Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in design services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Adrienne Johnston, Founder of Adrienne Johnston LLC, located in Lacey, WA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I run a presentation design company that serves two sets of clients. Our primary clients are businesses needing help visualizing their PowerPoint content to land new clients, educate existing internal or external clients, or secure investment capital. Our clients range from new startup ventures to Fortune 500 companies.

Our secondary clients are fellow presentation designers who need help scaling their businesses to reach their lifestyle and revenue goals. Across both sets of clients, our mission is the same: to end the death by PowerPoint stigma and help professionals better convey their stories and achieve their goals.

Tell us about yourself

I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2018 after experiencing corporate burnout. I knew I wanted more flexibility in my life and a higher return on my hours worked. I turned my graphic design hobby into my business and quickly realized the vast market opportunity in the presentation design space. Because of the stigma associated with PowerPoint, many graphic designers refuse to touch the software leaving a huge gap in supply and demand. Having worked in PowerPoint throughout my education and career, I didn’t have those same reservations about PowerPoint, so I jumped right in and started serving my clients.

The work we do as presentation designers are significant to the world. I work on decks for companies that solve global problems like climate change, water accessibility, cancer, communications, and inclusivity. The better we’re able to help those companies tell their stories, the more impact they can have. That’s why I get up each day motivated to get to my desk.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

As an introverted - ok, highly introverted - business owner, my biggest accomplishment has been creating an online presence that allows my ideal clients to find me when they need me. Because I am so introverted, traditional in-person networking and cold pitches would never work for me. When starting my business, I knew I had to find a unique client acquisition strategy that would work for me, and that was Search Engine Optimization (SEO). After learning and implementing the appropriate strategies, my website ranks for multiple high-volume presentation design-related keywords, and I average three leads per day from potential clients. This has been a huge accomplishment for my business because it’s allowed me to reach my revenue goals without spending tons of time on sales and marketing activities that I don’t enjoy.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Being a business owner requires you to know a lot about business in a way that, in a traditional full-time job, you don’t need to know. For instance, you have to understand forming a legal entity for your business, getting a tax ID, paying your taxes, running payroll, healthcare, and list goes on. And as that business grows, your requirements grow too. Don’t be afraid to either get in there and figure it out or to hire a contractor to manage pieces of your business that aren’t your zone of genius. As an example, if you do your own bookkeeping and it takes you two hours each month at a billable rate of $100/hour, it costs you $200 for bookkeeping. And you’re probably miserable doing it. And you may not be doing it right. However, if you hire a bookkeeper at $30/hour, it probably will only take them an hour, and it will be done right. Don’t be afraid to outsource when it makes sense for your business!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My first tip for anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today would be just to start. You will learn so much on the journey about what works for you and what doesn’t. These lessons can’t be learned from strategizing or daydreaming. The act of just taking the leap to try starting a business or a new strategy in your existing business will give you so much insight. There’s a saying, “shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” That’s the way I approach my business. The endeavors I pursue should be strategic, but where I’ll actually make progress is in the execution of plans.

My second tip would be - this is YOUR business. There is no one else to be accountable to but yourself, so make sure you’re building a business that you love and meets your goals. If you don’t want to work long hours, set that boundary and ensure you uphold it. If you want to make a certain amount of money, make sure you’re charging enough and delivering enough to allow that. No one else is going to come behind you and offer to take care of these things.

Lastly, don’t give up. Business is hard. There are great years and hard years. During my first few months in business, I worked 80+ hours a week and made less than $5k/month. I could have quit. But I didn’t. I analyzed what was working and what wasn’t and started executing lead generation and pricing model strategies to ensure I was working the hours I wanted to work, with the flexibility I wanted, with the right clients, and with the income I wanted. There’s always another and better way so challenge yourself to constantly assess and tweak your business plan to meet your ever-evolving goals.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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