This week in my series of interviews with independent business owners, we meet Bhavini from B81 Designs.  Bhavini is a graphic designer who works on small and large projects across a number of different industries.  She has built her business to fit around family commitments to achieve the work life balance many of us strive for.  However, when working for yourself there is always something that still needs attention.  For Bhavini that’s marketing her own business.

B81 Designs



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How do you describe your business to your friends?

I tell my friends that I get to work with an amazing variety of clients to help their communication materials look good!


Where are you located?

I’m based in Milton Keynes, and I work globally.


How long have you had your business and what inspired you to start it?

I started freelancing in 2011, so 7 years now.  I took a break of 7ish months when I had my youngest in 2013.  When my first round of maternity leave was coming to an end, my role at work was changed to something completely different – web design instead of graphic design.  I was given the option of taking the new role or taking redundancy.  Therefore I chose the redundancy and decided to see what would happen if I started working for myself.


What problem do you solve for your customers?

It depends what sort of work I’m doing for them really. If I’m working on a branding or rebranding project I’m solving the problem of how the business can reach out and speak to their ideal client base. If I’m designing a brochure, I’m helping the client communicate their offerings to potential clients in the most effective way possible.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

For me, the most rewarding part is seeing how excited clients get when I send them the proofs for a design project (regardless of whether it’s branding design or brochure design).  And then when the project is completed it’s great to see the client implementing what I’ve worked on.


What’s the biggest frustration with working for yourself?

For me, the biggest frustration is not knowing how to market myself and the services I can offer.  And I don’t think I’m doing anything to overcome this at the moment because I’m not sure where to start.  Furthermore I know it’s not an area I feel confident in so I’d need to work with someone and outsource this.  That then brings up the question of who to work with and can I afford it…and can I afford not to do it.  Add all of that to the large list of work I need to get through and marketing myself goes right to the bottom of the list!

That does sound frustrating, and it’s not easy to find an answer without reaching out.  For this reason I offer a free discovery call to business owners.  This allows us to talk through the marketing questions they have, what they think they need, what I believe I can offer them and my recommendations.  Above all we will get a steer on whether we can and whether we want to work with each other.  I’m not one for making a hard sell so if it’s not right for you, or not right for you just now, then that’s fine.  But if you do decide to work with me, then we can put a plan together to do that.


So what are you working on right now, Bhavini?

I’m juggling so many different projects at the moment. I’ve just completed an editorial project for a 44 page magazine, I’m in the middle of a branding project for a positive behaviour consultant, I’m working on some branding work for a client in the education sector, and finally I’m also working on some brochures for a client in the coffee industry!  Those are the larger projects, there are quite a few smaller projects on the go too!!


You have got a lot going on there – do you have a particular system for keeping yourself organized, that you could share?

I have a planner that I use.  The first part of it is a monthly calendar and I use this to plan in meetings and school holidays etc. The next section is a weekly planner on the left page, and the right page is split into a notes section and a priorities section. On the right hand side of the page I write out the list of work on that week, on the left page I add projects on to which day I’m working on them.


That sounds like a good way to allocate your time.  What does your usual work day look like?

I don’t really have a usual work day to be honest. Every project I take on is so different! The only thing that is typical each day is that I always only work school hours!!


What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

Always follow your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right deep down, it isn’t worth doing.


What is your favourite service that you sell?

My favourite service is the branding service I provide. I really get to know the client and the ins and outs and whys of their business.


Have you learnt anything new about yourself since you started running your own business?

I’m a tiny bit obsessed with everything being just right!


With that in mind how do you know when a design is finished?  I’m guessing you could keep tinkering forever if you let yourself?

I always keep in mind that simplicity is the key and if I’m not 100% sure whether it’s finished or not I’ll walk away from it for a few hours and come back to it.

What is your favourite brand and why?

Innocent.  Because I love the humorous way they approach their design and marketing.  Mango and tropical are my favourites.


What is your favourite song?

So many to choose from…one of my all time favourites is Good Riddance by Green Day.


Great song, it’s on my playlist right now.  How about a favourite food?

Churros with lots of cinnamon and tiramisu!


We have a lot in common – I love cinnamon churros too!  Do you have any pet hates?

Rudeness! There’s just no need for it.


What was your first ever job?

Working in the kids department at BHS. I learned that kids cry a lot when they don’t want to go shopping.


What do you want to be when you grow up?

Happy! And not afraid of heights!!


Did you get over your fear of heights?

Sort of… we went up to the top of the one world observatory in NY and the views are out of this world.  I wasn’t worried about the height there. Then over the summer we went to Wales and we went half way up Mount Snowdon.  For me this was scarier than NY because we were outside rather than in a building.  I’m not sure if I’m over the fear but I know now that it’s totally irrational and I’d do Snowdon again!


Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Olivia Munn.  I first saw her playing a character called Sloan Sabbith in a show called The Newsroom and I loved the strength of her character.  I also loved the sarcasm and deadpan humour that she bought to the character.


If I gave you an extra day in the week, what would you do with it?

I’d spend half the day relaxing at a spa, and the other half of the day having fun with my young girls.


Finally, what else should I know about you?

I’m a bit OCD about everything being just right when it comes to work!  Everything has to line up properly…I’m really bad with biting my tongue and not saying something if I look at a menu when we’re out and see something wrong on it…

What I found really interesting about this interview with Bhavini was hearing her frustrations with not knowing how to market her business and her design services.  Not knowing what you don’t know makes it hard to reach out to a specialist and ask the ‘right’ questions.  She knows that outsourcing makes sense but her lack of confidence and her busyness elsewhere in the business has held her back from looking into it.

As a result it’s making me think about the way I market my own business.  How do I make myself more approachable as a marketing consultant so that people feel comfortable in picking up the phone for a chat?  How can I break down that barrier that a lack of confidence puts in the way?

Likewise, how often do you have an opportunity to speak to your potential customers and understand their barriers to purchasing from you?  Understanding why a customer is needing your product but not purchasing can be a powerful way to unlock business growth.

Do you have an online shop?  If so there are tools that identify the people who add shopping to the basket but do not go on to checkout in full.  Use the tools to segment your mailing list.  Send this group newsletters containing the final nudge they need to get them to the ‘buy’ button.  Perhaps a small discount, free delivery or a compelling reason to buy now.

If you’re interested in having a free discovery call with me then do get in touch.  A phone or video call is sometimes all that’s needed to clarify your needs so you can continue with your own marketing.  But if we do decide to work with each other, it’s very flexible.  I take on as much or as little as you want me to, and I don’t lock you in for long contracted periods of time.

If it’s a designer with an eye for detail that you’re after, Bhavini at B81 Designs could be your solution.