Natalie, do you hear from new software marketing? And thank you so much for joining us for another interview.
And this time I have the amazing initial Martello with us.
Michele Marcelo is a dear friend that I had the pleasure to meet face to face.
And to me, that's a big deal, because big in France and far away from all you guys eso I think we met in 2013.
Probably something like that in New York on it was you know, it it was an absolute pleasure.
And I look forward to catching up and for you to share about your business because, you know, I love the model, and I know it has evolved.
Um, and I just, you know,
look forward for people to learn more from that.
So I'm just going to give people a quick intro.
First and s omission, Marcello, as over 18 years of experience helping individual businesses and government agencies succeeding by creating dynamic, memorable and functional websites,
online exhibits and interactive learning products In 2006 initial formed minimal designs to provide high quality design and consulting services for thought leaders and agents off change by creating dynamic online and interactive experiences.
my designers helped hundreds of clients define and achieve their business goals for consulting custom websites.
Digital strategy and planning missions work as received several accolades, most notably 2011 Webby Award for our design work on the architectural cultural capital.
Remember, Michelle regularly shares our knowledge and experience both online at conferences through mentoring and is currently working on interactive training programs to help individuals and small business looking to enhance their online presence through effective digital.
More digital strategy.
So welcome, Michelle, I thank you so much.
I'm so excited to have you here.
So why don't we dive striding straight ing? Can you share with us what it is that you do, who you do it and then we can talk about,
you know, the lifestyle aspect of it.
So I now call myself a digital strategist for modern entrepreneurs and what I do and what I've done over the years, it's it's definitely evolved.
My business is almost 12 years old, and so, as you know, what we were doing 10 12 years ago, it's completely different than what we're doing now.
So now I find myself working in an advisory and design and development capacity to help innovative entrepreneurs grow and leverage their brands.
So I provide things like long term brand engagement,
online business consulting A swell as I do provide mentorship for Web designers.
That's kind of been kind of a side branch of some of my offerings.
It's just kind of naturally evolved.
So these days I really work with several select clients.
Over many, many years, some of my clients have been with me seven or eight years at this point, and so now we really are able to dive deep, build great brands and just create amazing products and courses and just it's I love.
I love what I do because it's just it's been amazing opportunity to really grow my own skills that it also grow with my clients.
So, yeah, so I mean, that's one of the things that I noticed with you, you know, early on, when I was following you is I remember you were posting and you were saying, Well,
we really this brand we really this we redid that.
So you actually, I think managed really well to build that, you know, long term relationship when we say, you know,
client for life because, you know, when you have a business you're working, you know, one on one with people you're doing websites.
It could feel like the hamster wheel, right?
Every month you have to bring back.
But there is also a retainer and a long term relationship aspect that I think we don't nurture enough, right, We don't.
We go on to the next clients.
And that's one thing I have noticed from from U.
So I think for the client experience.
But I think from a business point of view off knowing that you have these people that keep coming back to you that much, that must make things you know,
lot easier in business, right? Well, I found, you know, like I said, I'm in year 12.
And so the first few years I was very fortunate.
I connected with a couple of folks who sent me a lot of work.
So there's a couple of things in my career that have been been great,
you know, it's just connecting with people who could send me the right kind of work on.
I got kind of known and It's a weird.
It's a weird little niche.
I got known as the yoga studio website designers, and so I was doing that for years and I got to a point.
I definitely got burned out like your four year five.
I was starting to get burned out.
I was finding other projects.
I also had a price ceiling.
You know, there was a price point that that,
you know, it just isn't They don't need a certain level of services in that particular industry.
And so I started doing research.
I'm like, What else can I provide? What else can I do?
And, you know, this is about maybe five or six years ago when I started really seeing what else is out there.
I also recognized, and I think this is really important that people take note of their skill set and recognize how tools or changing you know, I started to see website builders and Southern things.
I've been doing this for literally 18 years, 18 19 years at this point.
So when I started, you had to design.
You had to code.
You had to do everything yourself.
I'm one of the old guard like there's very there are that many people from my generation who are still kind of,
you know, doing it because with all the advances of things, I thrive on the advances.
I love that there's new software I'm always excited about.
What is this tool that's gonna help niece of my clients better? And it has helped me actually moved more into the advisory capacity as opposed to what I call pixel pushing.
Right? So it's I'm thrilled if a client can update their website and add things, I'm gonna come in and do a higher level strategy We're gonna plan for the next six months.
There next 12 months,
we're gonna talk about what they want to create and the best way to create it and how to market it.
And that's where I get a lot of joy.
And I tell people that, you know,
doing the one and Dunn's where I call them churning burns where you pick up a client, you do it and then you're gone.
It doesn't serve anybody because the client, I can't tell you how many how many people come to be like,
Oh, my Web designer left me or whatever, because it's because there was no clarity about how you could work with people when you were done.
And so that's why I really just got into this retainer relationship so that I could be there.
we have either weekly meetings or monthly meetings.
Maybe if it's a smaller client, Um, you know, maybe there on a bigger team.
I found myself now on bigger virtual teams, where I just launched a really large course.
Excuse me, a really large membership site on there's 12 people on the team, and so you know it is more of like you're at a bigger business, but I still retain my independence.
And so for me,
that's really important.
I've worked in a company of people.
In fact, I started out as a software developer many, many years ago on.
That was a great experience, but I really cherished just having my small business.
I really don't want to grow toe have, like 80 people 100 people.
That's just not I like to keep nimble and flexible, And so for me, it's really important that I work with clients that I can have that really great relationship with in an ongoing way and they love it, too,
because they're like, Oh, you know, I can come to them and say, Hey, I'm doing this for another client.
I think this is gonna work for you.
Let's try it out And they're much more willing to experiment and to trust.
And to me,
trust is like the best thing you can get from a client because those clients are the ones who are going to trust you, and they're going to say, Just go for it.
They're not going to say,
Oh, let's try 20 different color combinations or I need 50.
They're not focused on the things that don't matter.
They put their focused on results, and to me, that's where I get so excited.
I mean, you know, I totally A you like, I think that we should, you know, in terms off, like building a business around their lifestyle, definitely.
You know, doing what we are passionate about, and for you it's building websites.
But, you know, finding a way like you said to get some retainers off ongoing because this is definitely it's a win win.
for them, they know they trust you.
They don't That's something, you know that they don't know.
They don't have to worry about if it's going to get done, the quality of it and things like that.
And, you know, for having had, you know, clients.
One of the regionals I have is one of my first clients.
Okay, so now we've done to websites.
And if I say something, you know,
sometimes you know the recommendations.
And she said, Well, if you say so and I'm surprised because not everybody would do that.
So it makes things also go a lot faster because you get to know the person you get to know the business.
And you get also to get that.
You know, you get that nice, recurring income because, you know, part of having that freedom is also to know we don't have to go look for clients all the time, right?
It also gives you freedom to create your own things.
Because if I know I've got X amount of dollars coming in, I can pay the mortgage.
I can pay my bills, I can pay my assistance,
But I know I've got my nut covered.
Well, then, that gives me both mental and financial space to then create maybe my own products and things, right?
So that's I think so important because so many that whole feast or famine cycle I mean, we've all lived through it, you know, cash flow was I don't care what business you have.
I don't care how much money you make.
There's always going to be a little worry about cash flow.
And so the more you can regulate and system, you know, systematize some of that, the better off you're gonna be.
And that's just it gives you a columnist.
It gives you an evenness.
It allows you to do planning.
You know, it just really And and it helps your clients to, because they can also budget right.
They know the budget for lying.
That is for you.
They know the budget for research, expenses or whatever else.
And so it just it helps everybody out in just such a great way just for planning.
When we know the cost of excuse Ishan off a new client,
right, without knowing if if we're even going to be a good fit, because sometimes we get surprises, right? People that are indecisive that can't make a decision or you know, that take forever to get back to us and things like that.
And this is very costly, you know, for our business.
So any strong relationships that we can build, you know, like that is, you know, it's absolutely golden.
Michelle, can you share with us? How do you? Because I know you like to travel, you know, with your husband, and can you share with us? How do you structure your business so that it doesn't take over your life? Like,
do you have any any tips or anything special that you are doing to keep your sanity? Think, you know, you know, take care of yourself and the couple and the friends and stuff.
so I think it's really important.
The first thing is exercise.
I have to have work out a t least five or six days a week.
It's super important to me because we're in this chair, you know,
we're in this chair, and it's one of the reasons I really got into yoga.
A lot more is because, you know, being in this chair for 20 some years, you know, you're hunched over.
It's not agreed.
So for me, the space I work in, I'm in my house.
I have a dedicated actually floor of my house for my office.
I got my dog here, you know?
So I have my comforts of home, right? So that's really important to me.
Working out every day.
I sometimes book end my days where I'll work out in the morning and then I'll do something at night.
So whether it's yoga or like Tracy Anderson,
or I'll go for a run or a hike, Um, the other thing is, get out of the house S o.
For me, getting out of the house means I meet with other friends.
So there are other people who I'm friends with just naturally becomes you friends with entre other entrepreneurs because they have similar hours.
So we'll go to the gym together.
You know, we'll go do stuff in off hours like one thing that I love about this lifestyle is you know, I could go to the grocery store like 10.
30 in the morning and there's nobody there, you know,
And I can do all those things that that I need to do without taking away from my weekends or taking away from my my nights.
So some of those things can help you then, of course.
Plan? Um, yeah.
I remember the early days of my business.
I would stay up late, like just designing.
And I would offer, like, three designs for a client instead of like now I only offer one, right.
So it's just over time I've learned toe really recognized how valuable my time is and to really kind of put some boundaries around some of it.
I will tell you, I'm not great with the iPhone.
I still have my iPhone all the time and I'm checking stuff good or bad.
You know, I will say that is you know, one of the newest addictions, honestly, they consider is technology.
And so that's something I'm personally working on to kind of break some of that.
Um, I try not to be on social media too much.
I don't post a lot.
I don't engage a lot over there.
I don't enjoy it.
And I'll tell you, the less I engage over there, the more money I make.
There is a correlation.
You know, I I found when I when I started my business.
We didn't have social Media Way didn't have YouTube till 2004.
We didn't have some of these other things till till later.
And so it really is a distraction.
And I think while I think Facebook groups and things like that can be amazing to get information, you don't put a boundary around it.
You can easily waste your whole day and you've deceptive.
You're you're deceiving yourself and thinking like,
Oh, I'm working.
I'm at my computer.
I know so many people were, like force themselves to sit in their chair for 10 hours when they may be getting hours worth of work done.
So I think that's just something to start to recognize.
And if that's the case, get up, move around, go do something active and I always find like, you know, my husband, I joke, like we we built a special shower like a huge shower because we get our best ideas there.
We will spend forever there,
and we will get the best ideas.
So it's you have to remove yourself from your regular environment to kind of spark inspiration.
Yeah, I love that.
You know that there is one thing that I found is that at least when I got started.
So we've been entrepreneur since 2005 so it's been a while to write.
But you know, one thing that people don't realize and I think you kind of touched on that is you really need to set those boundaries from the beginning, even if you're not making money yet because it's really a marathon.
And if you don't take the time to celebrate your successes and to take time for yourself and time off, you're gonna get burned out, right? So working late, that nice working weekends,
we've all done it because they're like, Oh, I have to make money.
I have to make money.
But it's like also, you know, working smarter, right, having you know, clear goals and be focused just on that.
And definitely social media is not helping with that right thing.
The other thing I would say is, I love to travel, and so I always try to have my next trip.
I'm starting to think about it while I'm on my current trip,
right, So like every couple, I like to do at least one or two big trips a year.
Like I went to Mexico twice this year.
I'm going out west a couple times this year.
My husband went to Montreal,
like, did some other things.
So next year I wanna go back to Italy.
So, like, in my head for me, that's what I want to spend more of my time doing.
So that's like my goal, right?
How What can I do? What can I build? And how can I build my business in a way that my clients are supported? But then I could go away for a week or 10 days, and they're still going to get all the services they need.
But I can still have the flexibility, right? Yeah.
Yeah, that's important today.
So, talking about that, So do you have I'm sure you have a team, right? You have people that you delegate things with,
right? You don't do everything yourself.
And I think that z a key element as well.
To keep your sanity and to be able to say yes, I can go.
You know, we to Italy.
And I know that things will be okay.
I will be.
I will be.
They will be taken care off and I will be reachable.
But you know, things like there will be somebody to answer questions.
You know, if if a client has a question or something like that,
Yeah, you know, it's interesting.
I actually had amazing assistant for about 4.
5 years and she got a full time job.
She actually moved and got a full time job.
So it was It was amazing.
And I adore her, and we're still really good friends.
I did have her for about 4.
5 years, and I actually shared her with other designers.
So it was a really great, you know,
she worked with me like, two days a week, and she worked with other designers other days of the week.
So she was making great money, but she was able to serve multiple people.
uh, that's been almost almost a year now, and I have not been able to replace her.
And I'll tell you, it really has been, uh, when you find that unicorn and she was definitely a unicorn.
When you find that amazing person,
hold on to them because And this is for if you're a client or if your service provider.
Because I'll tell you, finding people who are dedicated to your business can be very tough.
And you know what I loved about her name is Meghan.
What I loved about her is that she was always willing to learn.
And this is one thing and attributes that's sometimes hard to find, that people are willing Thio, you know,
research and look, look for alternate answers.
And so that's what I'm still I'm waiting until I find the next person.
I've tried a few people, and it hasn't quite worked out.
But I'll tell you,
I've also really changed my business a lot in the last year.
So I'm not doing as much of the like updating and the like maintaining so quote unquote grunt work.
I'm not doing as much of these days.
I'm doing much bigger visioning and the strategy, so it really is much more of me.
But I've also called down how many clients and working with.
So that means I'm it is much more of a 1 to 1 relationship.
I do have some developers that I do work with,
um to bring into projects and those air more of like contract positions.
So, you know, in terms of, like, huge team and all the rest of it, that's not something I've ever really desired.
I will say I have found myself now,
like I mentioned earlier, working on bigger teams.
So now I'll come in as the strategy expert or the designer, or what have you and I'm coming in as part of that team for maybe a specified period of time, and so I'm really enjoying that,
I've also been a coach in a couple of programs in the last couple of years, and I love that, too, because it's high value for me.
I'm able to go in, give my expertise,
and it's a contained period of time.
And then I'm able to take a break.
And do you know something else? So I'm really enjoying some of those positions as well.
so I think part of this freedom is also learning to say no to a lot of things.
You know, they say that people that are successful say no to most things right, if it's not,
you know, aligned exactly with what they want to do, focusing on doing less, but doing it like really, really well and having that structure.
Like you said that, you know when When you're in a on a trip,
you're already thinking about your next trip.
So you know that you cannot plan any launch anything around that period.
So I think it's that structure that can give us the freedom that way really are looking for when we're working for us House, right?
Yeah, I always I always tell people, you know, sometimes people you know, I'm a designer for foremost.
That's my very first love.
And so people like, Oh, just do whatever you want.
And I'm like, if you don't have a container, like if you don't give me a grid, right, If we go back to, like, design, typically you're going to design on a grid.
If you don't give me that piece of paper that I have tow work within those constraints,
then it's almost impossible to design.
So you have to have some sort of, you know Oh, it's gonna be eight by 10 and it's going to go on the web, and it's gotta be response like you need to have some of those rules so that you can fit in it and and create something.
it's almost impossible, like total, total freedom.
Everybody thinks that that's what they want, but you actually want.
You want some boundaries and you will have some containers.
And so doing that for myself means yes,
I do say no to pretty much everything that comes in, in fact, for new any new clients and I really don't take many on.
It's usually just in a consulting, um,
They pretty much have to be a referral from a current client just because at this point, there are so many people, especially when you start to build a name or something, people come to you and then I've had so many people are like,
Oh, I just want you to build exactly what you did for somebody else and to me.
I will not I won't do that.
I won't copy.
You know, I'm certainly informed by things that I've created, and those things may may find their ways into other projects,
but I'm definitely not gonna copy.
I'm not going to duplicate, you know.
Everything I do is custom, and so it's custom to that person in that brand And so for me, it's super important that I retain control on integrity in what I dio And so that means I do say no to pretty much everything that comes through the door and and and that's that's deal teammate,
um, you know, thing that we can do for ourself and for business.
That's what's going to give us the the freedom and, you know, saying no to something is going to allow us to say yes to something else that is going to be more aligned we want to do.
And that might not be related to business.
Actually, it's crazy, and I'll tell you that the most important lesson I've learned, especially over the last couple years, is relationships because I'm just ending a project now that's been going on literally for about three or four years, like it's it's,
It's come to its natural end and people on that team, probably half the team is like, Hey, I wanna work with you.
What can we do? Like everyone's reaching out because they're like, they're like,
they know this is it a natural end and they're coming to me and so it's you know, that fear that I used to have about like, Oh, you know, our eyes, more stuff going to come in That fear is gone because I know I can reach out to all these great folks and this is something I highly encourage everybody, but especially my designers that I mentor,
um, make friends with other designers.
Don't think of them as competition because the project they're working on today could lead to a project they're working on tomorrow.
That they need your help on where they can't take on.
You know, just just because I said notice something doesn't mean it isn't right for somebody else.
Like I share a smudge as I can with other designers.
I'm so happy to do that.
If you show up and you I know you could do the work and you do quality work and you respond to your clients,
I'm going to send you referrals, e you know, no, no strings attached because I want those people to be taken care of.
And I know you can.
It's just a natural fit, Andi.
And I'll tell you, I've had two designers in my life probably send me over a quarter million dollars worth of work.
No joke, because they sent me leads that lead this other stuff.
And so I think that's that's,
like, such a key thing.
I want people Thio.
Just remember, this online world is actually very small.
We all know each other, especially like in online courses.
And like all that,
we all know each other.
We all talk, and but we're more than happy to show the work.
I mean, that's one thing that I actually experimented really early on.
when I joined the school on, Do you know one of these free work was to reach out to others, right? So even before the courts have started, I had to reach out to I don't know, I reached out to,
like, 20 or 30 and I think we exchanged by email.
We didn't talk at the time, but you took the time to reply to me.
And then he said, way exchange by email, and I started to make connections.
So by the time the course started, I already had this network.
So and especially for me being, you know, in Europe, you know, away from this, like you said, getting out of the house being,
you know, surrounded by other people that are where you are.
You know exactly where you are is so critical.
I also got, you know, partnerships with several of these designers that they were either or just doing the design.
They don't want to do the development and and stuff like that.
So it's definitely huge.
And now that you know, I am doing this interview series, I am finding pretty.
Actually, I have a lot of people I can reach out a lot of people I know, and that's a big advantage.
I see I have compared to the other people, I am discussed right now where we are doing all doing this, that you know.
And Olivia was telling me you're getting My husband was telling me This is all the work that you've been doing for your building surrounding yourself with these people, that is,
you know, paying off today because you can reach out to these people and they might not talk to somebody they don't know.
But you've established kind of like that connection and that relationship, and I certainly do the same thing with other people.
So yeah, so important.
It's I mean, at the beginning, but also just to just continue being consciously, you know, doing this? Yeah, yeah, I would say, you know, I think back,
you know, I don't really go to conferences much anymore.
But there was a time when I was going to conferences and I was going to meet up and because where I live, um,
I live Ah, couple hours south of D.
Not small, but it's definitely not like New York City where I live.
And so I remember going to a couple meet ups here, and it was kind of an old boys network again.
This was 12 years ago.
There weren't a whole lot of female Web businesses back then, right? And so, you know, I was trying to find my group of people and, you know,
going to some conferences doing B school.
That was a huge for me, actually, because I also did Maurice coaching program.
And, you know, I'm still friends with most of girls.
That group and we still get together,
and we still do retreats, and I think finding people who you don't have to explain yourself, Thio, like they know what you're doing? They know what an opt in is.
They know what you know.
Conversion rates are like they understand your language.
It's so important to find that because you can, you know, there's so many ups and downs, you know, there's definitely crying.
There's definitely frustration.
There's definitely like, What am I doing? I should have just gotten ah, career job.
I should have just I would have been a VP by now.
like you do have a lot of those questions.
You know, I remember in the first couple of years I would still read.
I don't know if you have Craigslist over there, but in the first couple of years,
I would still read the Craigslist advertisement for a job I got when I got really frustrated and I was just like, Oh, well, but they were always low pain.
And there was always,
like, low hanging fruit and like No, no, stick it out.
And I think what you said is so important about that work we've done previously.
If I backtrack now and I look at the work I'm doing now, I actually was designing educational software 15 years ago,
and I'm doing that now just in a different way.
And it's so interesting to me, like Oh, like all those things I was learning about then about user interface and customer interactions.
And like all those things that have taken years for me to learn,
I I'm able to now take those into my new projects with an understanding, right? And so, you know, that's where I think that all comes into plain.
I'd say the other thing, too.
That's important is I know in our industry, most of us tend to be very introverted, very interesting.
And so even this probably five years ago, I would have had a really hard time doing and one thing I do, and this may help other people.
One thing I do every year is do one big thing that scares that scares me like that really scares May, um, I got invited to teach advanced web design at a college, so I taught for a semester and you talk about fish out of water.
I mean, these were kids who were 20 years younger, and, you know, you think you know something until you try to go to really teach it three hours twice a week and then just the preparation and getting in front of the class and seeking and all the rest of it.
That's probably one of the best things I did for myself because it it gave me such confidence.
And at the end of it, I mean certainly was not for the money, let me tell you.
But at the end of it, one of the girls came up to me and said it was the best class she had taken in all of her college.
And I'm like that alone was worth it for me because it's just what a great feeling.
Yeah, absolutely awesome.
Well, Michelle, it was super interesting.
I really enjoy, you know, learning about all this stuff from U S.
So can you share with people where we can find out more from you?
I know you don't take on many clients, but I know you have a blogged, and I you know, I really encourage people to check you out.
You do help designers as well.
you know, running their business and things like that.
So if you want to share, Sure.
So I do offer online consulting.
So I do consulting sessions.
I also one of my one of my passions is actually really education.
And so I've created a series of guides online guides that really give unvarnished truth about building an online business.
So I've got one about money.
I've got one about launching your website, and I've got another one coming out this fall, all about online courses and membership sites.
So it really is like the nuts and bolts.
What? To avoid mistakes I've made, you know, really kind of.
From from from the trenches, all this stuff.
So that's something.
And then, actually, my husband and I are working on a strategy course together, so that will probably be probably winter of this year when that comes out.
Um okay, uh, that I'm really excited for is getting people really toe understand their numbers and to make informed decisions about their business.
So I'm really excited about that.
So we can basically find you minimal designs dot com right designs dot com.
That's where I hang out.
So I will be posting the link below and you also you don't hang out much of social media.
E do have an instagram you know there might be a lot of dog picks.
Um, but the best part? Yeah.
Feel free to reach out to me on, you know, tag me on Instagram or or shoot me a d m.
Or I do a little bit of Twitter.
Honestly, I pretty much do newsletters and my vlog and an email.
So it's just I like, I like I like talking one on one with folks, and I like, Yeah, I like to keep my life pretty simple.
Well, thank you so much, Michelle.
It was a true pleasure.
Thio catch up with you and to learn off this stuff from you.
So great to talk to you.
Thank you so much.
All right, take care.