How a Freelance Graphic Designer Built a Million Dollar Business

It’s not easy to quit your job to pursue your passion but Mica May, a graphic designer by training decided it was time. She made the transition easy by walking away from the 9-to-5 hustle getting her job on board as her first client and moving from full-time to freelancer.  Mica realized that she was in a do or die position. She was starting a business while supporting her new husband who was still in graduate school. Pure guts, strategy and a few calculated risk has turned May Designs into million dollar business and here’s how she did it.

Sitting in client meetings, Mica would get a lot of comments on the little notebooks that she carried. Imagine folded up pieces of paper, with sticker embellishments, staples down the center and her logo on front. Mica would create custom designed sheets for the inside pages tailored to her needs – things to do, daily schedules, and her son’s activities. Before she knew it, her clients were asking where she got them and Mica had stumbled onto a notebook company. Realizing the need to focus she let go of the graphic design clients to build May Books.

Leveraging her relationship as a board member of the Dallas chapter of NAWBO she made calls one-by-one to members to get a few clients who each brought one hundred books for their companies. The early books had errors and would fall apart on occasion but she kept constant communication with customers until they got the product right. In the hopes of reaching a larger audience she decided to attend the National Stationary Show. It cost thousands of dollars to participate not to mention the hotel and travel expenses. She says the company lost money, only booking 20 retail clients but believes that the exposure and press opportunities made it worth it.

The next big step – A small spot on Tory Johnson’s Good Morning America deals segment landed May Designs 33,000 orders in December of 2011. Mica says she hasn’t slept since. She started in design because she loves it and it was fun but she used heart and hustle that made her company into a million dollar business. Mica has leveraged her role as an entrepreneur to create the life she wants which includes a flexible schedule to take care of her special needs son Jackson. She cleverly uses social media and her blog to document the life of a CEO Mom (check the exclusive shot of Mica on the phone during the interview).

Here’s what we can learn from Mica May’s story:

Walk Before You Run: Focus on one business that you plan to create. It’s difficult to grow multiple companies simultaneously and almost impossible if you don’t have the cash to support a team. Instead of quitting your job cold, look at ways to transition the job into your first client and start the business with revenue.

Leverage Your Network: What organizations or communities are you involved in? Send out an announcement of the business to your networks this will be the best source for early clients.

Take Calculated Risk: What are the upcoming opportunities to expand your brand – expos, conferences, events, or online? Work to increase your exposure to audiences that directly fit your target customer profile. Don’t spend more that you can afford to lose and calculate the potential return on dollars before you invest.

Seek Expert Recommendations: Make a list of leaders in your field that already have a relationship with your ideal customers. Having someone that they already know, like and trust recommend your products and services will typically result in a better sales result than paid advertising.

If you like this story you can hear the full interview with Mica May on the Soul Purpose Company podcast. What key lesson did you learn in the process of starting and growing your business?

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