31st December 2020

2020: How I adapted my business during a pandemic

2020… what a year. A year of highs and lows, a year of learning and a year of successes for me personally and for my business. I learnt that I need to be able to adapt to the world and the demands of the market. But I am proud of where I am now compared to where I was at the start of the year. Here’s how my year went. 


At the start of the year I was officially launching my graphic design business on the 5th of January, leading to several new clients. 

Then between February and March I supported Soft Touch Arts with their Unlocked 2 exhibition, where I created a set of 3 animations using the artwork prisoners and ex-prisoners had done inside prison. These were shown to around 10,000 people during the opening weekend and with coverage on national and local news, including the BBC, ITV, The Guardian and The Leicester Mercury. The year seemed to be getting off to a good start, until the dreaded COVID-19 hit. The exhibition was shut down and the clients which I had managed to get at the start of the year all cancelled the work on the same day. And it happened to be my birthday. I was now back at the start, thinking what do I do now? 

During COVID

Mid April rolled around and I had been getting by with the support of various people, my mentor from the Princes Trust, who has been amazing this whole year, all the staff at Soft Touch Arts who had adapted and started running sessions online via Zoom, and my sister who runs her own community interest company; Visit From The Stork (VFTS), supporting young parents up in Salford. She had responded quickly, with a project called Stork Support, which provides essential baby items such as nappies and baby food to mums and families in need. As the graphic designer and social media manager for VFTS, I was busy with work from her which was keeping me going in the mean time. 

It was during mid May when I was working part-time at a recycling centre to get by, and just before the lockdown in Leicester was extended that I decided it was time to get serious about selling art and things online. I had been experimenting with platforms such as Etsy, but had yet to properly make any sales and had made a half-hearted attempt at an online store back in 2018 to sell my book. 

Adapting my business during a pandemic

I had been wanting to create an online store for years, but didn’t have the necessity or means to make it happen. After running a few ideas past my Roger, my mentor, we decided I should create a proper online store, invest in some stickers and things I think will sell such as (relevant for this year) masks and make a proper go of starting a products based business, alongside my graphic design business. I managed to sell over 40 items to 14 states in the USA, and to Germany, France, Australia, the UK and Greece through both Etsy and through my website. I received a grant from the Princes Trust to be able to spend money on Facebook and Google Ads, as well as buy a Cricut cutting machine so I could handmake stickers and make things to order. 

Personal achievements

On a personal level, I have completed a Level 2 award in youth work practice through the National Youth Agency, which I will use to look to further my career teaching arts to the youth of today, with a specialism in SEN young people.

I have also been doing 1:1 Adobe Illustrator tutorial sessions with a young person at Soft Touch, where I am a participant but also a volunteer.

I have been participating in a joint project from Soft Touch Arts, pedestrian and Music HQ called (working title) the youth voice group, which aims to take young volunteers and workers from each organisation and train them in youth work so that we can be a voice for the future for these organisations, and help empower young people through access to the arts.

There will be more about this in 2021 so stay tuned!

Heres to 2021!

2020 has been terrible for a majority of the world, millions (maybe billions) of people have been affected in some way by the pandemic, losing businesses, losing jobs, losing loved ones. The news seems like it is all doom and gloom, but let’s hope a vaccine is the torch that can light the way out of this dark hole we are currently in. 

Have a safe and happy new year and here’s to 2021!

8th June 2020

Graduating during a pandemic: what now?

As a graduate of 2018, the job market was very different to the current market for graduates when I graduated. Nearly every person I graduated with managed to get a job within a year, be it at Tesco or in the design field (my area of expertise). 

I was the only one of my entire 49 person class to decide I wanted to work for myself (after a number of interviews, that is) and a lot of people, including a couple of my tutors, said at the time that I was mad for it, saying I didn't have enough experience or that I would struggle to find clients out there in the big bad world. But I also had people who encouraged me to go for it, including my former college tutor, who offered to mentor me and send some work my way should it come about. Without that encouragement I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Now back to 2020, the coronavirus has caused businesses to go under and many people are now without a job. So the question many graduates are now asking to themselves and to people around them is “what now?” 

I have had multiple discussions with various business people around leicester and have come to the conclusion that graduates have a few options for what they could do during the lockdown/pandemic situation;

  • Go back home and live with family for the duration of the pandemic, aiming to get a job after lockdown is over
  • Get a job in somewhere that is still hiring, such as the NHS, care agencies, essential services or supermarkets
  • Start a business in your field, join online networking events & facebook groups, create a following on social media, create a website and get the business off the ground with support from local networks and funding providers such as the prince’s trust or your local council
  • Become a freelancer for the duration of the lockdown, with the aim of building a portfolio of work,make some quick money or just gain some experience to fill your CV. Sites such as freelancer.com or fiverr.com are good if you are looking to gain work quickly.
  • Volunteer with local organisations as a way to support the local community and build close relationships with businesses/charities, this may be a way to gain a job after COVID-19

As a member of the business community and a recent (near enough!) graduate, I understand the feeling of dread you get once you have actually graduated and you wake up the next day, thinking “what now?”. Hopefully this has helped to give you some ideas for what you could do to keep sane during these unprecedented times.

If you are starting a business and would like a free, no-obligation consultation on how I can help you start and grow your business, get in touch!

30th March 2020

Unlocked 2 exhibition

Held at both Soft Touch Arts and the New Walk museum in Leicester, Unlocked 2 is an exhibition of artwork created by prisoners at HMP Leicester, HMP Stocken and ex-prisoners and people on probation who come to the creative café sessions I help run on Tuesdays at Soft Touch.

I was involved in helping to curate artwork, design and build the prison cell installation in the museum and created three short animations of the prisoner’s artwork, which were projected on the walls outside the cell in the exhibition space in the museum.

This project aimed to explore the need for mental health support through the arts for prisoners inside and those outside of prison on probation and was supported and funded by De Montfort University, Nottingham Trent University, Leicestershire NHS Trust, Soft Touch Arts and Leicester City Council.

The exhibition was covered on BBC East Midlands today, where they interviewed Sally, one of the Co-Directors at Soft Touch and Jermaine, a former inmate at HMP Leicester who has been on the probation session at Soft Touch since 2017. He is now involved in supporting anti-knife crime campaigns in Luton and Leicester.

You can see an article from the Leicester Mercury covering the exhibition below

Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus the exhibition has had to close. Hopefully there will be a third exhibition in 2021.

If you want to find out more about what Soft Touch does and how you can support them, see www.soft-touch.org

The Leicester Mercury article is here:


30th January 2020

5 reasons why you shouldn’t DIY your logo

There are a lot of services out there where you can make your own logo for free or for little cost, however the question I often get asked is “why should I use you when I can do it for free online?” Here’s the 5 reasons why you should think about using a professional graphic design studio or designer to make your logo;

Designers create original artwork, tailored to your business

Free services such as Canva or Vistaprint use templates, meaning your logo is not unique to your business, and has very limited customisation options once you’ve settled on a template you like, a designer will involve you throughout the process, producing original artwork specific to your business.

Professional logo design can save you time and money in the long run

Using a professional who knows what they’re doing can save you time and money in the long run, as you will more than likely want to come back to your logo and make it look better, costing you more time and money printing your new logo on letterheads, clothing etc. It’s better to start with a brand you love than one you made just to start your business.

Designers can help you stand out against a crowded marketplace

With the large number of competitors in every business market out there, you will find that you want to be able to stand out from the crowd in order to attract a loyal customer base. Having a logo which has been created using an online service such as Canva can mean you don’t stand out among stronger, more established brands, who have had their branding made professionally.

Your brand will stay consistent across platforms

As discussed in a previous post, brand consistency is key to gaining and retaining customers, and a free logo service online won’t be able to make consistent brand elements, typefaces or colours for you, it will almost always (for free anyway) give you a logo you can use and that’s it, meaning you don’t have a brand, you have a logo. A designer can help you stay consistent with your branding by providing type files, specific colours and a set of brand guidelines, which explain how to keep your brand consistent.

Designers can produce high quality, print-ready files for you

Free services often just give you a logo created for use on the web (72pixels per inch), rather than a logo you can use for print, for clothing and on the web (300 pixels per inch), as well as not giving you high quality design files (be that .EPS or .AI files) that a printers or another designer would need to get the quality your business deserves. You can often pay a fee for the privilege of having these files, but often you will need to pay more at a printer’s (for example InstantPrint or VistaPrint) or at a clothing printer to have these in the correct colour format, the right size or set to the best quality. A designer will usually provide high quality, ready to print files at the correct size for whatever application you need, be it business cards, clothing or a billboard, saving you the time and hassle of getting a logo remade to be high quality enough to print.

If you have a logo made using an online service and want to see how we could do it better, get in touch today for a free consultation!

16th January 2020

5 reasons why consistent branding is important to your business

A question I get asked all the time is why should I use a graphic designer over doing it myself, and one of the answers to that question is a professional designer can keep your branding consistent across platforms. I explain below the benefits of this:

  • Your audience WILL notice if your branding is inconsistent.
  • Keeping your branding, brand name and logo consistent across platforms helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), making your brand more visible to your audience.
  • Brand messaging and tone of voice are key factors in how your audience sees your brand, making purchasing decisions often directly from advertising or posts on social media, where your customer’s perception of a brand is key to interaction and ultimately traffic to your website, or whatever other hook you use to get customers.
  • Consistent branding can help your business look more “legit” to your audience, whether you’re at the start of your business (I.E a startup) or are a more established business, brand consistency can help create a sense of trust and loyalty towards your brand for your customers.
  • Keeping placement of your logo and the usage of brand elements the same across platforms using brand guidelines or style guides can help marketing teams create consistent content.

If after reading this, you are thinking that you might need someone to take a look at your brand, Get in touch today to find out how we can help!

4th December 2019

How I went from unemployed graduate to freelancer in just 7 months with the support of the Prince’s Trust.

My time with The Prince’s Trust has been amazing, it has changed my life in ways I could only imagine, and without them this business would not be working. This is the story of how I went from an unemployed graduate to freelancer in just 7 months.

The start

I started with The Prince’s Trust after my job centre coach sent me on their out of work programme which essentially gives you the opportunity to do a work placement, with the potential of a job at the end of it. I did an interview, along with a room full of other young people at Marks & Spencer’s but didn’t manage to get the opportunity. This felt like just another blow in a long line of rejections from jobs and opportunities, however when they let me know the news on the phone the next day, they also mentioned the Enterprise programme (which you can read about here) and I jumped at the opportunity.

I went on a two-day programme which essentially explained what self-employment is, the pros and cons and what we needed to run a business. We covered marketing, business planning, expenses, taxes and a lot of other things which are essential to running a sustainable business. This two-day programme was where I met Charlie Brodie, one of my first clients, which was a massive boost to my confidence that I could actually do this whole “work for myself” thing. You can see the work I did for her here.

So, what next?

After the programme, we were each given an employee who works for The Prince’s Trust and told we need to make a business plan, which covered a lot of things such as;

  • Core business model (how are you going to make money?)
  • Background research,
  • Competitor analysis,
  • SWOT analysis of my business (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
  • Market research (questionnaires, A/B testing, competitor research etc.)
  • Expenses, income and outgoings
  • Backup plan A & B
  • Pricing structure

My business plan took roughly seven months to complete, mostly because of other factors in my life, but also because I knew it was very important to get it right. If you start out with a bad business plan, your business won’t work.

This seven-months led up to what was called a panel, essentially a panel of local businesspeople who support The Prince’s Trust board members in making sure your business plan is watertight and making sure that they can understand it easily. I was approved on the 28th September 2019!

My Prince’s Trust contact, Abi (and everyone else at The Princes Trust) was amazing. Despite being fairly new to the job, Abi knew what she was doing the majority of the time and when she didn’t (I ask some hard questions) she wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I can’t thank her enough for the support she gave me this year.

So, whats the future?

Now that I’ve been approved the support is still in place, but more so in the form of my business mentor, Roger, who has been amazing so far and has really helped me with decision making and time management. Onwards to 2020 I really want to get this business properly off the ground and start making enough money to support myself. If you or someone you know is interested in self-employment or starting their own business or just wants to find out what The Prince’s Trust can offer, go to their website or call 0800 842842 for more information.

27th November 2019

What I learnt whilst building my new website

As a start-up business, a website is your shop window to the world. That’s why when I got my business plan approved by the prince’s trust in September 2019, (which you can read about here) I decided the first task I really needed to do was to create a new website. I felt I needed to do this because my old website, which was built using Adobe’s web builder MyPortfolio, was more aimed at getting a job when coming out of university back in summer 2018.

As I am now fully freelance, I needed something that was more geared towards gaining clients for my business rather than showing my work to potential employers. I went through and tried out all the web builders out there, Squarespace, Wix, Godaddy web builder (desperate times) and found that I just couldn’t get the amount of customisation and creative freedom that I wanted as a designer. All of these platforms I felt were more aimed at someone without design skills, sort of an easy way of getting a quick website up and running. I also found that the templates were limiting in scope, with most of them looking like they’d been designed in the 90’s at the height of the .com boom.

Whilst researching my competitors, having a look at the code of their website and also how they laid them out, I found that most of them were using WordPress. I looked at around ten different designers and design agencies, all based in Leicestershire, and found the differences between them were actually substantial, in terms of design, layout and copy. Some were setup to have more of a personal voice, with the about me pages being the page that convinces you to sign up and work with that designer, while some of them were setup more focussed on what they can do for you, and I decided I wanted to have a combination of these approaches.

So, whilst deciding on the tone of voice, style and layout of my website I started doing research into WordPress themes and came across a web builder which is used inside of wordpress.org installations (the self-hosted version of WordPress) called Semplice.

Semplice is essentially a theme for WordPress, but rather than using the standard WordPress editor tools, you use Semplice’s built-in tools to create your website. This worked perfectly for me and worked out better financially too. As these web builders are all subscription based, it made me feel limited to one platform and essentially, if I wanted to leave the service I would have to remake my entire website on another platform, which was one of the issues I had when using Adobe Portfolio.

I used Adobe XD to layout how I wanted my website to look, and then created images and wrote content (much like this) which fitted the tone of voice and style I had decided on back in the research stage.

Whilst creating my website, I wrote down some tips I could share with my clients who are looking to create a website themselves;

  • Look at your competitor’s website thoroughly, what works? What doesn’t work? Why?
  • Plan your layout on paper (the old school ways are sometimes the best) then work with a designer or use design tools to create your content accordingly.
  • Research into the best platform for your business, just because something the first platform to come up when you type website builder into google, that doesn’t mean it’s the best.
  • Write the content yourself or use a copywriter to get engaging content which attracts, retains and converts your users.
  • Plan at least a couple of weeks out of your schedule to get it done, (or at least a few hours spread over a few weeks) A quick and cheap website with rubbish content and unthought-out layout could be bad for your brand, SEO and reputation.
  • YouTube and tutorial sites are your friend. Don’t know how to do something? The internet has a vast array of resources available to you.

If you need something done professionally, such as content and layout, contact me to discuss your requirements.

All images Copyright Kern & Bond 2020

All images Copyright Kern & Bond 2019

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