Lauren Hooker is the accidental entrepreneur behind Elle & Company. After college, Lauren landed a design job where she was helping build a brand she didn't love - so she started freelancing on the side.

Things spiraled out of control in the best way possible, and Lauren found herself in a position she swore she'd never be in: a small business owner.

Now, Elle and Company is a one stop shop for creative solopreneurs. Between her blog posts, design tips, weekly 'ellechats', and courses, Lauren has quickly become one of the leading voices in all things blogging and business.

Here's her story...

1. Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:

I help creatives transform their passion into a successful, profitable business through creative business strategies and great design. While I’m most known for blog posts and design work, I also offer online courses and coaching.

2. At what point did you decide to quit the proverbial 9-5 and what made you ready to do so?

I landed a graphic design position at a startup company right out of college and I hated it. So I did what any designer who’s frustrated with their day job would do: I started freelancing.

I took on every project I could find, designing wedding stationery, logos, art prints, and everything in between. But I discovered pretty quickly that I loved helping small business owners develop a streamlined, professional brand and website.

After a year and a half of freelancing on the side, my husband and I moved to Charlotte so he could start grad school. I was antsy to take my business full-time and saw the move as a great opportunity to make the leap. So I jumped right in...

...and fell flat on my face. I quickly realized that growing a successful, profitable business took more than passion; it took strategy.

While I technically quit my 9-5 in January 2014, I wouldn’t say I was ready for full-time business until I began to implement creative strategies and bring in an actual income 6 months later.

3. It’s a big question - but can you give me a quick overview of how you built Elle & Co. into the business that it is today?

The main strategy I used to grow Elle & Company is one area of business that many creatives don’t take seriously: Content marketing.

I decided to give content marketing a try and write in-depth, transparent blog posts about business and design to attract my ideal clients - creative entrepreneurs in need of a brand and website.

I committed to publishing a new post every weekday and after several months of consistently producing high quality content, my blog readership began to grow exponentially. As a result, I started receiving more design inquiries than I could take on (so much so that I ended up increasing my prices by 600% to slow them down) and now have a waiting list of over 250+ prospective design clients.

Blogging has been more effective than I ever imagined when I started Elle & Company 2 years ago. It’s helped me gain credibility by allowing me to share my expertise, it keeps people coming back to my site on a regular basis to receive more free content, and it’s allowed me to expand my business into more than just design services.

4. Between blogging, course creation, and coaching you’ve got a lot on your plate. How do you manage so many projects?

There are several tasks in my day-to-day that require my attention, like content creation and design work. But there are several tasks in my day-to-day that don’t require my attention, like blog post setup and scheduling social media posts. I’ve learned to delegate and hand those tasks off to my assistant, Jenny.

I’m also a big fan of workflows. I have a process for each item on my plate - blogging, design work, coaching, course creation - and the more I run through those same processes and workflows, the more efficient I become and the less time it takes me to run through them again in the future.

Asana helps me keep track of the tasks involved in each workflow, assign them to myself or to Jenny, and create deadlines to keep us on schedule.

5. What has been the best part of running your own business?

Running my own business has allowed me to create my dream job on my own terms.

I’m able to decide which services I offer, which products I sell, and which courses I create. There’s no cap on how much money I can bring in each year. The possibilities are endless!

Lauren Hooker, the founder of Elle and Company shares how she went about building a successful online business.

6. What compelled you to start using course creation as a method of monetization?

As the Elle & Company audience grew, I began to pay attention to the needs of my readers. Several of them were asking for resources on how to use Adobe Illustrator, so I decided to create a course to teach creatives how to use the program.

I decided to offer 40 spots so I could give attention and feedback to each attendee, and I had no idea what to expect when course registration went live. I was stunned when all the seats sold out in under 15 minutes!

Since then, I’ve come to realize the many benefits that come from teaching online courses.

I can sell courses over and over again without having to spend any extra time. That isn’t the case with my design services.

I also truly love teaching. I remember how much I struggled to find helpful, transparent business and design resources when I first started Elle & Company. So I’ve made it my mission to share all of the effective strategies I’ve learned with my audience. Courses allow me to help a greater number of people.

6. As soon as anyone sees one of your graphics floating around social media it’s immediately apparent that it came from Elle & Co. How did you go about building such a strong visual brand?

The key to building a strong, recognizable brand is consistency.

It’s often tempting to switch things up and use different colors, fonts, etc. when designing graphics for your business, whether it’s out of boredom or insecurity. But when you’re constantly changing things, you aren’t giving your audience any visuals to attach to and remember you by.

Setting standards for fonts, colors, even photography not only help people recognize your visual brand, but they make your business look more professional.

7. Your Ellechats are wildly popular - what advice do you have for other online entrepreneurs who want to dive into doing webinars?

Webinars have been a great way to engage with the Elle & Company audience.

For those interested in diving into webinars, I would highly suggest doing your research on which platform you’ll use. It took us 4 tries, a good amount of money, and a lot of frustration before discovering Crowdcast, and it’s made hosting our Ellechats so much easier.

I would also recommend attending several webinars from different professionals in the industry and picking apart how they set them up so you can approach yours strategically, not haphazardly. While you want to be authentic, webinars have great potential to increase conversions and boost sales, so always consider how you can position your content to promote your courses, services, etc.

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8. What would you tell other creatives who are looking to build a career for themselves outside the 9-5?

Passion may get you started, but strategy keeps you going. Expand your creativity into the marketing and administrative aspects of your business.

Consider utilizing content marketing to grow your audience, increase your credibility, and attract potential clients and customers.

Consider bringing in multiple streams of income to lessen the financial risk of putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Automate as many tasks as you can to free up your time.

Making the leap requires a lot of hard work, but working smarter can lessen the load and help you create your dream job.

9. What are your plans for the future?

I’m in the process of coming up with a Signature Course, which I’m super excited about.

Other than that, I plan on continuing to grow my business and provide helpful resources for creatives in business!

Questions for Lauren, questions for us? Ask away. Lauren will be here answering your questions, so if there's anything you're dying to know it's now or never!

 

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Morgan Timm

Written by Morgan Timm

Morgan Timm is a content marketer at Teachable with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.