business systems

How I Design with Clients Instead of For Them

How I Design with Clients Instead of For Them | Lemon and the Sea: A step-by-step look at my design process and how it helps creative entrepreneurs build businesses that support the life they want to live.

When I'm investing a lot of time and money into something, I want to know that I'm going to get what I need out of it. 

We've recently begun the process of searching for our first home (yay!) and have taken a lot of time to find a realtor that we want to work with through the process. I want someone who will communicate with me throughout our time together, will let me know what to do when, and will be there to check in with me if something falls through the cracks - because I'm busy and I have never been through this before.

Brand and website design with you in mind

Brand and website design is a big investment of both time and money.

I know that you're busy . I know that you don't want to invest in something and not get the results you expected - or even worse, have someone totally disappear on you, which is why I've worked hard to create a process that allows me to work closely with my clients through a process that can be overwhelming.

From the initial inquiry email to the project hand-off and on-going support options, I want to work with my clients instead of designing for them.


Whenever I start chatting with someone about potentially working on their brand and website design, I like to give some information upfront to help them get an idea of what I do and what to expect - without flooding them with information over a phone call or email.

Instead, I send out a Working with Us PDF that includes information like who I am, what I do, and some fun information about me and Lemon and the Sea. Then, I have my Sales Slides PDF which goes more in-depth about who I work with, what I offer, and answers to some frequently asked questions. I'm sure this can seem overwhelming at first, but by having everything in PDF format (instead of trying to jot down notes as fast as possible), potential clients can learn more about Lemon and the Sea on their schedule.

Because they're busy and would probably rather be spending time with their families instead of emailing a thousand questions back and forth.

Staying Organized

Once a client decides to hire me (celebration time!), I have a simple Getting Started PDF and I get them set up with an Asana project that outline each step we'll take together and when everything is due. That way, they know exactly what to expect from me and what I need from them.

I also have an in-house version of the project in Asana that keeps me on track and outline every step of the project. This allows me to stay organized without my clients seeing all the behind-the-scenes tasks that they don't need to complete (because you really don't need to see link testing and every type of mobile device being developed individually).

Branding Exercises

And of course, branding exercises come next. I've developed a series of worksheets that help my clients dig into their businesses and share what they need with me. The goal is that they walk away with a brand and website that reflects who they are, helps them grow their business, and allows them to live the life they love - and these help us get there.

Each worksheet focuses on a different part of business - from design to dream client - and helps me get to know what my client needs from their website and where to go when designing their brand.

Getting to Work

After the branding exercises are complete and I've reviewed them with my clients, they get to relax a bit while I get to work designing. I always start with brand design - mood board, color palette, and logo design - because these will be used throughout the rest of the process.

What makes my process different is that I love including my clients in the design. We set up Skype calls to review the concepts, give feedback, and see design adjustments in real time. I want each client to get the brand they've been dreaming of - not the one I want to design.

After brand design is complete, I get started on the website - choosing a template, laying out the main pages, and styling everything. Then I send it off to my client to review - with a Skype call again - and make adjustments. Then I finalize everything, test it out, and launch the website.

After Launch

After each launch, I offer two weeks of post-launch support for the little tweaks that come up and options for on-going support so that I'm available to my clients as they need me - for new ideas, updates, or additional design work.

I also have a library of video tutorials to walk you through making changes yourself.

My ultimate goal isn't to design, launch, and walk away - I want to give my clients the brand and website they've been dreaming of and be there to cheer them on as their business grows.

I've found that this process of organizing projects and offering design review calls allows my clients to work with me on their design - giving feedback as the design progresses - instead of being surprised at the end of the project with something that isn't what they were envisioning. After all, branding is a big investment of both time and money, but in the end it's something that will help you build a business that supports the lifestyle you want.

Ready to update your brand and website?

I'd love to get to know you and your business to see how I can help you reach those big dreams. Check out my services or email me to learn more.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

5 Ways to Make Your Website Work for You

5 Ways to Make Your Website Work for You | Lemon and the Sea

When you're a entrepreneur, you're never just an entrepreneur. You're also a friend, spouse, parent, volunteer, coach, and side-hustler. And it can feel like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done.

Last month, I went to Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving and my brother-in-law's wedding. We spent the entire holiday balancing family time, wedding prep, and I spent the day of the wedding running between the bride and groom making sure that everything was the way they wanted.

For that entire week, I barely had time to check my email and I definitely wasn't able to schedule client calls or send out emails to people interested in my service. But I wasn't worried about it because I have a system in place to help me in times like those - and everyday - through my website and automation.

Your website can be your best employee - and you don't even have to deal with taxes for it. You just need to set it up now in a way that will help you grow in the future.

1. Tailor it to your ideal client.

It may be scary to really niche down, especially if you're just starting out, but it's important. Your website should help anyone visiting it know whether or not you're the right person for them to work with. Your design, images, and content will either attract or repel people, so you want to make sure that it's attracting your dream clients and turning away those you can't serve as well.

Start by really digging into the people you want to work with and ask yourself if you're attracting them now. If not, take a look at your website and evaluate what it's saying to visitors. Then, don't be afraid to change it - and even go against the trends - to really reach the clients you've been dreaming about.

2. Automate as much as possible.

If you're afraid that automation takes the personal aspect out of your business, you aren't alone. I felt that way for a long time until I realized that I can better serve my clients by automating some of my business so that I can concentrate my time on what really matters - designing brands and websites that reflect who my clients are.

There are lots of ways you can automate, but these are some easy first steps that will help you streamline your systems without losing touch with your audience:

  • Create email templates for replying to inquiries, having hard conversations, and delivering your service. That way, you won't have to stress out about - and put off - sending those emails. And don't worry - you can write these so that they reflect you and add in some areas to customize for each email.
  • Have an auto-responder to your Contact Form. Having an auto-responder means that you're audience - whether it be client inquiries or someone saying hi - will get a response from you right away and you won't feel pressure to send emails during family time. Mine looks like this:

    "Hi [name]! Thank you for your inquiry. I will take a look at it and we will get back to you very, very soon! If you're getting in touch because you're interested in working with us, I hope you'll check out our Working with Lemon and the Sea PDF linked below. It will give you some information about us and how we work until we get back with you."

    That way, I cover both inquiries about working with me and other comments and give a time frame for when I will get back to them. I have this set up in ConvertKit so everyone who uses my Contact Form is also added to my email list. (Want to know how to use ConvertKit with Squarespace?)
  • Create an email sequence when someone subscribes. This will help new subscribers get to know you and your services without you worrying about remembering to send out emails every few days.
  • Sign up for a scheduling software. Scheduling software allows you to simply send a link and give someone access to your schedule so they can find a time that fits them. This eliminates a lot of back and forth. Plus, your service can send out automatic reminders to prevent people from forgetting and not showing up. For my calendar, I've created events for coffee chats, client interviews, and design review calls with different hours and available days to best fit the way I work and my clients' needs.

3. Check your messaging

The words you use on your website make a huge difference in how people perceive you and who wants to work with you. This really goes back to knowing your ideal client. You want to speak to their needs, pain points, and show them how you can help.

You also want to stay true to your voice so that when someone talks to you in person, they already know what to expect. Share your story, communicate your why, and let people know that you're right for them by the messaging on your website. (Need help writing your About Page?)

4. Make it easy to promote and share

By making it easy for people to promote and share your content and work, they're more likely to send it out into the world. Make sure that you're promoting your own work on social media, provide share buttons (either the automatic ones or try out Add This), and have your new posts automatically pushed to your social platforms.

If you've never had Squarespace push to social media before, simply go to the Settings block on your blog post and choose which platforms you want to push to under the Social tab.

5. Up your SEO game

SEO can seem really scary, but it's an important part of finding new potential clients who are searching for your service. These are a few ways you can increase your SEO on Squarespace:

  • Add a site description that shares who you are and what you do. This is under the Settings > Basic Information section on the menu.
  • Use tags and categories. When writing a new blog post, make sure to assign it to a category and then add tags. Use terms that your audience would be searching for like Squarespace Website, Wedding Photographer, etc. Also, don't be afraid to get more specific based on who you're trying to reach (for example, use Richmond Wedding Photographer instead of just Wedding Photographer).
  • Name your URLs. This is an easy way to get Google to find your pages. Instead of generic URLs, use something descriptive like work-with-lemon-and-the-sea instead of work-with-us. You can also name your blog post URLs so that they appear as the post title instead of a string of random characters.
  • Have a mobile-friendly website. Google is now officially ranking websites that aren't mobile-friendly lower when someone searches on a mobile device (which most people do) so make sure your website looks just as good on that iPhone as it does on your computer screen. (You can check to see if your website is mobile-friendly here.)
  • Do your research. Google is always adjusting how it ranks websites in it's searches, so make sure you're up to date on what they want. You can also check out my SEO Pinterest board for more tips and tricks.

Need to update your website, but don't have the time? I can help. I love using Squarespace because it makes it easy to design a website that helps your business grow. And my step-by-step process allows you to see exactly what you need to do and when so that you can make your business fit your life instead of the other way around. Interested? Get in touch with me today to learn more about my services.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

How to Tailor Your Packages to Your Ideal Client

How to Tailor Your Packages to Your Ideal Client | Lemon and the Sea

When I started offering design services through Lemon and the Sea, I had no idea where to start. I would work for anyone who was willing to pay me (or would trade with me) and every time I would create a design proposal from scratch based on what my client said they needed. Some projects were great and I built close relationships with my clients, but others were draining and time consuming.

I would get on a call with a potential client and let them tell me what items they needed designed. And even when I knew that they needed something different or would be better served by starting somewhere else first, I took on the project. I didn't speak up as the expert to tell people what I knew would serve them best because I was afraid to lose their business.

Over time, I started to learn that I needed to be the expert in my own business - and that people who really wanted to work with me would listen to my recommendations (in fact, they craved them) - but it wasn't easy to transition away from that a la carte mindset. I had to really dig who I wanted to work with and how I could best serve them - and I had to let go of other potential clients that might come along.

Create packages people want to buy

If you're feeling stuck in an a la carte mindset where you're taking on every project that comes your way, it's time to create packages that will serve the people who want to work with and will attract your dream client.

Find your dream client

Of course, the first step to serving your dream client is figuring out exactly who that is. If you're lucky, you've already worked with a dream client and you can dig into what made them so dreamy. But if you haven't experienced that yet, it's okay too - just imagine your most ideal project and the person that allows you to do your best work.

In order to narrow in on how you can help your dream client (because that's what our goal is), ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your dream client?
  • How old is your dream client and where does she live?
  • What does she do for a living?
  • Where is she in her business and what are her goals?
  • What is she struggling with? Why would she hire you?
  • What is the next thing she wants to achieve? What will help her get there?
  • What problems can you help her solve?

Create a package that meets needs

Once you know who your dream client is and how you can serve her (or him), you need to create a package that meets her needs. This can be scary at first if you're used to tailoring each offering to what the client says she needs, but you're the expert here. Your client may not know the value she could gain from other services you offer - especially if she's trying to grow her business - so it's your job to create a package that meets her needs now and helps her reach those big goals she has for the future.

  • What services can you offer to meet your dream clients needs?
  • What services do you not want to offer?

Depending on the clients you serve and your industry, you may need to create packages that have a few levels of service, but be clear for each exactly what you'll include and how long it will take.

Demonstrate your expertise

In your business, you're the expert (even if you're still learning). You know who you serve and how you can help them, so you need to make that clear. Find your dream client's pain points and create packages that solve those problems.

  • What are your client's pain points? What is she struggling with?
  • What benefits will she get from working with you?
  • What are the actual deliverables that she'll get?
  • How will this help her meet her short-term and long-term goals?

If someone comes to your website, but doesn't know what it is that you offer, you're going to lose potential clients. Of course, you don't have to spell out every detail right away, but you do need to hit the highlights. For example, I work with creative entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses through branding and website design.

Stick to your guns

This can be the scariest part of creating packages because it means that you're no longer offering anything else. In order to work with you, a potential client needs to pick a package and stick with it. This means saying no sometimes. And it also means that you have to explain the benefits of your packaged services over hiring someone to do things one at a time.

Of course, once someone has already purchased your package and gone through it with them, you can keep working for them on your own terms - a la carte, retainer, or whatever works best for you.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

5 Tips for Being More Productive

5 Tips for Being More Productive | Lemon and the Sea: Five tips for staying productive as a small business owner, including my favorite tools.

Have you ever looked back at a long day of work and wondered why you didn't get anything done? I certainly have - there have been many times that I've thought I was being productive, but I was actually spending my time on things that weren't as important to my business.

As the creative director and only designer at Lemon and the Sea, I have a lot on my plate - and I'm sure you do to. That's why it's important to use your time in the best way possible. After all, time is one thing you can't make more of.

So how do you increase your productivity when you're trying to do it all? These are some tips I've learned during my time in business (and in architecture school before that - no all-nighters for me).

Find your ideal schedule

One of the most important things I did early in  my business was to find my most creative time of day. It may seem silly, but when you run your own business, you don't have to stick to a 9-to-5 schedule, so take advantage of that flexibility and schedule your work during the ideal time for you.

For me, that means that I do my creative work in the mornings from 8 or 9 am until lunch and then focus on administrative tasks and upkeep later in the day.

But if you're a night owl (or you have kids you need to watch during the day), working at night might make more sense for you.

Either way, don't feel tied to starting work at 8 am just because it's what everyone else does - find your ideal schedule and plan your day around it.

Create a long-term schedule

It's easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and feel like you're constantly putting out fires. But by planning long-term you can have a better idea of what you need to prioritize to reach your goals and serve your clients.

Take time each month to plan out all your longer term projects - including launches, marketing efforts, and blog posts. By having everything planned ahead of time, you'll know exactly what you need to accomplish to stay on track. Plus, planning out your blog posts will mean that you never have to rush to come up with an idea the night before you're supposed to hit publish.

In addition to monthly planning, make sure to plan out client projects as soon as someone books with you. I like to schedule out all of my steps and assign due dates so that I never fall behind and to ensure that I don't book too many projects at once.

By laying out a long-term schedule, you can see everything you want to accomplish (and what it will take to get there) at a glance without having to panic that you've forgotten something important. But make sure you allow some room for flexibility as well - your goals and dreams may change, and that's totally okay.

Make a daily to-do list

Once you have your long-term schedule laid out, you can focus on what you need to do each day. Take some time each morning to write out what you want to accomplish for the day, starting with the most important tasks first.

Then, work your way through your to-do list. I like to alternate behind my big to-do items and smaller things that I can take care of in just a few minutes (like checking my email). And if you finish everything early? Use the time to work ahead or take a break - it's one of the perks of being the boss.

Track your time

Have you ever found yourself clicking on to Facebook to check in only to look up two hours later and realize that you've wasted that time? I certainly have.

By tracking your time, you can learn where you're spending the most time and what you might need to schedule more tightly. Time tracking has lots of benefits:

  • You know how long a project takes you so that you can better price your services
  • You know what you're spending time on that could be outsourced (and how much money you're losing if you're doing it all yourself)
  • You can learn which tasks give you a bigger return on investment and which might need to be cut down
  • You have a good record of how much time each task takes as you plan long-term

Getting into the habit of tracking your time isn't easy (especially when you see how many hours you spend napping), but it is useful in the long run.

Pick your priorities

When you run your own business, you're the boss, which means that you get to pick what's most important to you. Make your business work for your life, not the other way around.

Want to spend the afternoon at your child's Mother's Day lunch? Go ahead!

Having a bad day and just want to watch Netflix and chill? You can!

Yes, you are responsible to your clients and to yourself, but there is room in your business to take care of the things that are most important to you.

Tools I love

So how do I put all these tips into practice? With a systems and tools that I've created over time. I've found what works for me and I'm always making adjustments as I go based on my work load, family, and how I'm feeling. These are some of the tools I use to keep everything running:

  • Harvest - for tracking my time
  • Insightly - for scheduling projects and client work
  • ConvertKit + Zapier - for creating auto-responders and making my email more managable
  • Bullet Journal - for tracking my daily tasks
  • Google Calendar - for tracking appointments and keeping everything in one place
  • Wall Calendar - for scheduling blog posts

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.

Staying Organized for Tax Time

Staying Organized for Tax Time | Lemon and the Sea: How I keep my small business organized and ready for tax time with practical tips. What I learned from my first year of business taxes and how I kept everything together for my accountant.

First, an important note: I'm not an accountant, nor do I want to be. I'm going to be sharing some accounting and organization tips that worked for me, but please get in touch with someone who can help your personal your accounting for your business.

Important Things First

When you start a business, there is a lot to do. But setting everything up correctly the first time will help later for tax purposes and make it easier to grow in the future. These are the things my accountant helped me set up when I first began my business:

  • Registered EIN: This is free through the Federal government and is basically a tax ID number that allows people to pay you and the government to track this. You will put this on your W-9 in place of your social security number.
  • Business entity: Lemon and the Sea is an LLC filing as an S-Corp. While I can't totally explain what that means, it was what my accountant and the lawyer he works with recommended for the type of business I have. This is all set up so that my business is registered federally and locally.
  • Business bank account: This one is super important, especially as an LLC. If the money earned in my business went into my personal account, I lose the protection that goes along with being an LLC. Besides, having a separate account allows you to more easily track business income and expenses without getting mixed up with your electric bill and Netflix plan.
  • Accounting software: This can be anything as long as you're organized. When I started my business, I did everything through Microsoft Excel and PayPal and it worked just fine. I'm now trying out Wave, which is free and (hopefully) means that I can do a little less manual entry.

Staying Organized

I'm naturally an organized person, so I didn't struggle too much with this for my business, but as business grows, it does get harder. I sit down at the beginning of each month (when I'm preparing my income reports) and go over my bank statements, billing, and receipts so that I'm caught up.

  • Keep all your receipts: This is really important for a business. You need to have a receipt for everything you purchase for your business (even if you pay for it on a personal credit card). Without receipts, you can't take deductions or use the expenses on your taxes. I keep all my receipts in my wallet until my credit card statement comes and then staple them to the statement after checking to make sure everything is correct. This way, I have everything organized by date and in one place.
  • Track billing and payments: Every time you send an invoice, you need a record of that so that you can match up the payment received. In the end your billed amount should equal the paid amount.
  • Categorizing expenses: This is something I'm still getting a handle on, but each purchase needs to be categorized. Some common categories include: office supplies, meals & entertainment, advertising, equipment, supplies & materials, travel, and other. You should know which expenses fit which category because the are listed differently on your taxes.
  • Reconcile each month: Each month, when you get your statement, you need to check it carefully to make sure that you have all the correct amounts for expenses and payments.
  • Reports: At the end of each year, you will need to create a Profit & Loss report as well as a Balance Sheet. To make sure these are going to be correct, I like to run them every month. That way, my job is easier come tax time.

And yes, I know that I'm a little weird here. I still do a lot on paper: I keep my bank statements and print each invoice and payment confirmation. This is probably going above and beyond as far as paperwork in the digital age, but it helps me stay organized and it's the way I worked in my previous job. The most important thing is to stay on top of your finances so that you know how your business is doing.

Get Some Help

If you're really struggling with staying organized, I recommend hiring a bookkeeper you trust. And if taxes are too complicated for you (or you just don't want to take the time to deal with them), hire a CPA to help. While you'll still need to be involved and know what's going on in your business, hiring professionals to help can really make your job easier and allow you to focus on what you do best.

And if you can't afford help right now? Check out financial blogs or search for tips on creating these reports. I recommend Melissa of Whaley Bookkeeping and Stephanie at Steadfast Bookkeeping for some great advice and really helpful blog posts.

**Again, I'm not an accountant or a lawyer, so please don't take this post as exactly what you should do. This is just what I've found that works for me.

Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family.   I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.