First things first, what’s the story behind One6Creative? How did it all begin?
I was never “meant” to be a designer, let alone run my own business! Since high school, my family encouraged me to follow a traditional career path: get good grades, get into a good university, get a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, get a good job and climb the career ladder. And I’ve done all that.
Right after graduating from university, with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a focus on neuromarketing, and an awesome Master’s degree in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing, I landed a job at a small consultancy in London as a Marketing Director, and a year later got promoted to the Brand Executive position.
Everything was going according to plan but there was quite a big “BUT” floating in the air… I kept asking myself: “Is this really it? Is this the grand grown-up life I was so impatiently waiting for?”
I’ll be honest – I expected more. I wanted more. I wanted to create a bigger impact, have a bigger purpose, be part of a bigger picture. I didn’t know WHAT I was gonna do, but I knew WHO I wanted to be – someone with a purpose, someone who will help and serve people in a bigger way.
So that’s how, without really having a backup plan, I quit my job without looking back. Crazy, right?
That was in early 2016 and, looking back now, I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to do it again! Yet, it’s the best decision of my life.
But it’s not like I quit on February 6th, 2016, and on February 7th ONE6CREATIVE was born. It would take a good 1.5 years until it grows its fingers and toes.
For the first month of my unemployment (I couldn’t call it “self-employment” just yet) I was thinking of 1001 things to do with my life. There’s literally a website called “WTF Should I Do With My Life” and I spent waaaay too much time on it, hoping to find an answer. Sadly, “being a fisherman”, “working at a record store” or “becoming a segway tour guide” wasn’t really an option for me.
But on a more serious note… I had such a hard time understanding what I was good at and pinning it to one single thing.
In the end, I decided I’ll look more into design and branding because that’s what I did at my last job as the consultancy went through a big rebrand phase under my supervision. And I thought to myself: “that was fun, maybe I could help other companies do the same.”
That’s how I began absorbing all the Youtube & Skillshare content to learn more about design and branding. That was a lot of information!
Once I started feeling more comfortable, I signed up to Upwork to get some clients, but that was a horrific experience. My worst “job” was a 12-page brochure for $40. That’s when I closed my Upwork account and decided to write on my Facebook wall:
“Hey guys, I quit my job and am going freelance. If you have any design-related jobs I can help you with, let me know!”
That’s how I landed my first two “real” clients. Of course, I still had so much to learn about this whole process. I felt excited to finally have real clients but I had no idea how to actually manage a full project from beginning to end. It was a steep learning curve for sure.
One thing I quickly realised is that once you become a business owner, you basically become a “hat collector” – you start wearing a million hats in your business, from accountant to social media marketer, from marketing to customer service. I didn’t expect to have to manage so many things at the same time and that’s why from the very beginning I started focusing on my internal systems and perfecting my process to create a stellar experience for my clients.
And I believe it’s this commitment to always put my client’s needs first that helped me grow ONE6CREATIVE to the business it is today. A business that is heart-centered and caring, a business that gives as much value as possible and always puts the client first.
Your approach to design is different from typical industry standards and is rooted in neuromarketing and conversion. What inspired you to choose this path?
When I was studying Sociology for my Bachelor’s degree, I specialised in Neuromarketing. I was fascinated by this topic! For those who don’t know, neuromarketing is the study of the brain under marketing influence. Our brains are amazing and consume so much information on a daily basis – we’re not even aware of half of it!
When I went on to study for my Master’s I continued learning more about consumer behavior and marketing psychology, and used those skills when I landed my consultancy job.
However, when I quit my job, I got so focused on learning design and branding that I completely forgot about my marketing skills and knowledge. And now that I think of it, this is probably why it took so long for ONE6CREATIVE to take off.
About a year into my solopreneur journey, I felt like I wasn’t moving anywhere. The projects weren’t inspiring me and I didn’t feel like I was doing “the best I could”. I knew something was missing but I had no idea what. All my attempts to “niche down”, as many gurus were advising me to do, were a failure because I didn’t have one particular industry I wanted to focus on.
That’s when I decided to talk to a bunch of previous clients to understand if there was anything special in my process that they really enjoyed. Maybe I surprised them with something? Maybe there was something different about my process that I was simply not seeing? And that’s when I had my first lightbulb moment when I read some feedback I received from a past client:
“We thought we hired a designer, but instead we hired a business expert with fantastic design skills”
Without even realising, I was using my passion for marketing and business in my design process. It seemed so natural to me, but it was a surprise for my clients.
I was realising that my clients weren’t coming to me “because of bad design”, they were coming to me because their business wasn’t performing the way they hoped. Their website wasn’t converting well enough. Their brand wasn’t aligned with the customers they wanted to attract.
And that’s when I knew that this was the direction I needed to take ONE6CREATIVE in – as a conversion-led design studio. I’m a marketer and strategist first, and designer second.
Talking from your experience as a designer, what advice would you give to those who’ve just started their creative journey?
Your business isn’t going to be an overnight success and you need to accept that. Instead, focus on slow but consistent growth. And know that your current situation is not your final destination.
I struggled a lot with this when starting out. I never expected my journey of “self-discovery” to be so long and so tough.
I think, especially in this fast-paced and public world we live in, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others and think that “everyone seems to get it but me”. But that’s not the case. What we think is an overnight success is actually years and years of mistakes, failures and hard lessons.
As a business owner, making mistakes is inevitable, but you need to remember that every mistake and obstacle is an opportunity to learn and grow.
So pace yourself and take your time. Focus on what you do best and provide as much value as you can to those who listen and follow you. Grow your audience not through numbers but through trust. Stay true to who you are and build your business from a place of honesty. If you do this and do it consistently, your success – whatever success means to you – will be inevitable
You’re not only a great designer, but a host of The Create Connect Convert podcast, an extremely valuable resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. But what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned running a podcast?
Eek, thank you!
The Create Connect Convert podcast was brewing for a long time in my head before it came to life. I actually bought the recording equipment about 10 months before the podcast went live!
But it’s been such an amazing, yet challenging, journey and I can’t even imagine how I lived without it for so long.
Being a podcast host is quite an experience. First of all, it’s a completely new medium that allows you to connect with the audience on a much deeper and personal level. It still baffles me that people give me permission to speak into their earbuds for as long as 50 minutes sometimes!
But at the same time, it challenged me in ways I didn’t expect! I had to overcome some strong personal insecurities and still struggle with it sometimes. For example, if you heard me speak before (or by giving a glance at my full name), you may have guessed that English is not my first language. It’s actually the fifth language I learned to speak. I was born in Ukraine, so the first languages I learned were Russian and Ukrainian. Then, at the age of 7, my family moved to Switzerland where I learned French and German, and finally English.
So because of that, my accent is a little strange and I sometimes mix up the words. Maybe it’s not a big deal to the listeners, but I’m quite conscious of it and am still learning how to forgive myself for these mistakes and not re-record an episode because I said something weird.
The podcast also allowed me to form some amazing connections and build great relationships with loyal listeners or guest speakers on the show! My first guest was Abbey from Wayfarer (she was featured on Saturday Haus here!) and we talked about raising your prices with confidence. To date, it’s still the most popular episode on the podcast!
By having guests on the show, not only I get to meet people from all over the world, but I get to bring more value to my audience outside of my own zone of genius. And that’s what Create Connect Convert is all about!
The podcast is still quite young (I launched it on the 27th of November 2019 – on my birthday!) but it’s already changing my business in amazing ways. Since the beginning, I always envisioned creating a business that will help, support and serve other people. And the Create Connect Convert is a huge step in that direction.
Walk us through your workspace, what essentials we would find at your desk on any given day?
Oh, what a fun question!
My workspace isn’t extraordinary – it’s an extra room we have in our 2-bedroom apartment in London and is somewhat between my husband’s dressing room, storage room and my office. Nevertheless, despite numerous attempts at signing up for various co-working spaces, I keep coming back to it because that’s where I feel most comfortable (that’s the introvert in me speaking!)
So here’s what you can find on my desk:
Pretty minimal 🙂
One big purchase I made last Christmas is upgrading my desk to a large standing desk and I’m loving it! As someone who spends A LOT of time sitting down, I think this is a must. I also bought an under desk stepper machine to get moving while working, but I’ve only used it a couple of times, ha!
Another thing I love in my office is the ONE6CREATIVE neon sign that my husband got me for my birthday. If you watch my Instagram stories, you may have spotted it in the background! I turn the neon sign on every morning when I walk in and turn it off in the evening when I wrap things up. Something about doing this makes things so legit – I love it!
As a businesswoman, it’s always important to have a support network by your side – who are yours?
My husband is my rock whether in life or in business. We have very different professional lives – he works in the corporate world, I work in my own world – but he’s been incredibly supportive every step of the way.
When I quit my job, we were just on boyfriend/girlfriend terms, and despite the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, or that I only had enough income to last 2 months in my savings account, he stood by me and ensured that everything will be alright.
My family, I think, still sometimes has trouble understanding what I do, ha! For some time, it was hard for them to grasp the difference between unemployed and self-employed, but they’ve come to terms now and know that my business is a huge part of my life and, sometimes, involves sacrifices.
My dad, who’s been an entrepreneur his whole life, has been my go-to for the “big picture” advice. In 2019, I went through some hard times in my business involving letting go of my first employee and legally pursuing a client who wasn’t paying the bills. And, despite the fact that I was in business for a couple of years already, I had no idea how to handle this all. So I would call my dad and ask him for advice. His advice may not always be applicable as we have different management styles (sorry dad!) but I think it helped create a stronger bond between us.
And of course – all the entrepreneurs I met on my journey! Gosh, what a source of inspiration, motivation and support you all have been throughout the years!
Some creatives have a special routine to start their workday successfully, do you have any?
I can’t say I have a particular ritual set in stone, but my mornings usually look something like this:
My husband and I wake up at 6am every day and head to the gym or a yoga class. Before you think to yourself “woah, she’s an early bird”, trust me I’m not! I really dislike early mornings and usually wake up grumpy as heck, but I also know that this is my only time to move my body and dedicate it fully to myself.
We then have breakfast together, my husband heads to work around 8am. I like to start my mornings slow and will either read a book (I’m currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, or work on something personal (like redesigning my own website at the moment) until about 9.30. Then, I’ll walk into the office, turn the ONE6CREATIVE neon sign on and, until 10am, I usually catch up on my email and check my Asana to see what I need to work on today.
Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, it’s hard to force “me-time” into a tight schedule. Do you have advice on how to find time for self-care when there’s too much work?
My husband chuckled as he saw this question! And that’s because it’s something I personally struggle with. As I mentioned in the previous question, even though I don’t particularly like waking up at 6am, I do it because I know I need this time for myself. To move my body, to take a hot shower and pamper myself without rushing (by “pamper” I mean “moisturise my body” haha) and just take it slow.
My days are super fast-paced, so this slow morning really helps me stay sane and be more mindful towards myself.
On weekends, my husband and I have “spa Sundays” where we would do face masks (yes, my husband too! I converted him!) and I would do a hair mask. I also like keeping my nails on point and get manicures and pedicures, so I would either call my friendly technician to my house, or I would put a fav Netflix series on and do it myself.
Fun fact: when I was 16 I trained as a nail technician by my mom’s friend in Ukraine and I now have the whole gel kit at home. So worst case, if my design biz goes into flames, I know what my next hustle is gonna be 🙂
Here, at Saturday Haus, we’re standing for balance over hustle. And what is the golden rule at One6Creative?
I don’t live to work, I work to live – that’s my golden rule.
And it’s the main reason why I quit my job back in 2016 – to have the freedom to do what I love and live a life that I love!
Despite the fact that I absolutely love working in and on my business, I also know that the biggest reward for my hard work happens outside my office. Therefore, I spend a lot of time travelling, visiting the family around the world and discovering new experiences. I probably travel about 10 times a year and aim to visit at least 3 new locations every year.
My 2020 has been filled with travel so far:
The rest of the year is filled with travelling too:
Travelling, for me, is the greatest reward for my hard work and at the same time it’s also a great motivator to work harder and grow my business!
I also use this opportunity to meet with fellow designers and entrepreneurs I meet online, either for a simple coffee date, or by running workshops in these locations.
And finally, what are your plans and goals for One6Creative?
2020 is going to be a year of changes for ONE6CREATIVE as I pivot the business in a new direction. The main change is the fact that I will be focusing more on educating designers how to build systems within their business to elevate their client experience, and integrate conversion and marketing as part of their process.
This doesn’t mean that I will dismiss 1-on-1 client work, as I’m incredibly passionate about changing the lives of fellow entrepreneurs for the better and helping them launch the business of their dreams. However, my goal this year is to add additional streams of income to grow my business in a more sustainable way and create an impact on a larger scale.
I also know that entrepreneurship is unpredictable and brings new experiences at every turn. So I’m staying open to new opportunities, challenges and connections as I trust that, whatever happens on my journey, happens for a reason.
Photos by Gigi Davarashvili
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