Maker | How Nicole Macdonald made it as a Graphic Designer

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I’m excited to introduce to you New Zealand’s best Graphic Designer, Nicole Macdonald! Nicole is the girl behind the beautiful January Made Design. Within 3 years, her business has taken off and she is one of the most highly sought after graphic designers online. In this episode, you’ll get to hear Nicole’s journey from designing for mechanics and her mum’s friends, to now designing for her ideal clients. Nicole shares her challenges and her wins in such a raw and honest way. You’ll love her thoughts on pricing, instagram strategy, marketing, attracting your ideal client and how to stay inspired and stand out to your ideal client and work alongside your competitors. Nicole also gives some solid advice for designers who are starting out. 


  • I’m not sure about you, but I was very curious about how Nicole came up with the business name ‘January Made Design’ for her graphic design business. After asking her, she explained that firstly, she was born in January. But not only that, she always just thought it was a good time of year, a good time to start and launch something. It is the time of year when people are most open.
  • Everyone faces challenges of some kind in their business. For Nicole, her biggest challenge was and still is the business side of things. “As a designer you think you’ll start a business and you’ll just get to design all day. You do, but also the rest of your day is done emailing and admin and business systems, accounting and all that sort of stuff. I have always found that part quite hard, quite challenging.” People often expect you to know the business side of it when you’ve really only studied design. Navigating how to be a good business owner as well as designer is challenging because they are very different skills.
  • Nicole has also had struggles with pricing and charging the right amount. To help settle on a price, she tries to look at other people in a similar market to her, checking how long they have been in the business compared to her. As well as this, Nicole looks at how many hours the job will take her. If it is something that will take her time, then the price will be higher than something she can do quite quickly. She emphasises the importance of looking at the value you’re providing and the time it takes you to create it to make sure you’re getting paid the right amount.
  • There is no single way to market your business and services.  Nicole’s primary method of marketing is through Instagram. She has always been fascinated by Instagram and loved posting her work. After checking her website analytics, she also discovered that she was finding success through Pinterest. After posting any new work to her website, she would always upload it to Pinterest as well so people could find her through that platform.
  • When Nicole was first starting her business journey, she began doing work in her local areas, particularly for mechanics. From her first few jobs, she received a little word of mouth which was really helpful for getting her name out there. Word of mouth worked really well for her to get clients in New Zealand and then she was able to use social media to get international clients. 
  • Finding and attracting the right clients can be quite hard. When Nicole started with jobs for mechanics, she loved the design aspects, but found they weren’t a perfect fit for her. Working with people who aren’t a good fit for you can also help you work out who is a good fit for you. While starting out, she worked with people who weren’t necessarily a great fit for her, but at the same time would create personal projects to post online. Doing this attracted the clients who she did want to work with, who were a better fit. The more clients she worked with, the clearer picture she got of who she did and didn’t want to work with.
  • Advice from Nicole that she wishes she knew when starting out: “You don’t have to be everything to everyone”. When you first start out, you want to book all the clients and all the jobs. But, there is no point offering services you aren’t passionate about because your clients will be able to tell and you will find far less enjoyment working on those projects. There is nothing wrong with not offering something that you’re not 100% for and there is nothing wrong working with another creative who is passionate about it.
  • Everyone gets inspiration for their work from different places. Nicole loves learning new things so is always on the lookout for the latest trends and styles. She often creates her own personal projects to try out the new trends she has been seeing. Pinterest is another great place where Nicole loves to look at other designers to get inspiration from other work.
  • Nicole’s top tip for creatives: having personal projects. Even if you haven’t yet landed your ideal client, you can imagine your ideal client in your head and make a project based around that. This helps to get the creative juices flowing and your heart can create what it wants. These projects also make great marketing pieces which will help to draw clients attracted to that style.


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