Episode #63:

From Designer to Brand Strategist With Melinda Livsey

Brand strategy.

Hear about the challenges that led Melinda Livsey to go from being a designer treated like an order taker and art directed by clients to trusted expert and brand strategist, the mindset shifts she had to make, why she no longer does any design work, how she builds trust with clients, the three questions she always asks during an initial consultation that position her as an expert and more. Plus, find out her secret talent. It might surprise you.


Show Notes


About Melinda Livsey

Melinda Livsey.Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist and online educator based in sunny Southern California. She successfully went from charging $0 to $10k for brand strategy in less than a year by helping her clients win the hearts of their ideal customers. She’s worked with notable names such as Oakley, Paramount Pictures and Loot Crate, and is co-host with Chris Do on The Futur, a design business education platform. She can be found at marksandmaker.com, and on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.


This episode is brought to you by my brand style guide template, which will help set you apart from other logo designers, get more respect, command higher rates for your identity work and save you tons of time. I’ve charged clients a minimum of $1,000 for a style guide alone. Check it out.


Getting to Know Melinda

Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Melinda. I’m so excited to have you here.

Melinda Livsey: I’m excited to be here. Thank you for asking me.

Colleen: Thank you! So I’ve got a few fun questions to start us off with.

One of them is would you rather be stranded on a deserted island alone or with someone you don’t like?

Melinda: This is a really hard question because every time I think of one or the other… They both sound equally as tragic.

Colleen: Right.

Melinda: I would say if I really had to pick, it would probably be with the person that I don’t like. As much as I’d want to be alone, I think it would get old fast. I figure, well, at least with someone I don’t like at least there’s some interaction and maybe their annoyances that I have with them would just be like sandpaper and would refine me, I would hope. But it would bring something new each day. I say that very hesitantly. But that’s my answer for now.

Colleen: That’s your final answer? Well, there’s always the possibility that you could come together for a common purpose.

Melinda: I hope. I hope.

Colleen: And then would you rather be invisible or would you rather be able to read minds?

Melinda: Invisible. Invisible. I don’t want to read people’s minds. As much as I could use that in daily life, I wouldn’t want to. I’d rather be ignorant on some of that.

Colleen: Right. I get that. And do you have a secret talent?

Melinda: A secret talent… I am really good at Tetris.

Colleen: Awww… I love Tetris.

Melinda: I adore Tetris. I’m really good to my own standards. I bet if you put me in a competition, I probably am not.

Colleen: Oh, well, so how long have you been playing it? Because I’ve been playing it since it came out.

Melinda: Oh, my goodness. When was that? I don’t remember when it came out.

Colleen: It was in the 80s.

Melinda: I probably started early 90s. So you might be able to beat me.

Colleen: Well, I haven’t played it in a while, but I have played it on and off since then. But I used to play it. I was obsessive about it. I also played the predecessor to it, which was called Nyet. That didn’t have all the cool Russian images and all that stuff. It just was very plain and solid colors, but it was the same kind of thing.

Melinda: Ooh. I’ve never heard of it. I need to check it out.

Changing Focus

Colleen: Your story is really cool, because you have gone from being a designer to a brand strategist. What prompted you to do that in the first place?

Melinda: Yeah, as a designer, I was having a lot of issues. I had clients who—

Colleen: I hear that.

Melinda: Oh, yeah. Misalignment with clients. They wanted one thing. I thought they wanted another thing. I showed them the other thing, and they said, “No, that’s not what I had in mind.”

Or I had multiple revisions happening with clients where they said, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking.” Then I did it to what I thought aligned with what they wanted, and they said, “No, no, I think it’s more like this.” Then we’d go through, 12 or 13 revisions of a logo.

I’d be ripping my hair out at that point, like, what did I do? What did I do wrong? I would just blame it on the client, like, it’s just this client, not realizing that I could take responsibility and do something different in my process to get a different outcome.

So those were a couple of the frustrations I had. In 2017, I met my now-coach, who is Chris Do. We both mutually know Chris of The Futur.

We got connected from me engaging with some of his content on Facebook and trying to learn how to design a better logo. So I was engaging with his content there and then he ended up reaching out to me and asked me some questions about my business and how it’s going and if I needed any help and needed any guidance and mentorship.

I told them all of my issues I had. I wanted to charge more money for what I was doing. I wanted to do better work. I wanted to solve bigger problems. He started coaching me. He introduced me to the world of brand strategy during that time and said, “You know, what’s missing for you is this piece. I believe if you learn it, it’s going to change a lot of things for you.”

He was right. He was right. So I learned it, and it changed everything. Even though I don’t offer design now anymore, when I switched, it helped me present only one option—one design option—to my clients versus three or more that I used to show my clients. It helped to build trust with my clients.

Now I charge separately. I charge for that portion of brand strategy. It’s just the design thinking alone for a minimum of $10,000. So I was able to finally charge for my thinking, not just for the design or the deliverables that I would do for my clients.

Changing Mindset

Colleen: It really changes your mindset. I think it changes too how you’re perceived by the client. You’re no longer the order taker. You’re finally seen as the expert. They’re like, “Oh, I trust you.” Like you said, I trust you. You know what, this is what we’ll do.

Melinda: Exactly. I’m glad you brought that up too. Because that was the biggest thing.

I used to feel like an order taker. I used to feel like oh, my client’s just being an art director and telling me what to do. I felt like I had all of these amazing ideas that could really help their business, but they just wouldn’t listen. That was my mindset before.

When I switched to brand strategy, I had to learn the consultant’s mindset. The consultant’s mindset is really based on asking really, really good questions and leaving your assumptions at the door.

The funny thing is, I always thought that I had to have the answers and what I really needed was was to have really, really good questions.

Then the client started seeing me as an expert and as a consultant. I hadn’t been seen like that before, and it was because I was always trying to have the answer. I wouldn’t just stop and listen and ask really good questions.

Getting Certified

Colleen: Right. And you got certified through Marty Neumeier’s course. Is that right?

Melinda: Yes, I did. But that was only recently in the past few months.

Colleen: And I took a Brand Academy™ course last year, which was a really great course. It was a two full-day course for brand strategy.

Melinda: I haven’t heard of that one. I’ll have to look it up.

Colleen: Well, that one’s actually not offered anymore. It’s not available anymore. They did it for years, and then that was the last course that they did.

Learning Brand Strategy

Colleen: Some of these questions are from my listeners. One of them is would you call yourself a brand specialist and, if so, why? How long did it take you to become one?

Melinda: Yeah, well, I considered myself a brand strategist from the day that I learned it, which was almost three years ago. I learned it through The Futur. They offer a kit called Core. It was based off of a UX strategy model.

I took that and I adapted it for brand strategy. So I changed a lot of things, so that it would be more geared towards brand strategy. I really call myself a brand strategist from the day that I started offering it and after I learned it, and I started offering it. I didn’t feel the need at that point to… There wasn’t even anywhere to get certified at that point that I knew of.

I figured this is what I’m doing. This is what I want to offer, and I’ve gotten results for people already, because I was practicing with previous clients and friends and other people that I knew that were starting businesses. I practiced on five clients before I started charging for it.

So I was building up my case studies at that point. Once I got the first one that had results from it, I figured, all right, I’m going to call myself this, and I’m going to sell it because I had someone that already got results from it.

From that point on, I call myself a brand strategist and went for it. For me, being certified was only the icing on the cake. If someone’s thinking about wanting to do this, I wouldn’t wait and get certified before you start learning it, doing it and then even selling it.

Building Case Studies

Colleen: Sure. That’s a great point. When you were building up the case studies, were you offering the brand strategy free of charge, or were you just charging less?

Melinda: When I did the first few… So I did five for free—completely free—because I was still trying to even learn. What is this thing? What are the benefits for my client? It was very hard for me to communicate it at that time.

I figured, well, if I could just get five people on board, then it’s enough for me—and that was just my number. I suggest it for people if they want to, but it’s not like they have to do five for free to do this.

But I figured for myself to feel confident enough to start charging, I wanted to do five for free. That helped me refine how I talked about it, refine the value I helped them get from it. So those first five were free.

Then it moved to $1,000. That was with some design involved too when I first sold it, and then I doubled it and added some, to $2500. Then I doubled it again to $5,000 and then to $10,000.

So every time I got a new client, I saw how much value the previous client just got from me. I was like, “This is worth way more than what I’m currently charging.” That’s why I kept doubling it.

Those first five were so good to build my confidence to actually feel like, you know what, this is really valuable and the clients say so too. So I feel like now I feel confident enough to start charging for it.

Building Confidence

Colleen: Yeah, I find that with a lot of designers they’re like, “Well, I’m afraid to just jump from charging $1,000 to $10,000 or $20,000 for something like that.” I think the only barrier there is—well, of course, you have to have the case studies, like you mentioned—but I think another barrier there is confidence and mindset.

Melinda: Oh, yeah, that’s a huge thing. I think that’s why I chose the five for free because I knew that if I could get that for myself, I would feel more confident. It is a mindset thing and, too, it was helping me prove the value of it to myself.

Colleen:Right.

Melinda: Because it you can’t sell anything, you can’t get anyone else on board with something, if you yourself don’t believe it.

Colleen: Exactly.

Melinda: That’s ridiculous. So we have to first convince ourselves and prove to ourselves of the value and once we see it, and once we see what it does for people, that’s when our confidence builds in it.

Colleen: Oh, 100%. 100%.

So what do you think was the most challenging thing about going from designer to brand strategist?

Melinda: It was that mindset shift that you had mentioned earlier on about going from order taker to consultant, and I’m still learning this, to have that coaching mindset, where you’re more used to asking questions than you are to just jump straight to giving answers or giving advice.

I’m still trying to unlearn my tendency to want to go head first into advice, because I realize now that when I tried to do that, I was bringing in a ton of assumptions, a ton of things that I was assuming about my client and about what they needed.

I’m still learning how to tame that advice monster that just wants to just give so much advice and answers, and just lead with questions. I think that was one of the biggest mindset things that I had to shift away from me trying to prove myself and how much of an expert I am and to put the client first and just listen to them and ask really good questions.

I’m still… I’m gonna be on this path probably for the rest of my life. It’s learning how to be better at that.

Colleen: Well, that’s always good. I mean, you’re always learning.

It’s like you’re in more of a facilitator role instead of them coming to you, like for design work, they’re coming to you with a particular problem and looking for a solution. You’re still providing a solution, but you’re facilitating and helping them arrive at that solution as well.

Melinda: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Skills for Strategists

Colleen: So what characteristics and skills do you think it takes to be a successful brand strategist—other than listening, which you said?

Melinda: Yeah, yeah, listening. I would also say that being curious, a naturally curious person, this will be really good for them. Someone who knows a little bit about a lot. So if you’re interested, or if even if you’re interested in a lot of things, I think that’s what a big thing for me is. I love to learn new things. I love to hear about what people are doing what they’re trying to do.

If you’re an observer, if you’re just the type of person—I know it sounds weird… But I think it’s really good for people who are more introverted and who sit back and observe.

I know that’s how I was growing up. I was fairly shy growing up and introverted. I would sit back and observe the world and take it all in and try to categorize it and put it into a box, so I could think of it and I could categorize things and understand it. So someone who wants to understand things and categorize or someone who can connect dots, that too really helps.

But I would say, too, someone who has knowledge and experience in business as well. I had to learn a lot of things in business, marketing that I didn’t previously know. Not that I needed to be an expert on all those things, but I needed to know enough, just enough, so that I could refer my client elsewhere if needed, or I would just have more of that business acumen to be able to talk to my client.

Those things were really helpful too, at least some interest in those things like business and marketing, to get you enough to research it and motivated enough to learn about it.

Focusing on Strategy

Colleen: So, Melinda, I know that you have gotten rid of all design work. What prompted you to just focus on strategy and get rid of the design work instead of just doing both?

Melinda: Yeah, I did both for a while. I would say for about a year and a half, I was doing both and every time I did, I regretted it.

Colleen: Oh.

Melinda: I just felt… And I was doing most of the design work.

I would hire some freelancers and some logo designers but it was hard for me to manage that. It was also… I’m a fine designer, but I’m not great, like what I imagined being really, really good.

I figured like there’s so many other designs firms and whatnot that I would love to see the ideas that we came up with in strategy. I would love to see them implemented by these amazing designers.

But I really did not want to manage it. I didn’t want to be involved in it. I didn’t want to art direct. It just gets muddy. Then you have to work long hours and stay up all night.

I didn’t love designing for other people that much to where I would want to do that. So I figured, well, if I could do the strategy… I love doing strategy. I love talking to my clients. I love coming up with ideas. But I don’t necessarily love implementing and managing them.

I figured if I could come up with a strategy and I can outsource—and not even outsource. I would refer them to that agency or designer and get an agency or designer that is really, really good at what they do. Then it would make all those ideas that we came up with so much better than if I was trying to do two things.

I realized that I couldn’t do two things really well. But I only could do one thing really, really well, and that’s the mind of a specialist. That’s the mind of someone who really specializes versus generalizes. I realized that I could get even better at strategy if I were to just focus on it.

I thought to myself too, “I think that’s what it was designed to do.” I was created to be more of the idea person and the one who finds the why behind everything and questions the creative brief, not the one who executes on the creative brief.

I just realized that’s who I am and where I fit best. Design just felt like it didn’t fit me anymore. It just didn’t feel right anymore. That’s when I slowly started to transition out of doing that.

Colleen: Do you think that your clients or that prospects take you more seriously because of that?

Melinda: As far as me only offering one thing?

Colleen: Yeah.

Melinda: I think so. I think so. I’m noticing more and more that certain clients I work with will only hire specialists because they want the best of the best in every single piece of their business. They don’t want someone that does too many things.

Colleen: Right.

Melinda: So I’m noticing that they do take me more seriously. Too, if you specialize in something, that means you have more time and energy to put into making that one thing really, really good. I can study it more. I have more time to, and I have time to refine it and make it the best I possibly can versus me splitting myself between the two. I think, yeah, I would think that they do take me more serious because of it.

Colleen: Yeah, it makes for such a much easier sales process.

Melinda: Mm hmm. Definitely.

Colleen: Then internal processes, it’s like, wow, you don’t have to switch gears 10 different times throughout the day. I mean, I remember like, even up until a few years ago, I was doing everything, and a couple years ago, I hired a team to help me.

But I was sitting there doing a print brochure and then maybe I was doing a logo and then later I was like coding a freaking HTML email, which I hate.

It’s like, wait, okay, I got to get into the right mindset to do it. I gotta remember how to go in and where was I last on this job? Or what was I doing with this one? Totally different processes for each of them, and it’s so distracting. It’s just not efficient.

Melinda: Right. It’s not efficient. For me, it was very energy draining too.

Colleen: Yeah.

Melinda: Very energy draining. I realized that I needed that energy to be able to do the strategy. I couldn’t keep splitting myself, like you said, between processes.

There’s so many different processes for all of those different things. If I’m the one doing a lot of it—even if I had to hire out, and I hired out a designer—I still had to manage all that.

Colleen: Right.

Melinda: That’s using a different skill set. That’s using a different hat you’re putting on again.

Colleen: Yep.

Melinda: I was drained and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.

Having a Process

Colleen: So when you have clients come to you, what is your process like?

Melinda: In the beginning, usually they reach out to me or there’s some referral or they’ve seen me on YouTube or whatnot. They reach out to me and if it seems like…

I don’t take too many clients on because I also teach designers how to switch to brand strategist, so I have that too.

I only take on clients that if it sounds pretty interesting if they reach out to me. I hop on a Zoom call with them, and I make sure to do it on Zoom or some kind of video platform because I’m finding that that builds trust really quick.

I do hop on Zoom with them. It’s probably about, I would say, 45 minutes to an hour conversation, and it’s free. It’s just a free conversation. You could categorize that as a sales meeting.

I will ask them questions like… I use Jonathan Stark’s three “why” questions: Why this? Why now? Why me?

Even those questions position me more as a consultant than previously, when I would have asked, “Well, what do you need? When do you need it by? What does it need to look like?”

Colleen: Right.

Melinda: I’m digging into what brought you here? I do start off with that. “What’s on your mind? What brought you here?” Then I will ask them, “Why this thing? Why are you trying to get this done now? Why do it now? Why not wait? And is there a specific reason why I’m a good choice for you in this?”

I will also ask them about their vision. Typically, I have one of two clients come to me: one, they already have this thing in mind that they want. Sometimes it’s design. Sometimes it’s a marketing thing, whatnot, but it’s a tangible good. It’s like, “Hey, I need a rebrand. I need a brand identity.”

The other type of client is someone who says, “Hey, I want to disrupt an industry. I want a brand that is so different, that people notice it, and I want to be positioned completely different than everyone else.”

Those are two completely different viewpoints. One is a vision-based one, where it’s a bigger goal. It’s a much bigger goal as far as disrupting the marketplace. The other one is, “I’ve already thought through all that, and I just need this deliverable.”

So depending on what they come to me with, I will approach it differently. I might ask them about their vision. I might ask them about the deliverable. If it’s a deliverable, I would ask them, “Why this? Why now? Why me?”

I approach it differently depending on how they come to me. But more and more, as I keep doing this, I’ve been getting the second type of client, which is “I want to disrupt this marketplace. I want to be so different that people notice me.” I’ve been getting more of those clients.

After I dig into their goal and what their problem is getting to that goal, then at the very end of all of that, we see if what I do will help them get there. I get really, really clear on what is the goal and what’s your problem getting to that goal.

Only then, after I am completely clear on that, do I come in and say, “Well, this is how I could potentially help you with that.” But it’s after we talk about what does success look like, how do we measure success, how will we know that we’ve achieved this.

After I get all of that information, then I go into, “Okay, well, here’s how I could potentially help you out,” or I go, “You know what, I can’t help you. But I know someone who will.” I will typically refer them to someone else at that point.

So it’s a little different from how I used to sell, where I used to lead with myself. I used to say, “Hey, this is what I do, and this is how I can help you.” I didn’t even ask them like anything about them. Now it’s completely switched, where it’s all about them. Then, only at the very end, if I find that it’s something I can help them with, then I go into my process.

Colleen: It makes things so much easier in the sales process, doesn’t it?

Melinda: So much, It lifts this load off of me. Before, I thought I had to do this dog and pony show and show off and, no, I just had to ask them about them.

Colleen: Right. It’s not about us.

Melinda: Mm hmm, exactly.

Colleen: Now, going back to your sales process for a moment… When you have a cold lead who becomes a warm lead, what is the first thing about your strategy process that the prospect needs to understand before you’ll go farther in the process with them?

Melinda: From the sales meeting to the workshop?

Colleen: Yeah.

Melinda: Yeah, typically they come in… I try not to hop on the phone with them unless they are a warmer lead, unless they know what brand strategy is, if they’ve heard of me, if they got a recommendation. Then I’ll hop on the phone with them.

Going from the sales conversation to the workshop… They need to be prepared for the time that’s involved that they need to invest in because it is a two-day workshop. I need all of the decision makers there. If they’re all really busy, and they can’t tear themselves away from the business for two days to be able to do this—and that includes the CEO, that includes all stakeholders, all decision makers—then we can’t do it.

So that upfront, they need to know the time commitment for them is going to be big—potentially. I mean, some people don’t see that as an investment. So they’re willing to do it. But others are like, “Oh, I just don’t have the time for that.”

That’s a big deal. That’s one of the biggest things that I have to prepare them for, the time commitment. It’s typically two consecutive days, full days. Then I check in with them. I refine what I call the “roadmap document” that I give them at the very end. I refine that over the course of four weeks.

Then I meet with them once a week after that initial one of the two-day workshop. I meet with them every week after that, once a week for about an hour to go over “Here’s what we got from the workshop. This is how I’ve refined it. Just to check in and make sure we’re all in alignment, we all agree, and that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Colleen: Right. Because that’s so important because there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the project, and then it’s “Oh, well, we’re changing direction now,” or “This person just got brought into the process, so…”

Melinda: Exactly. Yes. That’s the worst. We try to avoid that at all costs.

Colleen: Right. Definitely important to have all the important people there in the beginning and everything.

Melinda: Exactly.

Finding Clients for Strategy

Colleen: Now, do you ever have any clients who are agencies that don’t do brand strategy in house, and they hire you to do the brand strategy? I’m asking because I’ve heard that there are a lot of agencies that just don’t do brand strategy and that they’ll farm it out.

Melinda: Yeah, I do, actually. There’s one agency that I currently do strategy for, so when they don’t want to do it, or… They usually don’t do it themselves. Their clients either come to them already with a strategy, but if they don’t, then they’ll bring me in for it.

So, yeah, yeah, a lot of agencies will do that. I’ve also consulted with a lot of agencies who realize that they want to add strategy to their services, and that they want to pivot to that, because they’re working long hours. They’re only working on deliverables. They’re getting poor direction, like all the problems that come with being an order taker.

Colleen: Mmm hmmm.

Melinda: I’ve consulted with them to help them pivot to being strategists. I’ve consulted with a lot of agencies to help them do that. So, yeah, there’s one of two—either they’re gonna learn and they’re gonna pivot themselves, or they farm it out.

Colleen: That’s great. It doesn’t sound like you’re focusing on a particular industry, but just on the type of work you’re offering. Is that right?

Melinda: Well, yes and no.

Colleen: Or do you focus on certain industries?

Melinda: Yeah, I have worked with only—I think one—tech company. I normally don’t work in anything in tech. I’m usually on the on the lifestyle side.

I work with anything that would go under that lifestyle umbrella, from… I worked with a home developer to a lot of fashion designers, like accessory designers.

What else? Actually, recently, I say within the past year, it’s changed to more coaches and solopreneurs who have really large YouTube channels, and they’re creating e-courses. They’re more on the teaching side of the coaching side.

So that’s been happening and it just happened naturally and organically. When I started out though, I was specifically looking for brands in the lifestyle space. I would connect with other people who were serving a similar audience and collaborate with them and then help give value to their audience as well, to get clients from that too.

I did that with fashion designers. But, over time, it just ended up being that it snowballed into other categories.

Yeah, so I wouldn’t say I limit myself to anything, but I don’t really enjoy tech. I like the lifestyle space much better.

Colleen: And what made you pick the lifestyle space? Was it something you already had experience in, or you were just interested in it? Or was there something else?

Melinda: It was a little bit of both. I realized it was from taking an e-course years ago, about freelancing. It was when I went off on my own after being laid off from Oakley, and I was like, “I gotta get my stuff together. I got to brand myself.”

I took this freelancing course, and they had me outline my ideal client. I had never done this before. I thought, well, it’s a cool kind of exercise. Now I do it for people, and I help them do it.

But I outlined… One of the questions was, have you ever worked with someone, a previous client that you’ve loved working with? I thought, well, yeah, I worked with a few that I really liked.

So I started outlining what that person was like and what industry they were in and what type of things they were into and why I liked working with them so much. It just so happened that the three different clients that I put down all were in the lifestyle space. They were all designers, not necessarily graphic designers, but they were designers in their own way. They either were interior designers, they were accessory designers. So they fit in one of those categories.

I realized I loved working with people who already were aesthetically minded, that they already had a taste that I liked too, and that I didn’t have to fight with people about trying to convince them into good design.

Colleen: Right.

Melinda: They already knew what good design was. But they just were like, “Hey, I need a specialist to do this for me.”

After doing that outline of the ideal clients, I realized, oh, I really like working with other creative individuals that are maybe just creative in a different way than I am. I really, really enjoyed that. That’s what got me started in that whole lifestyle space.

Colleen: Do you still specifically target them, even though you take work from clients in other industries?

Melinda: I don’t necessarily target them anymore. That’s also because I get enough referrals that I don’t have to target a specific industry anymore. But I will typically—even if an agency approaches me too—I’ll probably take lifestyle over anything else. Just because it’s more fun.

Now I’m filtering things instead of targeting them. I’m actually just filtering who I’m going to take on now out of who approaches me.

Colleen: And that’s so important.

Melinda: Mm hmm. Definitely. Yeah.

Colleen: Do you think there are certain industries that lend themselves better to paying for brand strategy, appreciate brand strategy more? I mean, a lot of times you’re going to get a client that’s going to come to you and say, “Well, I need a new website” or something, and they really have a branding problem. A website isn’t going to fix that. Just as an example…

But do you think that there are people that understand what it is, or certain industry that understands more what brand strategy is, and so they’re already like, “We know we have a problem. We know we need to find a brand strategist.”

Melinda: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t have a direct answer for that. I’m not sure if there is. There might be. There might be an industry that values it more and understands it more. I find, though, that the ones that, even if they don’t understand yet what brand strategy is, the ones that are willing to pay for it are typically those with the biggest goals.

So if the goal is big, they’re more willing to invest in brand strategy. That’s my been my experience. Again, there might be an industry that lends itself more towards this and understands it, but I’ve just found that the ones who have the biggest goals are typically the ones that understand they need something like this to get them there.

Teaching Strategy

Colleen: So what prompted you to start teaching this to other designers?

Melinda: I realized that I have a bent towards teaching. I started teaching piano lessons when I was 16, so 16 to 22, all through college, I taught piano lessons.

Then I taught people how to freelance. I still have that site—Pre-lance. A few years ago, I was teaching that and I realized that I started just naturally teaching what I just learned how to do.

I learned how to freelance I had a bunch of people ask me, “Hey, how do you do this?” Old coworkers would approach me and say, “I don’t know how to send an invoice. I don’t know what to put in my contract.”

They knew that I had already set up all the systems and I knew how to do it. I thought, well, all these people are asking me, I might as well create a course out of it. So I created that course about four years ago. Then once I learned brand strategy, I did the same thing.

People were asking me about it. People were asking me about my process. I realized that I kept sharing one to one, as in people would sign up for coaching and they would ask me about my process. I would show them and I’m like, “Man, if I’m showing one person how to do this, and they’re paying me, I could do this for a lot of people. I can share my process with a lot of people.”

So I decided to do that. But even before that, I started a newsletter, where I was showing the behind the scenes of “Hey, this is how I’m building my business. This is what I’m learning,” and people followed along with my journey. The longer I did that, I realized, well, they want to know what I’m doing with my clients. They want the process.

I kept getting questions about that. I kept getting people that wanted to hop on the phone with me, or on Zoom with me and see my process. By the end of, I think it was last year, I ran a beta round for this brand strategy bootcamp that I’m teaching and had a ton of people that were interested in it.

Even before that, I had people asking me, “When are you going to come out with a course? When are you gonna come out with a course? I want to learn your process.”

I’m like, okay, fine, fine. So I’m answering the demand of the market. Once they ask for it—I have multiple people ask for it—then I turn around and I teach it.

Colleen: What do you think the biggest reason is—I mean, I have an idea, but I wanted to hear from you—for them wanting to take a brand strategy course?

Melinda: The biggest reason why they want to take the brand strategy course…

Colleen: Or more than one.

Melinda: Yeah, I know, because when you have to narrow it down… It’s like oh, there’s so many. I’m sure they might say something different, but I know that the ones who have followed my story for the past two to three years, they see the results that I got. They want that.

They’re looking to be where I’m at. They’re looking to work with the types of clients that I have. They’re looking to charge the amount that I’m charging. They want the same transformation that they saw me go through the past three years, they want for themselves.

Colleen: Yeah, because it definitely, like we said in the beginning, it’s like, it definitely takes you from that. “Hey, you want fries with that?” to “Hey, I’m the chef in the kitchen. I’m gonna create something here.” You’re not ordering off a fast food menu.

Melinda: Exactly.

Colleen: Well, this has been great, Melinda. Let’s remind folks where they can find you online.

Melinda: Yeah, they can find me at marksandmaker.com. They can find me on Instagram under Melinda Livsey, as well as Twitter and LinkedIn and then on The Futur too. I’m a cohost on The Futur’s YouTube channel.

Colleen: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Melinda: Yeah, thank you for having me. This has been fun.

Colleen: Do you want to get more respect and command higher rates? I can help you go from order taker to expert through mentoring, my free guides and premium resources such as my brand style guide template and website accessibility course. You can find out more at creative-boost.com. You can also join me and other creatives in the Design Domination Facebook group.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *