Hate sales? Us too.

Most who run small service businesses don't like the idea of sales, they are an unfortunately means to an end. Selling to people can be frustrating, and as any consumer can attest, being sold to is the worst.


However, sales is the lifeblood of your business. Without sales techniques, how are you going to seal the deal and convince people to buy from your brand?

Well, there is another option:

Build a Badass Brand that Sells Itself

While this sounds too good to be true, my personal experience says otherwise. We help create kick-ass, self-selling brands for clients on a regular basis, without the yuck factor.

Personally, when I think of icky sales, I picture someone trying to convince me to buy something. I don’t like being in that position, so I avoid putting other people into similar situations. Most consumers, it turns out, feel the same way.

But let's play with a different scenario. How do you feel when you're shopping for something specific that you really want or need? In that situation I know I don’t feel like I'm being sold to; when there’s a problem that needs solving and I'm happy to find the solution.

For example, how would you react if your roof was leaking, and a roofer showed up at your door, claiming he could fix the leak?

When you frame your service as a solution to a dire problem, your audience won’t hesitate to hire you. Instead of thinking, What is this company selling to me? they’ll wonder, Why haven’t I done this yet?!

The difference between using this as a sales technique, and having a badass brand, is that when you have a badass brand you are genuinely looking only for the people who are looking for you! This approach helps potential clients understand what you do, why you do, and how well you do it--an understanding that sells.

Cats out of the Bag: When you're "selling" nobody likes you

Salesy talk can pollute the conversation, reducing trust and creating doubt on both sides. Simply put, when you’re worrying about selling, and potential clients are worried about being sold to, conversations aren’t 100% honest.

But when your message is clear, you don’t have to spend time convincing people to buy from you. Instead, interactions become discovery sessions...for you to figure out if they are the right clients for you.

This clarity gives you the opportunity to learn about a potential client’s challenges, and whether your unique skills can solve them. Rather than talking up your brand, you’re asking strategic questions to dive deep into someone’s mindset.

Also, you may not even want to work with every prospect that comes your way. Why sell to someone you can’t help—or someone who seems toxic? If you realize a client isn’t right for you during the discovery conversation, recommend some other options. This helps build trust, and prospects will know you aren’t just trying to close the deal.

The Opposite of Sales is Integrity

Integrity goes a long way in the services industry. Even if you don’t end up working with certain people, they will have a deeper respect for what you do—and it often leads to well qualified referrals! By establishing your reputation as a brand that sticks to its beliefs, and serves clients who honor theirs, you can carve out a nice niche for yourself.


Want to eliminate the sale completely?

Focus on working with the right people. Develop clear, committed messaging for your business. Create a brand that knows what it does well and lets its work speak for itself. Get really clear on what you do better than everyone else.

Need help? Download our Minibrandshrink questionnaire and find out what makes YOU so special.


What you charge, and how you charge, says a lot about your level of skill whether you like it or not. I meet so many people that want to be experts, thought leaders, gurus, yet their pricing, and how they handle the situation, tells a different story.


Here's what an expert looks like

I met Steve the week he moved to NYC. Through a mutual friend at a bar on Bleecker St., we were quickly drawn to each other and a first date the following week was scheduled.

Now, Steve had just moved here; I was born and raised in the east village. Did I ask him what he wanted to do on our date? Of course not! As an expert New Yorker I knew it was my job to put together an impressive itinerary of insider hot spots.

Neither of us had any money, so I had to plan an intriguing date that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I knew he was an artist, so with a dignified quarter I took him to the bar on the roof of the Met to sip a beer next to some oversized Jeff Koons animal ballons. I followed up that impressive and classy spot with a few locals-only joints in the east village, including a sushi bar on St. Marks that is both delicious and crazy affordable. 

Had I asked what he wanted to do, his uninformed requests may have landed us at an overpriced hotel bar in midtown manhattan full of out of towners showing off, or worse, TGIFridays.

Therein lies the difference between and Expert and a Service Provider.

Nuanced but not minuscule, Experts learn their trade over a lifetime, and Service Providers execute ideas based primarily on your direction. 

And like any expert, had I been charging for my expertise I certainly would have charged, and earned, top dollar. Because little secret spots are not easily found in Zagat and Frommers, they are known only from a lifetime of living in the city.

How to Spot an Expert


Most people are service providers and they usually charge based on time. Even if they are proposing a project rate, they formulate that rate based on a forecasted amount of time. This is because they are at the mercy of the client, so they have to predict how much time the client will need!

An Expert’s fee is related to his or her value contribution. They know how long it will take them because they've done it a million times, but they don't charge based on that time. 

He or she has spent years, sometimes a lifetime learning, and clients pay for that knowledge regardless of how long it takes.

Imagine a plumber. I've had a plumber come and snake my clogged drain in 10 minutes and charge $200. And it's worth it! Because he knows how to do it, and I don't. He solved my problem, didn't ask me how, and came when I needed him. That's value.


Service Providers are the hands: they execute. They ask, “What do you think? Do you like this?”

Experts are the brain. They tell you why a decision is the right one and give thoughtful reasoning and innovative ideas to back it up.

Service Providers need to put guidelines and restrictions on their work in order to regulate the potential for a deluge of client change-requests.

Experts similarly put in guidelines, but don’t typically need to enforce them due to clients not typically needing more than one round of revisions.


Experts and Service Providers strive for you to be happy, but Experts are less likely to sacrifice the truth of a situation to make you feel good. As in, that dress really does make you look fat.

Web designers, for example, are often Service Providers. They ask for page examples, content, photos, and other websites as examples; they are acting as the hands for your vision. But when web designers are Experts, they ask what the client is looking to accomplish. They ask about the brand, the market, what is currently on the site. They ask about the goal.

When Experts asks these questions, they can charge a premium. After all, it costs more to tell the client how a website should look and function than to simply put things in placed based off client notes. Experts will tell the client what pieces of content they need in advance and recommend additional outside help, if necessary. 

Knowing these distinctions not only helps with planning and executing your next project, but with your bottom line as well. Even if Steve had hired me (at a premium) to take him on the date, considering that date would change the course of his life I think we can all agree the benefits he received far outweighed any investment ;)

Want to be seen like the expert you are?

The first step is clarifying what you’re an expert in and how to communicate it to your audience so they notice you, remember what you have to offer, and tell others about you. If you don’t even know where to begin, our Brandshrink might be just the solution you’re looking for…



Branding can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to multi-millions for larger corporations. What's the difference in what you get and how much should you invest in your business' brand?

Here's a general list of prices that start-up and small growing businesses should expect to pay for a professional branding project that may include a combination of the following: naming, positioning & strategy, messaging, logo & identity design, copy, website design and development, creation of marketing materials, company culture and messaging.



New businesses typically don’t have a lot of cash to spend on branding, so it’s understandable that they would look for low-cost ways to get the logo and website they need to be competitive. Between, which offers all kinds of design services for $5;, with its free and almost free logos;, which offers crowd-sourced logos, identity, and website; and the infinite freelancers on Craigslist who will design anything and everything at all price points, it is possible to piece together a logo and maybe website for under a thousand dollars.

The question is: will it have a brand and badass business behind it that will actually make money? What if you could get more than design, but an actual business and brand that attracts clients, and is easy to sell? Learn what you should and shouldn't spend time and money on here:

How To Build a Badass Brand on a Shoestring Budget: Free & Cheap Resources



If you have a little money to spend, you will be able to hire a more seasoned designer, but he or she will not offer the strategies and marketing insights you can find with a brander. A designer will create your logo, brand identity, and website, but will not build your brand. A designer cannot help you answer why people will buy from you instead of your competitors, and then design your brand to support that message. Instead, you must trust your own knowledge about branding and marketing.

Because so many small businesses need a brand but don’t have a big budget, Worstofall developed an affordable all-in-one branding package that strategizes your message and builds it out into all your materials. We’re able to deliver agency level strategy and work for less than an agency because we built a unique process that allows us to execute the entire brand in 1-2-day intensives called Brandups. Clients are people who want to start selling now with a badass, professional brand and don't have six months to waste working with a company. Read more about our process here.

3. SMALL BUSINESS w/ $1 million+ in Revenue: $15,000- $60,000

For small businesses that have been in operation for a number of years, this is typically the price range for a rebrand and redesign/development of materials. The price is determined by a number of factors: the size of the company and its overhead, the size of the website, the number of deliverables, and the team’s experience level. Unfortunately, price does not always equal value. Plenty of small agencies deliver design, rather than brand. Vet your agency carefully. Be sure the team will go beyond merely executing what you are thinking. (If that’s what you want, you can get it for less.) On the other hand, unless you’re a branding expert or have a background in marketing, hire a strategically minded company that you like, and then trust them to do what they do best.


For larger companies or institutions with a lot of decision makers or big websites that require high functionality, the bill can increase pretty significantly. We won’t go into details here, because companies at this level usually aren’t reading articles about the cost of branding. 



Should you charge... what other people charge? Less? More? As much as you can?


If the goal is lifestyle and freedom, try starting from the goal and working backwards.

Pricing is a nuanced game, and it's useful to revisit and evaluate pricing often. But to go from "always looking for more clients" to a business that has control over its cash flow, is never desperately seeking clients, and affords its owner financial and lifestyle freedom, it's useful to start with pricing goals. 

Instead of an arbitrary "as much as possible" goal, we've developed a formula that is a great start for any entrepreneur who wants freedom and flexibility. It's called the 50/25/25 rule.

First: Define Freedom

First: would you rather have 50 clients paying $1,000 per project, or 10 clients paying $5,000?

Both scenarios yield $50,000. But this isn't a trick question. In the first scenario, you’re working for 50 clients, which leads to extra churn created by having to manage and service a large number of accounts. In the second scenario, you are merely looking to delight 10 ideal clients that understand your value—and are willing to pay more for it. 

This smaller workload would leave you with extra time—so what do you do with it? You could use the time to go out and get more business. Or you could take a psychic break, relax, tackle a personal project, or work on your business, rather than in it. 

If fewer, higher paying clients sound like your speed, read on for my recipe to identify your pricing sweet spot and achieve freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle. 

How to Use the 50/25/25 Rule

To integrate the 50/25/25 Rule into your business strategy, first figure out how much money you need to make annually to cover all your expenses and live comfortably.

If you need $120,000 a year, then your monthly goal is $10,000. With the 50/25/25 Rule, the first goal is to reach that figure by spending 50% of your time on client work—or two weeks out of the month.

Next, determine how many clients you can take care of within that timeframe. If you can complete four projects in a two-week span, divide $10,000 (your month’s goal) by four (the number of projects). In this example, you’d look to charge about $2,500 per client to reach your monthly goal.

Take Control of Your Business & Life

Now, this number may be drastically different from what you’re charging now. But this exercise gives you direction for how to increase your value for ideal clients—the ones willing to pay what you’re worth. When you begin reaching your monthly financial goal in 50% of your available working time, you have the luxury of pursuing other business goals.

With this newfound freedom, you can focus 25% of your time (or the equivalent of one week of the month) on branding and business development. Everything you do during this week— such as competitive research, content marketing, social media, and email campaigns— increases the value of your service, allowing you to charge an even higher rate in the future.

And the final 25% of your time? If you’ve done the proper legwork for the other 75%, you’ve earned the right to do whatever you want with it. Devote time to learning more about your industry so you can better serve clients, or take on more work to boost profits. You can even fill this last week of the month with your own creative hobbies that have nothing to do with your business. Travel, knit, learn to surf—the point is: When you build a Badass Brand, you have freedom, flexibility, and control over how you spend your time.

The only question is… What exactly should your brand focus on to achieve the 50/25/25 balance?

Take our free minicourse where you can plug in a few numbers and find the price you need to charge to achieve freedom in your life!

Business Partners And Still Married: Here's What We've Learned

I get a lot of funny reactions when I tell people I own a business with my husband. From the quick “I could never” paired with a dramatic eye roll, to a wondrous “What is that like?” uttered in disbelief, to “awwwwwww”—and everything in between.

So for Valentine’s Day I’m going to spill the beans—it hasn’t always been easy (shocking, I know!). But I’ve learned that working with your spouse can be one of the most valuable and beneficial things you can do to enhance your marriage—if you make the effort to use it as a motivation to grow.

These principles also apply to any partners in business who want to grow a successful company. A colleague recently shared that she is bringing in a therapist to work with her and her two business partners to help with their communication issues.

Whether you are spouses, friends, or colleagues, sometimes your differences are exposed only when you start working together: differences in how you feel about money, risk, being right, failure, and what to do when you experience success. These differences may come to the surface over time no matter what, but they are amplified in business, and they can be the source of exhausting conflict.

My husband and I had to learn a few key lessons if we wanted to build a successful business we loved without killing each other. These are key lessons for a team to be an unstoppable force in business. Without them? You probably won’t last very long—as a couple or as a business.

There Will Be a Turf War If No Treaty Exists

When we first started Worstofall Design out of our little railroad apartment in Brooklyn, our roles were clear: Steve was the designer, and I was “the business.” I knew nothing about design at the time, and Steve was happy to abscond from all business responsibilities, so it worked out perfectly. Because of this, we created a well-oiled machine during that first year-and-a-half. People cocked their heads in disbelief when we told them working together was breezy, but we thought we just naturally had an amazing relationship.

The honeymoon ended when we hired our first two employees. Our weak spots were exposed, and suddenly we were bickering more, things got tense here and there, and we fought regularly. It was exhausting.

We had a business to run and we agreed it was unfair to make our team uncomfortable with our conflict, so we knew we had to deal with this head on. That’s when we decided to go to therapy.

Sitting down with a therapist helped expose differences in our communication styles, as well as unexpressed emotions and expectations. But one of the most tangible things we learned was the source of much conflict: We had never discussed who was in charge of the two employees! We had hired a talented graphic designer and a spunky assistant/social media marketer/photographer to support us, but we had never discussed how they would be managed. On the one hand, managing employees seemed like my job because I was in charge of running the business. On the other hand, Steve was in charge of design, and James was his designer.

It turned out that almost all our conflicts arose from a power struggle over this undefined territory. Once we learned that, it was almost as simple as communicating and delineating responsibilities. In the years since, we have been able to stop conflict in its tracks just by realizing that it often starts because we both believe a decision falls under our domain of responsibility.

Make Sure You Agree on the Big Idea

If you and your partner don’t have a shared big vision for your company, you are going to have infinite conflicts. I learned this the hard way. A few years in, we realized we had never discussed our goals for the business. At some point I hadn’t even realized I had taken a sharp turn toward building a huge agency, while Steve, on the other hand, hadn’t really thought about it. All he knew was that he didn’t want to build the big agency I was imagining.

(More on that story, and how powerful defining success can be for your business, click here.)

Picture us trying to make any decision in this situation, pulling each other in different directions without even realizing it.

For example, we got an opportunity to pitch to a huge client, but it required us to stay up all night to do so. I wanted the client because it would get us closer to having the big agency. Steve didn’t share that vision, and the project didn’t sound inspiring to him, so he thought it was silly for us to bend over backward for this long-shot pitch. The poor guy had no idea why I was insisting that we push ourselves in this way. My actions made no sense to him, and it made no sense to me that he wasn’t on board.

Once we realized the discrepancy we sat down to map it out— together. Until then, I had assumed we had the same idea for how to build the business. To me, it was the obvious choice. But when we started to brainstorm what we wanted out of life and our company, I realized I didn’t want a big agency at all! I had just made that assumption at some point and never questioned it. (For more on this, I wrote about the importance of defining success here.)

Together, we developed a vision for what we wanted—for both the business and our lives. Our vision has adjusted over the years, but we revisit it often. And having that shared vision has made all the difference in how we work together.

Once we were both on board with a common goal, our teamwork skills skyrocketed. Suddenly we would happily do almost anything the other person asked because we understood why we were doing it. And we were both willing to be more flexible in areas where we tended to be stubborn because we knew we were headed toward the same ultimate goal.

This also helped make all our large decisions revolve around the actual goal, rather than our personal preferences. And that has been key to working together—really believing that we both prioritize our shared business and personal goals.

You Both Have Your Shit; Don’t Be Afraid to Own Yours

I share our experience of bringing a therapist into these conversations because although it’s possible to make these discoveries on your own, we didn’t have time for that. Business doesn’t stop, and we needed conflict resolution as soon as possible.

Plus, therapy still has a stigma. If you go to a therapist, especially with your spouse, somehow it means there is something wrong with you that needs fixing. What if that’s not the case? What if, instead, any two people engaged in something as intense as building a business can always benefit from being better communicators? The stigma is stopping business/life partners from being more potent in the world because they don’t feel comfortable dealing with these issues head on.

And if you’re reading about issues and thinking “not me,” you definitely have them. The unwillingness, or maybe even fear, to entertain the idea that you could actually get better at communicating with your business partner might even represent the potential issue itself. If you’re too afraid to admit you’re not perfect, and worried about imperfections that might be exposed when you go into a room that is meant to expose them, that might represent the very thing that can create conflict in a business relationship. One that is almost impossible to overcome if you don’t deal with it.

Everyone has their shit. Own yours and your business will thank you.

Without our business, my husband and I may have never taken the steps to learn these skills, and they have had measurable positive results in our business and personal relationships. Without the business, though, there may have been no impetus to start the exploration in the first place.

Working closely with another person is always going to be a challenge, regardless of whether you are married. But if you’re both willing to put in the effort, any two people who want to build a business together will find that it is possible to do so without killing each other—if you have the desire to build these skills. And because of, and not despite, all the challenges, working with my partner has been one of the most rewarding and special things we have done for our marriage.

This article was originally published on Forbes

Debt, Success, And Branding A Small Business

Is it just me or are failure and debt a prerequisite to being a badass small business owner?


In 2011 I started a company with my graphic design husband with little knowledge of the industry: he was the creative, and I, “the business.” In retrospect our fearlessness was largely out of ignorance but I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit. So we took the leap without backup plan.

We experienced the typical roller-coaster of startup successes and failures. But regardless of the countless late nights and endless hours of sweat we invested, three years into our business we hit rock bottom and ended up in $40,000 credit card debt.

Here’s the thing about rock bottom: it sucks.

But rock bottom also has a knack for providing an entirely new perspective. Forced to reevaluate our business, we realized we needed to take some dramatic steps to differentiate our company to dig ourselves out of the hole. We turned to strategies we had been using with our clients, and ended up building a completely unique brand for ourselves. Essentially, we took our own medicine and it completely turned our company around.

We made $500,000 in the next 12 months selling just our services and without paying for advertising. I stopped working seven days a week and began to work normal business hours. Lastly, I no longer networked, which until then, was my main marking source.

In short, we stopped copying the agency model and stopped looking for large clients. Instead, we focused on what we knew best: small service businesses. And we developed a unique branding process for our clients that also played to our strengths and preferences: in one-to-three-day intensives we build entire brands, including everything from the strategy and positioning, to the logo design, website layout and copy. We have no ongoing clients (in other words: freedom), and have already achieved more than we had hoped for when we set out.

‘Branding’ vs. ‘Branding for Small Businesses’

I have a bone to pick with the branding world. While branding is critical to the success of any business, the word has been bastardized; it has lost a lot of its meaning. The way it’s casually thrown around, and the prevalence of poorly executed brands, has caused many to become disillusioned with the whole concept.

And while I’m at it, I’m not a huge fan of all this “storytelling,” “brand pyramids,” and finding the “why” jargon, either.

Sure, branding is a story, and stories are an engaging way to disseminate information. You probably have a great story to share, and likely more than one. But which story do you share? Your home life? Your previous work experience? Your love of dogs? That thing you did in college? No, not that thing. Your credentials? Your family?

Do you even know how to tell stories well? Remember this isn’t camp or the dinner table, without an understanding of how to tell the right story in a proper way, entrepreneurs do more harm than good.

Over the years, I’ve honed my skills specifically helping one- to three-person service businesses build their brands. The most common challenges for this group are not surprising: they don’t know how to get clients; and they are not paid enough. Like a boring story with a predictable ending, I find most entrepreneurs face the same reoccurring issues when they try to use “branding” to help.

  1. Entrepreneurs often believe that the “right” logo and/or website will solve their problems. (It won’t)

  2. Entrepreneurs stress the fundamental imperative of “telling their story.” (Important, but not in the way you think)

  3. Entrepreneurs faced with branding their company don’t know how to begin, what to do next and generally, feel completely overwhelmed with the entire process. (Been there, done that!)

These issues are the results of a gap between big ideas and tactical steps. When you own a business, or even if you share responsibilities with a partner, you are answerable for all aspects of the company: from branding your business, to getting invoices paid, to making sure there are staples in the damn stapler.

With so many things to keep track of it’s easy to see why big-branding concepts are often too abstract to be useful.

Branding is Not One-Size Fits All

Think of branding like a buffet. It tries to encompass too much for too many. The word branding is meant to work for every size business, in every industry, with every kind of goal. Before you know it, you are leaving the buffet with shrimp, a slice of toast, two tomatoes, some random slices of cheese, and part of a Jell-O mold. And in the end, it all tastes like wet Styrofoam anyway.

Since national big-box branding is very different from face-to-face sales, the strategies are different too. There are underlying commonalities, but tactically they are night and day. When you’re a consultant looking for a handful of high-yield clients, your brand and marketing strategy is going to look very different from Coca Cola’s, whose goal is to slice off a little more market share. The former needs to resonate quickly in each interaction, while the later can gain traction over time by blanketing their logo for hundreds of millions of dollars.

It can be invigorating to discuss grandiose concepts…if we were in a corner office and had hours to spare. But I’m not talking to those people. I am talking to the micro-business owners, the solopreneurs at the individual branding and sales level. I use my personal experience in this market to create actionable steps that have tangible results and don’t just look nice or sound good. I focus on what actually needs to get done, and not the high-level branding philosophies from Creative Directors and CEOs.

What It Really Means To Be A “Brand Strategist”

I’ve never worked at a large agency. I never clawed my way up the corporate ladder one generic rung after another. I have no idea what it takes to sell brown fizzy water to billions of people. And when I started my own company, I didn’t know the first thing about branding.

But now, as a partner at Worstofall Design, I know what I need to know and I know it well. And what I know about branding small businesses I learned firsthand on the front lines. I grew that knowledge through my work with hundreds of similar clients. My education in the small business world, untainted by the policies and procedures of traditional agency work, has enabled me to understand the many facets of branding and marketing a small business and explain them in layman’s terms. I find it resonates when the often-elusive idea of branding is articulated in simple language instead of agency jargon.

Badass Branding

As our medicine kicked in, so did our new philosophy. We learned how to successfully brand our company and in turn learned how to help other small businesses become noticeable, memorable and ultimately, successful brands of their own.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.


The Carrot

I am constantly goading people to turn down work, and am often met with resistance. Seems counter-intuitive that if you want to make more money you would turn down paying clients. So let me give you an example to illustrate the point: paid work can be unprofitable, and some paid work can actually hinder the achievement of your overall business goals.

Meet Russell, a wedding photographer who generally shoots on the weekends. Though there is a great deal of post-wedding work, weekdays are fairly flexible.


So when Sally asks if he can do some headshots for her LinkedIn profile, he says yes. He could use the extra income.

He thinks to himself that headshots are easy and can probably be done in two hours: one for shooting, one for editing. Since he charges $5,000 for weddings, $300 feels like a fair rate to him.

Sally shows up to the shoot holding a pile of clothes. She has no idea which outfit to wear. She asks if it’s OK to take photos in a few different looks.

The Fall Begins

No problem, says Russell. But once the shoot gets rolling and she’s on her third outfit, Russell realizes this is going to take longer than expected. He didn’t know outfit changes were going to take up so much time. Plus, she did her own hair and makeup and it’s not looking right in the photos. Russell doesn’t know how to do makeup and hair since his brides always have it professionally done. When he looks at the shots, he knows immediately that the lighting is washing her out. He tells her to put on more makeup. This takes up time.

The shoot ends up being two hours. He was an hour off, but hey, he’s still going to make $300 he wouldn’t have made otherwise.

He could have just been watching TV during that time anyway, so what’s an hour?

The next day he looks through the shots. Because of the makeup debacle, only half of the shots are even usable. He finally finds a few good ones, picks his top five and sends them to Sally. She writes back immediately. The ones he sent are not what she had in mind, she really wanted photos of her looking more professional. Sally thinks she looks too friendly.

The Fall Continues

Too friendly is not how Russell is feeling right now. He goes back through the photos again and finds some that could be considered more “professional”. Sally writes that these are better, but could she just take a look for herself and pick the ones she wants?

Frustration has now turned into annoyance. He’s already spent almost an hour sifting through the photos and doesn’t want to spend any more time on this project. But Russell doesn’t feel as though he has a choice. Sally clearly doesn’t like what he’s picked and he just wants her to choose the photos so he can move on to editing them.

Sally picks a couple photos, but her hair looks weird in them. She asks if Russell can Photoshop her hair from a different picture onto her face in another. Russell knows how much time this will take, but Sally has made it clear that she doesn’t like any of the other photos and Russell doesn’t want to upset her. After all, he’s bent over backwards thus far and would hate to have spent all this time and still send away an unhappy client!

So he does the work. After another hour he has produced the photo she wants. He sends it off relieved that it’s over and psyched to spend the $300 of some rightly-deserved beers.

But like a zombie, she keeps coming back. Sally writes that she is pleased with this one, but didn’t he say he would provide three final shots? Unfortunately, unlike a zombie, his brain is still intact and he has to continue to deal with this “side project”.

The Lesson

And on and on it goes. If you think this is an exaggeration, then you don’t work with clients. The thing is, it’s not Sally’s fault, it’s Russell’s and his lack of process.

You see, if Russell regularly did headshots, he would have given Sally instructions ahead of time. He would have recommended hiring a makeup artist for an additional fee. Even better, he would have included it in the price. He would have said she is allowed up to three changes of clothes. He would have asked her ahead of time to show him some examples of photos she liked and wants to emulate. This way, when he picked the top five photos, he would know that they were in line with what she wanted (and if she didn’t like them he would have been able to refer to a concrete example). Then he would have told her he only includes one round of editing and any additional rounds or extreme editing, like editing two photos together, would cost extra.

But this is not something Russell does every day so he doesn’t have a process for it. Meaning he doesn’t have a way yet of making it profitable. Had he developed that process just for Sally, it still wouldn’t have been lucrative since he would have spent that extra time developing the process. And unless Russell wants to add headshots to his repertoire, he needs to say “no” to customers looking for work outside his niche of weddings.

Turn Down Work, Make More Money

Imagine if he had spent that same 4-5 hours working to land another $5,000 wedding client instead? That marketing work may have even planted the seeds for a few additional wedding clients. The value of his time spent is incomparable!

Plus, the last thing he wants is for one of Sally’s friends to contact him for more LinkedIn headshots, so he didn’t even receive the value of more potential business. Sally is unlikely to give him a referral for weddings because that’s not why he was hired. For her he’s not top of mind for weddings, if anything he’s top of mind for headshots.


When you’re starting out, there are so many things to pay for, and sometimes really beautiful design just shouldn’t be your highest priority.

Here is a list of amazing tools that will allow DIYers build a professional brand on a bare bones budget:




We build websites for our clients exclusively on Squarespace because it’s a solid platform that even the most tech-phobic can learn to use with relative ease. The templates are beautiful, and with a few nice photos and some catchy text you can have your website up ready to sell your services in minutes!

Are you a Wordpress fan, or have you heard rumors like Squarespace isn’t good for SEO? Read our comparison of the two platforms here: Wordpress vs. Squarespace


Online printing has come leaps and bounds in the last few years, and it’s hard to justify paying a higher price for a traditional printing company unless you are printing something very complicated (which you shouldn’t be!) For standard pieces like business cards, we love Moo. Their standard paper quality is silky, thick and delicious and because moo exists there is no excuse for having flimsy cards anymore. Your business cards are usually the first impression of your brand— if you cheap out on them you are telling potential clients you don’t value yourself. So how can they value you!?

Moo also has even thicker paper stock, foil stamping and other fancy offerings but if you’re on a budget, I don’t recommend splurging. You don’t have to! Their standard paper is gorgeous and it’s what we use for all of our clients.


A great tool for making beautiful designs for documents and social media posts. This drag and drop tool allows you to edit images like a pro without high powered editing software. Truth be told we haven’t played with this too much since we, you know, have the pro software, but our clients swear by it.


A free mail service with very robust offerings and similarly easy-to-use drag and drop features will allow you to start email marketing to your customers in a polished and professional way. Mailchimp also seamlessly integrates with Squarespace, making it simple to have people sign up for your list right on your homepage— again, without needing any coding or technical knowledge!


Graphic designers are going to hate me for saying this but if you’re a solopreneur selling your services you can design your own brand and be successful and I’ll tell you why: YOU are your brand, and what is going to get people in the door is not the color of your logo or how fancy your website is, it’s your message, your offerings and how clear and compelling you are. Yes, it’s important that your brand and website look good, but with these tools it’s not hard to put something up that is simple, clean, and polished.

However, if it’s boring, cluttered, or unclear you are going to have a problem. Unfortunately, a lot of graphic designers are simply focused on making a beautiful design, they aren’t helping you with the messaging or how you’re actually going to sell your services. Without that piece, you have a lot chance of success.

Grab this checklist of 5 quick ways to Badass Your Website now.


To a business strategist like me, it’s infuriating—and puzzling—that so many service companies try to be everything to everyone. If only they knew what we know: specializing is the most powerful branding play. By far.

When you narrow your focal point, you are suddenly seen as an expert in a focused area.

(Now I'm trusting you with this valuable info! Because narrowing will elevate your brand and your perceived expertise, regardless of whether or not you are actually an expert. So please use these powers for good.)

What else can narrowing do for you? Make your company instantaneously memorable, increase the likelihood of referrals—and even help you command premium pricing.


Sounds pretty Badass, huh? But how do you figure out what to focus on?

Well... don't just pick something out of a hat! #worstideaever

Specializing for specializing’s sake is weak—we’re looking for what gets you jazzed to get out of bed in the morning. What keeps you going, with or without a caffeine fix? It has to be a skill you love, for clients you enjoy being around, or else... seriously what’s the point?.

Once you nab it, and commit to it, it's like pouring jet fuel on the engine. 

Start Here: Focus on the Winners

To find your niche, look back at your favorite projects, clients, and experiences. Who have been the best clients to work with? Why did you enjoy those projects and people? Once you understand what makes a client ideal, you’ll have a clear direction for your specialization.

Usually, I use these benchmarks to evaluate and identify “ideal” past clients:

  • They had problems your background, expertise and experience made you ideally qualified to fix

  • The project scope, budget, and timeframe allowed you to fulfill on your promises to the best of your abilities

  • You’re proud of the value you delivered, and they were impressed and excited about the final result

  • They understood your value and were willing to pay your premium price without blinking, bargaining, or bartering (Also, they paid you on-time!)

If you've had clients like this, start there. If you’ve never had such a magical experience, choose the project that runs closest—then figure out how to make it magical.

Be Master of Your Domain

As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position: You have the power to build your business exactly how you’d like.  <<click to tweet>>

If you feel like you need $5,000 to deliver your best value, then you need to charge $5,000 for your services. And if you don’t think anyone out there will pay $5,000 for your services, you’re either hanging around the wrong crowd, or need to revamp your offering and messaging. 

Present and polish your brand so that the price tag makes sense. With a crisp, clear, sophisticated brand and message you will be attractive to the clients you actually want to work with.

Case in Point: The Wedding Industrial Complex

I recently spoke with a woman who creates custom paintings of weddings as beautiful mementos for the happy couple. Charging about $1,500 per painting, she worried about the future of her business because people were haggling.

But she’s in the wedding business—an industry where price sensitivity goes out the window.

What an opportunity!

If you’re running into consistent bartering like her, you’re talking to the wrong people. Once you acknowledge and accept that, you can adjust your strategy and course. For our wedding artist, the money and market most certainly exist, she just has to own that positioning in the market. Be a higher end service, stick to what she wants from the deal (i.e. her price), and then only put effort into marketing to the people who have the right budget.

If she identifies potential referral partners that cater to $250,000+ weddings, and then only puts energy into connecting with them, she will build a reputation with a higher-end market. She may have to polish up her website and process. She may need to invest in nicer boxes in which to deliver the paintings (presentation goes a long way with premium priced services.) She probably needs to dress the part (can't show up to a million dollar wedding in discount clothing.) Plus, with $1,500 prices on her site, she’ll never sell a painting for $5,000 or $10,000. But with the right messaging and targeting, she can reinvent her brand and position herself specifically in that $5-10,000 price range (or much higher.) 

Cause you might as well...

You don't need to be in the wedding industry to charge a premium. There is a premium version of any service in every industry. Why shouldn't it be you? 

Specializing bestows enormous power in your space. To pick your focus effectively, identify your ideal process, clients, and price point, and build your brand's positioning around that. It’s difficult enough to build and manage a successful business, in general, so you may as well center it around something you truly love (and that's profitable!)

In fact, if you enjoy it, you’ll have a better shot at success, and the benefits will extend much further than your company’s bank account--inspiring you to commit fully to each project and deliver the highest value possible.

To truly find your powerful niche takes digging deeper than you might otherwise go. It’s a process I put all my clients through in my Brandshrink and you can download some of my best questions in my Minishrink here.


Saying "no" to the wrong clients is one of the hardest and most important ways to build a reputable brand that attracts clients and commands a premium price. We already shared the first time we said no and how pivotal it was to our profitability. That time had to do with price. This next time was totally unexpected, and it came out of nowhere...

It was summer 2015. We’d been flying high for about nine months, only doing Brandups, steadily raising our prices each month yet always filling our calendar with clients. 

I got a call from someone with a slightly different request.

His e-commerce website needed a new design, and he was also open to a new logo and possibly even a new name. He told me he needed it soon—or more specifically—within two weeks. 

I told him we don’t really deal with e-commerce or products, and usually we do brand strategy and website design for service businesses.

But he was desperate to get something soon, and he loved both our approach and our package.

Couldn’t we make an exception?

Well, technically we could. We are always booked solid, but we also normally leave a week open for internal and personal projects, and that week happened to be coming up. For $10,000, I could make an exception, and Steve—though usually unwilling to give up his art time (smart man)—succumbed to my pressure (he doesn’t anymore, and I’m fine with that).

Stick to your process

I said we would start with a Brandshrink and take it from there. The client and his partner were in the office the next day, and to see if this was even possible, I wrote the brief that night and sent it the following morning.

They were sold.

And because of the tight timeline, we agreed to do the Brandup a week and a half later.

In the meantime, we needed feedback on the brief, which outlined what the client was looking for, our plan, and advice for how to execute it. They needed messaging, and they sent me “brand documents” someone else had prepared for them.

Now, these brand documents were pretty typical. There was a lot of info and tons of ideas—a lot of fluff, all pretty sweeping and generic.

I told them their documents weren’t too helpful, because it was just the same thing over and over again. The reason there was so much info was because they hadn’t picked an angle yet, and they desperately needed to. 

The client’s business was delivering brand name goods to Africa from all over the world at affordable prices. Their mission was smart, and their model made sense.

Ask your client the important questions

But what was separating them from other companies like this? Even if they were really “better,” there were too many details to explain—too many details they insisted needed to be part of the message.

They were falling victim to one of the most common problems I’ve seen: a startup with little to no funding who didn’t want to be known for anything in particular. Instead of specializing, they wanted a brand broad enough (“like Amazon,” they said!) to appeal to everyone.

They made brands available with cash—a big problem solver in Africa—but they also took credit cards and didn’t want to seem like they didn’t.

They allowed deliveries to kiosks, solving the postal service problem for people living outside of delivery zone, but they also delivered directly to people, so they couldn’t own that.

They delivered fancy brands from America and Europe, but they did so at affordable prices!

To sum up: This client offered the cheapest, easiest way to get your goods from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, with guaranteed quality that can be delivered to your home OR kiosk paid by COD OR credit card.

Okay, let’s sum that up now: They wanted to be everything for everyone.

Identify the problem (if there is one)

Even though they kept saying they trusted us, they really didn’t want to budge. They wanted something generic, something that—in our opinions—wouldn’t work.

How could we execute this properly? They wanted our expertise, but they weren’t letting us give them our expertise.

There was also another problem here: this was not our specialty. We know small service businesses like the back of our hands. Not only have we successfully built one ourselves, but we’ve worked with hundreds of them and can confidently say what will and won’t work. 

Large e-commerce delivery services on another continent, though? Well, we know that the branding principles still apply, but I just couldn’t confidently put my foot down…

The situation was becoming clear: we had a client who wanted to work with us but didn’t want to let us do our thing...

They needed to separate themselves from competitors, but they weren’t willing to focus on one detail of their business. They wanted to be everything for everyone.

So, this Brandup was going to be a lot of back and forth, just trying to make something they like, and then them looking to us to tell them it’s good.

“No, it’s not good, but it’s what you’re forcing us to make…”

It was a shitty situation with a client that I’d turned into a bad client.


We prepped anyway, and we made some great looking designs that were both in-line with what they wanted and modern. (Seriously, anything would have been better than the site they’d currently had.) We also wrote some generic copy they wanted, attempting to make it unique and different.

All prepared, Steve and I walked to the client’s office early to start the first day, both kind of dreading this project.

Why dreading it? Because we were going to charge them our fee to do something we didn’t believe in. Even if they were ultimately going to be happy, they shouldn’t be paying a premium rate for this. If they wanted a designer to just make something that looks nice according to them, there are waaaay cheaper options.

And me? I was going to have to manage the entire thing, simultaneously trying to please them and convince them that the generic fluff they were forcing me to write was actually going to work? (Not like they needed much convincing anyway.)

That’s when we turned down $10,000 the morning of a project, even though we had done all the prep work and could have easily just done it and made them happy.

Best “No” we ever said.


Of course, Steve and I called the client up and apologized. I explained why: I didn’t think they were going to let us provide the service they were paying us to provide, and I couldn’t charge them for the work we were going to do. I said we would just give them all the prep work anyway, and that they could take these awesome designs and find someone cheap to implement them if they wanted. I figured they basically got some great design work without having to pay for it, and that that would make them happy.

They understood, no hard feelings. They were happy to receive the designs for free, and Steve and I danced down the street excited to have escaped this nightmare couple of days.


This experience solidified it: we were for service businesses only. Now, we knew we wouldn’t even entertain products because it just wasn’t worth it. There are plenty of service businesses in need of our Brandups, and we know we can crush it every time. The value of what we are selling is highest for those types of clients. 

And that’s the main point of saying no in the first place: to create time for the clients you love—to work with the clients you can do your best for.


Getting out of town can do wonders for your business. There are several key types of trips I use to increase revenue. Though they may seem like just a lot of vacations, we actually seriously plan them and force ourselves to take them on a regular basis because of how much they positively affect our bottom line.

Seriously, if we didn’t make it a priority, we would probably never leave town because we love working on our business so much!

1. The Quick Trip

This is the most obvious one, a 4-7 day change of scenery that doesn’t necessarily require us to check out of our email. When you work for yourself this is relatively easy to do. A couple of laptops and some wifi and you can seamlessly continue to work without anyone knowing you’re gone.

Why it’s good: Moving locations stimulates the creative juices. Even if you’re still working during the work day, meals and weekends are an opportunity to dine in new places, and, if it’s winter, get some vitamin D sunshine. It’s easier to relax in a “vacation” environment, and the change of pace is a welcome respite, even if you love what you do.

Bonus tip: We rent out our apartment on airbnb whenever we go away. Actually, we always have it available and when someone requests it we decide whether that’s a good time for a quick trip out of town. The fee from the renter usually pays for most, if not all of, our trip (note: this might only work when you live in NYC!)

2. The Long Off-the-Grid Trip

As I mentioned in an article on Pregame, the idea for our business was born while we were living for 3 months on a farm in the British Virgin Islands without a computer, electricity or clock. It’s amazing the kind of ideas you can come up with when you only have books, conversation and the scenery for entertainment. That’s why we have tried to make a point of going away for at least a few weeks every year, and to stay “off the grid” for as much of it as possible.

Steve picked me bananas while glamping in our eco-hut

Steve picked me bananas while glamping in our eco-hut

Bonus Tip: Disconnecting is crucial if you want to see the benefits. Sometimes it’s hard to turn the phone off, so we actually choose places where it’s not even an option. Last year we spent 3 weeks in Maui and much of that time we stayed in a eco-hut “glamping” without electricity and outside of cell phone range. The first week is usually the hardest, but after that the ideas start flowing. This is where we brainstormed our idea to build the Brandup Bootcamp, which is now allowing us even more freedom in our business.

3. The Instagrammable Work Retreat

The best way to increase your tax write off! When Ciara Pressler (of Pressler Collaborative) sent me an email saying she was going to be #WorkingFromMexico for a few weeks and was open to coworking houseguests, I went straight to Kayak and booked my flights.

Some might say it’s a little gratuitous to fly all the way to Mexico for four days, but from an investment standpoint it was a no-brainer. Tanning on the beach next to a dynamite marketing brain while sunning myself in the middle of winter both stimulated new ideas and gave me that business owner glow that only comes from working for yourself, and being able to pick up and go to Mexico on a whim.

(Note from Ciara: I invited Pia so I could get the benefits of her business brain while elevating my brand. I paid far less for the trip than I would to hire Pia for four days, so I’d call that an excellent investment, wouldn’t you? – Ciara)

Bonus Tip: Go with a business buddy for a mutually beneficial experience.


One of the most important words in business, and also the hardest.

Almost a year before our now-famous fall into debt—before we doubled our prices from $16,000 to $32,000—we were increasing our prices slowly with every client.


Our strategy?

For every client, we went above and beyond, delivering more value than they’d anticipated. By doing this, we were breeding both happy clients and great referral sources, and building our own confidence.

Though difficult, we felt optimistic about our price increase every time.

At the moment of our first "no," we were definitely looking for clients. So, I did the only thing I knew to do to find work: I went networking. Luckily I met a potential client who needed a full rebrand with a logo and website, which is exactly what we were selling.

I poured my heart into a beautifully devised, long-ass proposal, rich with benefit statements and fancy design to make them go WOW.

It worked. They loved us. 

But they didn’t like the $16,000 price, so they asked us to bring it down.

Be realistic

Now, $16,000 is nothing to scoff at. And this was also the most we had ever charged at that stage of the game. But I also knew that for the amount of work we were doing, we needed at least $16,000. (This is before we had a tightened-up badass process—when we assumed this project was going to take 4-6 months and I had to pay my employees the whole time.)

I told them we could do it for the $13,000 they were asking for, but I’d have to drop a few things from the proposal. They couldn’t make that deal, they said. They needed everything.

We had a couple of phone calls, and they told me they were looking at other companies who were charging even less than $13,000, and they couldn’t justify paying $16,000. But they definitely wanted to use us and we were at the top of the list.

Perfect, that’s exactly where I like to be.
Top of the list and just a little too expensive, but the client wants it anyway.

Make the tough decisions

The knot in my stomach tightened, and I politely told them on the phone, “Look, this would be a great project. I know we would kill it for you, and I’d love to knock this baby out of the park. But if you want everything, it has to be $16,000. And if you need to pass and use someone else, I’ll totally understand.”

He said ok, that he was disappointed, and then he hung up.

And that was it. I told Steve what happened, and I just couldn’t go into a project like that. I couldn’t accept just taking a discount before the project even begins. 

I’ve been in this situation a few times, and that’s often the end of the conversation. It’s hard, but I always look at it as dodging a bullet. Though we needed work, it freed me up to find a client willing to pay what the work was worth.

Confidence pays off

In this instance, however, that same client called me up a week later. Surprise! He hired us for the full $16,000. I still get butterflies thinking about it. Victory!

Victory because I stuck to my guns. Victory because I knew what we were selling had value, and I wasn’t going to compromise.

Victory because now this project was going to be a breeze. They hired us—the most expensive company on their list—and shelled out way more than they wanted because they knew our work was the best.

And, as long as I maintained control of the situation, this project was going to go smoothly.

By hiring us in this manner, they were also saying that they understood we were experts in our field, and they trusted us. And so, they were wonderful clients every step of the way, and they got great work from us.

Especially because—for them, too—we purposely did way more than $16,000 worth of work. After that project, we doubled our rates. Then, with a few unexpected twists, our story really got going.


There are no bad clients. Or, more precisely put: all bad clients are your fault. Here are 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Taking on a Project:



Here’s a typical scenario:

You’re a graphic designer.

A potential client reaches out and says they need a logo and website designed.

You write them a proposal.

They read your proposal.

Maybe they get back to you,

maybe they don’t.

Let’s say they do, but your quote is a little more than they had budgeted…

MISTAKE #1 - Just giving a discount

Can you do it for 10% less? You need the money, so you’re happy to give the discount. You start working and ask them what they want—color preferences, logo specifics, etc. They’re going to send over examples of what they like.

Why it’s a mistake: When you give a discount just because, you’re suggesting your original price was an arbitrary number, not based on any sort of value you put on your work. You can immediately lose the client’s trust this way.

MISTAKE #2 - Just asking what they want

The client sends over tons of information about their company, as well as examples of designs they like. Great! You see some patterns, and you get to work.

Why it’s a mistake: The first rule of creating a great client is developing a relationship of trust. They must trust you to do what you do best, that you know what you’re doing and that you’ll deliver. You are the expert, so you should lead the process. If you ask the client what they think the logo should be, you’ve created doubt around your status as a design expert. If the client were an expert, they would’ve made a logo themselves. And if you allow the client to lead the process, things can get messy…

MISTAKE #3 - Emailing work without explanation

You create dozens of logo designs, and you send your ten best in a PDF.

They call you up: “We liked logos 3, 4, and 9. We’d like to see #3 in a couple of different colors, #4 with the font from #5, and we like #9 but can you make the logo icon just a little more... modern?”

Why it’s a mistake:
You’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping something sticks. You don’t trust that you know what is good or right—you just hope the client will like something. Doesn’t sound like something an “expert” would do. It’s your job to educate your client so they can make an informed decision.

Sending tons of options makes it harder for clients to make that decision. Most clients are terrified of paying for a service and not getting what they want out of it. But again, you’ve put them in a difficult position—you’ve given a novice the job of making an expert judgment. This will result in requests to see more options because of uncertainty.

MISTAKE #4 - Doing whatever the client says

You get back to work. You make another PDF with all the edits, which ends up being another ten logos—all variations of their three favorites. You send it over.

They call you up again, with more revisions and requests. These communications go back and forth for days, maybe even weeks. The requests have (d)evolved from small and straightforward to frustrating and outlandish.

And now you have a shitty client. You haven’t even begun the website yet! AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.

Why it’s a mistake: Well, this is what happens when you let your client drive the ship. You can become their whipping boy before the project even begins. By doing whatever the client says, you are not using your expertise. That’s what they’re paying you for!

This is why you must stay in control throughout the process. 

In the end, it’s not the client’s fault—it’s yours. You are responsible for leading your projects and your clients, for building trust and rapport. Make sure you listen to the client and then give them exactly what they need to achieve their desired results.

*Caveat: Some people just suck.

Do everything you can to avoid working with people like this. Have a screening process before you start projects with new clients. In these cases, $1 does not equal $1.

Even if you need the money, a shitty client will cost you time, energy, and sanity. This may, in turn, cost you money anyway—and it can keep you from finding the clients who love, respect, and pay you what you’re worth.

And they’re out there! We can proudly, unequivocally say that we have loved working with all of our Brandup clients for the last two years (and if any clients are reading this, that means you!)


Why the old wisdom of "The Customer is Always Right" is just that, old.


I’ve been saying it for a long time... Sometimes it pisses people off because it goes against everything sacred from the golden age of Leave It to Beaver and whatever the term "good old days" refers to (also B.S.)

AGAIN, The customer is never right.

Many people believe the exact opposite, which explains why tons of small businesses are flailing—overworked, underpaid, and always desperately searching for clients. They bend over backwards because of this lame misconception, and then they still end up with clients who aren’t satisfied.

Here’s why.

When someone hires you for a service, they are not merely hiring you to perform said service. They are hiring you for your expertise in delivering said service. If they knew how to execute the service, they would save their money and do it themselves!

But they don’t.

Case in point:

Many boutique branding companies start their initial conversation asking a client what they want their website to look like.

You may have heard it before… "Show me websites you like. Tell me what pages you want on your site. Send me your web copy".

These web designers/developers are turning themselves into a commodity. They are merely technicians—the hands that execute your vision. But there’s a huge problem with that.

Your vision of the pages and content you want on your site… what is that based on? Are you a website expert? Do you think it’s appropriate to build a website to the specifications of your personal tastes and thoughts, rather than those of your target audience?

What if, instead, the web developer asked you what you are looking to do with your website? That conversation would go a bit differently… Why do you want a new website? What challenges are you currently facing that you think a new website could solve?

Now we’re cooking with gas!

You see, ultimately, when someone “needs a new website,” what they are usually saying is they need help with their business in some way, and they think a website is going to solve their problem. 

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But wouldn’t it be nice if the website development company—a company that supposedly knows a lot about websites—could help the client figure that out?

By asking the big questions, we might discover that a new website won’t help the client fix their problem. I suspect that’s one reason most companies don’t ask those questions. But you need to position yourself as an authority, as someone with valuable insight the client doesn’t have. That’s what they’re paying you for.

Steve and I have our “core values” prominently displayed on our wall. One of the values that stands out is #4: “Always be in control for the sake of the customer.”

It’s your job as the expert to lead the way. That outdated “customer is always right” mentality suggests that the customer knows more than you about the subject at hand. When that happens, all bets are off. 

This is why it is in your best interest to take the reigns of any and all conversations and projects. For the sake of your clients, get down to the root of their problems and offer up effective actions.


Why don't most people specialize even though they know that they should? 


Because there is inevitably time in between creating a more focused business model, and actually achieving a healthy revenue stream.

Most people can't handle the fear. 

You see, there’s this dark, scary place you have to pass through first—turning down customers, and therefore, money.

How do you make this jump in a practical way?

You still need to make money, and many of your contacts may still recognize you as an all-things-to-all-people brand.So how should you market yourself during this crucial time period?

There's no easy way around it, you need to TRUST.

Trust that the fear you experience is the canyon between who you are now, and the invincible badass you will become, is worth it.

The side you’re on now is the Everything-to-Everyone Cliff. The other side, the Badass Brand Mountaintop. If you want to reach it, you’ll have to take the leap.

The truth is, there will be a lull, no question.

But the length of that lull depends on how much energy you put into educating people about your new niche. Passively hoping clients will find you is not productive. Go to a networking meeting every morning for a month and call everyone on your contact list to update them.

Hit the ground running with a clear target and message, and you will have success very quickly. But you, of course, have to notify everyone! When we decided to only do Brandups and say no to all other work, I called three old prospects to whom I’d submitted proposals for large projects. I told them our offers no longer stood—that we'd changed our model, and now we could do the same project but in two days and at a fraction of the cost. All three signed up. But it required some legwork on my part.

I often say with a badass brand you can attract clients instead of chasing them, and I mean it. You have to at least plant the seeds, though. It takes upfront work. But the work garners larger and better results when you have clarity about what you offer, and then every time you say NO, you further strengthen your brand's positioning in the world.

So what am I saying: pick a niche and never waver?

On the one hand, I think you should commit to your niche 100% for it to be successful.

But if someone comes along asking for something outside of your specialty, and you need the cash—if it's not too far outside, if it's not going to drain all your energy—who am I to say you can't? Sure you can, it's just going to prolong the good stuff because it's taking your focus away from your target. 

If you're desperate for money, do what you need to do. But the quickest way to get there is to stay the course.

Steve and I went into debt because we doubled our price from $16,000 to $32,000, and then didn't close a client for five months. But we knew if we worked at the lower price, we wouldn't profit anyway, so we'd just be spinning our wheels. That decision put us $40,000 in debt. 

But it eventually paid off. We brought in $100,000 worth of projects the next month when all those proposals finally closed! 

And this only happened because we stayed committed to the $32,000 projects. We ended up doing our first real Brandup with a client who desperately wanted to work with us but couldn't spend the money. We basically adjusted our existing Brandup offering to fit her needs. After doing a few more projects like that, it was like—lightbulb! Just do that!

I don’t believe we would’ve had this success if we hadn't said no to the clients with tighter budgets. We wouldn't have been in debt, but we would have been stuck in purgatory, not making any money.

When we were going into debt, we probably could have closed at least a couple of those clients by lowering our price. But those would have been nightmare clients, and working with them wouldn't have gotten us to where we are today.

Moral of the Story

The hardest part is actually committing and sticking to it. It works because it's hard, and most people can't do it, but this is your greatest opportunity. And if you make it? You will be handsomely rewarded.


It's not just about working for yourself...

There's a big different between working for yourself and being a #BOSS and a lot of it has to do with which direction the business flows in. Being a #BOSS means business flows to you, and it has very similar characteristics to what we define as a Badass Brand.


It’s about elevating your service above the ceiling most businesses operate under, free of the usual constraints. 

Think about it like this: What’s the main reason people go into business for themselves? Freedom.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who wasn’t looking for freedom. Freedom to express themselves. Freedom from a boss. Freedom from a salary that forces you to stay at a job you might not love. Freedom to spend time with your friends/family/kids when you want. Freedom to travel, eat at nice restaurants, buy things without feeling like you’re breaking the bank.

So when we say “badass brands,” what we really mean is being a badass in life. People who have control over their time and are not at the mercy of anyone else.

But why do we think badass brands create that kind of freedom? Well, these brands have two distinct characteristics.

First, they are able to charge a premium price.

This alone creates a ton of freedom. When you can charge a premium price, it means you take home more money than competitors for the same amount of time. So, you can either work less to make the same amount, or put in more time to make more.

In other words, you have the freedom (and luxury) to choose.

By making more than the average person doing a similar job, you are freeing yourself up in all kinds of ways! You are able to be selective about who you work with, because you don’t need nearly as many clients to make a living.

If you choose to free up time, you can use it to make your business and services even more valuable—by learning, reading, and brainstorming new ideas—or you can spend it doing something you love that is not business-related. Ideally, you do a little bit of both, continue to increase your pricing, AND enjoy your life in the meantime.

When you dedicate time to improving skills related to your craft, you will only increase the value of your offerings moving forward—in turn increasing your potential price point. You’re free to make more! YOU decide if you want to take on an extra client or two this month or next, and pocket the profit.

Second, badass brands attract clients.

They don’t have to sell (in the traditional sense), and marketing efforts are energizing rather than frustrating.

Badass brands know what they are selling, & they know how to talk about it in a way that immediately clicks with other people. Their message resonates. This means that every attempt to get the brand out there has supercharged results compared to what most companies get out of marketing.

Many brands are hard to understand and easy to forget. No wonder marketing is so draining! You’re spinning your wheels trying to get people to understand and remember something that is neither clear nor memorable! That’s why it’s so important to have a brand that sells on its own. People want it. It speaks to them, so you barely have to. Now that’s badass.

And that's how you go from working for yourself, so being a #BOSS. Your service must be clear, the benefits must be defined, the sales process must be easy, and you’ve got to position or package your stuff in a way that sets it apart from the competition. Do this an work will flow in your direction.

How do you do this?

Watch my masterclass on finding freedom in your freelance business:


What would you do to hit your business goals this year? 

This is a public service announcement on buying Silver Bullet and Treasure Map Solutions. Whether you plan to go it alone, hire a team, or pay for a solution...whatever you do, proceed with caution.


We live in a time where everyone is selling something.

You sell something. We sell something. Every day we see advertisements for people selling Silver Bullet Solutions and Treasure Maps. They exist in every market. So, what's the difference, what does it matter, and why to proceed with caution?

Let's start by unpacking Silver Bullet Solutions.


These zero-work-required fix-alls sell the dream of more followers, more customers, and more clout. Everything you want at a click of a button. 

But you know as well as we do that most of these Silver Bullets are scams. 

Buy more followers! Are you kidding?! Buy likes and engagement! To what end? 

And, to be clear, more customers isn’t always the solution. Often it’s a problem that causes operational and managerial headaches. Think about it for a second.

Suppose you charge your 10 customers $X for your service. Now, suppose you want to grow your business by 10-times this year. That means you are looking to take on 100 customers. Now that type of growth requires serious organizational overhauls. You cannot just scale to service 100 customers. What would you have to change in your organization to achieve that level of growth and survive?

OR There's an alternative.

At Worstofall Design, we'd rather you be charging 10-times your current rates. 

Can you figure out a way to create 10-times the value for each customer and charge them $10x each for your work? We understand that this might sound like just a silly thought experiment. But we’re being completely serious

  • What does your business need to look like to create 10x more value for your customer?
  • What about 2X value creation for your customers this year?
  • What about 2X growth this year without 2X the customers? 

While I can’t speak to your industry, yet, there’s one way that always works, it transcends industry. To create 2X-to-10X value, improve your brand’s prestige — or as we like to say — build a badass brand.

Now let’s discuss how to reach the buried treasure. Let's figure out how to get whatever you’re hoping to find when you reach the X (the one that marks the spot).

So let’s talk about treasure maps for a second. 


First things first, there’s an inherent truth to all treasure maps: You’re not there yet! You going to need to work to get what you want.

To get from A to B, Start to Finish, or from this moment to your business goals this year (read, X or buried treasure) you have to do the work. You must take the journey, or start the voyage. For this reason, Treasure Maps are way more plausible than Silver Bullets. But there’s another issue with Treasure Maps.

22-year-old “lifestyle” entrepreneurs. They all write posts called: 
The exact way that I make $100,000 a month live on a beach and surf every day.” 

Aaaand our response is a written out emoji -(insert skeptical face here)

So, we find ourselves at a crossroads...

  • What to do?
  • How do we judge one Treasure Map from another?
  • How do you reach your goals? 

Our best advice is to do some deep thinking, vetting, and self-discovery.

Anyone who’s selling a zero-work, Silver Bullet Solution is worth a red flag and a caution light. If it smells too good to be true, it is. Treasure Maps are more plausible. Sure. But you still need to vet them.

For example, our Brandup Bootcamp is our version of a Treasure Map Solution.

With it, we promise to help your business move toward the 10x in value creation per customer. But let’s be clear, our treasure map solution demands work. In fact, it asks for 7 weeks of a concerted effort - for God's sake it's even called a Bootcamp!

In just seven weeks, we'll take you through the exact Brandshrink and Brandup process we put our clients through. But, unlike past clients, you won't pay the $20,000, or even $5,000, that our clients have paid over the last 2 years.

Those people paid as much as they did because the process works. It changes a business forever.(We'll tell you more about our process in future emails.)

The point is, it’s not easy to find a way to double your value proposition. It's harder yet to craft your message so it sells. It takes some hard work to build a Badass Brand… but it’s possible.

We do it for clients every week.

There's only one difference. Instead of two grueling 12-14 hour days, we stretch the process out over 7 weeks. And we're in the closed Facebook group to support you as you execute the Brandup Bootcamp work.

If this sounds interesting to you check out our upcoming online training in badassery to get your primer information on the Bootcamp and what Badass Brand Building is really like.

The Badass Your Brand training will wet your whistle. Do the activities in the training and you’re guaranteed to see a stronger business!

- Pia & Steve


Many businesses are walking around trying to solve people’s problems. It’s a commendable mission,  it's even the point of business- to create value for others by solving their problems.

But we’re often missing one crucial detail: we are solving a problem the clients don’t know they have. And if your customer doesn’t know they have the problem you are solving, they will not buy your solution.

So what do we do?


Sell people on what they want, then give them what they need.

This mantra can change the way you play the sales game.

As the expert in your field, you have so much information that your customer needs to know. But your knowledge goes deep, much deeper than our initial understanding of what you do. If you include all the nitty-gritty details, and try to explain why we need something we don’t understand, you will have a hard time making the sale.

This doesn’t mean lying. Chances are, you already are selling what the customer wants, bundled somewhere in your list of services. But the purchase is based on the initial pain point, and the company that convincingly promises to solve that pain point is the one the customer will hire. And the client will be willing to pay a premium because solving the problem is their most important goal.


Brett Lavender is an exceptional public speaking coach, but he teaches communication skills that go way beyond public speaking and help his clients excel in all aspects of life. After all, when you are a great communicator, you instantly benefit in relationships with friends, family, and even strangers. 

Being a great communicator is so valuable that Brett wanted to focus on selling that skill set. But how many people actually think their biggest challenge is that they aren’t very good at communicating with their spouse, their colleagues, or their boss? And how many would be willing to pay to improve their skills? Not a whole lot.

On the other hand, tons of people have a desire to improve their public speaking skills, and they’re willing to spend a lot because they know it will pay off.

When you work with Brett on public speaking, you understand and then receive the benefit of becoming a great communicator. But Brett is going to have a much easier time selling the skill of public speaking, because that’s what people want. Once you work with Brett, you understand the value of improving your interpersonal communication skills, and no doubt will want to work on those, too. 

But Brett’s unique approach to public speaking is such a huge differentiator that it sets him apart from the competition and makes it much easier for him to sell his services.

Bottom line:

What do your clients need?

What do they know they need?

Which one are you selling them? 

Sell them what they want,

then give them what they need and you'll always come out on top.