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Libby: Hello, welcome to another episode of Social Media and Me. I am your host, Libby Langley, and today I’m going to be interviewing Marie-Louise O’Neill, who is a graphic designer who runs a company called Love Evolution Design. We’re going to be talking about her experience with social media over the last year. It’s been an interesting year for everybody, I think, let’s just say that. We’re going to be talking about how she’s used social media in the last year, how it’s affected her business, and some top tips that we’ve learnt.

It’s been really interesting doing this series of interviews. Actually, I’ve called them Social Media and Me – it’s been really interesting doing them because I’ve learnt a lot about other businesses, I suppose, and particularly I’ve learnt a lot about people’s resilience in terms of what’s happened in the last year. I mean, the one that’s particularly stuck with me is the is the beauty clinic that I interviewed. She did beauty clinic, they shut for seven months or something.

Libby: It’s nice to meet you. Nice to see you. Thanks for thanks for coming on. Thanks for joining me. I’ve said in my slightly lengthy preamble. You are a graphic designer by trade.

Marie-Louise: I am, yes.

Libby: We’re going to be talking today, a bit about graphic design, how your business has been impacted positively or negatively this last year, and what kind of impact or influence, help or support social media has given you in order to be able to kind of still be where you are now. Do you want to do a bit of a bit of an intro?

Marie-Louise: I’ve been doing a design for many years now. I actually studied it – packaging and branding.

Libby: Oh, did you?

Marie-Louise: Yeah, I studied that and graduated back in 2004. I did a bit work experience while I was in uni, even did some work experience in Mexico – that’s a story in itself. But yes, I’m one of the lucky few of my classmates who actually went on to do what I studied. I think it’s kind of a common thing for university goers.

I kind of went into doing some more graphic design. I did a lot of print based stuff, sort of things like brochures and stuff like that. Yeah, it was good. But I was working in London for a number of years, about eight years, and I was commuting from Northampton. I’m working towards the latter and partly at home as well. It was a bit insane. I wouldn’t do that now.

Libby: I did it for seven from Market Harbour to London. I did it for seven months and I couldn’t hack it any longer. Just that daily commute was awful. Just exhausting, as you know, because you think, oh, it’s only an hour on the train, but it’s two and a half hours, really, door to door. By the time you’ve left your house, got to the station. It’s just.

Marie-Louise: I allowed two hours each way. There were little tricks and tips that helped me to kind of keep sane with it. But the cost of travel was a bit insane and it was time to move on there were various reasons at my last place. I was like, OK. I did look at agencies in Northampton and there are quite a few. But I have a son who’s now six and at the time he was not even two yet and I was like, no, I don’t want to work full time.

The places that I was looking at couldn’t accommodate me doing a four day week – so that was my non-negotiable. I decided to set up on my own.

Libby: It’s a familiar story as to why people set up on their own because the terms of the job don’t suit the lifestyle that we want. So yes. I don’t blame you for that.

Marie-Louise: Yeah. I kind of have two start dates with my business because I did set up back in 2008/09, my own design business, but it was doing kind of wedding stationery and sort of bespoke invitations and stuff. But by the time it came to me working for myself full time, I was like, no, I think I’ve had enough. I was kind of over that, so I didn’t really have any ship on my kind of second start date, which was January 2016, I think it was. I rebranded, kept ‘Lovely Designs’ as my business name, did a lot of umming and ahhing and have evolved since then. I’m now called ‘Love the Evolution’ because I’ve evolved and then about two, three years ago, I don’t know, it’s all a blur someone said to me, have you heard of this thing called Canva. I thought, oh, I’ll have a look at it.

I started having a little play and I sort of very quickly saw the application for helping support small businesses who just don’t have the budget to have everything done by a professional designer, and that if I could create templates and in Canva for them, that is on brand and follows all nicely, it means that they’re going to have much better results. I kind of got the two niches of branding, which is my absolute love, but also Canva and associate services around that.

Libby: It’s funny, you’re quite new to Canva then really, because I first started using it when it was launched back in 2013. I was at one of the social media marketing world conferences in San Diego, which I go to every year Covid willing – a brilliant conference. And Guy Kawasaki, one of the brands initial brand ambassadors, was up on stage talking about this incredible thing and Photoshop, to me, it’s like a foreign language. I just it’s not laid out right for it to make sense to my brain at all.

I’m pretty kind of tech savvy and I love systems and application stuff. I just can’t get on with it at all. So when this was this was sort of announced, I just thought, wow, that sounds good. I’ve been an avid fan ever since. I mean, I don’t think my business would have got to where it was if it wasn’t for Canva as a tool, which sounds like a really big thing to say.

But actually being able to just create your own graphics and design – I’m not talking about proper design. I’ve relatively recently had my logo redesigned. That gets outsourced to a person who knows what they’re actually doing. I’m talking about, you know, the little social media posts, presentations and that kind of thing.

Marie-Louise: I think you can develop a real eye for it as well. You know, we all make judgements, decisions based on design. If you go to the shop and you want to get a bouji herbal tea, you’re going to be influenced by the packaging. You know, if you’re into gin, there’s a lot of branding and information and design that goes into the bottle and associated stuff. To think, oh, I’m not creative or don’t have that eye, you would have made decisions in your own home as to what colours you put on the wall and stuff.

For some it may be easier than others, but I think certainly with Canva you can start with the templates but you can over time build up that kind of knowledge about what works for you and your brand and as well as that familiarity with a programme.

Libby: It’s confidence as well. In the workshops that you run for small businesses about Canva, that’s going to be one of the main things. I run lots of Canva workshops myself.

It’s part of my online Confidence and Clarity programme – it’s a key factor. You’re a designer who really knows what they’re do. I can teach people how to use it. But you’re right, you develop your own templates, your own kind of style that you’re comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with it and you feel that it really resonates with you and therefore your business – actually that has the drawing in effect, like you say, of big brands.

I mean, they spend millions on there, on their design, on that branding, in their focus groups as to what works and what doesn’t. But in our own little way, us small businesses can kind of do the same thing.

Marie-Louise: Yeah, I mean, I liken it to that you become your own brand guardian. There’s a practical side of things that you can help with your branding, you know, making sure your brand kit is set up with your colours, but also just, making sure that you’re doing certain things consistently. When I do my camera training it’s with the branding side of things in mind.

I know that from watching one of your webinars that there are certain key things that are going to be so important, fundamental with like knowing who your target market is, what’s your message and stuff like that. That all feeds into putting in that outcome of using Canva. It’s just a tool ultimately you still need to have that knowledge about your own business.

Libby: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not a magic bullet, but it does make life easier once you’ve got kind of background stuff there I have to say.

Marie-Louise: Absolutely.

Libby: I kind of wonder how, I mean, you know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and all of these things, but people like us. Did we use word art?

Marie-Louise: People used Comic Sans on everything. I’ve noticed actually because I have all the Adobe software that they’re really tapping into, that whole people want templates, they want a starting point.

On their newsletter that I’m subscribed to, they’re saying, oh, there’s this series of template. They’ve recognised that there’s that need for people, for different abilities, that there will be people who will design from scratch. But also, why reinvent the wheel and having the templates is one part of the resources that makes Canva so great.

Libby: That’s really interesting. I guess part of that is because there’s so much more choice out there now and arguably so much less time that they are tapping into that. Yeah, that’s interesting. I didn’t realise that.

Marie-Louise: I think it’s quite recent.

Libby: What’s happened with your business in this last year since the pandemic hit? I mean, you’ve been self-employed just over five years now. How’s it changed? Has it changed? Haveyou change the way you’ve worked?

Marie-Louise: I guess that I’ve certainly switched to having all my meetings on Zoom, whereas before you would meet somewhere, a coffee shop or, at their office or that kind of thing. It’s quite nice not having to dash everywhere and also, like for just getting to know you kind of ones, it might not necessarily go to anything or you think it’s going to be a potential, a good lead and then it doesn’t come to anything that, there is that disappointment, I suppose, especially if you’ve travelled a long distance.

You know, I have my own length of time of what I felt was reasonable. It’s nice to have more time because of that, that you’re not dashing around. That’s helped, that everyone is on board with that. I think that will be something that will stick around, certainly be a lot more discerning about what in-person meetings I arrange because of that consideration.

Libby: Yeah, it’s going to be pretty special, actually. Drags me out the house, I think now.

Marie-Louise: Yeah.

Libby: Yeah, it’s made it easier actually I think that everybody has kind of universally embraced online meetings and stuff and training that actually it’s made it easier to do more, but it feels like less because like you say, there isn’t the travelling, there isn’t the kind of all that. For me, I find all that quite stressful, whereas if I work from home or from my office wherever, then actually I can achieve more in less time.

Yeah – I think it’s good. Have you changed the nature of the work that you’re doing? Has the pandemic with your corporate clients? Has the pandemic changed the work that they’re giving you or have you started doing more with small businesses, with the camera training and stuff?

Louise-Marie: I was working with small businesses predominately anyway. I didn’t really have any big corporate clients anyway. I feel like I’ve kind of done that, it’s not kind of something that I’ve gravitated towards. When I first started kind of doing myself full time, I was like, I got all this corporate background and then quickly realised it was maybe not the direction I wanted to go in.

Over a year ago, so January of last year, I’d already set up my monthly membership, my Lovely Camper Club. I had already looked at how I can change or evolve the model of my business so I can make more of my time. Being able to make sure that what I’m training is affordable and lots of value, but also I’m not saying the same thing over and over again, that it can be in that kind of forum.

In that sense, it was quite nice. I was already ahead of the curve. I’d already started that process of discovery. It didn’t feel like it was foisted on me of, oh, you got to do something online because I’d already done that. I certainly was doing a lot more design meetings online which came out of doing the training of Canva. I felt very comfortable sharing my screen. I found that has been a really great way to benefit not only the design process, but also making the clients feel involved.

Whether it’s in camp or one of my illustrator and stuff like that. That’s been really a big change that I guess has kind of come out of the situation.

Libby: It will have done because for a lot, well, at the moment you can’t have meetings. It’s kind of that grey area of work. You can. But do you want to. It’s the accepted way to do things. I think clients will be much more receptive to that, which is great thing to be able to be able to do.

How do you use social media? To tie in with what to do for your marketing and within your business.

Marie-Louise: I have been using my Facebook group Lovely Canva Crew as my main focus. That’s where I put most of my energy. I did back in November and again a couple of weeks ago, I did a free five-day workshop within which I live streamed using Stream Yard, which I wasn’t aware of before. So that was really good. That’s part of my strategy to sort of showcase what I do, give lots of value and sort of part that kind of flow of work.

Libby: Do you like Stream Yard?

Marie-Louise: I don’t mind it. What are your thoughts on it?

Libby: I think it’s a shame that sometimes you have to use additional tools and the platforms that are set up for this aren’t really set up for this. But it’s clear and I think the quality of the video, the stream is sometimes better than doing it natively, which is quite good. I find that quite interesting.

Marie-Louise: I found with Facebook, that I couldn’t work out how to share my screen and show my face you I was like, how does that work?

Libby: You can’t. It’s stupid. You have to share your screen before you go on, because I have this problem when I go live in my members Facebook group. I also talk about Instagram quite a lot which would work on the screen the same way If I was in Zoom I could share my phone with you, but I’m doing this live on Facebook, so here’s my phone.

It works, but it’s not very kind of intuitive doing things live on Facebook. Something like Stream Yard would help with that. I was quite interested to see what you thought of it really is.

Marie-Louise: I quite like it at the moment. I’m quite happy with the free version, that doesn’t bother me that the Stream Yard logo is there, you know, it’s the same with Zoom logo is on things, I think people zone it out. I guess at some point I might upgrade, but in terms of social media and stuff, the last year it was very much about trying to be visible and showing up.

I also had a kind of LinkedIn strategy where I was making a point of reaching out and connecting with my target market. One of them being virtual assistants because they are often using Canva. I made a point of connecting with them. Then obviously making sure that there’s some sort of post going out on LinkedIn. I can be a little bit ad hoc. I’ve recognised reflecting back on my last year, that my marketing in general, I focussed very much on Canva because I saw it as this quick win that most people have heard of. It’s making sure that people understand my branding background and the value that brings – I’m so much more than just here is how to use Canva. That’s part of my strategy for this year – it’s addressing that balance and making sure that people see the value of what I do and see all of that. I do plan to be doing a lot more with Instagram, particularly figuring out the Reels and using them. I’ve been someone who’s not very into stories. I don’t know why I’ve got an issue with stories – I post very ad hoc then I’m like, oh, there’s this other thing I’ve got to.

Libby: No, there’s four or five different areas within Instagram alone, and you need to just do one, you know, just get some good posts, get some good value quality content first and then think about stories and then IGTV’s and then think about lives and then think about Reels. And then guides if you want. What’s that? About seven, six or seven. You don’t need to do everything all the time. Reels is a way to get fantastic exposure.

But you need to be really confident and comfortable and consistent in your messaging and the way the way you use all these tools before you dive into. Oh, look at that. That is an exciting thing.

Marie-Louise: Yeah, I think on my Instagram there is a good mix of showing me as who I am as a human being, not picture perfect, as well marketing related stuff that’s showcasing what I’ve done and stuff like that. Another thing that I want to focus on is my YouTube page or YouTube channel even. I’m really starting to look at how I can both utilise Instagram and YouTube to kind of funnel people into my Facebook group –  adding valu in these places, but by repurposing content.

It’s being clever about what I do because I don’t have massive of time to make it all like video edited perfect. But I do want to add some little touches like for YouTube being able to have like a bit of intro, making sure to have a little banner that says subscribe. It’s these call to action type things that, are a standard thing that I could just plop on at the beginning and end and kind of go there you go, that will do. I’m not going to worry about having the best camera or have the best audio- just get it out there.

Libby: No, I think you’re absolutely right. Again, that’s something that I would always teach people. It’s better to get something that’s good out there than wait till it’s perfect and just never put anything out there. Particularly like we’ve been saying in the last year, it’s been much more accepted to be at home, to have a Zoom meeting that people don’t have to be suited, booted anymore.

Marie-Louise: Kids wandering past, dogs barking.

Libby: Yeah, it’s the norm and it’s accepted. I was interviewed yesterday on for someone’s LinkedIn live that someone was doing and his dog was going berserk in the background and it was fine. You know, it was quite funny, it was it was all right. That’s how we know more how people are. This is the know, like, trust, isn’t it? You know, you get to see people’s content. You get to hear them talking. You know that they live in a house like your house and talk in the same language. You use the same kind of vernacular that you do. That’s good because that’s all about building trust and resonating with your audience. Unless you’re in video production if your graphics are rubbish, then that’s not great. I’m terrible for umming and ahhing all the time, but it doesn’t make any difference to the value that I give. It’s just that my brain is not working at the same speed as my mouth.

Marie-Louise:  Yeah. I’m the same way. When I’m doing my monthly trainings and forget words or I’m trying to get across what I’m saying and trying to find the right word it’s the same even in the networking and the forty-five second pitch. There are times where it’s going really well and there are other times where… I have to say certainly more so when it was in Perth and you look around the room and it’s like, oh God, what am I saying.

I think people are a lot more forgiving about – I think we judge ourselves so harshly or see all the umms and ahhs and stuff like that. It’s about getting out there and doing it. The more you relax, the more you get on with it and do it. I’ve not always felt comfortable doing things like this in the past or doing Facebook lives were never really my thing. But it’s interesting how you find coping mechanisms to just get it out there, get it done and just do it.

Libby: All you need is one person to say that was really interesting and you know that it’s all worthwhile. I think it does make a difference. The more you do things like this or your training, your lives in your group and all of that, the more it just kind of becomes the norm. It is the factor of making sure that you are dressed that is it was always something that needs to happen, I think.

Marie-Louise: Yeah. I mean, certainly in the various stages of lock down and there’s been some days where I’m like, no, I’m not gonna wear any makeup. I’ve gone to a client meeting online and I just feel like this is how I am. Then there were other times where actually, I’m going to put make-up on. I think it’s it’s about being comfortable and not about being Insta-perfect.

Libby: Absolutely. I I couldn’t maintain that, you know, anyway Insta-perfection. I just couldn’t I could do it for maybe half an hour, once a week. I could. That’s not how I live – it’s not for me. What would you say in this last year with pandemic? You’ve got kids then home schooling as well?

Marie-Louise: I’ve got one little boy, he’s six now, so my husband is doing most of it because he’s not working, unfortunately, so he’s sort of doing that. He was the one who was like this is his child the first down. Then I just sort of stepped in when it was getting a bit of aggro. Everyone’s get fed up with each other, but, yeah, we’re coping OK. I think certainly January has been a weird month, beginning of January when they announced this latest lockdown and the school shutting.

I did spiral and go like, oh, God, what’s going to happen. Not only us figuring stuff out, but also knowing that there’s a lot of small businesses that I network with out there, in a similar position where they’re like, oh, I’ve suddenly got to juggle homeschooling and run a business then. I think we’re kind of towards the end of January, I think people kind of gotten more into the flow and gone, well, this is how it is and gotten used to it. I feel like for those that I’ve talked to and how I feel in myself, that we’re all feeling a bit more stable. I wouldn’t say positive is the right word, but more like, OK, more accepting of the situation. It is what it is – out of my control.

Libby: Well, absolutely. There’s not much point in getting too stressed about it because you can’t do anything about it but do it for you. That’s the personal side. In terms of work, have you found this last year to be stressful overall or interesting development within your business? Or a challenge?

Marie-Louise: I think it’s been a real roller coaster would be how I would describe it. There’s been some real highs and lows. I would say, the lows have been when people have had to withdraw. They were interested in working and then had to put things on hold. It’s obviously made it feel a bit harder to get leads or things like that.

There is that understanding that generally people are being more careful with their funding and money. Having said that, I would also say that, yes, it is a bit more limited out there, but there’s still opportunities.

People are setting up businesses. There are opportunities out there. I think it’s so much more important now to have a clearer idea about what you offer – your own value and getting your message out there and with you and I we are helping other businesses get their message out in different ways, we need to make sure that we have a clear idea how we help them.

It’s you know, it’s about really narrowing in and being clear about that. I think there has been an impact. I think the biggest thing is probably looking back is my own mindset on things has impacted how I felt about stuff. I don’t think there’s a lack of opportunities in general. But like when I have not been feeling great, then obviously I’m not going out there following up leads and doing all those things.

It has impacted, but maybe not necessarily because of the reasons of just General covid. It’s the kind of impact it had on kind of how I’ve been feeling like mood and other stuff going on.

Libby: I think life’s been kind of different for everybody. Some people have loved it and some people have really, really struggled with it. A lot of people just kind of in the middle somewhere.

It’s perfectly understandable that perhaps plans haven’t gone quite how you wanted to in your head. But actually, if you look back on the last 12 months and look at what you have achieved, then actually that’s pretty good considering everything else that’s been going on and, you know having to home-school and having to just cope with everything and, family situation and all of that. There’s absolutely no reason to be down on yourself or anything like that.

Everybody has bad days. That’s all fine.

Louise-Marie: There have been some highlights as well. It’s been good being around and spending, being able to go, OK, look, if we’re going to much let’s go out for a walk because the sun was shining and stuff like that. It’s taught me that I don’t want to work and work and work and work and not be present, even if I am at home working.

I want to have like that work life balance, this kind of holy grail. It’s really shown me that it’s looking at what my products and services are, what’s going to be the most lucrative. What is going to be the best use of my time and it will be weighing in what do I enjoy the most as well as what is kind of the best use of my time in terms of earning. I’m here to make money.

Libby: That’s ultimately why we are all doing what we do. I think for me, the most the most kind of salient point that we’ve discussed today is about really the importance now more than ever of knowing exactly what it is that you do. So really find a niche and being that dead clear on that, because everybody is now using social media, because we’re all at home and that’s the thing that everybody has to kind of turn to. If you’re really, really clear in your own head about who you want to work with, what you offer them, how you can help them, then everything else just kind of falls into place with your business management as well as your marketing, your graphics, your networking, everything that you do.

That’s definitely something that I would absolutely, wholeheartedly agree with. That was a really good point that you made.

Libby: I think what you said about reflecting on the highs and celebrating stuff, so I did at the end of last year, look back at what were the good things that went on and you know we’re still alive – winning at life. But there was a lot of really great stuff, like in December, I won a Gold Star Award for Mums Unlimited, which is a sort of women’s networking. So that was amazing to have a little gold statue thing.

It’s realising your own worth and celebrating it. For me, I was still coming off the back of just going January is crap. But like, how can I be proactive and be focussed on what I can achieve this year and stuff like that. I don’t feel like I’m fully in the groove yet, but I feel like it’s about keep going, doing what you can. It’s interesting also like to bring it back to sort of social media, but I don’t feel like I’ve been as present on social media because I felt for my own brain and needing some time out. I’ve not been on social media as much like not even at weekends, I’ve not touched my phone because I needed to have that break. Even if it’s been ad hoc, I schedule stuff or put a few bits out. So there’s been a couple of people like, oh yeah, you’re everywhere on social media. It goes to show that by putting something out there, it’s better than nothing.

Libby: I mean, that’s due to I would call that having a strategy really – creating content and then scheduling it out – that doesn’t mean that you need to be on it 24/7. It means the right content goes out to the right people at the right times. They’re engaging with it – that’s all any of us need to do in order to be to be successful on social media and to use it as we said before, to drive traffic through to wherever it is, the Facebook group that masterclass, whatever it is that you want people to do.

That’s all you can do, really. It’s all about the content and it’s all about making sure that you are you all present even if you’re not physically doing it at that given moment.

Well, it’s really interesting to talk to you and people can come to your profile and you’ve got a link there for your Canva course have you?

Marie-Louise: On my Instagram, I have got a link tree which has got various links on. The best thing to do is if you’re someone who uses Facebook is join my free Facebook group, Lovely Canva Crew because as I said, that’s where I put a lot of stuff in there, that’s where I show up the most regularly. You can obviously connect with me here on Instagram and all of that.

Libby: Good, fabulous. Thank you very much. Really interesting to talk to you and nice to hear about your journey in life. I find that very interesting to see how people have got to where they’ve got to and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s always kind of my favourite bit of doing these interviews. Thanks so much.

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