ROUTINE TALKS: YOUR AMPERSAND STUDIO

Hey friends! I am back again this week with another Routine Talk. This week's interview is with my new friend Shaina of Your Ampersand Studio. She gives great advice to those hiring a designer for first time, gives insight into her business and talks about how she is #teamnap.

-Let's start off by introducing yourself and your business.

 

Hi there, I'm Shaina, the designer, photographer, VA and heart behind Your Ampersand Studio. I’m on a mission to help photographers feel less alone behind their cameras with logos and websites that work for them, and assistant services that leave them with more time to focus on what they do best.


-I feel like I will be asking everyone this question but what is the meaning behind your business name?


The Ampersand is a symbol for the word "and," and the perfect visual representation of a connection. But it goes way beyond that. In its definition, the ampersand means that the two linking pieces become part of each other. That is the heart behind my business - that connection. I want to become an ally for my clients as they journey through building and growing their photography business. 

 

-So you started off as a photographer right? How long did you pursue that?


I started my photography business as my Senior Project in high school, actually. Went through the whole process, started shooting seriously then and it just grew from there. That was in 2003/2004. I’ve had the pleasure of being behind the camera for so many important days and moments for many clients that have become friends. I still take on photography clients and especially love portrait sessions. I think it's important for me to still be doing the thing I want to help my clients do better too. So they know we share the same passion. 


-Do you still offer a photography service within your design business?


Its not something I advertise alongside my design services, but I’ve had local design clients who I’ve shot updated headshots for, and loved being able to use my photos alongside my designs on their websites. 


-Tell us a little more about your process. When a client jumps on board what do the next steps look like?


When someone is interested in working with me the first thing we do is jump on Skype. I think that a “face-to-face” conversation is the best way to get a feel for each other and to know if we’ll be a good fit moving forward. I use this opportunity to ask them about their business, their passions and their big dreams. Its all important to me, and all a factor in how I can help them. After that they fill out a comprehensive branding questionnaire and I create a Project Hub page for them on a password protected section of my website. Its where everything is stored and presented to them throughout all stages of the process. So much easier than emails back and forth! Then I get to start on the mood board design for them. This has been called my “super-power” in the past, and I just love that expression. I get so much energy and excitement from pulling together seemingly disjointed elements (fonts, colors, textures, words, emotions, etc) and then, after presenting it to my client, hearing them say “This is exactly what I’m going for!” 

 

-How long has Your Ampersand Studio been around?


Your Ampersand Studio launched in February of 2015, and got its own branding refresh in April of this year when I added Virtual Assistant services to my offerings. 


-What are the biggest pros and cons of owning your own business?


I have worked daily naps into my business plan, and that’s a huge positive for me! I’m totally #teamnap Hehe. Just the freedom to be able to do that, you know? I love that I get to fill my days with work and clients that inspire and uplift me. And being part of the community of entrepreneurs online is such a blessing. The hardest thing for me is loneliness. I’m a real people-person, so working alone from home mostly feels a little isolating. But I have some amazing biz besties and we will sit on Google Hangout and work together sometimes, and I just love that. Another con of owning your own business is that is all you - you are the final decision on everything. Its a transition to come from the corporate world where you have a set schedule, and a boss and someone else makes the call at the end of the day. That can be scary, but also invigorating!
  


-Do you pay to market your business or do you only rely on social media and word of mouth?


I haven’t ever paid to market my business. My biggest focus has been Instagram and developing my community over there. That has led to some of my dreamiest clients finding me, buying from me and recommending me to others. Its been working, so why mess with it, right? :) 


-Any creative groups out there that you are a part of that we should all know about?


Your Ampersand Studio was created after going through a comprehensive branding class from Hey, Sweet Pea called “My Own Irresistible Brand.” It literally flipped everything I thought I knew about branding and services and connecting with people on its head and changed me forever for the better. That class comes with a Facebook group that is my favorite place online. Scott and Elise Grice of Hey, Sweet Pea are the best at encouraging, teaching, and giving of themselves and their knowledge. If you can take a class from them at any point, DO IT!! 


-If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is hiring a designer for the first time what would it be?


My biggest tip for someone hiring a designer for the first time is to look for someone who you have a personal connection with, not just who “designs good.” Your designer is going to be creating something that will represent your passion and your heart online, and if they don’t get it themselves, you’ll be left with something that doesn’t suit you and feels uncomfortable. So do your research, get on Skype and have a real conversation, ask the hard questions and don’t assume anything. Many people think the graphic designer market is oversaturated…but I think that we all bring something to the table that only our special clients need. Find the designer that is in business to serve you. They’re out there, and they can’t wait to work with you! 


-If you had to pick one song to represent Your Ampersand Studio what song would you pick?


“This Is The New Year” by Ian Axel - it exactly captures the aspirational spirit of my business!

 

A big thank you to Shaina for sharing a bit of her story with us! Check her out at Your Ampersand Studio and be sure to follow her on Instagram.

Alex Cottles

The Routine Creative, Richmond, Virginia, 23220