Passionate and creative.
Gabrielle Chipeur is the Founder of 12Strong and the author of “Secret Weapon.”
Gabrielle and her 12Strong team help women who love to design, code, write and more shave years off their meteoric rise to the top. Creatives are important to Gabrielle, and she makes it her mission to help build sustainable and profitable businesses.
Learn more about how Gabrielle Chipeur can help bring passion back into your business by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
All right with us right now we've got Gabrielle Chipeur. And Gabrielle, you are the founder of your own agency 12Strong where you've done a lot of great client work and in web design, we're going to talk about this. And now you are the author of a great new book. And the name of that book is get rich if you could share that with them. secret weapon, right? what's the what's the subtitle for that?
It's attract the best clients charge what you're worth and fall in love with your work
again. Well, who doesn't love that? And of course, you're found on the web at Gabriellechipeur.com. And I'm going to spell that G A B R I E L L E CH I P, and that's E U R and that's a mouthful of letters. You can just do a Google search and I'm sure you'll find Gabrielle no problem. And of course, we'll have everything all linked up. We'll be promoting it everywhere. So get real. Tell me how you got into the web design world. When was that?
Oh, that was right out of high school. As soon as I graduated, I knew that I wanted to get into a design field of some sort. So I went to college for graphic design and web design. It was kind of a mismatch. We learned a little bit of everything photography, visual production, video editing, a whole bunch of everything. And we were kind of told, okay, go get a job. Aha. So I knew back then I didn't want to become an entrepreneur, I didn't want to own my business. I just wanted to work for someone else. I grew up with a mother who was an entrepreneur, and she was always gone, right. And so I equated that, in my mind, if you were going to be a business owner, you had to be busy all the time and working 20 hour days and stuff. And I didn't want that. So I decided I'm just going to go and become a graphic designer, and I'm going to work my way up, and maybe I'll be a creative director one day, that was like, my total plan. And then when I was 24, I got headhunted by shell, Canada. And they needed someone who had graphic and web design experience to come and create online learning for them, because they were transitioning from all of their in classroom learning to these online platforms. And so they hired me and they said, Oh, don't worry about learning how to, you know, create courses, We'll train you and all of that, but there was a catch in order to work for them and accept a contract I had to own a company. So an incorporated entity. So I went okay, fine. begrudgingly went down to the registry office and opened up my company just to accept the contract. And then a couple years after that, I got pregnant with my first child. And unfortunately, up here in Canada, if you're self employed and own a company, you don't really get all those lovely maternity benefits and employment insurance. So when I had my son, I kind of had a choice, I could leave him in a few months and go back to corporate, or I could run with this company I own. So I did. And I kind of had a six year crash course in business ownership because I had no idea what I was doing for the first six years, and just really stagnated, made all of the mistakes. And then about three and a half years ago, I just realized that I had to make some big changes in my actual business and how I was running it, or I had to go get a job because something had to change. And then at that point, I just started making really big changes and how I ran my business. And my clients just started giving me really good clues as to how I could do better. I just totally turned around that business. I tripled my revenue in one year, I started hitting all of those goals that I'd been making for years and years and had never missed, and just really started seeing how a profitable and sustainable business could be made, while staying small and being a freelancer from home.
And so I mean, are you I guess, what would be the things that you would miss out on? By staying a little bit more number, say staying a little bit at the smaller level? And and would you consider this kind of building a lifestyle business then?
Yeah, it's absolutely a lifestyle business. I mean, if you've ever read anything by Paul Jarvis, he wrote the book company of one. And I think a lot of the times we're inundated with these messages that you have to scale you have to grow, you have to run an agency, right? And that's like the logical next step. But I think a lot of especially creatives who are in it for their passion, and they want to design they want to do the work, they want to really work with those projects. That doesn't really appeal to them, but they're doing inundated with these messages. And that's how they grow. That's how they make more money. But there's other ways of doing it. There's other ways of just making yourself incredibly profitable. And making sure that you can continue doing what you love without worrying about, you know, hiring a team and basically becoming a glorified project manager.
And so, so Gabrielle, one thing that you focus a lot on is automation. And so can you kind of tell me, like, what were you doing before that was really inefficient? And what did you discover and what were those pieces that you put in place? Absolutely,
yeah. And it was the kind of the classic case of the cobblers children because I was creating all of these marketing automations for my own clients and my business and didn't have any of them in my business. So I was making everything from scratch. I had to literally send every email every contract every invoice by hand, and it was just super inefficient. And then I realized that a lot of the projects that I was working on were very, very Similar, you know, creating a website or doing a piece of design or whatever. And while the end result might be different on the front end, the back end of creating that was very, very similar. So I started creating set processes and templates and checklists and slps so that I could get through these projects a lot more efficient. And that really started raising my profitability as well, because I was going through the same motions over and over again, in a lot faster time than if I just sat down and opened up something from scratch and start something completely custom every single time.
Okay, so I mean, technically, what are we talking about in terms of setting up automation?
Mm hmm. Well, technically, automation on the delivery side of clients and onboarding and stuff, I started using platforms like right now I'm using dub Sato and I absolutely loved upside. I was perfect for a freelance business. It handles all of your contracts, all of your invoices, all of that client intake stuff, where you having to gather information from them all the way forms and it just holds it in one place. And it does it all automatically. So once someone signs up and they sign the contract, it sends the invoice automatically. It sends them the questionnaire, it creates a client portal for them. And it just like, smooths out that whole onboarding process. And then when it came to my actual projects themselves, like the websites that I was building, I would create templates. So they were ready made frameworks and all I had to do was customize them with the specifics of the design and the specifics of the features and enter the content so that I didn't have to start from scratch and everything was almost automated. I mean, there's so many great tools now are literally you click a button and everything's set up for you.
Right. So what about the person who says I don't have time to set up all these systems? I'm too busy serving my clients are too busy getting clients like I'm I'm going to these networking events and I'm I'm out there hustling and grinding and trying to track down business. I don't have time for systems. Huh? Which was me
for like four or five years, right, and that was my excuse, I don't have time I have too much on my to do list these clients need me now. But what I started doing was just carving out a little bit of time every single week to focus entirely on these systems and processes. And some weeks it was only like an hour and other weeks, I could carve out like an entire day or something. And it was just slow and steady process. Like it didn't happen overnight. I didn't wake up and be like, Alright, this week, I'm doing just processes and automations. And it just started building upon each other. And then once you have those foundations in place, it's easy to tweak them and adjust them and add more to make your life easier. And part of is just becoming more aware of what you're doing consistently week after week after week, right? Because if you're doing it every single week, chances are you could probably bring in some automation or process to just take the load off you right. And then so being aware and then just carving up just a little bit of time here and there. It doesn't have to be a big, big project.
Yeah, how about the I guess the objection where someone says, oh, it just seems so overwhelming. That's too much technology? I don't, you know, I, I just don't have the capacity to learn platforms like that. Well, I don't know if you hear that very often. I would hope that if you're in the tech field, and you're doing
good, you haven't really heard that very often. Most of the time, actually, it's the opposite. I hear because they, they get overwhelmed with so many tools, there's so many, so you don't know which one is the right one. And then they'll start working with one and realize, Oh, no, there's another one over here that else and maybe they should switch. So that's more of the problem. I find, especially in the tech fields, people get really shiny object syndrome. I try all the new things. So with that, you really need to just stick with one because a lot of these platforms once you've built it out in one of them, even if you do find the new shiny or tool that is going to be more you know good Have more features or more integrations or what have you, it's easier to port over something that's already finished to a new platform, then to recreate something from scratch because you didn't finish it and the other one, no.
So Gabrielle in your work, how do you let's say you're just not attracting the caliber of clients that you'd like to work with? What would you imagine is probably going wrong there and what would be your remedy for that?
Mm hmm. Well, that's usually a problem with not communicating the value of working with you. And a lot of that has to do with a lot of creatives are shy when it comes to sharing the specific results. They get their clients because they're too focused on what they're doing. They're like I created a website or I did a print design or you know, there's focused on what they did. But the secondary results of that are almost always I got my client more leads. I made them more money, you know, They streamline their processes, you know, whatever it is the secondary benefits of what you created. And that's what you need to be communicating to your prospective clients when you're promoting yourself and in your marketing and that the results and the amazing things that have happened for your clients because of the work that you did not the work you did exactly. But the results of that. And I find that a lot of especially web designers will be like, look how pretty this is. And it's like, oh, that's a great CSS rollover effect. That's awesome. But did it get them more clients? Right? Did it increase their bottom line? And I find that the creatives who really communicate that the best are the ones that are able to convince their clients that they're worth those higher fees that working with them is actually going to get them an end result?
And I guess it's probably a similar type question, but what about freelancers who and agencies are saying, Man, we keep losing on price because you know, people are like, Oh my gosh, I'm just going to This oversees developer, and I can't compete with that. And I keep losing business, or nobody wants to hire me because they're like, Hey, I can get that for a lot cheaper over there. I think it's kind of the same problem. But how what what would be your counsel to that person?
Mm hmm. Well, I find that when I hear in a conversation, especially a sales conversation like that, where they are trying to really grind down the price, a lot of the times stories really come in handy in these situations. So I have 101, horrible web designer stories from past clients who have worked with, you know, a developer overseas or I, you know, hire this guy from Fiverr or whatever. And then after everything exploded, or was really poor quality, then they came to me and I fixed it or created something better. So when you can tell them Well, yeah, you're totally right. You could go hire someone from Fiverr for a third of the price, but here's a cautionary tale of why I don't think that's a good idea. Then just like, bring it back to the value that you bring. If you come with me, then this is what you'll get as a secondary result, you know?
Um, so Gabrielle, when, when someone when a potential client connected with you, can you kind of explain your customer journey roadmap that you have laid out for them? It's kind of a big question. I don't know if you can remember all the steps, but that this might be pretty insightful for other people that are thinking if they want to think like you.
Mm hmm. Absolutely. So when a client first reaches out to me, my main job is always to get as much information as possible because the more information you have, the better able you're to see their needs and see how you can specifically solve their problem. And a lot of it comes down to what problem are they having, right? Because they might say, Oh, I want any website. But really, the problem is, well, I need more leads in my business or I need more money, and often it's I need more money. So the more information Get the better. And I have a pretty intense questionnaire that I send my clients through. And a lot of the times, I'll either hop on a call and go through the questions with them, or I'll send them the form and they can fill it in at their leisure. But once I have that information, then it's a matter of doing a lot of sleuthing, figuring out what they've done in the past what's worked, what hasn't. And then from there, I have a really good idea of what would work the best for them. Because a lot of the times, I mean, we can say you need a website, but you need a website with X, Y and Z features is a lot more powerful than you need a website, right. So once they go through that initial questionnaire process, and we talk about what exactly we're going to bring to the table for them, then we can go through the process of sending them contracts, signing them on getting their payment details, and then we go into the actual phases of working on the project. So getting all their information in terms of hosting and domains and any of their tools and platforms that they're using, and then planning out the project from start to finish, so that I know from day one, how everything else is going to fall into place. And really that project management, that planning part is really crucial. Because a lot of the times we kind of dive into that first part, I'm so excited, I got the payment, let's go. And then you get halfway through the project. You're like, Oh, my gosh, this is, you know, taking way longer than I thought it was, or I didn't properly plan for things. And that's how you get projects that go out of scope. And that end up costing you money rather than making your money. Yeah,
yeah. So I would imagine then, if someone is working with someone that's, you know, at a much lower amateur level, when it comes to web design, they hired somebody through Fiverr. Those are a lot of the things that are going to be missing from that work. And, I mean, the project management is designed to make sure that expectations are met, and then Everybody has good communication along the way. It's in my experience. I've been in this game. So I've been I was a web developer in the mid 90s. To give you an idea, like I was designing websites in like, 1996. And so, and that for many years, that was what I did. I was a web developer. And it was very, very, very frustrating if you weren't keeping clients updated in somewhat regular or real time, like if they were like, they're just wondering what's going on, they might assume the worst, and then it just creates friction in the relationship would you don't want? And are there any other things that you can do to make sure that the client has an amazing experience?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, the title of the book is secret weapon, and that's because so many of my clients started calling Mary their secret weapon. And part of that was the experience of working with me, right. So I made sure that at any In the project, they felt incredibly supportive. They knew what was going on. And a lot of that came down to just coming out of my introverted shell and making sure that I was reaching out and connecting with them at all points in the project. And there's so many horror stories about like radio silence when my web designer disappeared or Oh, yeah, person anymore, right? And it's like, Where did they go right? Like these designers go. And part of what I started instituting and a lot of my clients projects was just weekly updates. And it's either a weekly email, or a weekly video call or a phone call. And usually, it's, you know, five to 10 minutes to do right. Here's what we're doing. Here's what I'm working on. This is maybe something I might need next week. Here's what's coming up. Here's what you know, you should be aware of, and just an update and that just simple matter of just keeping that line of communication over or open was just really beneficial and having those clients feel super supported and then they come back again and again again to work with me
What is your secret for creating a referral engine for your business?
Um, that was key to growing my business when I had that kind of like cutoff moment where I needed to change things. I realized that at that point, I had no money for marketing or advertising. So I had to kind of do some guerrilla bootstrapped techniques. And the biggest thing was that I had so many people that I knew both in the industry and past clients who loved working with me, so it made the most amount of sense to start reaching out to them, and asking them for referrals to new clients. So I set up a bit of a process for it. And essentially, it comes down to three things. The first thing is just making sure that you're asking and getting over that fear of asking a lot of people will be like, Oh, I don't want to bother them. I don't want to be salesy or you know, sleazy or feel like I'm desperate. And you just have to kind of get over that and realize that in order to get a referral, you need to ask and you need to ask consistently. And then the second part of that is just Asking consistently throughout all phases of your project, from the time you sign them up to the time they hit the final sign off document, you need to be asking them four or five, six times as many times as you think it's possible. And it doesn't need to be like I need business now, it can just be like, Hey, you know, I'm currently looking for new projects coming up wondering if you know of anybody in your network that might need X, Y, and Z service, right, and just sliding it into the conversation. And then the third part of it is that I've set up a kind of official referral program. So basically, I give it a name. And I have separate tiers of referral levels and like reward levels, and I get incentives for sending me referrals. So if a client sends me, you know, two referrals, then they get 25% off their next project. If they send me five referrals and they get 50% off their next project. And if a client sends me 10 referrals, then I give them free website maintenance for life. And these are all things That Are not you know, outside of my scope. I'm not offering them like an iTunes gift card or something like that completely unrelated. And it's just designed to continue bringing me business. And honestly website maintenance for a client if they send me 10 referrals, I will gladly do that first. Because if you send me 10 new clients, that's more than worth it right?
I should hope so. We want to encourage this sort of giving. Yeah, speaking of giving, Gabrielle Am I to understand that you're giving away an audiobook right now?
I am Yeah, so you can get the audiobook version of the secret weapon book completely free.
How to Tell
Oh, yes. Okay. So if you go to Gabrielle chip, your comm slash SW audio book, you can go sign up and grab it for free.
So I so I the way I've got it up on my screen here. I've got SW dash audio book. With him without the dash o Good to but again Gabrielle chip here and again if you need this spelling just try and Google you'll find her she comes you're all over the place Gabrielle and but yeah, that's a great offer we'll send us I'll have I'll be blasting this out on social media as well so you can get a free copy of the audiobook. I love audiobooks. That's how I love learning, take my dog out for a big long walk and I love digging in Well, again, the book is secret weapon and one more time on the subtitle,
attract the best clients charge what you're worth, and fall in love with your work again,
Gabrielle chip here, thank you so much for joining us again, your your own agency 12 strong, very successful. Now you're revealing all the secrets to your success. And that's all found at Gabriellechipeur.com and don't forget the free audio book if you go to Gabriellechipeur.com/sw-audiobook and You can listen to Gabrielle's book for free. Gabrielle, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me, Josh. This is a great conversation.
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