Christine Lieu is the founder and creative director of CL Designs. She has worked with startups to corporate clients, such as Walmart, Sportsnet, CBC Music, and so on. Her passion to share the impact of design has led her to help other entrepreneurs and businesses take action in the pursuit of their branding and how they communicate to their audience.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I really didn’t have an entrepreneurial background when I started my first venture, In Lieu Of, which was a streetwear apparel brand. While traveling back and forth between Kingston and Toronto for the Summer Company and Passion for Fashion program, I was exposed to more business opportunities. At the time I was working 80-hour weeks.
I felt exhausted but simultaneously the most fulfilled I ever had been in my life. I then moved on from that venture thinking I wouldn’t be my own boss again, but I found myself naturally evolving my freelance design into a business, which is now CL Designs.
Tell us about your business.
CL Designs works from conceptual development to execution. We help businesses grow through graphic design, branding, social media content creation, web design, and more. Transparency, clear communication, and choosing to work with people with good intentions is at the forefront of how I conduct my business practice.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
I’m currently working towards re-launching my website and will be launching an email newsletter. There’s an exciting pilot project in the works, which I’m looking forward to sharing with my audience. Follow along on my social media @ChristineLDesigns to stay up to date!
- 2017 – Top 100 for ONE Condoms’ Canada Design Competition
- 2016 – Maclean’s “BULLDOG” Election Daily nominated for a Digital Publishing Award for Best Digital Design
- 2013 – Top 5 for the Photovoice health photography exhibit for KFL&A (Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington) Public Health
- 2011 – Women’s Art Festival Bursary
Where is your business based?
I’m currently based in Toronto, ON but work with remote clients as well.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
My first few steps were creating a logo/branding, registering my business, building a website, and making a Facebook page.
Being able to have a presence online was essential to starting my business. Reaching out to your personal network is a great way to begin planting those seeds.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I will always continue to say that my clients’ success will be my success as well. Being able to support one another and build this community has been so important to me. I choose to work with good people doing inspiring things and put my all into each project. Word of mouth has been the most effective marketing tool for my business.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
One of my biggest challenges is scaling my business. Starting off as being the primary point to all aspects of my business, it’s been difficult at times to be able to balance and execute on my own.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I value collaboration over competition. Being able to bring others on board that have expertise and passion that will add value to a project for my clients is beneficial in helping with the process while maintaining quality work.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Since you’re going to be the driving force of your business, being motivated has to come from you first. Having a community and strong support group around you that can relate is incredibly helpful as well.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Because I am the point person that my clients deal directly with, I am able to really get to know my clients and learn more about what their personal and business goals are. We’re able to better communicate and I’m able to offer work that really has the clients and their businesses as the main focus.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Busy is a choice.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Investing in yourself is one of the best things you could do. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Ask those questions that you’re dying to ask, reach out to people who you admire, fail, and try again.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I will be the first to admit that finances are not my favorite part of running my own business, but it is crucial to understand it.
- Google Excel sheets have been wonderful to visually track and prepare my finances, invoices, and taxes.
- Portable hard drives will be your best friend for keeping all your working files organized and safe. I’ve recently invested in more storage on my Google Drive to keep files secure and accessible.
- Google Calendar has been helpful in tracking how I make the most of my time on a project. It helps me better estimate how long future projects may take as well as break down a project per milestone.
- Hootsuite and Buffer are great tools for social media scheduling and really help you look at your strategy as a whole.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha is my absolute favorite book that I keep coming back to. It really emphasizes being happy as a priority and how that will result in good work as well as success. This is how I aim to approach my life and business.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m currently learning the importance of copy writing and finding out more marketing strategies as I work towards the launch of my email newsletter. I’m always open to adding contractors to my roster as I take on larger projects and value expertise in a variety of areas.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I’m striving to focus more energy on developing my online presence and having various value points and avenues for people to engage with. That ranges from the relaunch of my website, the launch of an email newsletter, and focusing more energy on developing my Instagram and Facebook content.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
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