recovery.
I’ve managed to rectify my work-life balance by planning out my days and weeks in advance and setting myself working hours. I make sure that I keep my work and personal life separate, and only work outside business hours when it’s absolutely necessary.
Even with your health challenges, have you seen business growth in the last 12 months?
Yes – business is continually growing. I’ve introduced some new services in the last year which have been popular (namely web hosting), and I’m continually starting new projects with both new and existing clients. A majority of my work comes from recommendations, so growth is pretty rapid, as my client list grows, so does my list of potential new customers.
Do you aim to set yourself regular goals?
I’m always setting myself small goals, such as meeting project deadlines and setting percentage growth targets for my marketing clients. I have bigger goals for my business overall, for example I’d love to hire a team of designers and digital marketers one day, but working towards these goals is more of a long-term commitment that will come naturally with business growth, so big goals like that aren’t something I really plan or set myself a deadline for.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to start their own business?
Make sure you have the right mindset. Starting up a business is hard work and requires dedication (but not at the expense of your personal life and happiness!). Also, be prepared for disappointment sometimes – not every new marketing strategy, sales pitch or idea is going to work out. But most importantly have fun! This is your dream brought to life so make sure you’re enjoying yourself in the process.
If you had to do it all again from scratch would you do anything differently?
I’m quite happy with how my business has turned out and if I had to start again from scratch I’m not sure if I’d do much differently. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably start with a more comprehensive business plan and try to identify my niche straight away. I would dedicate more time and effort into market research so that I could get my prices and services right from the start, rather than using trial-and-error to determine how my business should be run.
Lastly, I would’ve approached business from a more personal perspective. After all, people do business with people, and because CRJ Design is just me, it makes sense to put a lot of focus on who I am so my clients know who they’ll be working with. It took me nearly 5 years to upload a photo of myself and write about who I am; in hindsight I should’ve done this from the start!
Thank you so much to Charlotte for sharing both her personal and business journey with us. Charlotte is a perfect example of a female business owner who has faced many challenges, but who has perceived no matter what. I’ve watched the growth of her business with interest, and Charlotte is now regularly recommended across Cornwall for web design, hosting, and other business design services. The sky is the limit Charlotte, and I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you next!