WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A CREATIVE DIRECTOR? - with Hannah Lowe
About This Interview
Hannah is actually a good friend of mine and we went to the same high school (Columba College) in Dunedin, New Zealand. She was always super artsy and tech savvy, so when I discovered she was running her own creative business and no doubt doing what she loves - I thought it was so cool and so inspiring! Mind you, I had no idea what being a Creative Director meant, but I was curious to find out.
When I had the idea to start this Interview section on my blog, I knew I wanted to interview her and I’m so glad she did, because being in the creative industry myself, there’s a lot of interesting topics we touch on here. But first, I’ll let Hannah introduce herself and the businesses she runs.
Tell us a little about Halo, Blossie and Two Graces Fine Jewellery. What are your roles in each and how did you get involved in them?
I started Halo Creative when I was 20. Initially, I didn’t really know what I was doing. It started off as more of a portfolio, but then I started getting work from it and now I do everything from creating social media content, running social media channels, graphic design, photography and website design.
Two Graces Fine Jewellery came about this year when I moved to Australia. My father owns a pawn brokers and second-hand shop that has the largest range of antique, second-hand, estate and quality jewellery in Tasmania, Australia. Unfortunately pawn brokers have a stigma around them and so people don’t always come in. Therefore, Two Graces was born! It is named after my mum’s middle name and my own. I am the Creative Director, so I take all the photos and post all the content… however, it can be interesting trying to take photos when you’re the hand model!
Blossie also came about this year. I knew for a while that I wanted to get involved in wedding stationery and signage. When I got engaged I used it as an excuse. I started displaying work I’d designed or created on Instagram and at first I was a little skeptical if I’d get any bites. It’s not wedding season over here in Australia, but I’m super stoked to be getting enquiries and working alongside awesome styling companies. My partner Troy has also been an amazing help! He is a real handy-man and every other weekend he’s helping me to make signs and easel equipment for me.
1. What inspired you to start your first business (Halo)? And consequently your second business (Blossie)?
Halo was founded at the same time I began working at Glow PR and Marketing (now Walsh and Beck) as a graphic and website designer. It started off as a portfolio for my work and then became a side project as people who knew me would enquire about my work - mainly photography at the time. Then people would refer me on to others and through word of mouth - I got my first clients!
Blossie was inspired by many things - mainly my love for different paper textures, wax seals and creating personalised, individual products.
2. How do you juggle your work and roles between the three businesses? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
I have assigned hours each week for all of my projects and clients. The majority of my clients for Halo Creative are actually in New Zealand. I keep contact with them via phone, email and Skype or Zoom Meeting Calls.
A typical day starts with uploading social media content for the majority of my clients on Instagram. Social Media Calendars are created each month so that my clients have an idea of what is going up (and so that can have input!). After that, I’ll respond to any messages on clients’ social media pages and check my emails.
Then I’ll usually grab a cup of Earl-Grey tea and look at my to-do list for the day. I try to write my list the night before (but every now and then I don’t do it until the morning of!) At the moment I’m working on a few design/website projects for branding and also re-branding! There will be quite a few emails received during this time. I try to respond as promptly as possible - so sometimes I’ll pause what I’m doing, other times I won’t respond until I’ve finished what I need to be doing!
After lunch is usually when I’ll start shooting - whether it’s taking photos of gorgeous jewellery for Two Graces, or content for Blossie, or another client. Then I edit, respond to more emails, edit and finally upload more content to social platforms for clients or for Blossie. By this time it’s usually the end of my work day. However, if I’m working on design projects, then I’ll revisit the work I did earlier that day. For me, it’s important to take a step back from design work, then re-look and re-evaluate it later with a fresh pair of eyes. Then I’ll write my to-do list for the next day (usually!) .
3. What are the pros and cons of being your own boss?
Pros: Working from home means I have more freedom. If I need to have a break, I can. If I need to work from bed, I can. Especially since I have IBS - I don’t like to say I suffer from it because I know other people who have it a lot worse than me - but having that freedom to rest when needed or work from bed is amazing. Plus I get to be around my cats!
I can also be flexible with my hours. If one day I’m unable to do work for any particular reason, then I can work more at night, or get up earlier the next morning. Another pro is that I don’t have to commute anywhere to work. I have my office at home with everything I need.
Cons: When I started up Blossie there were many up front costs such as: materials, equipment, technology etc.
Another challenge is that when you work from your home you can easily get distracted, so you have to remind yourself sometimes to not slack off!
4. Where did you learn the skills needed for what you do now?
I studied at the University of Otago and did a BsC in Information Science. This degree definitely helped me with a bunch of different IT skills. It has come in handy for a lot of the website design I do - prototyping, usability and different coding/programming languages. In terms of graphic design and photography, I learnt the fundamentals in high school. I continue to try to keep up with trends or techniques by following tutorials online.
5. What keeps you motivated to continue doing what you do? And how do you go about improving your skills?
My passion! I love what I do. I can’t imagine having a 9-5 job working from an office desk. I go a little crazy if I don’t have flexibility! My partner, Troy also keeps me extremely motivated. There are often times I doubt my abilities and he’s always there cheering me on.
In terms of improving my skills I’m always trying to “get better”. For instance, I’ve started doing more and more hand calligraphy work for clients (e.g. name place cards). I’ve watched many Youtube videos and have taken part in online workshops and Facebook groups. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any events nearby where I can learn calligraphy skills. Some nights I spend hours practicing different strokes, certain words or how certain words link together.
6. What are the top three challenges you had to face when starting out your business?
Self Doubt: I’ve had many times where I’ve thought my skills were not good enough or I’ve spent way too much time comparing myself to what others are doing.
Time Management: It’s easy to get distracted or spend too much time on one client and not on another!
Communication: It’s important to sometimes pick up the phone, or meet in person (if you can!) instead of sending an email as things can easily get lost in translation!
7. What are the three most important lessons you have learnt from your experiences so far? Can also be about yourself, not just the business aspect.
Don’t give up: If you are passionate about something and you have the drive, you can make it work. Success comes to those who have a good work ethic. I wouldn’t say I’m smart, but I do work hard and I believe that’s what has gotten me to where I am.
Stop comparing yourself to others: Don’t try to be like others, find your own edge and be different. Stay true to yourself and your work, even if your ideas might be a little silly.
Good relationships can go a long way: The way I’ve obtained 90% of my clients is through word of mouth. These relationships have built my businesses.
8. What are the top marketing tools that you use and do they differ between the three companies?
I actually don’t really market Halo Creative anymore. It was a business I started in New Zealand and now I’m in Australia. It’s ready for a revamp but it’s not a priority right now.
With Two Graces I post on Facebook and Instagram as these are the two platforms that generate sales.
I try to be decently consistent with posting on Blossie. I post on Instagram and Facebook. No google ads, email campaigns or anything else as of yet! We are currently in the process of working out an advertising budget and if we should be attending wedding expos. It’s all a work in progress!
9. Name two people who inspire you - can be in anything, not related to your industry.
Zoë Foster Blake - She’s a mum of two, business owner, author and so many other things! I’ve been following her journey for quite some time and just think she’s killing it. She has such a vibrant personality that draws you to her. (You can view her work here: Zotheysay)
My mum and dad - They are both amazing and a constant source of inspiration for me. My dad is an entrepreneur and I’ve looked up to him for such a long time. I’m very lucky to have him, especially to chat about the business side of things! My mum is a kick-ass nurse. I don’t know how she deals with people all the time and everything else that comes with being a nurse! She always puts people first (not just as a nurse, but in her daily life!) and I really admire that.
10. What are three tips you can give to those starting out their own creative business?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people about your ideas - I know it can feel like you’re telling people your secret, but every conversation has the potential to take your idea to the next level.
Keep track of your expenses and your invoices - While you’re at it, if you’re not confident with numbers make sure you set up an appointment with an accountant.
Network - Networking can help you to identify new opportunities, solve problems, learn and generate more business. If you’re not confident with this I’d definitely recommend networking with friends to begin with. They’ll likely have connections to different industries and may know people who could benefit from your services. Just make sure your intentions are clear with them from the start and make sure your requests don’t cross the line!
Thank you Hannah for your time in answering these questions! Love the dedication and passion you have for your work - wishing you and Troy all the best in your future endeavours! <3
If you know anyone in the creative industry or are leaning towards that direction, feel free to share the article - you can never derive too much inspiration ;)