We had the good fortune of connecting with Caitlin Shannon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caitlin, what do you attribute your success to?
There are a lot of different definitions of “success” out there. Many people consider themselves successful if they have a lot of money, or a lot of notoriety/fame. When I launched my design studio full-time, I obviously wanted to grow my business, but I wanted to do it in a way that felt good. I wanted to enjoy showing up every day, build business relationships that felt sincere and respectful, and still have something left to give to my loved ones and personal life at the end of the day. It has taken a lot of trial and error to figure out what that looks like. At the end of the day, it’s about putting people before profit and, as my good friend and business inspiration Amanda McLernon says, committing to “expertise without ego.” Nowadays, my design pipeline is almost always full and I rarely have to do any outbound marketing and I make my revenue goals almost every month. I genuinely adore my clients and consider many of them my friends. I rarely work evenings or weekends, and I rarely deal with the “clients from hell” that creatives around the world fear. I still find time for afternoon coffee dates and vacations and long weekends with family. In my eyes, this is success. But how did I get myself and my business to this point? At the end of the day, it all goes back to my commitment to put people before profit. I always strive to genuinely see and serve the people in front of me with humility and sincerity. I adopt an attitude of trust and honor what my clients bring to the table. There is so much to be gained when we embrace collaboration and assume others always have something to teach us. 95% of my business now comes from word-of-mouth referrals and ongoing client relationships, and while I know my clients value the quality of my work — the feedback I get most often is that I’m genuinely just a joy to work with. It’s the relationship that sells them and keeps them coming back, because they know I truly care and that I’m invested in their success. Owning your own business can come with a lot of stress and uncertainty. Sometimes, it’s just a comfort to know that you have someone in your corner. It’s taken many years for me to realize that my client experience *is* my marketing strategy, and ultimately, the secret to my success. Take care of your people and you’ll find that they’ll delight in reciprocating.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I come from a traditional design background and still offer a variety of design services to my clients, but these days I’m really enjoying WordPress website design/development. At first, this felt like a pretty significant pivot. However, after some reflection, I realized that I fell in love with design back in high school when I learned how to create HTML/CSS templates for my friends’ MySpace and Xanga pages, so I guess I’m really just coming full circle, now! I’ve always loved the magic of code and learning how to create beautiful things out of raw data. I’m an equal balance of left/right-brained, and I think that makes me a little unique in this space. As much as I love to be creative, I also love to organize information and create beauty out of chaos. I’m tidy by nature, and my clients have come to love that about me. They know they can count on me to hit my deadlines, exercise a strong attention to detail, and respond in a timely manner. Sometimes, the success of your business really is found in the little things. I love learning new things about my craft and improving what I can offer to my clients, but at the end of the day, the most important thing we can do is simply show up and be there for those who need us. I love giving my clients a “digital home” that showcases who they are and what they’re all about with authenticity and class.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ooh, this is a tough one! I am a Colorado native and I feel like it has so much to offer. It’s hard to know where to start! Enjoying a good craft beer (or hard cider) at a local brewery is a must. If they’re the adventurous type, I’d use the excuse to finally visit the Maroon Bells, and if they had it in them, I’d encourage a hike up a 14er. I’ve done several over the years and nothing beats the feeling at the summit. The views are absolutely incredible, and there’s something about the peace of the open air and the breeze on your face after a challenging hike up you just can’t beat it. If they’re not the “hike up a mountain for fun” type (understandably), I’d suggest a cozy visit to a remote lodge for hot-tubbing in the crisp mountain air and some hot cocoa and smores by the fire pit. There’s nothing better!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate this shoutout to my clients. You are truly the “salt of the earth.” You never cease to inspire me and I delight in cheering you on in everything to do. My little business wouldn’t be here without your enthusiastic support and trust. Thank you for showing up in a way that only you can!
All photos by Kira Whitney Photography