Niche Me, Baby! – Being you in your business with Anna Dower
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To learn more about Anna visit her website: www.annadower.com
So today we’re talking to Anna Dower she is an e-course boss. She’s a Designer Boss Lady. She’s a mentor. She’s a cake lover, and my idol about the power of being you and your business. So I found the Designer Boss Ladies group at a time when I couldn’t have needed it more. I’d been working for myself for six months, and I just experienced my very first burnout. I was exhausted, I was ready to give up I was filled to the brim with a toxic combination of self doubt and a corporate hangover dragging me back. Designer Boss Ladies was a shining beacon that gave me hope that my designer dreams could come true, women really could lift each other up and that I was a badass designer who had something unique to offer to the world that something was me. I really was at a place that I didn’t believe that me anymore. And when I found your group and I swear, everything since then has made sense.
That makes me want to cry. It’s so beautiful!
Honestly, I worked in corporate for a really long time. And there was so many preconceived notions that I just thought it was, how the design world was that it was full of chauvinistic art directors who if I managed to wear a short skirt and flirt a little bit, that I was going to get ahead in the world. And I knew that wasn’t me, and I thought there was something wrong with me.
I know what you mean.
I remember listening to one of your very first podcasts when you said a very similar thing that you felt like the uncool designer, which is what your podcast is called. And so much of that resonated with me. I always loved rainbow colours. And, you know, the un-cool stuff about design. Like that was an essence what drew me to design and I felt like the world was telling me that wasn’t okay.
Mm hmm. Yeah, that’s the thing with the design world, there are design trends, that kind of make you feel like if you’re not adhering to those, you’re not part of the cool gang. And it’s something that I have had to deal with for many years in my career as well. Just realising that, you know, the cool gang aren’t the only gang and they don’t necessarily– they’re not necessarily doing it the right way. It might be the right way for them, but it’s not the right way for me, and just like you, I love everything pink and red and girly and fun and bright. And the design world kind of puts out the vibe of a really minimalistic, kind of Too Cool For School vibe. And yet, that’s why I am the uncool designer. And the amazing thing is once I put that out into the world, and I was you know, 100% authentic about how I felt as a designer, I attracted all these other uncool designers, which then made it so worth it, you know, the fear of putting yourself out there and then you find your people and your people don’t care if everything you do is pink and red and they don’t care. If you show up to zoom calls, just looking like a daggy mum doing business from home. So yeah, that’s the thing. When you take the chance to put out the real you, you get paid back. Oh, so well. It’s just you need to get over yourself in order to do that.
And I think a lot of what attracted me to the space that you had created, because let’s be honest, it’s your baby, it’s your space. And everyone ultimately steps into that space because of you, which is a really amazing and really powerful thing. That when people do that you’re given them permission to do exactly the same thing, that they are allowed to be who they are.
There’s no preconceived notions.
That’s what I love about it. I love that we don’t have to pretend that we’re something that we’re not. For so many years. I’ve heard so many women in business say, but do I tell my clients that I’m working from home? Do I tell my clients that are going to juggle a toddler and do their work? Do I tell my– you know what I mean? It’s like, do we be our true selves? Or do we pretend to be something we’re not? And I’m all about being 100% true, and not worrying about them, worry about you take the reins back in your business take the power back. It’s not about them. It’s about you.
That is so true. Like, I’ve recently did a Instagram overhaul and really dug into how I wanted to shop in that space because I’m honest, I was starting to begrudge it and I was starting to feel the “have tos” and it reminded me so much of being in a corporate space of all those shoulds and coulds and all that stuff that I felt like it was forced on me. And when I looked back through those posts, the ones that I just blurted out, that was really real about who I was and what I was going through and called out some level of bullshit about what was going on in my business or in my lifeThey’re the ones that people jumped on and went hell yeah preach it sister.
Mm hmm. Yeah. And that just shows how powerful your opinion is. Anyone’s opinion. Often when we take the brave route and put our opinion out there about something, anything, those are the posts, those are the blogs or whatever they are, that get the most traction.
Now, to backtrack a little bit for the people that haven’t been avidly following every word that you write like I have for the last two years. Tell us a little bit about the journey that took you to become this idol to almost 3000 Designer Boss Ladies.
Oh my gosh, an idol, that’s hilarious.
You know what, I think of you like it, I feel like I need like a little like, Anna, what are they called the Pop?
Pop Figure! That would be hilarious! That would be so funny. Oh my god.
She has to have a flower crown.
A flower crown and a cupcake.
Yeah, I’m currently wearing my fluffy slippers at the moment though, so my journey. Wow. Well, I’ve been a designer for 20 years. Yeah, I feel pretty old. But when I started out, I pretty much fell into working at a studio, working for the man. And I did a soul sucking job for 10 years, which is not very glamorous and not very inspiring to other people. But I think a lot of people can relate to that because we get into the rut of like, this is what I’ve got to do. This is how a responsible adult behaves like get up and go to my nine to five every day sucks my soul, but you know, it pays the rent and pays for food. You know, this is what grownups do. So suck it up. So I did that for 10 years. I did nothing creative in those 10 years I basically designed real estate ads, and real estate ads don’t really need much designing. It’s all about just chucking text in, a photo, making grass greener. Yeah, so it was pretty soul sucking.
Rowena Preddy 8:06
I think we’ve all been done that route mine was car ads.
Yes. That sucks.
I always vowed if I ever had to clear cut another car again, I was quitting
Yeah, I was over the making the grass greener like if I had to make grass greener again. Yeah, that was it. And then like a lot of women, when I fell pregnant with my first child, it kind of, I don’t know if it’s the hormones or what, but you kind of turned into this Superwoman where you’re like, you know, fuck this, I’m not working for the man anymore. And that’s when I made the decision to start my own business and I started out doing wedding stationery and invitations and did that for a while ended up hating that sold that business then started my design business that then grew I had a digital magazine called Roar which became great successful in its own right. And yeah, it was all a journey. I was never confident. I was never confident in anything I did. I think I was just– I think the thing that kept me going was I decided I would never give up. Like, it’s just not in me. And I had the ability to change. And I think that’s where a lot of entrepreneurs fail, as in, oh, well, that didn’t work. I’m a failure. I need to go get a job now. And that was never an option for me. I think I always changed. I always tried different things. And that’s what kept me going.
It’s seriously the most pivotal, one of the most pivotal things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is admitting that something has not worked, but actually learning from it. You know, when you actually go okay, so it didn’t work. What can I learn from this so that never happens again?
Yes. And it has, it still happens to me to this day. And the key is to actually not play the victim, as in oh, people don’t get me, people don’t want to pay me for what I do, but actually flipping it and saying, Well, how can I change them? How can I educate them? How can I make it clear to them that this is how it’s gonna work? And, you know, take back the responsibility and think about how you can turn things around.
Own your shit. Yeah, that is so true. Like, it’s powerful once you start to own that space, and go, you know what, I actually played a part in this as well.
To get to this point. I played a part in this and rather than making excuses and rather than saying he should she should bullshit, like putting it somewhere else, by stepping into that space and going, you know what, I fucked up.
What can I do not to do that again? Or, you know, that was an awful client experience. How can I make sure that I don’t get that client again?
How can I make sure that I put a process in place or I market myself in a certain way? So I won’t appeal to those kinds of people anymore?
Mm hmm. Yeah, exactly. Taking the ownership back because you are the boss of your business. And I think so many women fall into the trap of, you know, any client’s good client, the customer’s always right. Just take the money, shut up and take the money. And if you have that kind of mentality, you’re gonna burn out, you’re gonna end up hating everyone you work with, and you might as well go get a job.
It’s soul destroying. I’ve been in that place so many times. And now when I start to see those signs that I’m heading in that direction, I take it as a warning like a giant red stoplight flashing in my face. Warning, you’ve been here before you remember how that feels? Let’s not do that again.
All right. So the fact that you’re on a podcast called Work Wife Wine Time and you have what I feel like a whole tribe of Work Wives who have got your back, what does the term Work Wife mean to you?
Work Wife means someone that you can just send a message to, and say, What the fuck is this. Someone you can send something to and say, you know, am I being unreasonable here? Or send something to them and say, What do you honestly think? Is it too much? Is it too little? Basically your work BFF someone that you can bounce ideas off, someone that can– that feels like a safe space and also has the same work ethic as you I think, you know, someone who’s like got the same motivation got the same– going in the same direction as you I think.
I think of the same level oomph towards what they want to do like the the kind of people that yes, they might bitch about it to you the day before. But the realisation is is that they’re still going to get up and be amping the next morning.
You know, there’s still going to be that person that goes, You know what I still know in my heart of hearts this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just a stumble or it’s just, half the time when you have that chance to offload. It doesn’t seem such a drama anyway, like everything kind of just– you get perspective.
And I feel it. That’s one of the most powerful things about having a woman that gets it. Let’s be honest, we have partners, we have friends that are supportive, but it’s that don’t necessarily ever get it, all of the it.
Oh my god, yes. I have recently launched my new website. And if you’ve seen it, it’s like pretty, it’s pink. It’s got all these pretty illustrations. It’s got all these little gifs. And when I was designing it, designing for yourself is absolute torture. When I was doing it, I was like come on just like, make it timeless, make it really simple. So it last the test of time, and then I thought, That’s not me. So I went full on. I was like, I want all these illustrations around my head, I want love hearts. You know, I want this and that. And then I did it. And I was so proud of it. And I felt like it was completely me. And then I showed my husband he was like, really animated gifs? Are they in now? He was like, Really? I said, What do you like it and he goes, oh, maybe if you’re trying to sell to like 10 year olds. I was like, so devastated. And that was like the biggest reminder that I should not talk to you about this. You know, and now every comment that I’ve gotten about my new website saying– from people saying how much they love it, I just like screenshot it and send it to him.
Yeah, he wasn’t your target audience which actually brings us really succinctly to something else that I knew about before finding out about you and finding the Designer Boss Ladies. I knew that I needed to niche or ‘nitch’ as they seem to call it an America which I can never quite get my head around. But I knew I needed to niche, it scared the crap out of me because again, like you said, I felt like I had to appeal to everyone and I kind of took baby steps into that space. But like I said, it’s weird I hadn’t needed to know before like in corporate someone tells you what you niche is in corporate. You know, someone tells you what you’re supposed to do, and you’re supposed to fit yourself in that little box. But now it’s one of my favourite words. And I was wondering, I’ve heard you speak about niches many times before through many of the courses that I’ve taken with you, but I was wondering if you could tell the fellow Work Wives out there that are hesitant in narrowing down the audience, about the power of niching and some of the effects you’ve seen it have.
Um, well, firstly, I think people are scared of niching because it’s like, a massive fear of commitment. Actually putting out there into the world, this is what I specialise in. And oh my God, I’ve heard all the excuses when it comes to niching people telling me but I like doing everything. But I like working with everyone. And that is absolute bullshit. That is fear talking, saying I’m scared that if I only do one thing, I won’t have enough money. I won’t have enough clients. People will judge me, my current clients will leave and be unhappy. It’s all fear talking. The reality is a niche isn’t that scary, a niche really is just doing the work that you like doing and working with the people you like working with. Like we said before about the uncool designer, until I actually put out into the world that I am an uncool designer. I didn’t even know other uncool designers existed, right? So you need to be brave and put out into the world, who you are and what you want to do. And when you do that, that’s when you attract people who become more than just clients. They become raving fans. They become people who follow you on everything. They become people who will buy everything that you’re selling. They will become people who interview you on a podcast, they will become people– You know what I mean? They become next level clients. It’s like, they’re your friends. Basically. You just love hanging out with them. And it doesn’t even feel like work and doesn’t that sound amazing? Just taking that step to put out into the world, who you really are, and what you’re really frickin good at. Now, the thing is, we have been fed these false beliefs our whole lives, that grown ups look like this, that, you know, a career looks like this. You’ll never make money if you do this. And that’s what they are they’re false beliefs. So actually figuring out who you really are, and what you really like to do can be hard for a lot of adults, hard for a lot of women. And I spend a lot of my days just trying to peel away the layers to get to the core of them. Because like I said, there’s all the responsibilities, there’s all the money worries, there’s, you know, the false beliefs and you have to do the work as well to really figure out who you authentically are, and what you’re really good at and what you want to do every day. And that’s what a niche is basically, I said the results are when you niche, you have raving fans and it doesn’t even feel like work.
Something you just said then really struck home. I remember when I was doing my very first coaching programme, and it had a huge mindset component. And I kind of waited to the side, as you would call it is woo woo. You know, I very much was like, I can get through that one in two weeks. And every time we came to a mindset module, it would take me two and a half months and it would feel like it had just broken me down to pieces and built me back up again. And a lot of that was based around breaking down those preconceived notions that I’d built up over time, just writing them made me really uncomfortable. Just having that acknowledgement that that was actually a way I felt was really uncomfortable, and then going out of your way to prove that they’re actually wrong, you know, like, people, a big part of mine was around my looks from teenage years and it being broken down about it. I went and got a photoshoot and I was like, damn!
That’s right. I’m pretty hot!
So that was fake, that was bullshit. Next.
And by breaking those things down and releasing that, it’s almost like that corporate indoctrination, where like, you know, you’re a line of robots that have just been tuned out for a certain purpose. And, you know, I want to be that busker on the street corner dancing to its own tune.
Hmm, that’s right. And a lot of people think Well, yeah, you know what I am being the real me and my business and I am doing what I want, but are you really? Is it really your core? Is it 100% you injected into every single part of your business into every single service you offer? I’m constantly telling people push it further, go further, be more you. And it is a process like I’m still getting more and more authentic each day in my business and you’ll never be finished. But I think that’s what the core is just to be you and to keep digging deeper into that, because people will connect with you. There’s so many coaches out there, but people who find me and work with me have connected with who I am. And that’s really important and that just shows how a niche works. And I don’t feel like I have to pretend to be anything that I’m not now because I’ve been 100% me and everything so I’m really comfortable. Like I will jump on the zoom calls and just look like me and talk like me and not have anything prepared and just go ba ba ba ba ba. And they expect that from me, so I never have to pretend
It’s so true. So for an example, this year, I didn’t even realise I’d done it. But I put three Designer Boss Lady things on my vision board for this year. And let’s be honest, which already people are probably in the process of burning the vision boards at the moment for 2020 because it has just been like that. But the power of actually putting it out there, it’s so true that you get it back. I’ve already highlighted before that I try not to be woowoo until it like slaps me in the face and it’s like, hang on a minute, this is actually a thing. And like, I’m hands done, I’m going to totally fangirl here. I’ve been a raving fan of yours for like two years and the first time I had to jump on a call with you I had butterflies and shakes and because you’ve had such a powerful impact. And it’s because I found the right person, you know, I found the person that spoke to all of my fears, all of everything. And it means that I’m your niche. I’m your target client. And this last year I’ve realised the power of outsourcing. And I know that you’re a firm believer of this, as well. And I know that a lot of entrepreneurs get to that point where they’re at this cusp. They’re at this tipping point where there’s still elements of fear about whether they should outsource. What are some of your big tips for you know, you’ve got to this point, you know, you’re attracting these raving fans, and your business is starting to grow because you’re truly being yourself and your business. But suddenly you go, Well, I’m not going to employ anyone. It’s time for me to outsource I just want to do the stuff that I love.
Mm hmm. Well, that’s the first thing. Only outsource the stuff that you don’t love doing. Never outsource the part that people pay you to do, if that makes sense. So if you’re a designer, I wouldn’t outsource designing, I would outsource all the other stuff around it like maybe bookkeeping, admin, you know, all that other stuff and you just then focus on the core passion in your business. Another thing is, I’m a huge fan of doing swapsies with people. If you have friends, work wives, who are in a complimentary business, help each other. I am also about community over competition, us helping each other is so powerful. I’m all about lifting each other up, helping each other. If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you. And that has worked so well in my business over the last 10 years. I’ve done so many swapsies and when it comes to outsourcing, I’ve tried all the things I’ve tried hiring junior designers, I’ve tried hiring VAs. But the thing that has worked best for me is just outsourcing the stuff I hate, the stuff that isn’t my zone of genius. And that has just made my life easier and freed up my time in order to do the stuff that I’m actually good at and want to do.
And isn’t it true that once you’ve actually paid for it, you’re like, that was awesome? I would totally pay that again. For the result.
Yeah, that’s right. And that’s right. And if you find the right person to outsource too you’re like, it’s not even a thing paying them, you’re just say, yeah, I’ve got to do that. Just a part of business.
And I worked my way backwards. I worked out the thing I hated most, the thing that I put off, the thing that like made me squirm when I want to do it and I found myself scrolling Facebook for two hours or something else being super urgent. To avoid that one thing I was like, that’s the thing I need to outsource.
Because it just removes a whole layer of ugh.
Yeah, yeah. Like just dread and stress, get rid of it.
Yeah. And the problem is that one of the last things I would love to finish on is that the Designer Boss Ladies community is really that. And you mentioned it before that, you know, definitely collaboration over competition and you’ve created one of the most positive spaces that I’ve ever found on the internet. You know, there’s a lot of cliches about when you get a bunch of women together and the bitchiness that can ensue and stuff like that. I feel like they just need to come and see your group and see that that is not true whatsoever. Like I always had this level of competition built into me, and seeing that everyone was community in that group. And those ladies, they’re freaking awesome.
Yeah, I know. They are amazing, and I feel so lucky that I’ve, you know, collected these women. And I do really think it’s due to the fact that I’ve been 100% my. And I’ve been 100% honest about what I’m about. And I think when they listen and speak to me, they feel like, hey, they’re problems I’ve had, as a designer they’re the problems I’ve had as a woman in business. And maybe I’m not so weird or wrong, maybe there’s a whole bunch of me out there. And there is and I’m so glad that my community feels like that. As you said, we’ve got I think nearly 3000 people in the free group and over 100 in the paid group, and I think maybe two or three people in the last five years have caused a problem in those groups. And that’s pretty amazing. Yeah, I put it all down to being authentic. And I love those women. I love them all. It’s like hanging out with my best friends.
I know. And I feel like we lift everyone up so freely.
You know, there’s no bullshit. There’s no–
And that’s a really amazing thing. Like so many people I feel like get really competitive in this space, you know, they don’t want to share what they’re doing or, you know, and especially design. It’s a really creative process. It’s really personal. And it can feel really raw to put that out there. But in that group, I’ve had some of the best feedback and constructive criticism as well, but it’s made me a better designer by finding people that are in the same space as I am, that I get what I do. And I feel like I’ve got 3000 Work Wives on my side in that group.
Yeah, it’s pretty special. It really is. And I get that with creatives. Like I used to be the same I used to feel like I didn’t want to show anyone my work. And there was this big thing about well you stole my style or they’re a better designer than me. I’m shit. But I feel like when I put myself out there as I’m not the best designer in the world, but this is what I’ve done in my business in order to make it better. And in order to succeed on my terms, people were attracted to that. And I think when you shed the ego, that’s when you see real people and the power of community. And I feel like we’ve all left our egos at the door.
Yep, we left our egos at the question you gave us, what is your favourite cake? And if we didn’t answer the question, we’re not in the group.
Yeah, that’s right. You don’t answer you’re not in?
You know what, I’ve reccommended some eople to the group and I’m always like, make sure you answer the cake question!
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. It’s important to me, so it shouldn’t be important to you.
Oh, it’s always important. There is no such situation where cake is not important. Even if it’s a muffin parading as cake. It’s still got the same ingredients. So it’s cake in my books.
Yeah, exactly. Not that into ice cream, people who say I’d rather ice cream over cake, not in the same kind of, you know, category.
No, what you need to do is combine the two. Alright Anna, well thank you so much and I was just wondering if you could give us a parting thought about what we’ve talked about today, what you feel is like the one thing if anyone has zoned out for half an hour and now they’re coming back in what is the one thing that Work Wives need to know about niching or collaboration or competition like what is the one thing you feel like they need to know?
The one thing you need to know is that you can be whatever you want to be and you can create a business any way you want. Just remember that you have the power, and that anything that’s holding you back is probably just fear or false beliefs, so do your best to break through them. And show up as your true self and you will be amazed at the response you get
Perfect because that is what you did for me. So thank you, Anna for being here again, and I look forward to catching you on the flip side in the Designer Boss Ladies group.