Making the leap into the freelance world is daunting, we all know that! Yet Sarah Duff, founder of S. Duff Media has made the transition look easy. Only 5 months into her new life she’s crushing it with dreamy clients and a new outlook on life. She also recently joined the Atlanta Six Degrees Society team as an ambassador. Read her story below, and introduce yourself at our next Atlanta event!
1. Sarah your energy is amazing and shines through to your brand S. Duff Media. What inspired you to start your company? And how has it changed you?
S. Duff Media became official on October 23, 2016, almost one week after I left a toxic work situation. The day I left my old job, I made the decision to take the leap and fully commit to the idea of starting my own business and giving it my all for 3 months and re-evaluate my progress and see where to go from there. I was already doing some freelance on the side, but didn’t honestly have enough clients to support me full-time. However, the thought of “now or never” was the kick I needed—along with a pep talk from my boyfriend’s mom who said that I absolutely lit up talking about the idea of doing graphic design and marketing and that sort of passion should at least be explored.
It’s been almost 7 months now from conception, and I am so proud of everything I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. It’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects I would not have otherwise considered before because I thought I didn’t have all the skills to do so. I find it easier to take full ownership of what I do and while being humble is part of the role, I have definitely gained the confidence needed to say, “I’m a business owner, love what I do, and get to create great things for people.”
2. Having a creative background and starting your own business what are the most common challenges you see creatives struggle with and what do you recommend to overcome?
Creativity is so important in getting started, but I firmly believe that it’s not enough to build a business. In the beginning, unless you have a client list ready to go, it’s not likely much of your time is going to be spent doing all the fun, creative things you envisioned and when that’s the case, it’s easy to get burned out and lose sight of the end goal. I also think it’s important to pace yourself and set very reasonable, short-term goals. Going into it, I knew that the first 3 months were going to be the make or break period, and so I did everything possible to get my name out, no matter how uncomfortable or boring it felt. It’s also important that in those early months to find ways to fulfill your creative needs and to accept the fact that there are going to be bad days. There will always be bad days, but those are not the days that define your business. Lastly, I highly recommend finding reasons to celebrate all the victories, the big of course, but definitely all the small ones.
3. What’s been the biggest “pinch me” moment since starting your business?
At my 6 month mark, I made a list of all the projects I’ve done and all the accomplishments that stood out the most. Once I wrapped up my list, I definitely cried because I felt so proud and in awe. In such a short amount of time, I’ve signed on one of the largest healthcare systems in Georgia as an ongoing client, produced work for 3 different Fortune 500 companies, created a brand guide for a Ted Talk speaker, and have helped several small business owners get started in developing their own brand. It’s still surreal to share because things have happened so quickly and it’s sometimes hard to take a step back from the day to day and see the big picture. It’ll be even more exciting to revisit this list at the 1-year mark!
4. Where do you see your brand developing in the next 5 years.
I would love to have a team where I could share this crazy ride with others. In addition to hopefully expanding the number of people associated with S. Duff Media, I’m hoping to also grow my list of clients and become recognized as a mover and shaker in the design and marketing space within Atlanta. I’d also love to be at a point where I’m able to offer more than just services and be an influencer to others for getting a business up and running.
5. What advice do you have for others considering to start their own business?
It’s one of the most rewarding feelings because you have something that’s truly yours. However, it takes work…like when people say you work crazy hours, they’re really only scratching the surface of how much time and energy it takes to make something viable and successful. I also believe you need to truly take the time to evaluate whether or not it’s something you’re ready to commit to, because at the end of the day, this is a direct extension of you, so you definitely want to be sure you’re showing off something with the most value invested in it as possible.
Lastly, follow your instincts. Intuition in business is a fantastic thing to have and trust. If something feels off, you’re in a position to say no and have direct influence on the shape and direction of your business as a whole.
6. How has your involvement with Six Degrees Society and most recently coming as an ambassador changed things?
Because of Six Degrees Society, I have had the opportunity to meet so many other amazing women I would have probably wouldn’t have been able to. It brings together women of diverse backgrounds, and it’s helped influence some of my ideas for my own business. Becoming an ambassador has also pushed me more into becoming a leader and step up to the plate more, which has overflowed into my business as well. I think this transition of me coming into my own would have slowly evolved over the course of the year and then some on its own, but being a part of the organization has had a rapid influence on how I’ve developed as a person and business-owner!