Paige Digital turns 5! Here is the story so far...

March 1, 2021

What a milestone. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, as with most businesses. But I’m very proud of where it’s at now.

I haven’t talked much about the early days, and why I relaunched Paige Digital one year ago.

So buckle up, as this post is going to take you on the journey so far, bumps and all!

The story begins in the final year of art school (painting major) in 2013. In our professional practice class, we had the choice between creating an artist website for ourselves or…I actually can’t remember the other option.

In a lecture theatre, with a few pages of printed notes, we were taught how to buy a domain, connect to web hosting, and use a free template to create a basic WordPress website. It was not simple back then! It took a lot of trial and error. Partly because the lecturer was not a web designer, he was an artist. So when I got frustrated waiting for email replies to my questions, I got really good at Googling the problem, trying a couple of fixes, and eventually figuring it out.

And, curiously, I LOVED it!

Having defined problems, with exact solutions was the perfect antidote to the loose, subjective world of making art in a place full of opinions!

 

Photo of Candice painting in a studio

Painting in the studio at Monash Uni. Photo by Grace Crawshaw-McLean.

This was the beginning of my love affair with web design.

For a couple of years I managed the artist site, helped manage websites for retailers I worked for, gradually learning (ie Googling) my around the ‘backend’! While some people would hide this fact, I’m actually proud of it! I’ve realised it’s an extremely valuable skill to be able to learn almost anything and solve almost anything, myself.

I have full confidence I can learn absolutely anything I need to, and also fix almost any technical issue I need.

As soon as uni finished, my partner and I moved to London for a couple of years. It was to be considered an extension of art school. This time seeing the incredible works of art I’d learnt about, in person! 2020 has really put the privilege of that experience into perspective.

While in London, I worked for a sign-writing supplies manufacturer and retailer. When I was made manager, the kind and generous director gave me the opportunity to work ‘on’ the business. Things like looking for sponsorship opportunities, starting a blog, social media, maker workshops etc. I soon discovered a whole community of young people basically waiting for this 60 year old family business to become cool again.

Slowly, we changed the language in our communication, updated the branding and, most importantly, positioned the business as experts wanting to help the younger generation. Rather than old friends serving clientele on the edge of retirement.

This was my first and largest lesson in branding.

A heritage business, (who regularly serves the Queen!), rebranding and repositioning to open up to a whole new, enthusiastic audience. And it worked! Sales went up, young sign-writers were proud to use and show off the product and customer satisfaction greatly increased.

If only this journey was all roses and chocolates!

Fast-forward to the beginning of 2016. We came home to Melbourne for my little sister’s wedding, planned to stay in Melbourne for just a few months, then never went back! It was probably her plan, seeing we had talked on the phone nearly every day since I left! Haha!

Instead we started our own family business – an online homewares and accessories shop. At the beginning it was fun! Sourcing beautiful products, supporting artists and makers, creating the website.

We had a launch party and then…crickets. This was the first time I’d started or worked on a business from the beginning. It was HARD. We’d done the branding, got packaging printed, the website was schmick, photography was good, and the products were amazing. But it was just so hard to put ourselves out there!

There was no marketing plan, social media was sporadic and the longer we went with little to no income, the more our motivation dropped. We all had other work to do, so it was hard to make the shop a priority.

One positive thing happened though. Family and friends started asking me to build their websites. So I did! In early 2016 Paige Digital was born!

It was a steep learning curve. Working 18 hour days to learn and trouble shoot as I went. I’ll be forever grateful for the patience of Flick and Kate in those early days!

Photo of Candice collecting things next to Thames rive

Collecting pottery next to the Thames. Always loved bright colours!

 

After a couple of months, the projects started stacking up (yay!) but my days were not how I had imagined working for myself would be. I’d wake around 9am, make a coffee and sit down at the kitchen table to start work. Yep, BEFORE food! Then, for the next 6-8 hours I’d work in a state of stress learning and putting out fires as I went, feeling like it was the end of the world if this email didn’t work, or that layout margin wasn’t pixel perfect by tomorrow.

I was slow to reply to client emails, scared of letting them down, and generally feeling like I was only just treading water. By dinner, my partner came home, we ate together and then back I went to work till I solved everything by bedtime at midnight or later.

This was meant to be a business that created freedom! To work from anywhere, to work with passionate women and help them grow their businesses. It was after about 6 months of working at this pace that I hit full blown burnout. If you have experienced this before, you know that feeling of your body and mind ganging up on you and forcing you to stop!

After this experience of starting two businesses and failing both times, I’d had enough. While proud of the actual work, it felt like perhaps business ownership wasn’t for me. And I wondered whether I thrived in retail management because the ultimate responsibility and risk wasn’t mine!

So off I went to work as an admin temp doing the most boring thing I could think of. Filing actual paper files.

Yep, zero responsibility and zero creativity. Perfect!

A couple of weeks in I started getting bored, so I decided to educate myself through podcasts while I worked (still filing!). I listened to a wide range, depending on my mood – philosophy, art history, interviews with business women, true crime, marketing and science.

Eventually my creativity came back, stronger than before and I got another web design enquiry through my website. It seemed like a good time to start dipping my feet into Paige Digital again.

But this time was going to be different!

To save the deadline rush, I doubled all my estimated project timeframes, just in case. Then that project finished and I felt…ok! It wasn’t stressful! Woohoo!

Over time I took more projects, always one a time so I still had time to learn. This, I realised, was the key to creating a business that worked for me and the lifestyle I’m aiming for.

The key was to keep learning about how to run an efficient business, and keep working on the business. Learn more about design, learn more about brand strategy, social media marketing, content marketing…all the things that reduce stress and increase client results and create a sustainable business!

Candice pregnant standing next to two large paintings

Pregnant at my exhibition Transient Structures at Kingston Arts. Photo by Jacqui Shelton.

By early 2017 things were rolling along slowly but semi-consistently. Employment-wise, I was working for a Japanese Antiques and Homewares business, managing the store, implementing their first ever point of sale system (in 40 years!) and overseeing redesigning their online store. I was having a ball! The owners, again, put a lot of trust into my vision and allowed me to run with the project. And before long, online sales went up.

Paige Digital was still running in the background, but I was really enjoying all that I was learning ‘at work’. Learning about Japanese craft and design history, materials, ancient painting and printing techniques. All of it. I couldn’t get enough. A large portion of each pay went to vintage Haori (short kimonos) and ceramics!

It helped that I didn’t really feel like a business owner, more a freelancer. Completely different mindset! This whole side-hustle thing was working well and I was gaining confidence and skills.

When my partner and I fell pregnant, we were over the moon! It felt like perfect timing.

 

I finished work at the Japanese antique shop earlier than planned, to complete paintings for my first solo art exhibition. Doing everything was getting tricky with all the baby-growing exhaustion! Yep I was one of those people who tried to ‘do everything before {insert major life event here}’.

Work-wise, the plan was to take two or three months break from Paige Digital and then ease my way back.

WELL! What do they say about well laid plans?

After a relatively *whispers* enjoyable pregnancy, my introduction into motherhood was rough. That’s a story for another time, but let’s just say it took a year to even begin to think about working again. How can you love a little human SO MUCH but also struggle so much?! I’m extremely lucky our family was in a position for me to have this time to put myself back together.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who needed to reassemble their identity after becoming a mother? Who knew there were so many pieces that they would get flung far and wide!

(For anyone going through this right now, the pieces will go back together. Just in a different, stronger arrangement than before. Promise! But please get any additional help that you need.)

Ok, so by the end of 2019 I was finally feeling myself again. I now know this to mean I had a thirst for learning, wanted to read for fun and had a sense of motivation to be a creative, productive person in the world again.

After a few months of research, planning and rebuilding the backbones of my business, Paige Digital was relaunched on March 1 2020! I made a promise to myself that this was it.

This business is going to facilitate the rest of my life and be a meaningful, empowering entity for women.

Somehow.

Big dreams! Haha!

In the last year, I’ve been relentless about protecting my time, learning and putting in the work (even after hardly any sleep for 2.5 years. Another parenting surprise!). There’s still ups and downs and many lessons. But with new systems (love Dubsado), processes and a growing support group of friends with businesses, I can really focus on my client’s brand and web design to help bring them results.

It’s an ecstatic feeling when I see courageous women business owners taking their brand elements and style guide and max it out, all over socials! Or when a website turns from a slow burn to full time income! I love seeing women live their dreams.

 

Paige Digital business cards on white stones

Paige Digital has now grown beyond what I dreamt of all those years ago. Each day I wake up excited to work and bursting with ideas for all my gorgeous clients! Bring on the next 5 years!

Well, that was longer than I intended! Thank you for your patience and making it to the end!

 If you’re ready for a transformation in your small business, I’d love to help.

 

We work and live on the traditional lands of the Bunarong people. We respect and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this land, and understand that sovereignty was never ceded. 

© 2020 | Website by Paige Digital

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