So when I considered whether or not to go to Quilt Market, the sewing and quilting industry trade show, this fall it was an easy decision. Eight of my clients would be there and it would be an amazing chance to meet them in person (a few for the second or third time) and get to know them better. The trip ended up being worth it for that reason alone, but it also gave me so much more than I expected. Not only was I able to discuss new projects with my existing clients in further detail than wouldn’t have been as easily accomplished remotely, I was also able to refine my business strategy and meet lots of new people who may become clients in the future.
A sneak peek view of the show floor the night before it opened. It was a lot bigger than I expected!
I peeked through the big round windows on the second floor and was taken aback at the size of the show floor. Hundreds of beautifully styled booths with well-designed signage, decor, and product. It was a bit overwhelming. So was the next day; well, the next three days, actually. I tried walking the whole thing, starting in one corner, but it was too much to do in one day. I took my time, taking note of the booths and the brands and forming some ideas for how to approach the whole thing.
There’s just something about seeing your work in the wild, blow up to larger-than-life size. What a pleasure it was to design Liesl’s Building Block Dress book.
I soon became confident saying who I was and what I did. “Hi! I’m Lindsie. I am a graphic designer for quilters.” Easy enough. I also was able to think more about who my target audience is: a company or designer that needs a graphic designer. Also easy to figure out, but I soon realized that I actually have two different types of clients. The first is someone who’s business is small enough but growing that they can’t do all of it on their own anymore. They need help so that they have more time to do what they do best, be it quilting, sewing, product development, running a store, etc. And (more importantly) they had to realize themselves that they need a designer. Some of the potential clients I met weren’t there yet. The timing has to be right.
This smaller-scale client has comprised the majority of my business so far. But I realized at Market that there was a second type of client that I wanted to approach and that’s the companies that are on the cusp of new growth, that already have a team developed but need additional help. Once I understood that as a potential client type, my perspective changed and I had more confidence to approach the bigger brands to ask if they needed more help. They already have a beautiful, developed branding, and are used to working with freelancers. Maybe they need more help. I figured it was worth asking and giving them my business card so I did.
A month later, after following up with the people I met at Market, I’ve signed on a few new clients, made contact with a few others to discuss ideas and options, and made plans with existing clients on new projects. A few others I’m still waiting for response on and I may not hear back. But that’s okay. I know there will be more possibilities and people to meet in the future. Attending Market, and the networking I was able do there, has made it possible for me to schedule consistent work for myself, and reduce the risk of “feast or famine” workloads that haunt every freelance designer. It made my business better, my focus clearer and my client relationships stronger. It was the single biggest thing I could have done for my business this year.