Sometimes, in life and in business, you’ve gotta color outside the lines.
Amy Hirschi, owner of the marketing firm Hirschi Creative, gets that. From her multicolored, overlapping logo to her unique business model, Amy’s business and the services it provides are anything but cookie-cutter. And her unique approach to small business marketing has proven amazingly successful.
Hirschi Creative helps busy small business owners, photographers, and other entrepreneurs reclaim their time and boost their business with custom websites, content creation, social media strategy, influencer partnerships, and other services.
And she does it using a unique “employ & empower” business model, which employs a team of skilled, professional women who want to work part-time from home while raising their families. Small businesses reap the benefits of professional work at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time employee. It’s a win-win!
We loved chatting with Amy, and hearing her thoughts on making your website visitor-friendly, whether small businesses should jump onto trends, and how professional photographers can attract–and keep–the clients they want.
Please tell us a little about Hirschi Creative and the services you provide.
We are a marketing firm that helps entrepreneurs with website and branding design as well as Virtual Marketing Assistance. I run a team of stay-at-home-moms who have professional backgrounds and want to work part-time from home. We work with small businesses that need affordable marketing help but can’t hire a full-time employee or team.
We offer social media marketing, Pinterest curation, email services, video, content creation, and influencer outreach. I have 6 employees right now and they all specialize in one thing. It’s great and each of my team members is awesome at what she does.
How did you become interested in web design, marketing, and branding?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and creative. In jr. high school I started getting interested in photography and multimedia. That grew until I was finally building my own website for my new photography business as I was just starting college. And WOW. My eyes were opened. I couldn’t believe how much I loved doing website design (using ProPhoto) and knew that this was my future. I decided to start studying User Experience Design and Entrepreneurship so that I could run this business to the best of my abilities.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about your job?
I love seeing businesses grow and develop. I love working from home! I wake up early and work during nap time and I love that I create my own schedule. Also, employing these women and empowering business owners is a big reason I’m in business.
Working out technical back-end issues gets my gears grinding and I get all hyped up, my husband has a pretty funny video of me trying to solve a website issue while listening to loud music so I had no idea he was filming me. I was bouncing and dancing around until I figured it out.
Let’s talk about branding for professional photographers. What is it, and why is it so important?
Branding to me is having your audience know your work, without seeing your name. It’s consistency, creating emotions, and staying true to who you are. It’s so important for a lot of different reasons. But as you’re telling your story to your audience, you need to connect with them, or else what’s the point? And it’s hard to do that without a strong brand presence. Each client should feel special, loved, and like you’re bringing them into your inner circle when they hire you. Your brand will help them know what they’re missing out on until they do that. Plus when you’re in a saturated market, you can get better and better at your work, but until you give people a feeling as to why you should be hired over your competition, you’ll keep missing out on ideal clients.
For someone who’s just starting out and trying to establish their brand identity, what are the top 2-3 things to consider?
1. How personal do you want to get? Are you mostly talking about business? Can you share about your life and family as well? It’s a balance only you can decide what’s best for you.
2. What will last at least ten years from now? You don’t want to be rebranding over and over again to keep up with trends. Little updates are ok, but how will people know who you are if you keep designing a new logo and changing your style?
What about photographers who’ve been “in the game” for a while… is branding still important, and if so, what types of things should they be thinking about?
I think branding is always important. You’re never too old, or too experienced to get your foot in the game. Think about how you want to be remembered, what the next step is, and some different revenue streams. You and your brand are the trust factor to your audience. If you want to grow, you want to start from the platform you already have with your experience!
What are some common mistakes you see people making when it comes to branding and web design?
Being too trendy. I think it’s fun to try new trends and if they stick, that’s great! But to continually change your mind can be a big mistake. Also, know how people are getting to your site, and make it as easy as possible. Are people using their phones? Do you have broken links? If they can’t find exactly what they’re looking for, fairly quickly, they’ll be gone just as fast. So keep your popular links easily accessible.
How important is online advertising for photographers (running paid ads through Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc.)? Do you have any advice for photographers who are thinking about advertising through these channels?
I think online advertising can be a really useful thing for photographers! Make it something specific, like target engaged couples, or a specific city or venue. But the foundation needs to be good for them to work. Work on your user experience first and foremost. If you want to run ads, make sure you’re not wasting money for people to bounce away from your site right away. Also, work on your SEO so that people are finding you for the types of jobs you want to be booking.
With social media being an increasing source of traffic for many photographers, why is it still important for photographers to have their own website?
Have you ever heard, social media is where you date, but your website is where you get married? It’s still the best way to show your portfolio, generate leads, get contacted, be taken as a serious business owner, and have your potential clients get to know you. When you want to be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously as well.
Could you share a few of the most important factors that photographers or other small business owners should consider when it comes to their website design?
What is your price point? If you think good design is expensive, you should find out how expensive bad design is. If your website is badly designed, people don’t think you’re serious or legitimate. Why should they spend their hard-earned money on you? I think your price point should be about 20% of your revenue as a good starting point. If you’re just starting out, find a designer who can customize a template for you or help you with changes if you’re doing it yourself. Get professional help, as much as you can!
Your website HAS TO BE mobile friendly. More than half of users will be on their phones. Make sure it’s legible, is telling a story, and easy to use, both on mobile and on desktop. [Editor’s note: ProPhoto 7 is 100% responsive, so website layouts adapt automatically to fit any screen size.]
Will your design be easy to update? You may change your prices, your headshot, and want to keep a blog going. Make sure that those are all things that can be done quickly and even by you if you have the time!
What made you choose ProPhoto as a platform for building your clients’ websites?
I love the layouts and tiles the most. But I also like that I can make it as custom as I want, through the design elements, and my clients can keep it updated when they need to. All of my clients leave with a few videos showing them how to make simple changes like pictures and prices so that they can keep their website functional for their businesses. WordPress is also a great platform for blogging and SEO, so I like using that as the backend.
What is a project you’ve worked on recently that you’ve especially enjoyed?
I recently launched my new Virtual Marketing Assistance business and I love how my own website turned out. But that seems a little vain, haha! One of my long-time photographer friends, Megan Osburn, hired me to do her branding three years ago and she finally decided it was time for a website, too! I really love the style and simplicity of it, as well as how easy it is to navigate and for her to update on the backend.
What are some trends you’re excited about in web design?
I’m in love with overlapping elements. Like text and images over each other. My website has a lot of that and some websites I’m currently working on do as well. I love that websites are starting to be so unique and moving away from looking all the same. There seems to be a lot fewer rules lately with designs and I’m all for it.
Your “color outside the lines” approach is so refreshing and so encouraging, Amy! Thanks for sharing!
Small business owners, what are some unique ways you’ve handled your website and marketing challenges?