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#93 – Design Business Trends, Challenges and Marketing Strategies with Gigi Davarashvili of One6Creative

This week I'm chatting with Gigi Davarashvili, founder behind One6Creative, a conversion-focused creative agency, host of the Create to Convert Podcast and founder of One6Creative Academy, where she empowers designers to become confident business owners.

We dive into Gigi's journey from the corporate world to becoming the founder of a successful creative agency. Gigi shares her story of taking risks, embracing freedom, and navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

If you’ve ever felt trapped in a corporate job or struggled with undercharging for your creative services, you won't want to miss this episode. Gigi's insights and experiences will inspire you to take charge of your career and create the business you’ve always dreamed of.

IN THIS EPISODE, GIGI AND I DIVE INTO:

  • The journey from corporate life to starting a creative agency
  • The importance of having a bulletproof contract
  • The challenges of scaling a business and managing a team
  • Finding your version of success in the design industry
  • The power of relationships and proactive marketing

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:

🎧 Listen to the episode now and leave a rating and review to let us know what you think!

Shannon Mattern (00:02.982)

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer podcast. I am so thrilled to get to chat with our guest today, Gigi Davarashvili of One6Creative. She has spoken at the Simply Profitable Designer Summit. We have been on a couple of panels together. And finally, we get to chat in person. I think I was on your podcast recently. You just wrapped up a summit. Like we've...

had so like there's so many things I want to talk to you about. But first, before I get too excited, can you share a little bit with our listeners more about you and what you do?

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (00:43.246)

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. It's true. We've been in each other's circles for so long and it's a pleasure to finally be here and exchange ideas and thoughts. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. My journey, I mean, I'm going to try and do this as quickly as possible, but my journey is a super self -taught journey. And I would say it's a journey of taking chances and risks. I...

used to work in corporate back in London. I was in marketing, then I became a brand executive. And a couple of years in, I was like, you know what, I don't think I really like this corporate world. I mean, I was working for, I wouldn't say minimum wage, but it was a minimum starting salary for what felt like a lot of...

responsibility and a lot of work. I just didn't enjoy it. And as like, as a student back at the university, I was sold on this idea of the corporate world and what the adult life is going to be like. As like, this doesn't really feel like what I want to do for the rest of my life. But then the question was, okay, well, what do you want to do for the rest of your life? And being a designer and freelancer was not part of the plan. My plan, and I'm quite emotional.

action taker, I kind of like, you know what, we're going to say yes, and then we're going to figure it out. My plan was to quit and give myself three months to decide on the next steps, decide on what do you want to do next. I've always been creative as a child, as a, you know, teen and then in my young adulthood, but I never really, I didn't study design.

I didn't study graphic design. I studied sociology and then neuro marketing and then business and entrepreneurship. So I'm like a entrepreneur at heart, not a designer, but I'm creative. I always love doodling and doing things like this. So eventually I, you know, the star is somehow aligned that I decided to try it out. My ex manager gave me a mini brand project for this new gig that she was starting.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (02:58.19)

And that's how it all began. I fell in love with it. Well, I'm probably lying. I did not fall in love with it straight away. Who, who does? I mean, my first projects were on Upwork where I thought I was finally doing it, but in reality I was paid now less than minimum wage for crazy amount of work. But I love the freedom and freedom is something so important for me. I'm not just talking about, you know, freedom doing whatever you want, but...

freedom of thought, freedom of creativity, freedom of life, freedom to just create your own life. This is one of my biggest motivator and probably the reason why I will never go back to corporate. I still toy around with the idea. I don't know if you have that, but once in a while I'll go on LinkedIn. And today actually I went on LinkedIn and I just looked at the jobs in my area. I now live in a very, very small town in Switzerland. I was like, this looks interesting.

But then suddenly I'm like, yeah, but five weeks of holidays and nine to five and not being able to take your daughter out of nursery early so you can go to the lake and eat pizza. No, like you're going to hate it. I know if you do that too.

Shannon Mattern (04:13.574)

I mean, everything that you just shared is why I have been delighted to get to know you and talk to you because I am driven by freedom and autonomy too. And I also have looked at job postings from time to time because at the beginning of, after I quit corporate in 2018, I was like, I'm never going back. And then you hit some.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (04:19.662)

You

Shannon Mattern (04:40.23)

Every, I mean, I hit some challenging times in business where I felt like it might be easier to go work for someone else than what I'm going through now. It just like that might solve all of my problems, quote unquote problems. And then you look and just like you, you're like, man, this trade -off is not worth it. I would take solving the problem that I'm in now and having that feel bad and the pride of getting through that and like,

and also the ability to share with other people how I got through it and giving back. I would take that all day than having someone else tell me where to be when and what to wear. And I just can't with that. I can't do it.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (05:28.078)

yeah, absolutely. And I've had my fair, fair share of challenges. I mean, every single month, you know, you face something of different magnitude that makes me question all of my decisions. And then I go and cry to my husband because things are shit and I've chosen the right path. And what am I doing? Like, look at everyone around us. They're so, you know, they're on their career path and they're doing so well. And here I am.

having the same problems all over again, because this is what entrepreneurship is, it up and downs. And you kind of, you know, with time you get used to it, but it's, I don't think it actually gets easier. Your challenges, like they evolve. I feel like the problems that I was facing at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey now feel so small and simple, but back then it felt like just the end of the world. my God, I got bad feedback from a client.

I should shut this whole thing down. And I was like, okay, how do you want to solve this? You know, your kind of your problems, they don't just disappear as you become more, more experienced business owner, they just change as different challenges that you will learn to face as well. And then a couple of years, they're also going to feel super easy and simple.

Shannon Mattern (06:46.982)

Yeah, so what is a challenge that you're most proud of overcoming and getting through?

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (06:54.222)

good one. I have this story. I've shared a couple of times of a, I think depending on, you know, where your listeners are at, one big lesson that I've learned is getting a bulletproof contract. I mean, this is probably me in year two or three. I'm going to name two. This one, this is the first one. I was probably in year two or three and...

I honestly, I just didn't know any better. I thought I could go online and get a couple of contracts together, like free templates. I called it my Frankenstein contract and it's going to be good enough. Let me tell you, you do not want to have a good enough contract. If you feel like your contract is good enough, it probably means you need to have another look. But back then investing, I can't remember exactly how much I paid, but I think it was about 1500 probably dollars, felt like a lot.

for a contract. I was like, hey, you've been doing this for two years with your little Frankenstein contract, you'll be fine. But it only takes one bad client to really, really change your entire outlook on how you're doing things. And surprisingly, or maybe not so much, this was a big global client that I got so excited of landing. This was a huge deal for me.

I thought this was going to be the pivotal moment of my career and it was just not in the way that I envisioned it. And I worked with them for two months and they just refused to pay. They were just, well, we're not going to pay you. You did not actually fulfill your contractual obligations, which I did, but they literally told me that you have so many loopholes in your contracts. We can take you down.

And they could, they could because in fact, once I got my lawyer friend to look at my contract, she did tell me like, yeah, this is not tight enough. You need to change it for you with your next client. I ended up losing about $10 ,000 and a lot, a lot of sleepless nights for a small, like small business. And especially as a woman, I felt very small.

Shannon Mattern (09:10.342)

Mm -hmm.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (09:13.39)

I felt very used and I felt like I didn't have the skin to be in this game. But actually I came out stronger. You know, the first thing I did is invest in some contracts and now my contracts are bulletproof. I have a contract for everything and it's not only to protect my bottom, but also my clients. So we have this common agreement of what we're doing here so we can have a respected relationship based on a common understanding.

I had a client once, a potential lead who told me that, your contract is very strict. I was like, thanks, that's the best compliments you can tell you can give me. And actually because of my bulletproof contract, we didn't end up working together, which was a red flag I was really glad to avoid.

Shannon Mattern (10:00.166)

I mean, I think that the thing that jumped out at me the most from that is like, we go into these situations expecting people to be just as honest and forthright and collaborative and have all of their skin in the game as much as we do as the designer, where it would never occur to you to not follow through on your end of...

the deal. So like you said, this contract's good enough. And the fact, I mean, it is appalling that they did not follow through. But what you shared about like, feeling like you being a woman in this business and feeling like taken advantage of and like, and just how it made you feel small. I have so been there. And I know our listeners have too. And I think that that's just,

That's one of the reasons why I like, I'm so very intentional about building relationships with other women in the design space so that we can talk about these things and be able to have these conversations because I know that there are other people out there listening who have had something like that happen where they felt like diminished or less than or something and maybe feel like.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (11:12.846)

Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (11:28.934)

that they're the only one that that's ever happened to. So I really appreciate you sharing that so that, you know, at least people feel a little bit less alone. And also you're like, I got through it and I got my con, like, I'm never gonna let anybody do that to me again.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (11:40.206)

absolutely.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (11:47.374)

Yeah, don't get me wrong. I cried for weeks probably over this. And the whole process was very long because we tried to negotiate it down. I got my lawyer friend to write, to draft letters for me. It was a scary process. Threatening to take someone to court only for them to laugh at you and be like, yeah, you try little business owner, whatever you're pretending to be. We're going to crush you because they are a...

Shannon Mattern (11:50.086)

Mm -hmm.

Shannon Mattern (12:02.022)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (12:15.022)

As mentioned, they're global brands that had the money, $10 ,000 for that was nothing. Considering what we were working on, I knew it was really nothing. It was more out of, I don't even know, I can't explain it because I don't understand it. I've held multiple situations where...

Shannon Mattern (12:17.094)

Mm -hmm.

Shannon Mattern (12:21.446)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (12:32.782)

clients would refuse to pay or they would try to negotiate something down. And my, you know, the way I think about it is like, you would never accept this kind of behavior if somebody was doing it to you. So why would you do that to someone else? Why wouldn't you respect someone that you hired? And if you do have an issue, I mean, don't get me wrong. I, there were times when I was wrong in a project and you know, I would screw something up. We're human here. Like it's, it happens. It's normal.

But communicate, if there's something you don't like, tell me about it. I'm here to communicate and make it work because we have a common goal. I want you to succeed as me being your brand partner. And I always use the term brand partner when I work with my clients, that I'm here to be your partner on this project. We're here to work on this together. We have a common goal. We want you to succeed. So let's work on that.

It's okay if you disagree on some things, that's fine, but communication is a huge thing. And if you're making mistakes, whether you're the client or designer, you have to communicate that. I was telling you how just before we hit record, how I fired my tech VA because I was a really bad client because I wasn't actually communicating what I needed properly. And to be honest, in this case, I feel like she fired me, but I was the one just...

ending the contract because she was probably like, thank God we're not working together anymore. So, and that's okay. Yeah. But I'm glad we having these conversations because they are, they are important. There was a second lesson I wanted to mention that I think would be relevant for designers who may be a little bit further along on their journey. And that's a big lesson I learned kind of probably in the middle of my, of my journey when things were going.

so fantastically well. I was really probably at my kind of, I wouldn't say my peak growth, but the highest ascent, you know, like things were going so fast. I partnered with a PR agency in London who was bringing me major clients. I mean, brands that I never probably will have the chance to work with on my own and things were just going so well.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (14:52.078)

I hired, that's when I was like, okay, we need to expand, we need to grow and scale. This is it, Gigi. This is your big growth moment when you scaling into an agency. And it all went just crushing down. My thinking was that growth needs to be linear, you know? And back then I was thinking that growth meant more money, a bigger team, a bigger office.

So what did I do? I was like, I'm now too big to work from my home office. I now need a proper big girl office. So I found a space in central London where I could come and work for my little office. And I was like, this feels a little empty. I need to grow my team because I can, because I have all of these retainer clients. Back then I was on a retainer model in my business. It's like, we can totally afford this. Let me outsource.

Suddenly I had one person working full -time and I went through the whole hiring process in person. I was like, man, you're wearing your big girl pants. Like, look at you doing all the things. I had two people on my team who were part -time, who were outside of the UK. I was building an agency in my, you know, in my head because I felt this is what growth was like. And this, when the big lesson came in.

I did not have the leadership skills and the managerial skills to run this little, but still a beast in my eyes. And to this day, I still, I think I'm a great mentor. I'm great at teaching. I'm great at sharing my value. I'm not a great manager and I didn't want to manage, but I had this idea that I can only grow and succeed.

quote unquote, if I scale vertically, if I scale in a linear manner, right? So more money, bigger team, bigger office. And then I found, when all of this came crashing down and was a whole drama, so, so much drama, so many tears were shed. But then I found the book Company of One and it's this whole idea that...

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (17:10.094)

You can be a successful company of one and growth does not mean you need more. Growth can be making more time for yourself outside of work. Growth can be setting yourself a financial goal. I'm just going to throw a number here, 250K and knowing that this is enough for me to live the life that I want. Growth means optimizing your processes and systems to automate your business.

and give you more time to do things you enjoy outside work, to spend time with family, to travel, to have hobbies, to actually enjoy weekends and holidays and just work towards whatever financial goal you have and you don't have to work for more. And for me, this was an eye opener. For me, this like, this is what I want. I don't want the team. I don't want an agency.

I want a company of one that allows me to fulfill my dreams and follow that freedom. Going back to the, you know, what we talked about at the beginning of this episode, let, allow me to live the life I want outside of work and not work my ass off and wait for that moment when I can finally start living.

Shannon Mattern (18:25.222)

Okay, everything that you just shared, I'm like, did we follow like a similar trajectory, but like on a completely different plane? Because I wasn't running, I stopped working with web design clients in 2019 to exclusively coach web designers. But I followed that same thing in terms of in order for me to grow this business of coaching web designers, I need to.

grow a team and I kept trying to fill the same role in different ways over and over and over the past. I mean, I don't know 2019 all the way up until like October of last year. And it was, it was like, okay, so I'm, I'm hiring a full -time well, it was like a full -time contract and then a full -time employee. And like those people were incredible. They were amazing. However,

I was not ready mentally, emotionally to really be the leader in the way that was going to be successful for them. I had a hard time delegating and communicating because of like, I don't want to burden them with this. And I don't even really know how I want it done. So I'm going to get it all done and hand it over. And one of my employees was like,

She was like, can we have a conversation? And she's like, because I feel like I'm not doing a good job. She was like, you're doing my work before I can get to it. You're not, I feel like there's more that you could be giving me based on the role. And I was like smothering her because I couldn't, I had this, miss.

guided thing where like, their employees, my employees, now I'm responsible for them. I have to take care of them and I have to make sure that like, everything is okay. Well, in putting all of that pressure on myself, then you take your eye off the ball of the things that are really going to drive business forward and our sales suffered. You know, there were many, many factors, but that was definitely a contributing factor. And then,

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (20:25.678)

Mm -hmm.

Shannon Mattern (20:46.854)

you know, getting to the point where you're like, I can no longer pay this team member. It's either me or them. Like that's a tough place to arrive. And it was all driven by the exact same thing that you said you were driven by as like, okay, scaling means this, you know? And I trapped myself.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (20:54.702)

Absolutely.

Shannon Mattern (21:13.254)

Even more than I wasn't felt in my corporate job by how I had structured my business. And it was a.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (21:21.742)

And suddenly you fall out of love with it, right? Suddenly you lose that vision that you had and that's why, why you started in the first place. At least it wasn't for me. But I will say it's not to say that, you know, the agency model is bad or whatever. Like if that is your vision, go for it. If that is your vision, then figure out how you're going to make it happen. What skills you need to make it happen. Start learning about that because for me,

Shannon Mattern (21:30.566)

Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (21:36.998)

Correct. Yes.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (21:50.638)

I tried it and I was trying to follow that vision because that's what I believed I had to do to realize that I really don't like it. And suddenly I had the same gut feeling as I had when I was sitting in my corporate job. And I was like, I'm back at it again after years trying to escape it. I'm back at it again. I hate this. And I stripped it all back and realized, you know, that was the lesson. I was like, okay, so what does success mean for you?

Shannon Mattern (21:57.382)

Mm -hmm.

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (22:20.494)

And I think every single business owner needs to ask themselves, what does success mean for me? Because especially when we look at, you know, social media and the whole highlight reel of how everybody seems to be doing so much better than you. Everybody's launching courses and landing 10K projects and, you know, working from Bali or whatever. And it feels like everybody's doing so many amazing things, but that's because they're following their own.

version of success, they're doing whatever they want, or they see as growth and success. Maybe that doesn't align with you. I mean, I know that Bali looks awesome, but I don't see myself living there and working from there. That doesn't align with my personal value. Good for you for creating this life. It's awesome. But I'm not going to compare myself to you because this is not what I want. However, when I see or when I see someone, you know, having

Shannon Mattern (22:50.278)

Mm -hmm.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (23:15.534)

I don't know, in -person events with thousands of people. I mean, I'm sweating just looking at it because I know I will be standing on this stage shitting myself because I'm so introverted. I would love to be able to run in -person events, but I'm very introverted in real life. However, I just wrapped up a summit with three and a half thousand people, a virtual summit, and I felt so at ease because I knew I'm going to close this laptop and nobody's ever going to see me again. If I'm wearing underwear,

Under the table, nobody's ever gonna know, right? So find what the success and growth look like for you and do those things, the ones that fire you up and the ones that make you happy. This is why you decided to do this crazy entrepreneurial thing in the first place.

Shannon Mattern (24:02.95)

I love it. And so in your journey, like you also work with other designers and you support and mentor them. When in your journey did that really start for you?

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (24:17.674)

that was the pandemic. The pandemic was a huge eye opener. My background is in marketing and sales and business. Like that's, that's my skillset, right? I'm a self -taught designer. I say that I'm the graduate of YouTube university. I learned everything I know from watching the future and Michael Janda and you know, like basically just absorbing all the information I can. It took me, I think.

Shannon Mattern (24:20.358)

Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (24:34.47)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (24:46.35)

two and a half years to buy my first course. The first two and a half years, I was just learning everything for free as much as I can. So I'm completely self -taught designer, but I am a marketer at heart. And I consider myself a pretty good business owner, despite the challenges that I faced. So when 2020, was it 2020, 2021, 2020, right? When pandemic hit. And I mean, I don't know how it was for you, but my clients just got scared.

I had so many projects lined up and one after the other, they started pulling out. They're like, listen, we don't know, there might not be a tomorrow. Remember we were sitting there, like refreshing this site where you could see all the stats on the page, right? Just sitting there, manic, like refreshing this page, seeing like, okay, how many people in my area and stuff. And suddenly I had no clients. I was like, well.

This sucks. What's next? What are we going to do? And back then I already had one or two designers who I wasn't really officially mentoring them, but it was just, you know, we had like virtual coffee chats. I was very free with my, very generous with my value and my time. And I was just like sharing what I know from a business perspective, because I don't consider me myself being the best designer. I think there are so many more talented designers out there.

But I do consider myself a pretty good business owner and pretty good at sales and marketing. So I was sharing this advice with them and that's when it hit me. I was like, hold up. Designers, especially freelancers, a lot of creators, they're getting laid off. There were so many layoffs during that period, which means that we're going to have a huge amount of new designers, experienced designers who spend years in agency on the market with amazing talents.

and amazing design skills, but pretty low experience in terms of running a design business. That's when I decided to create my first course. And it was such a funny experience because I created a free challenge first and got a crazy amount. My audience back then was not designers, it was clients, right? But suddenly I have this challenge with 600 people in it.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (27:11.79)

And it was a free challenge. I just did it for shits and giggles. And I'm sorry, I don't know if I can say all of these expressions on the podcast. Pee -poo if you need it. I just did it to see like, do people want to learn from me? Do people want to listen to me? And damn, they did. And so it was like a four day challenge. On the last day, people were like, what's next? And I remember telling my husband like, what is next? I don't have any, I don't have any products.

Shannon Mattern (27:19.846)

You're good.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (27:41.326)

Like, what do I do? I don't have any offers. So I created a beta course where I literally said, listen, I have this vision. I have this idea. I can give you all of these amazing, like I can give you all the knowledge I know about business and marketing and sales, but I don't have it yet. So if you're in, like this is going to be super low cost. I've sold it for $350 back then. It's going to be a founding price. If you want to learn with me, jump in.

If not, that's cool. Six weeks, 72 designers said yes, which was insane for me, for people to just believe in something that wasn't even created and was creating this course with them. And that's how it kind of started. But, you know, 2020, 2021, that was the era of courses, right? Like that was the time to jump on it.

Things have definitely changed and evolved since then, and I'm seeing challenges there as well. But with time, I started taking more people under my wing as one -on -one mentoring and kind of guiding them and supporting them long -term on their journey. I still have my program. I'm launching a new offer specifically for marketing, like marketing related for designers later this year.

which is probably going to be more on a membership basis. But that space has changed so much and you really need to be in tune with what do people need. Because what I realized, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, because I know you have your own program, is that selling big promise programs is way harder than it used to be. People are looking for micro offers that solve a micro problem.

but kind of like almost a guaranteed solution that will help them out. What's been your experience?

Shannon Mattern (29:38.758)

Yeah, so our program is like a bigger program, right? Where we like work with people for an entire year on their business. And exactly what you're saying is like, it is taking the time for someone to make a decision from once they hear of us to have the trust in us, the trust in themselves, the trust in the market.

to decide to work with us is a longer and longer and longer than it's been, which we've been at this for a long time and we've been nurturing our audience for a long time. So it's okay. It's definitely not the days of yore of 2020 and 2021. I was just talking about this on my, I do an income report every month on the podcast where I'm like, here's how much money the business made. Here's how much we spent. Here's what happened. Like,

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (30:27.342)

Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (30:37.766)

just because I like to share, even though I'm not running a web design agency or business, I'm like, it's still the same, right? The things I do to get clients, how I deal with challenges, all of those things. And so yeah, I think your inclination there is spot on that it is a longer decision timeline and a different level of commitment.

than 2020 and 2021 where people are like, I need this to be a sure thing if I'm going to go all in. And it's just like, you know, so it's more attractive to have a micro commitment and a micro solution so that they don't have to feel so vulnerable or like they're taking such a big risk. I think that that's, that's, that's what I'm experiencing.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (31:33.838)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (31:37.23)

But I think it's not only in our industry and it's not only people like people buying courses. It's not only in the info products industry. It's also in the service based industry. And, you know, I'm looking at how clients are making decisions because I still work with clients. I am.

Shannon Mattern (31:40.742)

for sure.

Shannon Mattern (31:48.838)

Mm -hmm.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (31:54.99)

That's like a constant debate. Do I drop client work or not? I feel very passionate about working with clients and this is where I fuel my creativity. And I also like staying in tune with what is happening in the industry. How are people making decisions? How is consumer behavior changing? Being in tune with the latest design trends and sales strategies. But that's, that's for me, you know, I still have my foot in there, although several.

Shannon Mattern (31:57.126)

laughs

Shannon Mattern (32:04.902)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (32:23.31)

mentors, so to speak, were like, maybe it's time to drop it. I'm like, it's scary. You know, it's scary because it's still a revenue driven. But what I would say is, you know, clients are also taking longer to decide. Clients are also more careful because, you know, there's also so much more choice, not only choice of talented designers, but also technologies that are popping up, right?

Shannon Mattern (32:36.422)

Yep.

Shannon Mattern (32:42.95)

Mm -hmm.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (32:49.806)

DIYers are kind of like, there is new things we can play with. So why would I invest in a designer? So I'm definitely seeing it from both sides. I'm seeing it from the digital product side, but I'm also seeing changes in consumer behavior and buying behavior from the client side. Not to say that people are not spending money. Like that's something I've always kind of believed in is that your...

Your sales funnel is directly, it's a direct reflection of your marketing and sales efforts. I know it sounds super harsh, like some people do not want to hear it because they feel like, I'm going to blame all the external factors, like the economy and AI and all the other things happening. But I'm always like, okay, but what are you doing? Are you posting on Instagram in the hopes that somebody's going to notice?

and come running to you and be like, my God, you're a designer designer. I've always dreamt working with, or are you doing the hard work, the quote unquote knocking on the doors and making connections and talking to people because this is still how you make sales. And I think it's always going to be how you, well, expand your network and grow your exposure and land potential leads.

But that's a whole rant that we can get into if you want.

Shannon Mattern (34:20.966)

for sure. I mean, we were talking just before we hit record about, you know, just relationships. And when you want to make a connection with a person, you know, going, you said 10 handshakes away, I kind of like, I think of it as six degrees of Kevin Bacon or six degrees of separation, whatever, you know, it's like, you.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (34:41.774)

Mm -hmm. Right.

Shannon Mattern (34:47.526)

And I know it's counterintuitive for designers or those of us who are like, okay, but my job is to work with a client and build an online presence and come up with a strategy that helps them, you know, attract people to their website and convert and all of this stuff. So it's counterintuitive to them to think, but I have to like just go meet one person and talk to them. And I can't just like have my website and social media do all of this.

work for me and it's, it's just. So what are your thoughts on that?

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (35:23.854)

Well, so here are my thoughts. My thoughts are, man, running a business, it's a shit ton of work. So let's just acknowledge this. It's hard work, but hey, you're doing it. To those who are listening to us, you're doing it. But listening to this conversation, this is just the outline. If you're gonna listen to this and they're gonna be like, yeah, great stuff, girls.

Shannon Mattern (35:31.238)

Yes. Yes.

Shannon Mattern (35:46.694)

Yeah.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (35:50.67)

And continue doing nothing, nothing's going to change. This episode is not going to change your life. However, I will tell you this. I do believe that your website and your social media are an important part of your marketing strategy. Absolutely. They are, especially right now where people are taking longer to make decisions. They are going to check you out and research you like above and beyond.

Shannon Mattern (35:54.15)

Yes.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (36:18.478)

So if your website is crap and your social media is non -existent or not a reflection of who you are and what you do and the quality of work that you deliver, that's going to impact your sales or your marketing is going to impact, is going to make a difference for someone who, you know, maybe they heard your name on a podcast or maybe they saw you on a summit or maybe they were referred to you by someone else.

They will check your website and they will already have an expectation in their head, right? They will have that first impression. It's like, Shannon is awesome. I mean, her past client raved about her and I can't wait to learn more about her and not in your case. I'm just using your name as an example, Shannon, but then suddenly they're going to go on your website and I don't know, it's outdated or it's broken or it's a, Hey, where you're coming back soon. That's been there for two years because let's, that's.

be honest, we never have time to work on our website. I get it. But suddenly that first impression that they had of you in their head is destroyed. And it's going to impact whether or not they're going to reach out. Some of them will, but some of them are going to be like, don't know. I don't have a good feeling. I'm going to go and search for someone else. I'm going to try and reach out to three more people who do match the expectation and the impression that they had. So I do believe that you're...

online presence is incredibly important. It doesn't mean that you have to be super active on social, but when I go on your social media account, I need to get like, I need to see your personal brand on there. I need to see who you are. But that's in my opinion, unless you put a lot of work in your content creation, a lot of work in SEO, unless you are specifically working with, you know, local clients and that way you can really target them.

with search engine optimization. Like that's, I think that in that case, yes, okay, maybe you don't go knocking on your door. Although if you're targeting local clients, please go and knock on some doors actually physically. But if you don't do that, then you need to do the hard work, which is building relationships, building relationships that are not transactional, that don't have any expectations, building relationships that will have a long -term results.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (38:40.206)

You're not going to go on a conference, talk to three people and expect to, for all three of them to become a client. You know, that's not how it works. However, you may go to a conference, talk to three, four or five people, maybe invite them for a virtual coffee. Maybe they don't need your services, but they know of someone who does. That's how business works. It's all relationship -based. It's not transactional. It's not about immediate conversion. Service -based businesses.

You have to be in it for the long term and have a long game mindset to be able to succeed. Otherwise it's really tough.

Shannon Mattern (39:19.398)

I love everything that you just said. This is the only marketing strategy that we teach inside of the Web Designer Academy in terms of how do you get clients in terms of proactive marketing strategy. We're constantly teaching you how to nurture the people that you know, how to reach out, how to add value to them, how to...

be proactive in connecting them with other people and not just always be asking. And like you said, just going out and knocking on doors and meeting new people, building relationships. And if you do it from a place of adding value and not trying to get something, it just is so much more fun. If you do it from a place of curiosity,

Like I would just love to get to know this person better. That's why I love having a podcast because I'm just like, I would just love to get to know this person better. And who knows what's going to come of us having like building a relationship over being on each other's podcasts and you know, like coming on the summit and all of the things it's like, who knows? Like awesome things are going to come from it because we know each other and we're aligned and we know like that.

This is the kind of person that I want to support. And so it doesn't have to feel like icky and sleazy. If you know you're out there, like you have something to offer that's valuable and you get to talk to people about it. So I think it's my favorite thing to do way to market is building relationships.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (40:54.862)

I remember on...

Absolutely. And I remember on your summit, you had a panel about how to get clients and we had a panel on the Creative Future Summit just now. I didn't attend your panel. So I don't know what advice was given there, but maybe you can share. But on the panel that I had, I had some really big players in the industry. I had Michael Janda on the panel.

Shannon Mattern (41:05.83)

Mm -hmm.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (41:22.062)

Jacob Cass was part of your summit as well. CJ Collie, who's booming in the industry right now and such an amazing content creator. Had Jasmine Hytelani, like they were some pretty successful design experts in the industry. And my final question for the panel was, okay, so here's the situation. You have zero clients, like no leads, nothing. What are your actions?

What are you going to do? Every single one. And that's considering that, you know, I mean, Mike has like so many years of experience, right? He's built and sold agency. CJ has, I don't know, now actually today he hit like 400 ,000 followers. Jacob designed the San Francisco logo. I mean, you know, Jasmine has been doing some amazing rebrands for clients. Like these are designers who do

Like they've been in it for a long time and they've experienced all the things. Every single one of them said, reach out to your personal circle. Every single one of them, reach out to your personal circle. Tell them, ask them, hey, do you know someone? Can I help? How can I help? Or do you know someone I could help? Again, it's all about relationships. It's not about, man, I need to make a real.

that will go viral. How am I going to make a viral reel? Or it's not about making a, you know, creating a post about, Hey, here's my availability for July. Anybody wants to book? I mean, not that these type of, you know, these content pieces don't have a place to be. They do. But if you're in a situation listening to right now where you're like, man, my sales funnel is dry. Like it's not getting enough oil. How can I, you know, get a bit of fire into this machine?

How can I get more leads? Ask yourself, are you talking to people or are you expecting people to come to you? If it's the latter, then it's time to change that. It's time to actually talk to some people. Reach out to your personal circle, make a post on your personal accounts and say, Hey guys, like I, this is what I do. Do you know of anyone? Or maybe I can help you. It took me, like when I was starting out, my first, the first thing I've done is sign up for Upwork.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (43:48.654)

That's where I got my first projects, right? Because I was so embarrassed to start from zero. I was so embarrassed, like looking at my circle of friends who were all in consulting and banking and who seemed to like really do the adult thing. Suddenly I was starting from zero and it was really hard to accept it. I was embarrassed. So I went on Upwork and on Fiverr trying to find some projects and I didn't want to admit to anyone that I was doing it.

And it was probably three or four months in when I was like, man, upwork sucks and I'm not getting any money out of it. It's time to reach out to my personal circle. I made one post on Instagram. I still have a screenshots. sorry. On Facebook, on my personal Facebook account, still have a screenshot somewhere that said, Hey guys, I quit my job and now I'm trying this thing, designing logos. If you need any design help, hit me up. This was the message.

And a friend of mine reached out, said, Hey, we're actually launching a restaurant and really need a designer. This friend referred me to my second client, then to my third client. And suddenly it was working with people who don't know me, who are not in my direct circle. And it all came from this one message. So don't be afraid of just asking, just asking, just reaching out saying, Hey, is there anything I can help you? Or do you know of anyone I can help you?

Shannon Mattern (45:12.966)

my gosh, I could talk to you about this forever. I know it's getting late where you are and we haven't even scratched the surface of AI and all of the other things. I want to invite you back on the show so we can have another conversation about that in the future because you mentioned your Creative Future Summit. I know it is like a hot topic and there's lots of opinions on both sides of designers and AI.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (45:17.806)

I know. I'll have to come back.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (45:39.79)

Hmm.

Shannon Mattern (45:42.502)

So I wanna give that conversation like the appropriate amount of time to have that. But can you share with our listeners more about how they can connect with you, learn from you, get resources from you, like be mentored by you, where can they go to get in your world?

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (46:02.094)

I appreciate that. And I don't think you can see me, but I, like my cheeks are so red because I get so hyped up talking about this. Like, Ooh, I'm going to have to get some herbal tea to calm down before bed because it's 10 PM here in Switzerland. but thank you so much. This was super fun for, if you're interested in connecting with me, I would say the best place is Instagram for more of the...

Shannon Mattern (46:14.526)

I'm sorry.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (46:26.958)

behind the scenes on my stories and then some valuable content on my feed. And the real juice is on my email list. So I don't know if there will be a chance to put a link to send up to the email list in the show notes. You can find it there. I am planning on relaunching my program later this year and a membership around marketing as well as a summit around marketing, but it's all in the works now. So nothing really exciting to share just yet.

Shannon Mattern (46:37.35)

Yes.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (46:56.142)

I would say get on that email list. This is where I share all of the good stuff, all the micro lessons around business and marketing for creatives, sales strategies, and also just talking about the challenges and lessons that I learned along the way. I'm super transparent. If you didn't get that from this interview, I am all about sharing the up and downs because I feel like we don't talk a lot about the downs. And that's one of the reasons why I love your income reports.

for that level of transparency, Shannon, because not a lot of creatives do that. So thank you for creating this content. I know that it's probably hard on you as well, especially as we step into this expert and mentor role. It's sometimes hard to just say out loud that, okay, this didn't really work out and I had to pay financially for this and this sucked. But hey, that's what business is about. We're all here.

to learn. I'm not saying I know everything. Definitely make a lot of mistakes. I could give you three pages of mistakes I've made while planning my summits. That's fine. It's cool. We carry forward. We carry on.

Shannon Mattern (48:05.126)

Well, I really appreciate you saying that because, you know, it's a selfish act for me sometimes to do those income reports because I need to process and reflect what happened and integrate the lessons and really, really look at it and intentionally look at it. And if not for committing to publish an income report on my podcast every single week,

could sweep those tough lessons right on under the rug and just move move along. So it really helps me but I hear from other people that it really helps them and so it does make it a little bit easier to share the lows when I know it's not it's it's helping other people. So I really appreciate you saying that. I will link up your email list and your Instagram and all the things in the show notes everyone go get in Gigi's world you are gonna learn so much.

especially just about how to be yourself to connect with other people and get clients. And it's just so much easier when you feel like you can just be you and still have create the business and the life that you want. You're like the epitome of that. I'm so glad to know you and thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Yevgeniya (Gigi) Davarashvili (49:17.134)

Thank you.

Thank you. This was super, super fun and I look forward to our next conversations.

ABOUT YOUR HOST, SHANNON MATTERN

I help ambitious women web designers reclaim their time, book web design projects they love, and make more as a freelance web designer than they ever thought possible.

I created the Web Designer Academy to give you everything I wished I would have had when I started freelancing:  step-by-step processes and fill-in-the-blank templates for your messaging, marketing, packages, consultations, sales and project management combined with next-level support so that you have everything you need to create a consistently profitable web design business doing work you love for clients you love.