how to master the 3 essential steps so you can book dreamy clients!
Hi, I'm Marisa, founder of Quill & Co. We work with doers and go-getters ready to do something truly ambitious so that they can stand out and find brand clarity.
Designers have lots of different avenues they can go. Becoming entrepreneurs, freelancers, contracted work, white labeling, agency work, and so on. But what is a good fit for you in your business? In this week’s episode, I sit down and chat with Lizzy Colombo. She started as a white label freelancer and is now the owner and lead designer of White Point Creative, a boutique creative agency that specializes in brag-worthy brand identities and custom Showit websites for lifestyle brands and wellness entrepreneurs. We talk about why white labeling could be a good fit for you, how it can save you years of work when you’re starting, and how she learned the important lessons to speak up, just ask, and to just go for it.
It can get confusing the difference between white label design and freelancing. Lizzy explains it as freelancing is where you take on your own identity, present yourself and your services to a client, and work as yourself for a short amount of time for your own projects. White labeling is a type of freelancing. Where you work for another company, take on their identity and ideas, and work for one of their clients.
Lizzy says that freelancing is good for any type of creative job. Whether you are a copywriter, graphic designer, UX/UI designer, or any creative field where you may want to start working on your skill set, building up your portfolio, building relationships, and don’t enjoy part of the business side of a small business like admin work for example.
She also notes that if working directly with clients is something you don’t feel passionate about that this is a great way to do the work you love and leave the client interactions up to the company you’re freelancing for. Freelancers also get to charge a premium for their services and can leave the invoices and the chasing of payments to the company they are contracting with. As Lizzy puts it, the beauty of freelancing lies in its simplicity.
When I started Quill & Co and was looking for clients, I started with white label designing and I loved it. It helped me build up my work, build my confidence, and also gave me a peek into other designer’s businesses behind the scenes. It was nice to have the pressure off from sales calls or any admin work. Lizzie also makes a good point that by working for some big brands you can get insight into things like, how they save their files, how do they present to their clients, and parts of a designer’s process that might take you years to learn on your own. You can gain such insightful knowledge while freelancing and then adapt it for yourself. I’m a big fan of getting paid to learn versus paying to learn and I consider white labeling to be similar. Instead of paying someone to teach you or paying to see a peek behind some businesses, you get to gain real-life experience.
When I began white labeling pricing my services felt so daunting. I was a middle man and didn’t even know where to begin to know what to charge? Lizzy says that pricing is always difficult and can get so muddy. Everyone is at different levels and at different price points. She suggests starting out with the most common 3 types of pricing structures. You can charge hourly, where you charge per hour that it takes you to complete the work. You can charge a flat rate per project, where you get to charge for a certain service at a certain rate every time. The third way is value-based pricing, which is the more complicated of all 3. Value-based pricing is essentially taking what they want, and placing a value percentage on what you think their return will be on this service you provide. Lizzy recommends learning more about value-based pricing from Chris Do and seeing if it’s a good fit for your services.
Lizzy thinks that one of the biggest misconceptions around white labeling is that it will hurt your portfolio. We know that the portfolio is the holy grail for new designers and if you can’t add your white labeling work to your portfolio, say if there is an NDA attached to it, then people get scared off from white labeling. Lizzy says that there are a few workarounds to this.
First, speak with your employer, most of the time if you remove any names, marks, or any copywritten work, then you can still present a stripped-down version of your work without encroaching on your NDA. The second option is to ask your employer if you can share your work privately during interviews. Similarly, you can ask if the work can be published on a password-protected site that only potential employers can view. The third option is to ask if you can publish the work once the project is live and shared with the world. This is usually true for lifestyle or fashion brands that do work months in advance of a launch. Finally, if the other ways don’t work, list the client as someone you worked with on your resume and ask for a performance review once the work is complete. This can still be used on your resume, in your portfolio, and then shared with new clients.
Lizzy has found that the vast majority of her past employers have encouraged her to share the work she did for them. If you tag the employer and their company, it gets more hits sent to them and is usually a win-win for both of you.
Lizzy says that the biggest lesson she learned while white labeling is to speak up, and just ask for what she needs from her employer. She admits it can seem intimidating because you are an outsider working for them, but ask for that referral and performance review, and ask the questions you need to do your job well. These managers are your direct contact, that is their job and their specialty and she has never found one employer not be willing to offer up their advice or feedback to her. She also notes the value in asking, if your long-term goals are to run your own business. If you ask to pitch to a client or aren’t afraid to ask for feedback, these are skills that will help you immensely as you transition into working for yourself.
Lizzy recounts the time she interviewed for what would have been her biggest employer to date and how nerves and self-doubt started to creep in. She was able to silence her inner critic and ended up getting hired on the spot because of her confidence and willingness to ask for what she wanted.
If white labeling is starting to sound really dreamy to you and you want to get started in it, Lizzy says all you can do is just start. Just do it and start applying for those jobs. She says 99% of employers will ask for these 4 things
Lizzy also notes 3 ways to be successful and to be prepped to start in white label freelancing.
Lizzy now runs her own studio with employees and continues to grow her business. She admits that she wasn’t the best student in school and had teachers tell her that she might not make it as a designer. She kept going, kept believing in herself, and was able to use white labeling as a freelancer to propel her career into the offices of Keds, Converse, and so many more. She was so surprised how white labeling got her into some rooms and some clients she would have never dreamed of. It provided her with valuable lessons and tools and ultimately, gained confidence that she now uses to run her own studio and to keep going.