Ignite yourself. Illuminate ideas. Inspire others.
Running a design business is a great thing. You're the boss of you (and maybe a few others), you've got great clients with interesting projects, and your schedule allows more flexibility than a nine to five.
You often find yourself stuck in the muck and the mire of day to day tasks. When the work piles up, you hunker down and power through. This works for a little while, but eventually you realize you've lost sight of the big picture and you're totally isolated.
Steering a business in the desired direction is, at the very least, challenging. First, it requires seeing the bigger picture. Then, it requires seeing the immediate steps to take. Without trusted people to bounce ideas off for design work, business strategy and marketing, or especially, client management and fires, even the daily tasks can be difficult.
Take Sara for example. Let's look at a day in her life:
She scrolls through Twitter briefly and checks her email, then finally peels herself out of bed.
Shower, then breakfast and a much needed coffee.
Seated at her desk, (mostly) ready to handle the flood of email in her inbox. A couple inquiries needing proposals and a hefty handful of client requests.
Some day it'd be nice to make money off of something other than my time, but how do I even get started?
- 10:52 am
All caught up on email, she dives into revisions on a logo due tomorrow for a fun branding project.
How can I make this design great and not just ok? I feel too close to it and wish I could get some outside feedback.
Time for a quick walk with the dog.
Yum! Leftovers for lunch, then on to the website she's finishing up. (Read: fight with WordPress.)
If only I could figure out how to get WordPress to do what I want it to...
- 02:13 pm
Switch gears for sanity purposes, she focuses some time on her newsletter (poor, long neglected newsletter).
Are newsletters even effective? What should I write about? What do my people need from me?
EEK! Gotta get changed for the meetup she's attending downtown at 6:30.
She arrives just in time but feels a bit nervous.
I never feel like I find genuine people at design events. Everyone seems competitive and unwilling to share.
Back home, she's back at her desk to put in another hour or two before bed.
Bing! She receives an email from a woman she almost worked with nearly a year ago. The woman asks if the deposit from the canceled project could be applied to a new project or refunded.
How do I deal with unexpected conflict with my clients? Confrontation makes me feel so uncomfortable. I wish I had someone to talk to about this...
Sound vaguely familiar? Yup. Those feelings are not unique to you. The daily life of an indie designer is often a solitary battle between where you'd like to be and where you are at now. It's not that you're totally unhappy. Going off on your own was one of the best decisions you ever made. It's just that...
...you're frustrated with the tension between your big vision and your day-to-day.
...you're frustrated with designing in a vacuum.
...you're frustrated with feeling like you have to learn All of The Things entirely on your own.
...you're frustrated with the competitive, closed-door nature of the design industry.
...you're frustrated with the out-of-the-blue client situations that are awkward and hard to approach with respect, not just for the other person, but also for yourself.
So, where to turn? How can you guide your business in the direction you want to go and still get the day-to-day work done? Who can you trust to give constructive, knowledgeable, and non-judgy feedback? When you need resources quickly, where do you turn? Where can you go for copious amounts of support and encouragement? And what happens when you are facing a sensitive and difficult client situation?
SPARK, a dynamic online community for women in design with a small business and big ambitions.
SPARK combines the buzz and resources of an online community with the ability to hold quiet, deeper discussions in small groups. Through gathering other kind and kindred souls facing similar struggles, whisking together their collective knowledge and know-how into resources and insight, and serving up high-fives immediately upon request, SPARK is all about giving you enough oxygen to ignite and providing enough traction to create momentum.
SPARK allows you:
- to dream up the big picture and draw on the experience of others to help you brainstorm steps forward
- to request and receive critiques in a safe and private place with everything from design mockups to business strategy
- to be with a group of other women who have learned or are learning the same things you desire to know
- to experience an incredibly genuine and encouraging group of designers willing to share themselves and their process with you
- to get immediate feedback on how to manage expectations and relationship development with your current or potential clients
As a private venue—away from social media and email—you are free to discuss, brainstorm, vent, and dream about the various and plentiful elements involved in running your own design business. Through the support and encouragement of those who share similar experiences—ladies who are willing to provide honest feedback and care enough about your success to hold you accountable—you will find a community you can't live without.
“Being a member of SPARK allows me to get instant feedback about the issues and projects I’m working on in my business that are too private / long-winded for Twitter! It’s safer than any other social platform.” —Margot Harrington
$59 / month
For less than one billable hour per month, you have access to a wealth of knowledge, immediate yet thoughtful feedback, and endless support and encouragement.
This space was created just for you.
Registration is currently closed until January 2015.
The energy is palpable
Even when all is quiet and no conversations are happening, you can still feel the energy in SPARK.
Each of us sits at our desk, spread out all over the world and hard at work. Though, at any point, you could turn around and immediately be immersed in conversation. Ask for advice. Share an article. Laugh at a joke. Or lend an ear to another and help her through a tough situation.
It's as if we are in a shared office space. Our comrades are seated at the ready. Whatever you need, whenever, we're here.
- have dealt with hiring issues
- are transitioning business revenue to be less reliant on design-as-a-service
- are really good at finding the best resources and can always make you laugh
- rocked or are rocking our side hustle in addition to a full-time gig
- are currently navigating entrepreneurship and being a new mom
- are recent grads exploring the new world of freelance
- have faced similar troubles while developing a WordPress site
The beauty of this community of independent women is our rich and diverse amalgam of experiences and resources, and yet, we share very similar struggles. Together we battle the isolation and thinking-in-a-vacuum that comes with self-employment.
However, when you join, nothing is expected of you. Really, this is a get-what-you-want-out-of-it type program. Enjoy connection however you like it best—from a distance, observing quietly, with thoughtful contributions here and there, or dive in with stream of consciousness dialogue and custom emojis (yup, we now live in a world where this is possible).
Conversation channels and an open discussion board allow you to participate in topical chats. Small groups, on the other hand, provide an opportunity to dive into more individual projects and questions. This more intimate space aids in getting to know a few individuals more closely, share more of yourself, and dig into bigger issues.
However, you don't have to be actively participating to still feel connected. The true definition of community—and community in its purest form—evokes the feeling of fellowship. SPARK is more than a gathered body of people. SPARK is an effervescent place that exploits what makes the interwebs so great: connection.
"SPARK makes me feel comfortable talking to other creatives about the issues that we share. Most important, it reminded me that's it's my passion that got me where I am and I shouldn't be afraid to let people see that." —Jennifer Logan
This isn't your average online community
It is vibrant. It is dynamic. And most of all, it is meaningful. As a combination online community, mastermind group, and live chat—SPARK utilizes the best elements of each and adds a few twists:
Teams of 30 / limited registration
We’re growing slowly and intentionally to ensure quality discussion and atmosphere. SPARK is broken up into exclusive, private teams of 30 using a live chat app. In addition, everyone in the community also has access to a more long-form discussion web app where individuals from any team can comment and start discussions.
Live + dynamic conversation
Unlike typical online communities, the main tool SPARK utilizes captures the energy of instant dialogue. It focuses on the living, breathing organism of live chat.
Long-form, thoughtful conversation
Though live chat is great for connecting, SPARK also provides a space for the broader community to have a less time-based dialogue.
Monthly topic + worksheet
With a gentle structure, these topical worksheets will guide you through introspection, help you gain clarity around your bigger vision, and get your wheels turning.
Small groups of 5-7
Formed around shared goals, small groups allow for a deeper dive into discussion and a better chance at creating individual connections while also make progress in your business.
Weekly scheduled discussions
There’s always a little something happening in SPARK, but once a week there will be a facilitated discussion for all to participate in.
Tap into an abundance of resources
Collective knowledge and know-how affords you a rich and diverse resource at your fingertips.
Diversity encouraged & desired We welcome a wide range of ages, races, lifestyles, gender identities, nationalities, etc. (See Q&A #9 for more info.)
The Buddy System For those who desire an accountability partner, we'll help you get matched up and provide an optional structure & format to follow.
"It's just great to be in a community with individuals that are curious, committed to learning and helping each other grow." —Veronica Corzo-Duchardt
$59 / month
That's it. No strings attached. No time commitment.
(It won't be the same without you!)
Registration is currently closed until January 2015.
Meanwhile, Sara joined SPARK...
In less than 10 minutes after joining, Sara is able to get feedback on her tricky client situation and learn how to respond professionally and respectfully thanks to the input from the other members.
Qs & As
$59 / mo. for how many months?
As many as you wish! There is absolutely no time commitment. This is to keep pricing and payment simple all around.
I have a full time job, but have a business on the side...is this for me?
What if I haven't started my business (yet)—is SPARK for me?
We want to encourage the crap out of you—you’re at such a fun and exciting place, and we would be happy to have a conversation via email. However, SPARK is not for you (just yet).
How much time each week should I anticipate spending?
Really, however much you want. You can pop in when you're able or hang out all day. The monthly worksheets are meant to help you get out of your head, in addition to being a part of a small group. However, your level of engagement is up to you. Also, the app we're using gives you full customization for the type and frequency of notifications.
Where does SPARK live?
We're using two different apps, Slack and Ginger. Slack is an organized realtime chat app which allows us to have specific discussion channels, create posts, participate in private groups, send direct messages, and search any and all content. Similarly, Ginger is a (nice looking) forum-like app but enables more long-form discussion and a different way of organizing / archiving. (Both are mobile friendly or have an app!)
Who all is a part of SPARK?
We span the gamete—from fresh out of school + freelancing to multiple employees + 15 years in business.
Who will be in my small group?
Small groups are formed based on a common goal. Right now we have groups on transitioning to value based pricing, introducing different revenue streams, and growing client / customer base.
I have my own business but do more development than design...am I welcome?
Yes, yes, YES. Development employs design thinking. PLUS, a little cross pollination is a lot needed.
I have my own business but I'm not a woman...am I welcome?
If you identify as a woman or are in support of a 'feminist space,' you are more than welcome to join.
I don't have a lot of time, what will this require of me?
Participate as much as you are able and feel free to ride the waves of your availability. There is nothing required or expected of you.
What has SPARK allowed current Sparkies to do, be, or experience?
"I love being a SPARK-ler. SPARK allows me to share designs, ideas, struggles and more without fear. I feel empowered. Becoming a member of SPARK was one of the best decisions I made this year for me and my business."
"SPARK has been a key ingredient in building a community of people I can trust, bounce ideas off, encourage and be accountable to. I love it!" —Heylen Thienes
"SPARK gives me access to a community of supportive and resourceful creatives who make my office-of-one a not so lonely place." —Aubree Holliman
"Being part of SPARK not only has allowed me to grow as a business owner, but I get to constantly bounce ideas off of others who 'get it'. I have not found anything else like this out there for designers. SPARK is truly a magical land!" —Jehn Glynn
"This is way more helpful to me than the 6 months I spent with a private coach, legit." —Erika Dillon
"SPARK is an exchange. It works because we all feed it and because it feeds us. We are able to share the experiences of our design life—not only when we are doing great but also when we struggle, not only when we feel good about our direction but also when we have doubts." —Mariève Godinas
"Erin has a way of connecting people, getting the conversation started, and making the wheels turn. SPARK gives you the support and inspiration you need in your design business—you don't have to go it alone." —Lisa Butler
"As a solo designer / developer I’ve been realizing more and more how important it is to connect with a community of awesome women in design and tech, and SPARK is an amazing way to do just that." —Dara Skolnick
"SPARK is a friendly network of professional creatives who share their journey and insights for the benefit of everyone. It's a great resource to tap into for feedback, encouragement, and advice." —Travis Bragg
"SPARK is a terrific support network; It's so comforting to know where to always find an empathetic designer -- to revel in my successes, give me a sympathetic ear, or to tap collective experience and wisdom." —Samantha Slade
"As a young designer, eager to grow in my business and as a person, SPARK has been an invaluable resource for learning, questions, and connection." —Kristin White
"Designers, join SPARK—amazing women, deeper discussions and endless support." —Krystle Lilliestierna
"I am so glad I found SPARK! Working for yourself is sometimes so isolating and this group of women eliminates all of that! A group like this is both comforting and inspiring and something I feel lucky to be a part of." —Morgan Haines
$59 / month
We would love to have you.
Registration is currently closed until January 2015.
Code of Conduct
NOTE: We believe very strongly in creating a fantastic and safe space for all members to learn, explore, and grow. All those who join are actively agreeing to this code of conduct. Harassment and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and any individuals engaging in such behavior will have their membership immediately revoked without refund.