About Christi Marie Creative
Christi Rocco grew her graphic design business, Christi Marie Creative, out of a love for all things print. Her business love for the industry has only grown since then. Christi loves designing new and unique products that showcase a personality and creativity in the finished product. With a BFA in Graphic Design and a BA in English, Christi ties these two focuses together to create something that tells a story with both the visual and copy portions of the design.
What made you decide to start Christi Marie Creative?
I have been designing all different types of print projects for my friends and family after I got my BFA in Graphic Design in 2005, and everyone around me started encouraging me to make it my own business instead of just a hobby. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and know how hard it can be, and as a result was unsure and wary of taking the next step. I even went back to school for English (I think it may have been my way of prolonging making a decision!) and graduated in 2010. But after graduation, I still went back to my design degree, and at the age of 29, I decided to take the plunge and start Christi Marie Creative!
What makes your business unique?
I really try to cater to any type of printing need—basically, I subscribe to the belief that if it can be printed, I can create it! I will design paper products like invitations and business cards, but I also do t-shirts, canvas designs, hats…anything that can be printed on! Also, I really try to put myself in my client’s shoes. They are paying me to provide a service, and I always keep that in mind when I am building a relationship with a client.
Can you describe the process of starting Christi Marie Creative?
It really is funny—one day I woke up and said, “I’m ready.” I just felt like it was time to put the plan in motion. I got out of bed, filed my papers to form an LLC that day, and did a ton of research on what small businesses and graphic designers do to get their company off the ground. I set up a website and Facebook page, and then just really started from there!
What do you like best about being a business owner?
I still get excited about a new client and the opportunity to design something for them! It’s a rush when I hear my email chime and see an inquiry from a prospective client. I love the sense of accomplishment when I design something that a client loves and knowing that I started from scratch in creating my own business.
What do you like least?
It can be busy, but even that I really don’t mind too much! I really do love everything about having my own business. I have two other part-time jobs and it can be a challenge to juggle everything, but I’d much rather be busy than be bored.
The Business Side
What advice would you give designers about going into business for themselves?
Be organized! You need to make a schedule of your jobs and the deadlines that go with them so you can plan accordingly with your client. Also, be organized with your books, so you never run into any confusion come tax time.
What is your best source of new customers?
I would definitely say referrals are my best source of new customers. I do advertise on wedding sites and sometimes do mailings, but word of mouth is where I get most of my customers from. I really appreciate it when people make it a point to refer me, and it makes me feel good that they really loved their project enough to tell someone else about me.
What is your business’ greatest strength? What is your greatest business challenge?
I think I’m really on top of communicating with my customers about what’s going on in the design process of their job, when it will be done, etc. People don’t want to feel like you’ve forgotten about them! I also give my clients a lot of options to choose from. I feel it works best, because people like choices—I know I do!
As for my greatest challenge, I feel it’s hard sometimes to not like a client so much that I want to throw in all kinds of extras! I know at the end of the day it’s a business, but I have had some amazing clients that I really have gotten to know and think they’re great people. Plus, I love what I do, and when it doesn’t feel like work it’s almost hard to place a dollar amount on design!
Who is your market?
Really, it’s everyone. I cater to any type of printing need, so it’s anyone from a small business owner who needs a logo or business cards, to a mom who needs invitations for their child’s party. I do, however, create a lot of wedding invitations—I think it has to do with the age I’m at (a lot of my friends are getting married) and the fact that I do really love wedding design.
Insight Into Christi Marie Creative
What is your philosophy/mission?
It’s definitely to design something my client loves in the time frame and budget they set. I know at the end of the day it’s all about what I’ve created for them, and I put 100% into every design knowing it is, of course, a direct reflection of me and my business.
What are the main questions you ask to ensure your customers get the best final result?
Besides the obvious questions like the time frame and budget, I also ask all of my clients to send me some pictures of designs they like. This is not to copy, but just so I can get a feel of what they like and what kind of style they are going for. Then, after I send the first round of proofs, I ask them what they think of the designs so I can further see what they are looking for. I tell everyone design is a process—because it is!
Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you keep the creative energy flowing?
Well, I always need to work with the music on—this can sometimes be a challenge and I’m relegated to my headphones, since my husband and I share our home office and he needs it quiet to work. I also make sure I browse design sites and see what’s current on Pinterest and really just look at what others are creating. I think the best form of inspiration can just be looking at a great design and wishing you did it! I also am interested in photography and a think a lot of inspiration can be drawn from nature and our surroundings.
What is a tool that you wish you had, but don’t?
A tool that makes more than 24 hours in a day! I’m constantly saying there’s not enough time to fit in everything I want to do.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your business overnight, what would it be?
I want it to be a full-time job tomorrow. I’m getting there! Since I started not too long ago, I understand that I need to have realistic expectations of where I want to be. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s hard not to wish it was!
How does social media play into your daily routine? Is there an average amount of time you spend on it daily?
I definitely try to update my Facebook posts regularly and also get new pictures onto my page of my work. I also use Facebook (and Pinterest and Twitter) to see what others in the industry are doing, what my favorite sites have to say that day, and if any that I follow have posted some cool tips or tutorials. I’d say I spend about an hour on social media daily.
What books have you recently read? Which blogs do you read regularly?
Being an English major, I love some of the classics—I recently re-read The Sun Also Rises. I also am a lover of chick-lit too, I have to admit!
I read a few blogs regularly: http://www.youthedesigner.com, http://www.stylemepretty.com, and I do read the smartpress.com blog! I also will google random design searches or browse Twitter to see if I find anything new. I also google tutorials all the time; I think it’s important to learn new ways of designing.
Do you have any thoughts or predictions about the wedding industry that will become more popular or significant in late 2013 or 2014? Do you have any thoughts or predictions about the graphic design industry that will become more popular or significant in late 2013 or 2014?
I find that most of my clients now lean away from the traditional invite in favor of something more modern and directly related to their wedding theme, and I think that will grow more popular in the years to come. As for the design industry, I think with the explosion of social media people may stray even more outside the box with more and more Facebook events and unique designs with the rise of Pinterest, where design is literally in your face.
Do you do any form of marketing for Christi Marie Creative? If so what type(s)?
Right now, I advertise on liweddings.com, but I am thinking for 2013-2014 I will be attending some wedding expos and will delve deeper into the world of Facebook marketing.
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