Narsha Njoya is a web designer and photographer for the most creative smart girl bloggers we all know and love. Njoya started working with computers and designing graphics when she was just a teenager but had no idea that she would be producing visual content for brands like Creative Smart Girl and Mattieologie. Throughout the years, Njoya has learned how to navigate in business and create new opportunities for herself as a designer despite DIY web editing tools. Njoya made the leap from 9-5 to entrepreneurship when life took an unexpected turn and ended up creating visual marketing strategies for bloggers, brands and influencers.
Did you always know you wanted to be in a technical role?
Yes because I started with computers when I was like 13, and I guess that’s when most of us are starting to figure out what we can stand to do for a long period of time and what’s fun. When I was going away to college, choosing a major was really hard because I was trying to figure out what can I do with the graphic design work I was doing in high school and what can do I do with building websites, but I didn’t want to be a software engineer. So I’ve always known, it just took a second to figure out how to go about it. Like professionally and everything.
What were you doing before you launched your company?
About a year and half before I started my business I was working with a commerce digital marketing startup. That’s where I first got to see a business unfold that was mainly digital. Everything we did was email marketing, we also did some radio advertising, but everything we did was like was website, lead generation, social media, blogging. I was the first time I got to see blogging in a business sense, I had known about it since 2002, and use it as a source of using it to get closer to customers. This was also the first time I got to see how important branding was, the VP really put a lot of effort into the logo, the voice of the copy, etc. Fast-forward a year later and I was trying to figure out what to do professionally for myself. I just had my son and we moved from Atlanta to Louisiana and my husband was looking for work so it wasn’t the highest point. Of course having a child is an amazing thing, but you also want to be able to give the child a future and make sure you take care of them so I was caught between wanting to enjoy being a new mom and figuring out what job I can do, because when I was pregnant I couldn’t find work as quickly and I wanted a schedule that I was more flexible, work that I could be proud of and not leave my family at the whim of a big company again. At the startup, our doors were shut out of the blue by our investors and I just never wanted that to happen again. I started Narsha Design Co. with my strengths and what I loved to do which was working with women and bring their visions online. I realized not everyone had been working with computers since they were a teenager there’s a lot more to business than just your website and your branding; you have to be innovative, keeping up with the new software and being consistently creative and I love bringing that all together, When I first started I just did design, and working with women I’ve been able to branch out.
What challenges do you think graphic/web designers face today?
There are a lot. I would say the things I mention are challenges but they are also good to pivot form. Today we have a lot more content management systems, like Squarespace and WordPress that allow you t build a website w/o having to hire someone to put it together. Then there are a lot of cool products products like Canva that allow you to create graphics that are cool and style, filters, Instagram and just a lot f DIY things that on the surface may seem to take away from being a graphic designer or being hired to do something. The biggest challenge is to remain confident in that you can teach even if you aren’t just designing. For designers you are gaining experience with every new client but you may feel like your client levels may not be as high or you may have to write a lot more proposals. We aren’t just creating a logo and saying here you go, we now have to teach out clients how to master the market associated with their businesses. They get a website but they also learn how to maximize it and I think that is the edge that every designer has to take. Other than that, other than saving a client time because they don’t have to design something, that’s all you’ll be doing. So learning how to be more valuable and more in tune with what your client will need in that digital space will start to help. I’m leaning more toward content creators and influencers.
How can those who code and design stay competitive in a market where tools like Canva, PicMonkey and Creative Market make it easy to create designs?
I see more designers use creative market than non-designers, which is so funny but it fuels what I’m saying. As a designer if you utilize that to make you more efficient, than that’s how you can make yourself more valuable, you can then create a tutorial for your client, show them how to schedule social media, how to style flatlays ad once you start to teach more clients the same thing, you can create a course so that I can have a bigger impact. And within that niche, you can see, what are the main questions, what do they need help with? It all just helps me to grow because the definition of entrepreneur is that your business can run w/o you being there and as a designer you have to build the levels of the layers that will allow you to step back and walk away if you needed to. And friends, designer friends!
How would you describe Narsha Co. and the clients it attracts?
Life-style branding. Attracting individuals who see the online space for them to shine like at their unique talents, present business ideas and get access to the audience they are meant to serve. They are looking to me to craft a website and a social media presence that looks and feels like them and appeal to that audience that they’re looking for. I get a lot of clients looking for redesigns, they want it to look chic, regal and fun and modern. When those clients come to me, in addition to design and brand I like to include photography for brands who have products. You’re a new business but you want to respect it and respect your audience and you don’t want to just pull stock photos or build a website and not understand that you may have to be on twitter everyday so folks know about what’s new. My business acts as a design firm and a learn with me kind of process.
What is your advice for someone who wants to have their own creative design business?
I went through this and nothing matters more than the dream you have for yourself because things will come up that seem interesting to do but you really want to stay the course. Before you go into business write down your goals and your strengths. With running a business, there are tons of moving parts, you are going to make mistakes. It really all depends on you and what you do with the time you’re given.
What has the incorporation of flatlays and styled photos for clients done for your business?
It helped me diversify my offerings, I thought it was something that I also had to tac on with web design but its given me an additional avenue to help people feel more confident about their brands online w/o having to do the entire branding. It increases the confidence for people to promote themselves, be themselves online. In a space where it seems like everyone is on Instagram or Snapchat, it gives people a chance to feel like they are standing out w/o being obnoxious or fake. It shows the effort and care you have for your brand, whether it takes you 15 min or an hour to go through arrangements. It’s a medium that shows and tells a story and shows the care you take and the belief you have in what you do.
You're always posting about being a mom and a business owner on social media - how do you keep yourself on track in both roles?
The answer to that is something I’m in pursuit of at the second. For example today, my son woke us up at 3 am, and he just couldn’t sleep. To me it just reminds of the biggest reason of why I started and I felt personally, that having such a small child and he needs something from me but I have to drive 1-2 hrs. during the day into the city to work, I wouldn’t get to be as present with him growing up. So in everything I do, he’s always first. In my welcome packet for clients it mentions that I’m not available for phone calls all throughout the day and not available weekends. I’m just making sure I meet my client’s needs, I’m sure they would understand but I still want to hold mu business to a standard but its not always easy a s a mom so I have to constantly forgive myself and make sure my son is good to go and work around that. I do a lot of meditation to help with that.
How did you get your first clients? How should other service based entrepreneurs go about getting their first customers?
My very first client was a referral from a friend of mine but every client after that came from Twitter. Referrals are the fastest way to build your portfolio and those clients tend to be more forgiving and you build a personal relationship with them too and they can get your business established. I never really advertised my services but you should share content that is valuable for the people who follow you , and that revolves around what you love to do and what you do. I got to design for Creativesmartgirl.com because of another website I did for another product I had going on. It was just my site and people saw that and were like “oh my gosh, could you do that type of branding for me?” When I got to work with Mattie, she was saying she needed help on Periscope, I just threw my hat in the ring. Which is why I moved back to Atlanta, so I could work with people like Mattie, this is where all the bloggers and content creators are. So just go where the people you want to work with are, put yourself in a situation where you showcase your best self and your best work. Your social media profile should be like you resume. Do not complain about clients on Twitter, be helpful be valuable. If there is someone you want to work with, support them and let that build up so when they need something you can say “I can do this here is my skill set”. You want to build those relationships online, be open to those avenues.
How do you deal with people who aren’t the easiest to work with or a client not liking your original work?
That’s extremely hard. I’ve been in some situations like that and I think when you’re new you’re in more than one place so you think I’m new and don’t know everything so I need to be more flexible with the critiques, So I’ve had situations where I’ve gotten a couple critiques and I said sure I can fix that although I knew what had designed was very specific to what the client said they wanted to communicate. They say they want something energetic, I put together something energetic. It’s really just case by case for me now. I have some clients who are strong in their visuals and could design for themselves and some who couldn’t design for themselves but I feel like my position in working with them is to be the design stronghold so they get a visual that does what it want it to do even if they don’t see how it will do that. I have to be patient and walk them through it. What do they want their brand t be and help them get there. Its rarely you are a bad designer but you have to help them communicate what they need and what they want and be patient enough t help them get there, and I respect and honor that space.
What are your goals for Narsha Co. in 2017?
We have a level that we want to be at by the end of the year, we have some products to release. Much in line with what I was saying before, as a designer once you find that niche you have to help who’s there and I have some products coming out to assist content creators and small business owners. Continuing in line with current client load and making sure everyone is well taken care of. I think those products I’m releasing are really important. I really love to be that creative partner and educator on what works really well. I really want to make the company bigger in that regard. I love working with clients but I can only take on so many client per month so finding processes to share how-to's to impact the audience I already love to work with.