The First Three Years. The First Three Years. The First Three Years.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED RUNNING A SOLO DESIGN BUSINESS SO FAR

On February 14th, 2020, with a gut feeling and tingling anxiety, I set out on what would become the first three years of my solo design business. Through this journey, I've experienced plenty of humbling moments; walls of frustration and self-doubt; and a collection of small wins that have transformed me into a six-figure-earning solopreneur. Disillusioned with the fast-paced, hustle culture I had grown so accustomed to, I wanted to create a business that better aligned with my sense of self, my method of working, and my vision. It became clear to me that once I 'figured it out', I needed to share the roadmap. This industry is tough—It's competitive, at times all-consuming if you let it, and elusive if you don't know the right people. This 3-year review is my effort to provide even a sliver of transparency so that other creatives will see how possible it is to build a practice that truly aligns with your life.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED RUNNING A SOLO DESIGN BUSINESS SO FAR


On February 14th, 2020, with a gut feeling and tingling anxiety, I set out on what would become the first three years of my solo design business. Through this journey, I've experienced plenty of humbling moments; walls of frustration and self-doubt; and a collection of small wins that have transformed me into a six-figure-earning solopreneur. Disillusioned with the fast-paced, hustle culture I had grown so accustomed to, I wanted to create a business that better aligned with my sense of self, my method of working, and my vision. It became clear to me that once I 'figured it out', I needed to share the roadmap. This industry is tough—It's competitive, at times all-consuming if you let it, and elusive if you don't know the right people. This 3-year review is my effort to provide even a sliver of transparency so that other creatives will see how possible it is to build a practice that truly aligns with your life.



WHAT I'VE LEARNED RUNNING A SOLO DESIGN BUSINESS SO FAR

On February 14th, 2020, with a gut feeling and tingling anxiety, I set out on what would become the first three years of my solo design business. Through this journey, I've experienced plenty of humbling moments; walls of frustration and self-doubt; and a collection of small wins that have transformed me into a six-figure-earning solopreneur. Disillusioned with the fast-paced, hustle culture I had grown so accustomed to, I wanted to create a business that better aligned with my sense of self, my method of working, and my vision. It became clear to me that once I 'figured it out', I needed to share the roadmap. This industry is tough—It's competitive, at times all-consuming if you let it, and elusive if you don't know the right people. This 3-year review is my effort to provide even a sliver of transparency so that other creatives will see how possible it is to build a practice that truly aligns with your life.


WHAT I'VE LEARNED RUNNING A SOLO DESIGN BUSINESS SO FAR

On February 14th, 2020, with a gut feeling and tingling anxiety, I set out on what would become the first three years of my solo design business. Through this journey, I've experienced plenty of humbling moments; walls of frustration and self-doubt; and a collection of small wins that have transformed me into a six-figure-earning solopreneur. Disillusioned with the fast-paced, hustle culture I had grown so accustomed to, I wanted to create a business that better aligned with my sense of self, my method of working, and my vision. It became clear to me that once I 'figured it out', I needed to share the roadmap. This industry is tough—It's competitive, at times all-consuming if you let it, and elusive if you don't know the right people. This 3-year review is my effort to provide even a sliver of transparency so that other creatives will see how possible it is to build a practice that truly aligns with your life.

In three years, I have...

50

COMPLETED
50 PROJECTS,

16

ACROSS
16 INDUSTRIES,

1

EXPERIENCED
1 GLOBAL 
PANDEMIC,

Immeasurable

AND MADE COUNTLESS NEW FRIENDS &
COLLABORATORS ALONG THE WAY.

A Rough Timeline of Significant Events

2020

february
Studio Libby Connolly is born! Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I venture into the unknown. Behind the scenes, I'm reaching out to everyone under the sun I know to spread the news.
March
Clover Cannabis, my first passion project, makes its debut. And its a hit! Behind the scenes for the first month or so I was head down in a few passion projects. The projects I could show from previous full-time employment were limited and I knew I had to self-direct some of the projects I hoped to work on in the coming months. And...it worked! Clover Cannabis and Les Petits Amoureux are still referenced in new project inquiries today.
also MARCH
I sign on my first client—a small craft beer startup. Scope of work: Beer Can Design. Budget: $600.
July
I have my first record revenue month of $9,254. At this point, I've been contracting with a few agencies and studios, as well as a mix of some of my own clients. Things are starting to click. 
SEPTEMBER
Through some very effective IG marketing, I hear of and decide to join the Freelance Founders community. I've been a part of this community ever since and I cannot tell you how many people I have met—virtually and IRL—and the numerous resources it's aided me. Finding FF in the midst of a pandemic proved to be very pivotal. Through joining this community, my mindset shifted to 'I have a national community of like-minded creatives, and an equal opportunity to find work pretty much anywhere in the world.'
october
Work is steady. I'm contracting with a few agencies and studios with my newfound extended network of resources. I'm in a good flow and I get my first dream client inquiry. Ashlye and I start working together on Madfool. This is also the largest scope I've ever signed up until this point. Some mild imposter syndrome kicks in. 

2021

january
I sign on a few more new clients. With the confidence of having a year under my belt, I raise my rates. 
FEBRUARY
For personal reasons, and the added stress of living through a pandemic, I start seeing a therapist regularly for what will be the next year and a half. I attribute so much of this year's growth to this commitment to self. I learn what boundaries are, how to set them, how to clearly communicate my needs, and honor my 'no'. This is HUGE for me. Up until this point, I was more or less saying yes to every opportunity, work-related or personal, that came my way. While I'm grateful for it all, I was reaching a point where I no longer needed or wanted to operate from survival mode.
APRIL
I sign on another dream project. A limited run of Saisons for a local, reputable brewery and distillery. Scope of work: Packaging System for 5 Bottles. Budget: $3,500. Progress is slow. Confidence takes practice. I'm learning.
AUGUST
I start working with mindset coach, Sam Cartegena, and join the Ambition + Mischief community. I learn what it means to actually show up authentically, I feel supported by a group of equally committed and ambitious women, and my inner world does a complete 180. Together, we shift some longheld limiting beliefs and start to pull back all the layers that are no longer serving me. This inner work completely transforms what I thought was possible for myself. I owe so much to Sam and this community.
SEPTEMBER
I have my first 'Is this really happening?' moment of my career. This is it—the email I've been waiting for. I sign a contract to work with Apple. Not long into this contract, I realize this work is not at all aligned with me. At the time, I feel deeply conflicted, that I should be grateful. Everybody wants this opportunity. Deep down I know it's not a right fit for me. I decide to leave my contract and honor my needs. This is the beginning of another big shift for me that ultimately leads me to niche down and only say 'yes' to projects that align with me.
DECEMBER
I look back in amazement at this year. I've navigated so much and far exceeded my annual goals. Time to start planning for the year ahead.

2022

January
This was my first truly slow month. After the first two years of legwork building a client list and cold outreach, this was a much-needed pause. This month I learned a lot about myself: my anxiety around a constant cash flow, or lack thereof, and what it truly meant to be with myself instead of go-go-going all the time. This felt like a big shift for what was in store for the rest of the year.
MAY
I sign on my largest scope to date and get comfortable with a new level of imposter syndrome. Scope: Brand Identity & Packaging System. Budget: $31k. Progress is slow. Confidence takes practice. And I'm still learning.
JUNE
After months of planning, I hop on a plane to visit and work in Greece for the month. From Athens to Santorini to Mykonos to Thessaloniki to Meteora to Delphi to Athens. This was by far the best, and biggest, gift I had ever given myself. I vowed to do something like this every year for the foreseeable future.
AUGUST
Remember when I said January was a slow month? Well, August? Crickets. At this point I'm much more comfortabe in the stillness and truly understand the meaning behind 'peaks and valleys'. I take advantage of the warm weather—It's summer after all—and prepare for the next peak.
NOVEMBER
After some more careful planning, Studio Libby Connolly moves to Chicago! Everything is new and exciting. Somehow it's 70 degrees here in November? I'm in a good flow with work and ready ot make some new connections and plant seeds in my new city.
DECEMBER
Damn. What a year. In 2022 I received so much. And I owe it all to truly slowing down and being present. That meant not overbooking myself, turning down projects that on paper other people would kill for, honoring myself and my needs first, and getting comfortable being fully seen. This year was by far my most challenging and rewarding. The practice of raising my rates, charging my worth, and learning to truly embrace stillness to let things flow is downright uncomfortable work, but it was necessary. What used to seem daunting is now second nature. After three years of 'figuring it out', I know I still have so much to learn. The difference is now I welcome it with ease instead of panic out of uncertainty.

Project Breakdowns

By Industry

2

HOSPITALITY

4

CANNABIS

2

LIFESTYLE

1

FASHION

6

HEALTH & WELLNESS

8

PACKAGED GOODS

5

FOOD & BEVERAGE

2

BEAUTY

9

CREATIVE SERVICES

1

VENTURE CAPITAL

2

FURNITURE

2

FINANCE

3

HOME GOODS

1

CONSULTING

2

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

1

NONPROFIT

By Service

28

BRAND IDENTITY

6

PACKAGING

20

ART DIRECTION

6

WEB DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT

2

TYPEFACE DESIGN

3

EDITORIAL

2

ILLUSTRATION

1

PHOTO STYLING

By Budget

19

$0K - $5K

13

$5K - $10K

17

$10K - $30K

1

$30K - $50K

By Timeline

19

0 TO 2 MOS.

11

2 TO 4 MOS.

19

4 TO 6 MOS.

1

6+ MOS.

Growing Pains

I wanted to approach this section as holistically as possible. Because YoY Growth and Revenue don't reveal a whole lot about what is going on behind the scenes. So in addition to these transparent numbers, I share my biggest internal challenges, most impactful books, favorite experiences, etc. The last three years are meant to encapsulate the growth of a business and a life. These two things are deeply interwoven for me. Where I grow in one area leads me to grow in another. I find the two are rarely without each other.

Revenue

$73,460

2020

$120,033

2021

$138,646

2022

YoY Growth

9%

2020

My objective for year 1 was soley to see if I could match my previous income from my full-time job.

64%

2021

Year 2 truly took my breath away. I started to see how tangible this dream really was, and kept going.

15%

2022

With the foundation set, year 3 was about slowing down and getting selective with projects that truly aligned with me.

Projects

(Per Annum)

23

2020

16

2021

11

2022

Biggest Challenge

Building my network. Learning to scope and price projects.

2020

Saying no to projects that don't align with my values.

2021

Slowing down. Receiving. Providing high-value services.  

2022

Listening

(Top track)

ab6761610000e5eb727a2ac15afe659be999beba

Boss Bitch

BY DOJA CAT
2020



NAYANA-IZxCOLORS2_landscape-1

Partner In Crime

BY NAYANA IZ
2021



beyonce-renaissance_sq-44bf2e820ab82236e9b3615b90a551eb03bed143-s1100-c50

HEATED

BY BÉYONCE
2022

Reading

(Largest impact)

1200x600wz-1

Company of One

BY PAUL JARVIS
2020


1200x600wz

The Body Keeps the Score

BY BESSEL VAN DER KOLK
2021



1200x630wz

Rich Dad Poor Dad

BY ROBERT KIYOSAKI
2022

Visiting

(Favorite Place)


Monmoth

One Big Sustainable Island, Maine

SEPTEMBER 2020


Deer-Isle

Deer Isle, Maine

OCTOBER 2021


Santori

Santorini, Greece

JUNE 2022

Dining

(Favorite Dish)


Bolognese

Bon Appétit's Best Bolognese

2020


Leeward

Fried Squash Blossoms at Leeward

2021


Athens

5-Course Cooking Class at The Artist, Athens

2022

Favorite Project

Madfool

MADFOOL

2020


Godling

Godling

2021


Shmelkes

Shmelke's

(WORK IN PROGRESS)
2022

Feeling

(Favorite Experience)


Finding my flow when working with MADFOOL.

OCTOBER 2020

In awe at how much growth I experienced.

DECEMBER 2021

Finding true work/life balance in Greece.

JUNE 2022

Major Shifts

2022 was the year I started measuring business growth and redefining success. I started to prioritize my time off as much as my time on. I started tracking leads and nurturing relationships and stopped placing so much emphasis on external validation. This practice has been the biggest gift when it comes to sustaining a fulfilling life and profitable business. Understanding where work is coming from, what projects are most profitable, and what supports and drives me has revealed themes in my work and life that can, on some level, predict what's to come. 

Leads

11

WON

6

LOST

1

REFERRAL

3

WNW

4

EXISTING CLIENT

2

CLOSE
NETWORK

1

COLD INBOUND

Revenue

(Per Project)

$0
(Trade)

LOWEST



$44.5k

HIGHEST



$14.5k

AVERAGE



$20k

MODE

Recognition

0

AWARDS WON


0

AWARDS SUBMITTED FOR


1

ROUNDTABLE


1

INTERVIEW

Time Off

9

WEEKS

What's Next

These last three years have far exceeded my expectations. To look back and see tangibly how everything has unfolded has only given me more fuel to keep going and see what manifests in the next 3 years, the next 10 years, and beyond. 2023 will be another year set with intention and with that an entirely new set of challenges and lessons. Here's what I'm envisioning:

Ready to Scale,

WE WANT TO SOLVE BIGGER PROBLEMS.

With the foundation set, we're ready to tackle bigger design challenges, which means collaborating with other bright minds to bring visually captivating brands to life. Brands that evoke a feeling, a sense of wonder, brands that create a moment of pause, brands that make you slow down and take notice.

to Cocreate,

WE WANT TO COLLABORATE WITH:

ByGeorge Studio
Bérénice Golmann
Taylor Slyder & Connor Linde
Haruko Hayakawa
Kate Seaton
Carolyn Bothwell
Kyle Showen
Adam Danielson
Buena Serte

to Dream.

BRANDS WE'RE ITCHING TO BRING TO LIFE:
FOOD
Everything from Ramen Shops to Hot Sauce, Packaged Goods, Fine Dining Experiences

BEVERAGE
Spirits & Non-alcoholic, Coffee & Tea, Canned Cocktails & Cocktail Kits

BEAUTY
Perfume & Body Oil
Bespoke, Ethereal, Divine Feminine


CONSIDERED GOODS
High-end Candles, Home Goods,
Bespoke Furniture

ETHICAL FASHION
Jewelry, Clothing, Upcycled Fabrics, Vegan Leather

Sharing is caring.

I had no idea where this road would lead me, but I knew I had to pull the car over and walk down this unfamiliar path. What I've found along the way has helped me grow in skillset, business knowledge, and personal development ten times over. I've made countless friends and fostered community, and I've been fortunate enough to help others realize their long-held dreams, passions, and brilliant ideas. That, to me, is what this is all about.

NOW BOOKING FEBRUARY 2023 AND BEYOND —NOW BOOKING FEBRUARY 2023 AND BEYOND —NOW BOOKING FEBRUARY 2023 AND BEYOND —
STUDIO HOURS (CST)
Monday - Thursday:
11am - 6pm
FOR ALL INQUIRIES

hello@libbyconnolly.com

© Libby Connolly, Forever